40 Home Upgrades to Make After 40, According to Experts
Interior designers and real estate brokers suggest some changes.
When you start out in your first home or apartment, making the space your own is a relatively painless process. Without a lifetime's worth of stuff to find space for or much disposable income to spend on accent items, it's easy enough to decide how you'll decorate. Fast forward a decade or two, however, and your taste and your budget are likely to have changed significantly. That Craigslist couch strewn with novelty pillows and those posters taped to your walls simply won't do. If you want to give your home a much more adult feel after 40, these simple home upgrades will make your space swankier in no time.
Frame your posters and pictures.
Sure, those posters and photos taped to your walls may have looked fine in college, but adult you deserves some more mature wall décor. If you don't want to ditch the posters and pictures entirely, decorator Allyson Kozich—owner of Interiors by Allyson in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—recommends buying quality frames for them to at least make them look more put together.
Get a few pieces of art that are meaningful to you.
If you want to give your home a major aesthetic upgrade, it's time to think beyond those pieces you can pick up at your local big box stores. "You should have one or two pieces of original art that mean something to you," says interior designer Diana Weinstein, owner of DW Designs in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. "It doesn't have to be something expensive, but perhaps something you have collected from an art gallery, a memorable trip, or a hand-me-down from a family member."
Even if your budget for art is tiny, "art students and auctions offer great opportunities to purchase quality original art at reasonable prices," Kozich adds.
Get rid of those piles of your kids' art.
In your 40s, it's time to stop saving every last piece of art your kids bring home from school and only save a select few. "Don't keep a large home filled with bins just to hold their preschool artwork," says Pennsylvania-based Certified Professional Organizer® and interior designer Darla DeMorrow, owner of HeartWork Organizing and author of Sort and Succeed. Instead, frame what they're particularly proud of and ditch the rest, recycling what you can along the way.
Ditch those particleboard pieces.
While you may have only had room in your budget for particleboard furniture when you first bought your belongings, by the time you're 40, you deserve better.
Kozich notes that those "self-assembly-style pieces" you picked up because they were cheap should be among the first things on your purge list when you undergo home upgrades. Instead, she suggests you "purchase the best quality furniture you can afford."
Repurpose thrift store and estate sale pieces with some paint.
That said, you don't have to replace all of your old pieces of furniture… as long as they have good bones. "You can give existing pieces a facelift with a fresh coat of paint or new upholstery," says Kozich. "I love an estate piece painted in a shiny new bright color—it can turn into a focal point in the room."
Get a great couch.
If you're eager to upgrade your home, you should "invest in a quality and comfortable sofa that will last for years to come," says Weinstein. With countless online furniture startups, it's never been easier to find quality furniture at affordable prices.
Ditch those pieces you're hoping to hand off to your children.
You might think that old living room couch you've been saving in your basement would be perfect for your kid's first apartment out of college, but there's no guarantee that they'll feel the same way. "Believe them when they say they don't want your hand-me-down furniture or their own keepsakes," suggests DeMorrow. "Let them choose and then recycle the rest."
Add some entryway storage.
As a full-fledged adult, it's definitely in your best interest to keep your home neat and tidy, and it's far easier to do this with some entryway storage. "Create a closet with a freestanding armoire or cabinet," suggests interior designer Denise Gianna, owner of Denise Gianna Designs in New York's Hudson Valley.
If you don't have enough space for a piece that large, Gianna recommends investing in a storage bench with cube bins to keep all of your things contained. "At the very least, an organized shoe rack and wall hooks are adult remedies for shoes, clothes, and backpacks."
Highlight your collections.
"Any collection that matters to you… deserves to be organized, arranged, and kept together," says Gianna. She recommends investing in some grown-up display pieces to show off your four decades of collecting.
Abandon those over-the-top trends.
While you may love the look of a chevron rug or a polka dot sofa today, if you want your home to look grown-up and stylish a year or, better yet, a decade from now, it's important not to invest in every trend. "Unless it's a home décor choice that is relatively easy and painless to change—paint color, drapes, small and inexpensive accessories, etc.—go for home upgrades and big purchases that will withstand the test of time," says Gianna. She suggests "neutral carpets and upholstery in livable, durable materials."
Get rid of those ancient pieces you've never gotten around to repairing.
That table you keep telling yourself you're going to sand down and refinish, even though it's been collecting dust in the basement for years now? It's time to get rid of it and 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.
Upgrade your kitchen essentials.
It's time to give those flaking pans and spatulas the old heave-ho. "Do yourself a favor and invest in new, decent quality pots [and] pans," suggests Gianna.
Get rid of matching furniture sets.
Though buying a matching furniture set and calling it a day is easier, thinking a bit 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," says Gianna. "Add instant maturity and interest to your home by gently mixing and matching your furnishing and accessories to display your own interesting path through life."
Give your home some greenery.
Even if you're not necessarily ready for the commitment of kids, a 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 feel more grown up in no time, start with a plant.
"The ultimate adult upgrade is a living thing," says Gianna, who suggests those without practiced green thumbs start with a cactus or snake plant to make things easier.
Replace your garage door.
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. In addition to having one of the highest home improvement return on investment (ROI) rates, "upgrading your garage door [means] 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.
