40 Home Upgrades You Should Have by Age 40
Your home deserves to be a magazine-worthy masterpiece.
There are many markers that signify you’ve grown up, from getting a foothold on the career ladder to building a family. However, for many people, what gets lost in the shuffle on that path toward true adulthood is home maintenance. As time goes on, people often become complacent, insisting they’ll eventually get around to sprucing up their space, while potentially allowing their home to depreciate every year they don’t make those necessary upgrades.
“Development of your personal style is a hallmark of adulthood. And like most development, finding your ‘personal style’ is gradual,” says interior Denise Gianna, owner of New York-based Denise Gianna Designs. “Your nursery evolved into your ‘big kid’ room. Your teen taste morphed into an entirely different dorm room style. And now that you are finally in your first apartment, have bought your first home, or are ready to realize your personal style, you can upgrade your space and set yourself firmly on track toward adulthood.”
So, before you spend another year feeling embarrassed by your décor, make these home upgrades that will make your space look like a million bucks. By now, you’ve earned it.
Add some entryway storage.
A little clutter is no big deal—when you’re living in a college dorm, that is. However, as a full-fledged adult, it’s definitely in your best interest to keep your home neat and tidy with some entryway storage.
“Got a closet? Be sure to use it for shoes, outerwear, and whatever paraphernalia you need every day. No closet, but [a lot of] space? Create a closet with a freestanding armoire or cabinet. No closet or space? Storage benches come in literally hundreds of sizes and configurations: simple cube storage with bins, a hanging shoe cubby, or even some attractive storage boxes alone or tucked under a small hall table is a huge upgrade,” says Gianna. “At the very least, an organized shoe rack and wall hooks are adult remedies for shoes, clothes, and backpacks in a heap directly in front of your door.”
While unframed concert posters and photos stuck to the wall with pushpins may have been fine during your teenage years, when you’re ready to upgrade your space, start by investing in some well-chosen frames. “Photos and posters look purposeful and curated in matching frames,” says Gianna.
Highlight your collections.
While you may have once been ashamed about keeping that collection of vintage superhero toys, by the time you’re nearing 40, it’s time to show off those collections with pride. “Any collection that matters to you (records, comic books, shot glasses, hub caps, et cetera) deserves to be organized, arranged, and kept together. Two or three of anything scattered about in loose groupings around your place seems random and pointless,” says Gianna. “Invest in grown-up storage furniture and use it to proudly display your Hess Truck, vintage matchbox cars, or Beanie Baby collection.”
Invest in some comfortable chairs and couches.
Those beautiful Victorian-era chairs may look great, but between concerns about damaging them and their total lack of comfort, they’re not exactly guest-friendly. If you want to make your home a place where you and invited company can actually relax, it’s time to make comfort a priority, too.
“Maintain adult comfort-level seating. Discomfort is for the young and carefree,” says Gianna. “Treat yourself and your grown-up company to comfortable and classic seating. No matter what budget you have, there’s a comfortable, movie-worthy sofa out there for you and your guests to have a comfortable, inviting place to sit.”
Ditch the trends.
While you may love the look of a chevron rug or polka-dot sofa today, if you want your home to look grown-up and stylish tomorrow, a year, and a decade from now, it’s important to not hop on every trend that comes your way.
“Unless it’s a home décor choice that is relatively easy and painless to change—paint color, drapes, and small, inexpensive accessories—go for home upgrades and big purchases that will withstand the test of time: neutral carpets and upholstery in livable, durable materials,” says Gianna.
Ditch anything that’s outlived its usefulness..
That table you keep telling yourself you’re going to sand down and refinish, yet has remained an eyesore for years? It’s time to upgrade to something newer. “Unless they are authentic vintage or antique pieces, owning furniture and home goods older than half your age is a dead giveaway that you are not yet living your authentic adult life,” says Gianna. “Do yourself a favor and invest in new, decent quality pots, pans, sheets, towels, and other accoutrement of adult life.”
