It’s usually at times like this when you start thinking about moving. Maybe moving to a newer, bigger, swankier house would give you a lift, make things more exciting, or give you more room. The trouble is, moving is expensive and time consuming, if you can even accomplish it in this economy. By the time you sell your current house, find a new house, and wade through all the paperwork and labor, you’re likely to find that it wasn’t worth it.
Improving your home doesn’t have to be expensive, though. You can change a lot of things, jazz up rooms, and even create new spaces inexpensively. All you need is some creativity and some labor and time. Here are some ideas to improve both the inside and outside of your house.
Changing just a few key light fixtures in the rooms you use most often can give those rooms a lift and change the atmosphere. You don’t even have to change the whole fixture; just changing the shade or globes can be enough.
You don’t have to order all new cabinets. Cabinets can be painted or refinished inexpensively if you do the labor yourself. Shelf paper inside of the cabinets can cover wear and spills.
If you love the look of granite but can’t afford to get all new countertops, there are paint kits now that do a good job of mimicking the granite look. You have to be careful and follow the directions exactly, but you can get the look you want for less.
Tiles can add impact to a lot of rooms. You can put a backsplash in the kitchen, put some tile around a fireplace, accent a bathroom sink, or even create some artwork or trim on the walls.
Paint is just about the cheapest way to change a room. You can add stripes, textures or other patterns if you want a bigger change. And if you don’t like it, it’s relatively easy to change. Get some sample cards and idea books and experiment.
If you hate your carpet or it’s in need of replacement but you can’t afford new, you can lay area rugs over the worst spots and hide the stains or damage. If you have light carpet and want a darker change, lay down some darker colors to take away the brightness. And vice versa if you want to create a lighter feel.
Moulding or Trim
Moulding is inexpensive and easy to install. You can add chair rail, crown moulding, change your existing trim, or create patterns of your own design for very little money.
Upholstery and Slipcovers
Maybe you can’t get new furniture, but you can probably recover what you have, either by getting some slipcovers, doing it yourself with some fabric of your choosing, or by hiring an upholsterer.
Simply giving the house a good cleaning and de-cluttering can go a long way toward making it more attractive and livable. Get rid of the junk and discover how much room you have. Clean the grout in your tile and see how new the bathroom looks. Steam clean the carpets and maybe they’re not so bad. Clean your light fixtures and enjoy a brighter room. Wash your woodwork and see it shine.
Rearrange the Furniture
Take the time to rethink how your furniture is arranged. Maybe you’ve always assumed that it will only fit one way, but there might be other, better options.
Blinds, valences, shades, and curtains are inexpensive ways to add color to a room or change the appearance of the windows. There are so many styles and shapes to choose from these days, you’re no longer locked into the standard mini blind.
Convert a Room to a New Purpose
We long ago realized that we were never going to use our formal dining room as a dining room. We just don’t entertain that way. Rather than let it go unused, we converted it to an office just by changing the paint, adding a couple of more electrical outlets, and putting some french doors on the archway leading to the kitchen. All total, it cost about $600 and allowed us to change the guest bedroom that had formerly been our office back into a bedroom. The space was much better utilized and it gave us a “new” area in our house. If you have a room that’s not being used to it’s fullest potential, think about how you can repurpose it.
New flooring doesn’t have to mean expensive, exotic hardwoods and natural stone tiles. There are many varieties of laminate and vinyl available today that can replicate the look of expensive products for a fraction of the cost. They’re also pretty easy to install yourself. And there’s no one saying that you have to redo all the floors at once. Pick your two most used or ugliest rooms and start there. You can also use alternative materials like concrete, fabric, remnants, carpet samples, or even simple paint.
Maybe you want different furniture but can’t afford to hit the name brand stores. Try looking at your local Goodwill, yard sales, or thrift stores. Often you can find pieces in excellent condition or pieces that just require a little TLC. It’s not “new,” but it’s new to you and that can be enough to make you feel better. You can also build or create your own furniture using inexpensive materials and a little ingenuity. For items like kitchen or desk chairs, a new seat cushion can give a quick lift.
New Shower Curtains and Bath Mats
Jazz up a bathroom with a new shower curtain or some new bath mats/area rugs. If your bathroom is boring white, give it a color lift. Similarly, if you have a pink, gold, or green bathroom from the 60’s or 70’s that you can’t stand, choose some colors that complement the decor while also minimizing the parts you don’t like.
New Bed Linens
Pick out a new comforter and pillow shams to instantly jazz up the bedroom. Maybe you’ve had grandma’s quilt on the bed long enough and now it’s time to bring out the Caribbean feel you’ve always wanted.
Fix whatever is broken in the house. Replace burned out bulbs and add more light. Patch and paint any holes or cracks in the walls. Fix the broken end table you keep meaning to get to. Simply repairing all those things you’ve been meaning to can improve your home for little cost.
New Toilet Seats
I’m serious. You’d be surprised at how much a new toilet seat can jazz up a tired bathroom. You don’t have to stick with standard white. There are lots of colors, patterns, and textures available today that can complement your decor or become the focal point for the bathroom.
Updating your kitchen and bathroom fixtures can give those rooms a much needed update and most are easy to install yourself, no plumbing experience necessary.
New Knobs on Cabinets and Doors
They seem like small things, but the knobs on your cabinets and doors can change the feel of your home. Maybe you have brass and you want a brushed steel look. Or you’ve got those crystal knobs from the 50’s and you want something newer. They don’t cost a lot but the little change can spice up your house.
