6 Low-Cost Hacks to Upgrade Your Home (No Reno Required!)
There's a reason design TV shows that pull off top-to-bottom transformations in a few days are so popular. It's no fun to face the unpleasant reality of major renovations: They're time-consuming, costly, and more often than not, stressful. (And if you live in a rental, they may be impossible altogether.) When faced with these hurdles, it's easy to lose the motivation to make the changes you would if Ty Pennington could swoop in.
The good news is you don't have to take on a full-blown renovation to refresh your home. We asked six designers to share their favorite, affordable upgrades to help you breathe new life into a tired interior ASAP. Prepare to make a hardware-store run, because you're about to be inspired.
Enlist an Unconventional Pop of Color
If you've ever sold a home, you know the advice: Repaint your worn-out walls to maximize the selling price. But even if you aren't going anywhere, you'll find that a fresh coat of paint totally changes the vibe of your space.
While you might think a versatile neutral is the obvious move, Texas-based designer Sarah Stacey encourages you to think outside of the box. For the perfect pop, she recommends Benjamin Moore's Dark Harbor and Sherwin-Williams' Riverway. "Teal is such an easy paint color to work with," she explains. "You can use either of these on walls or on cabinets to give the illusion of a brand-new space!"
Not sure where to start? Houston-based designer Mary Patton recommends focusing your efforts on your bedroom, a spot where you spend a significant amount of time. "Bedrooms can look newly renovated with just a few low-cost changes," Stacey agrees. "Try a bold paint color from floor to ceiling. Add character with throw pillows, a colorful rug, and fresh flowers on the bedside table."
Level Up Your Lighting
Most design enthusiasts know the amount of lighting a room receives can make or break the space. But did you realize the look of your fixtures affects your atmosphere, too? If you want to change the mood of your room—but don't want to completely blow your budget—this small tweak can make a big difference.
Your first step: Look up. "Eliminate can lights wherever possible," Patton recommends. "Lamps, sconces, and chandeliers on a dimmer are the best way to go!" Illuminate your space from different heights and sources for maximum effect. That means choosing a mixture of overhead lighting, task-specific sources of light (e.g. desk or reading lamps), and localized lighting (e.g. sconces). If the room is small, switch to lower-wattage bulbs so you can turn on all your fixtures without overwhelming the space.
Outfit Your Walls with Decorative Molding
Even if you live in a newer build, you can replicate that quality of historic homes we all covet: character. New Jersey-based designer Christina Kim points to one design feature that's nearly ubiquitous in older homes—and easier and more affordable than you think. "Try adding decorative moldings to create the look of a freshly renovated home," she says. "It adds architectural interest and instantly changes the feeling of even the most basic room."
For a sophisticated take on trim, use picture frame moldings and paint them the same color as the walls. Or experiment with traditional molding patterns to freshen up a more classic space, suggests Kim.
Hop on New Hardware
Whether you whip up home-cooked meals or heat up last night's leftovers, the kitchen is the heart of any home, so you want to love the space you live so much life in. But we get it: It's also hard to stomach a total gut job to the most critical room in your house. If you're looking for an easy, affordable, and effective way to revive a dated kitchen, focus on the jewelry.
"One of the easiest ways to make your kitchen or bathroom feel new and fresh is with new hardware," explains Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and Vice President of Style at Modsy. "Make sure you choose a knob that matches the same hole configuration currently on your drawer or cabinet, so you don't have to worry about drilling or filling additional holes."
Ready to upgrade yours? Grab a screwdriver, take off the current knobs, and screw the new ones into the existing holes. Voila, your kitchen just received a killer facelift. "This is a low-effort, high-impact update that can really take your kitchen or bathroom to the next level without a big renovation," Wood emphasizes.
But why stop there? New Orleans-based designer Maureen Stevens suggests applying this design hack to every room of the house. Change out the "little things"—doorknobs, switch plates, cabinet hardware—in every room to give your home a whole new vibe. Although this requires a bigger investment than tackling just one room, the cohesiveness will make your house look thoughtfully designed.
Freshen Up Your Grout
If you have light-colored grout on your bathroom floor, you may not want to look down. After years of foot traffic, you'll find that your white or cream grout turns a dingy shade of brown—even if you diligently clean your floors. This is a transformation begging to happen.
"If your bathroom tile has seen a few or more years of use, you can make the room look freshly installed by applying a new coat of grout," Wood shares. "This works best with tiles that are in good condition."
While this hack is great for bathrooms, you can also refresh the grout on your kitchen backsplash. If you're not confident in your grouting skills, Wood recommends buying an easy-to-use grout pen, which covers up stains without all the elbow grease of scrubbing.
When In Doubt, Accessorize
If even rolling out a fresh coat of paint feels like too much work, turn your attention to the objects on your walls (and your side tables, fireplace mantel, and bookshelves). "Thoughtfully-curated accessories give rich layers to a room," explains designer Marlaina Teich. "Think bright throw blankets and pillows and gold frames and mirrors."
And, no, you don't have to spend a small fortune on your extras to outfit your space in high style. "Never underestimate the impact of flea-market finds and family heirlooms to bring intrigue to a space," the New York-based designer says. "An antique vase and some fresh flowers can give sophistication to a coffee table, kitchen, or bedroom."
Search thrift shops for vintage brass objects, old books with eye-catching bindings, or plates you can display on open shelving or hang on walls. This is a process that can happen over time—the best-accessorized homes aren't decked out in a day. You want your collection to assemble naturally, whether you make home-decor items your go-to souvenir on vacations or your grandmother gives you her favorite bookends.
When possible, try to create a cohesive color scheme, while varying the size of your accessories. But the most important thing is that you love every item you bring home. You're not just filling space—you're bringing your personality to your walls, tables, and shelves.