Get eclectic with your décor.
While you may not want to jump on every home design trend in the book, thinking outside the box when it comes to your home décor will serve you well in the long run.
“Adults have been places and seen things. They’ve picked up possessions and personal treasures along the way. They have taken a path in life and that path almost never results in bed in a bag sheets, comforter, drapes, and throw pillow sets or identically matched furniture suites,” says Gianna. “Add instant maturity and interest to your home by gently mixing and matching your furnishing and accessories to display (or fake!) your own interesting path through life.”
Add some permanent fixtures to your space.
That card table in your living room and that stack of crates your TV is precariously perched on? They’re not doing you any favors when it comes to making your home look like an adult lives there.
“Area rugs, headboards, wall mirrors with frames, bedside tables, a place to put down a drink that doesn’t fold up later, and appropriate lighting are but a few of the hallmarks of a successful transition to adult lifestyle,” says Gianna.
Give your home some life.
Even if you’re not necessarily ready for the commitment of kids, dog, or even a long-term relationship, that doesn’t mean you should be the only living thing in your house. If you want to make your home more adult in no time, start with a plant.
“The ultimate adult upgrade is a living thing,” says Gianna. “Start small. Add a house plant or two to begin with. Don’t trust yourself with that much of an adult upgrade? Go for a cactus or snake plant. Any kid can keep them alive. And they purify the air. What’s more adult than that?”
Replace your garage door.
You try to keep your house looking presentable—so why doesn’t the same apply for your garage? If you want to make your space look truly grown-up, it’s time to get rid of that garage door you’ve backed into one too many times.
“Replacing your garage door is one of those upgrades that recoups 98.3 percent of the money invested upon the sale of your home, according to Market Watch. Another benefit of upgrading your garage door is that your curb appeal is improved, which boosts the value of your home and sets you up for an easier sell if you decide to list the house,” says Shawn Breyer of Breyer Home Buyers in Atlanta.
“Investing in a Smart Garage Door system boasts some convenience benefits, as well. Some units will automatically open based on your phone’s geolocation, will open from an app (great when you get stuck outside), and can integrate with your current smart home features like Nest and Alexa.”
Upgrade your deck.
That rotting back deck isn’t doing you any favors, either in terms of hosting guests or improving the attractiveness of your home. If you want to make your home feel more grown-up, it’s time to upgrade.
“Decking replacement is another home improvement that recoups a significant amount of your money invested. The return on investment at the time of sale for a deck is 82.8 percent just for the initial cost of building it,” says Breyer. “Spending slightly more on the front end and buying wood composite will prevent you from having to do annual power washing and resealing of the deck, which could take one to two weeks every year if you’re a DIYer. Composite decking won’t mold, stain, fade, get scratched, or warp. An added benefit is that composite wood decking is made out of recycled materials, including reclaimed wood and recycled plastics.”
Install a smart thermostat.
There are few things more adult than upgrading your home to lower your energy costs. Fortunately, thanks to new technology, upgrading your thermostat can actually be pretty cool, too.
“Upgrading your home’s thermostat is an easy upgrade that takes little effort and results in big savings overtime. Smart thermostats make it easy to stay energy efficient, significantly reducing the energy you use on heating and cooling your home and will properly control the temperature in your home. While some of these thermostats can start as high as $500, you’ll easily make this and more back in the long term,” says David Celaya, vice president of Realty Executives, who notes that a smart thermostat can save buyers up to $150 per year in energy costs.
Spruce up your front door.
Want to boost your curb appeal and make your home look more adult in one fell swoop? Give your front door some TLC. “If the doors in your home are in rough shape, replacing them is recommended,” says Celaya. “However, if that is not in your budget, a more affordable option is to add a fresh coat of paint and replace to the door handle and hinges.”
Install a pet entry.
“It stands to reason a pet’s specific needs would eventually make their way into home design,” says Celaya. “One simple upgrade is to install a pet door to your existing sliding door. No need to cut a hole in your drywall, as these doors snap and lock into the sliding door track and are available in several styles to accommodate pets large and small.”