New Towel Rods
Try changing out the towel rods in your bathrooms and kitchen for a quick lift.
Maybe it’s time for some new family photos on the walls, or to better arrange what you already have. Maybe it’s time to look for some new paintings or posters or to reframe something you have and love. You don’t have to get the works of the old masters; something you like presented well can change a room.
A well placed, large plant can hide an ugly fireplace or unused radiator. Smaller plants with bright blooms or leaves add color to a room. Plants can match the mood you’re trying to create, as well. Tropical plants make a room seem more Caribbean, while evergreens make it seem woodsier. Plants also improve the air in your home.
Embrace Your Retro-ness
If you have a pink bathroom, a gold kitchen, or metal kitchen cabinets from the 50’s, stop thinking about how to modernize it and figure out how to embrace it. Retro is in, so play it up. Find some vintage artwork at Goodwill and hang it up. Put some magnets on those cabinets. Create a retro-looking calendar and hang it in the kitchen. Buy some retro-looking lamps or fixtures. Instead of fighting your decor, play with it and create a look.
Finish the Unfinished
If you have an unfinished attic, basement, upstairs storage area or any other space you can convert to usable space, doing so can give you a lot more room. It’s more expensive than some other ideas, but can still be reasonable if you do your own labor. You may also want to think about converting a garage to a usable room if you’d rather have the space than a garage.
Adding on is pricey, but it’s a lot cheaper than moving. You can add to the ends of your house, or off the back without too much inconvenience to you. Doing so can give you one or more extra rooms or simply expand an area like the master bedroom or the living room.
Hit the Thrift Stores
All kinds of things can be found at Goodwill, thrift stores, consignment stores, yard sales and flea markets. Almost anything listed above for your home can be found there. You can also find things like tablecloths, place mats, artwork, frames, knick knacks, memorabilia, and many other decorative items. Much of it will be in great condition.
Wash the House
If the funk is so thick on your house that you can write your name in it, you need to wash your house. You can rent a
power washer and do it yourself, or you can pay someone around $100 to do it for you. It will make the house look new.
Pick up the Trash
Don’t leave piles of trash around the outside of your home. Just looking at that stuff can drag you down and make you hate your house. Make sure your household trash is collected (or hauled to the dump) each week. Pick up newspapers and flyers and clean up any trash that’s not even your fault such as cigarette butts and other litter.
Paint or Replace the Mailbox
The mailbox is the first thing you see when you come home. If it’s broken, falling over, or ugly, it can make everything else seem shabby, too. Paint the post, replace the box, if necessary, and plant a few flowers around the base.
Kill the Weeds
Get rid of weeds in your planters and in your foundation plantings, if applicable. If your driveway is gravel, get rid of weeds there. If you have a concrete driveway and sidewalk, look for weeds in the cracks.
Trim the Shrubs
If you have shrubs along the front of your house or along the driveway, give them a good trim so they aren’t overgrown. This is also a safety issue as overgrown bushes give burglars a place to hide.
Paint the Shutters
Whether your shutters are vinyl or wood, they need care. Vinyl will fade and painted wood will peel. For the cost of a few cans of paint (if you have vinyl shutters you can get the spray paint that’s made for plastic) you can make them look dramatically better. You can also change colors entirely to give the house a new look.
Clean your Fixtures
Clean anything like light fixtures, door knockers, house numbers, door knobs, kick plates, or mail slots. If they are brass you might need to polish them to really make them shine.
Change your Fixtures
Outdoor fixtures like lights, knockers, house numbers, kick places, and doorknobs typically don’t cost that much. Maybe you want to change form brass to a brushed nickel look, or vice versa for something new. You can also paint many fixtures.
Clean and Organize the Garage
You’ll have more space (maybe you can even finally get your car in there) and it’s refreshing to come home to a clean, functional garage. You may finally be able to move your hobbies out there, giving you more room in the house.
Paint the Front Door
A new color on your front door can give your house a new look.
Paint the House
If your home is wood and the paint is peeling or faded, give it a fresh coat. Change the color for even more impact.
Plant Something Pretty
If you have areas where plants can go, such as around the mailbox or along the front of the house, plant some durable flowers, shrubs, or ground cover. A couple of pots near the door or steps filled with flowers can help, too.
Clean the Doors and Windows
Give glass exterior doors and windows a thorough cleaning.
Paint or Repair Fencing
If you have a fence, give it a fresh coat of paint/stain and repair any broken or sagging areas.
If you have areas where grass doesn’t grow well, such as under trees or play sets, consider adding some fresh mulch to add color and definition to the yard.
Clean the Driveway
If you have a concrete driveway and it has oil spots, paint spills, or “artwork” from your kids, clean it off. You can buy cleansers made for concrete at home improvement stores.
Re-do Your Patio or Deck
If you have an outdoor space made of wood, give it a wash and stain, if desired. Patio furniture is relatively inexpensive, so you might be able to find something new to replace your rusting table. Or, you can just repaint that table. Add some plants and upgrade the lighting and you can have a like-new outdoor area.
Of course, doing all of these at one time is likely to be as expensive as moving would have been. But you don’t have to do them all at once. Pick a few that will give you the most bang for the fewest dollars and work on those. When you have some more money, do some of the others. If you do them a few at a time and do your own labor, you can rejuvenate your old house for very little money.
(Photo courtesy of meddygarnet)