Upgrade your deck.
That rotting back deck isn't doing you any favors in terms of hosting guests nor in terms of improving the attractiveness of your home. So, if you want to make your house look and feel more grown-up, it's time to upgrade.
"Decking replacement is another home improvement that recoups a significant amount of your money invested," says Breyer. His suggestion? "Spend slightly more on the front end—buying wood composite will prevent you from having to do annual power washing and resealing."
Install a smart thermostat.
There are few things more adult than upgrading your home to lower your energy costs. And one easy way to make a big difference is investing in a smart thermostat. "Smart thermostats make it easy to stay energy efficient, significantly reducing the energy you use on heating and cooling your home," says David Celaya, vice president of Realty Executives in San Diego. He 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 grown up in one fell swoop? Give your front door some TLC. While Celaya recommends replacing your door entirely if it's in bad shape, "a more affordable option is to add a fresh coat of paint and replace the door handle and hinges," he says.
Install a pet entry.
To make your home more functional and more polished, "one simple upgrade is to install a pet door," says Celaya. And best of all, he notes there's "no need to cut a hole in your drywall, as these doors snap and lock" right into your existing door to allow Fido to come and go as he pleases.
Replace worn-out flooring.
Those scuffed-up floorboards aren't worth saving in the long run. "I'm a huge fan of replacing outdated or damaged flooring," says Brad Malow, a licensed real estate broker with Compass in New York City. "Nothing changes a space more than putting in brand-new floors." Malow recommends neutral-colored, long-planked wood, which can make even a small space look larger.
Ditch those flush-mount lighting 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, but you can install lighting options that make your home feel brighter and bigger." A good starting point, he says, is to ditch those rounded, frosted flush-mount lights and opt for more elegant pendant lighting instead.
Get yourself a doorbell cam.
If you want to make your home safer while giving it an appealing upgrade, broker Trey McCallie of Urban Toolbox Real Estate in Lexington, Kentucky, suggests investing in a doorbell camera. At the very least, this investment 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.
Swap out laminate countertops for stone.
They say kitchens sell homes—and unfortunately, those dinged-up laminate counters in yours aren't going to sell anything. So, if you want to make your space more conducive to cooking and more buyer-friendly for when you're ready to sell, it's time to upgrade. "Granite or hard surface countertops are an expectation of buyers these days and [they] give elegance to your kitchen," explains McCallie.
Upgrade to stainless steel appliances.
A few modern appliances—preferably in stainless steel—can make all the difference in how fancy 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 a built-in microwave.
That microwave sitting on your kitchen counter is completely 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.
Create a reading nook.
There's nothing like cozying up with a good book—especially when you have a reading nook to do it in. "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. in Massachusetts. "Go the extra mile by framing the space with built-in bookshelves."
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," suggests Bain. And if you live in an older home where there isn't overhead lighting in every room, "have an electrician install a ceiling fan with lights."
Create an outdoor entertaining space.
Who says that your entertaining space has to stop at your living room? If you've got a surplus 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.
In your 40s and beyond, you deserve a place to loosen up right at home—and if you have a lot of outdoor space, then a hot tub is the perfect relaxation investment. "[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 chill, a wine fridge can make all the difference. "If you have ample storage, you can find room to add one underneath your countertops. Or, if you have an old trash compactor, that could be replaced with the wine refrigerator," says Bain. "This will make your kitchen feel high-end and luxurious!"
Replace your old windows.
Lower your energy costs and improve your home's soundproofing by replacing those old windows. "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 Seattle-based real estate broker Aaron Hendon.
And in an older home, replacing original windows with newer models may eliminate lead paint dangers to boot.
Add a backsplash.
If you want to make your kitchen more grown-up (and easier to clean), opt for a tile backsplash. Fortunately, unlike some other home 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 in a hurry is by installing new siding. And luckily, siding comes at virtually every price point: aluminum and vinyl are both relatively inexpensive and durable, while composite siding is slightly more expensive and theoretically never needs replacing.
Boost your bathroom storage.
A cluttered bathroom doesn't exactly make for a pleasant and tranquil space. If you want to hide some of that mess and improve your bathroom's functionality, opt for a storage vanity. Once those extra tubes of toothpaste and cleaning products are hidden, you'll be amazed by how much better you feel.
Install a security system.
If you want to enjoy some peace of mind (and potentially keep burglars at bay), treat yourself to an updated security system.
Security system contracts are getting cheaper by the year, and many don't require expensive installation. (Some systems can even be installed without the help of a professional!)
Upgrade your kitchen sink.
That old plastic or ceramic sink will likely bear the signs of aging over time, making your otherwise-pristine kitchen look dated. If you want to make your space look better in no time, invest in a more modern upgrade: farm sinks are always in vogue, and stainless steel ones are low-maintenance and last forever.
And your faucet, too!
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. Your home will look more elegant and seem more high-tech in mere minutes.
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, but 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 offer both heating and cooling functions, are a great way to kill two birds with one stone, and upgrading your boiler can similarly keep your home at a more pleasant temperature year-round. And for more ways to upgrade your house, check out these 50 Clever Ways to Instantly Add Value to Your Home.
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