Replace worn-out flooring.
Those scuffed-up floorboards or buckling laminate aren’t worth saving in the long run. If you want to make your home seem more adult in no time, start by replacing those torn-up floors.
“I’m a huge fan of replacing outdated or damaged flooring,” says Brad Malow, a licensed real estate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “Nothing changes a space more than putting in brand new floors. For example, using neutral-colored, long-planked wood can not only make a room appear larger, it can give an immediate sense of calm and ‘home.'”
Ditch those cheap light fixtures.
Even if you’re not working with a huge budget, it’s easy to upgrade any space with a few new light fixtures. “Lighting upgrades are always a great idea,” says Malow. “Not only can you update fixtures, you can install lighting options that make your home feel brighter and bigger.” A good starting point? Ditch those rounded, frosted flush-mount lights and opt for more elegant pendant lighting instead.
Invest in some well-built countertops.
They say kitchens sell homes, but those dinged-up laminate counters in your kitchen aren’t going to sell anything. If you want to make your space more conducive to cooking and more adult-looking, it’s time to upgrade. “Granite or hard surface countertops are an expectation of buyers these days and give elegance to your kitchen,” says broker Trey McCallie of Urban Toolbox Real Estate.
Opt for stainless steel appliances.
A few modern appliances—preferably in stainless steel—can make all the difference in how grown-up your home feels. “Nothing dates a house like old appliances,” says McCallie. “I have been in nice homes that have cruddy appliances. It would have been a major difference if it looked like the appliances were from at least the last decade.”
Get yourself a doorbell cam.
If you want to make your home safer and more grown-up in no time, McCallie suggests investing in a doorbell camera. At the very least, it will save you from having to rush downstairs when the doorbell rings, only to realize it’s that nosy neighbor you’ve been trying to avoid.
Upgrade to smart locks.
While you may have left your doors unlocked as a twenty-something, as a full-fledged grown-up, it’s time to take your security a little more seriously. “Get one of those cool locks with a combo code,” suggest McCallie.
Create a reading nook.
There’s nothing like curling up with a good book—except doing it in your own private reading nook, that is. “You can make a cozy spot to curl up and read a book by installing a custom bench and cushion under a large window,” says real estate agent Elizabeth Bain of Commonwealth Standard Realty Co. “Go the extra mile by framing the space with built-in book shelves.”
Install recessed lighting.
A little light goes a long way when it comes to making your home more functional. “Install recessed lighting in a room that needs more light. If you live in an older home where some rooms don’t have light fixtures, have an electrician install a ceiling fan with lights,” suggests Bain.
Build some outdoor entertaining space.
Who says that your entertaining space has to stop at your living room? If you’ve got a little extra cushion in your budget, build an outdoor entertaining area, too. “A stone patio, a wooden deck, a fire pit in the backyard: these will make your yard the perfect sanctuary to come back to after a long day at work and a space that your friends will love being invited over to,” says Bain.
Install a hot tub.
While relaxing in the water used to mean waiting hours to get into your nearest public pool as a kid, as an adult, you deserve a place to loosen up right at home. ”[A hot tub] becomes the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine or a cup of cocoa on a chilly winter night,” says Bain.
Shell out for a wine fridge.
Whether you’re an amateur sommelier or just hate having to wait for your favorite bottle to cool down, a wine fridge can make all the difference when it comes to your enjoyment of your home.
“If you have ample storage place, you can find room to add one underneath your counter tops. Or, if you have an old trash compactor, that could be replaced with the wine refrigerator. This will make your kitchen feel high-end and luxurious!” says Bain.
Replace your old windows.
Kill two birds with one stone—lowering your energy costs and improving your home’s soundproofing—by replacing those old windows. Better yet, in an older home, replacing original windows with newer models may eliminate lead paint dangers caused by the friction of opening an older window.
“The best upgrades, from a resale perspective, are those that can demonstrate a positive ROI for the next buyer, [like] replacing old windows with energy efficient ones,” says real estate broker Aaron Hendon.
Ditch those cheap curtains in favor of window treatments.
Those $10 curtains you hung up in college aren’t doing your space any favors. If you want to make your space look more grown-up, invest in some matching curtains and valances—or, at the very least, add some tasteful curtain pulls to the equation.
Add a backsplash.
There’s nothing that screams “adults don’t live here!” like a wall covered in the various things you’ve cooked in your kitchen. If you want to make your kitchen more grown-up (and easy to clean), opt for a tile backsplash. Fortunately, unlike some other upgrades, you don’t need a contractor to knock this one out—all it takes is the right materials, some patience, and a steady hand.
Install new siding.
One of the easiest ways to make your home more presentable-looking in a hurry is to install new siding. And luckily, it comes at virtually every price point: aluminum and vinyl are both relatively inexpensive and durable, while composite siding resists rot, termite damage, and mold and theoretically never needs replacing.
Replace that vinyl tub.
That cheap vinyl tub your home came with isn’t exactly a stylish addition to your bathroom. When you want to improve your space, replace your tub with a ceramic or metal one instead—not only are they more durable, they may improve your home’s value, too.
Upgrade those cheap bulbs.
One of the easiest ways to make your home more adult? Swapping out those incandescent bulbs for LEDs. While they cost more up front, LEDs last longer, draw less power, and, since they don’t get hot, reduce your risk of a burn or fire.
Switch to 200-amp service.
If home safety is a top priority to you, it’s time to invest in 200-amp service at your home. Upgrading your electrical service not only means you’ll be able to safely run more appliances, it can also reduce your risk of an electrical fire.
Boost your bathroom storage.
A cluttered bathroom doesn’t exactly scream “adult who’s got it together.” If you want to hide some of that clutter and improve your bathroom’s functionality, opt for a storage vanity. Once those extra tubes of toothpaste and cleaning products are hidden, you definitely won’t miss them.
Install a security system.
If you want to enjoy some peace of mind (and potentially keep burglars at bay), treat yourself to a security system. Security system contracts are getting cheaper by the year, and many don’t require expensive installation—in fact, with many systems, you can install them yourself.
Ditch that cheap kitchen sink.
That old plastic or ceramic sink will likely bear the signs of aging over time, making your otherwise-pristine kitchen look dated and unattractive. If you want to make your space look better in no time, invest in a more modern upgrade—ceramic farm sinks are in vogue, while stainless steel ones are low-maintenance and last forever.
Upgrade your faucet.
There’s no reason to live with that cheap faucet the homeowners before you installed. For under $100, you can significantly improve the look and feel of your kitchen by investing in a new faucet, like a touch-free model.
Get a built-in microwave.
That microwave sitting on your kitchen counter is doing little more than wasting space when it’s not cooking your food. For a small price, you can upgrade to a built-in model, clearing up some counter space and making your home look more grown-up in no time.
Install a rainfall shower head.
There’s nothing better than a relaxing shower at the end of a long day, but that cheap shower head your house came with isn’t likely to deliver the spa-like experience you want. When you want to upgrade your bathroom in just a few minutes, try installing a rainfall shower head; not only are they relatively inexpensive, they’re an easy swap, even for the novice DIYer.
Swap traditional drawers for soft-close ones.
Whether you’re concerned about little fingers getting stuck or just can’t stand the sound of a slamming drawer, soft-close drawers are always worth the investment. Better yet, the lack of banging around they do can also improve their lifespan.
Upgrade your heating and cooling system.
While it’s an undeniably larger endeavor, upgrading your heating and cooling system from space heaters and window units can go a long way when it comes to making your home more attractive and livable. Ductless mini-splits, which can offer both heating and cooling functions, are a great way to kill two birds with one stone, while upgrading your boiler can also keep your home at a more pleasant temperature, year-round.