50 Amazing Home Upgrades for Under $50
These affordable low-budget decorating tips from the pros will make your home magazine-worthy in no time.
Creating a home that reflects not only your needs in terms of space, but your personal style, is no small feat. That challenge is only made more difficult when you're trying to decorate your house cheaply.
However, you don't need to have a huge budget or undergo time-intensive renovations to completely transform the look of your home. With the help of interior designers, we've rounded up the easiest ways to completely make over your space for under $50. And for more great ways to spruce up your space, check out these 27 Amazing Home Upgrades for Every Budget.
Make your own book covers.
Want to freshen up your bookshelf? Try making some DIY book covers to give your existing shelving a new look.
"Just find some scrapbook or craft paper, cut around the dimensions of your book, and fold to fit," suggests interior designer interior designer Nancy Charbonneau. "You can leave the spines blank or write in book titles using the same style of handwriting to achieve a more cohesive look."
Bring in some greenery.
If you have a garden or yard, bringing in some greenery from your outdoor space can help brighten up any room on a budget.
"All you have to do is gather leaves and branches and put them into water to bring life into any space," says Charbonneau. "Some of my favorites from my backyard include magnolia branches, philodendrons, any type of holly tree, liriope, African iris grass, sego palm fronds, and ferns." And if you're looking for some gorgeous additions to your home, check out these 20 Easy-to-Care-For Houseplants That Will Brighten Any Room.
Add some lighting to your closet.
If you find it difficult to find things in your dark closet, there's an easy and inexpensive solution that doesn't require hiring an electrician. "Refresh your closet by adding LED light strips
and a cool rug," suggests Daniele Busca, creative director for home goods company Scavolini USA. Busca also notes that adding a large mirror and organizing your items can help create a more stylish and cohesive look. And for more ways to make over your wardrobe, discover these 20 Easy Tips for Keeping Your Closet Organized.
Declutter your space.
One of the most inexpensive ways to redo your space is also one of the easiest: just declutter!
"The easiest project for revamping your space is to get rid of unused or overused objects," says Busca. "Unless they represent a great memory, don't think twice and don't look
back. The room will look immediately fresher."
Update your door hardware.
A new knob or handle could be the very thing you need to completely remake the look of any space, whether you're looking to change your front door or the feel of your bedroom. "Updating your home's door hardware is a project that can be easily customized to fit your project's needs, regardless of your design concept or installation preferences. And best of all, it can be done affordably for any budget," says Ted Roberts, style and design chief for Allegion. And if you want to make your home more inviting, check out these 40 Simple Tricks for Boosting Your Home's Curb Appeal.
Or just give them a fresh coat of paint.
Want your door remodel to cost even less money? A can of spray paint is all you need.
"Spray paint outdated finishes, such as brass, on light fixtures and knobs," suggests Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Buyers. "Doing so can completely transform the look and feel of a room, taking it from dull and drab to trendy and chic." And for more great information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Refinish your old doors.
If you have a door that's seen better days, refinishing it can add instant appeal to any room.
Refinishing a door will "breathe new life into it," says Megan Thompson, owner of Denver-based interior design firm Spark Interiors. "A new coat of finish will most likely cost no more than $50 and it will reinvigorate your home with new feelings of antiquity and charm."
Swap out the handles on your bathroom vanity.
Replacing an entire vanity can be an expensive proposition, but just replacing the knob or pulls on your existing one can remake the room on a dime. "Just use a drill or screwdriver to remove the old hardware and replace with a newer style and finish," says Leah Tuttleman, a member of the certified Allied Society of Interior Designers for Re-Bath, who notes that matte black and brushed nickel finishes are particularly timeless.
Move your shower curtain higher.
If you want to make your bathroom seem more elegant, try altering the position of your shower curtain. "To create the illusion of higher ceilings, raise your curtain rod a foot or so higher than the ceiling of your shower," suggests Tuttleman. She also recommends matching the curtain rod to the finish of the rest of the bathroom's hardware to get a put-together look.
Give your fireplace some new paint.
Adding some new paint to your fireplace can completely transform any room for under $50. "You can instantly add cottage or farmhouse charm with a milk paint makeover," says DIY expert Lisa Jaspers, founder of A Country Girl's Life. Jaspers says, "The result is a chippy, worn look that appears like it's been there for years" and notes that this project can be finished in a single weekend. And if you want to avoid a design faux pas, These Are the Paint Colors Experts Say to Never Use in Your Home.
Make use of your extra vases.
If you have some extra vases in your home, fill them with some fresh flowers for an inexpensive way to make over any room. "You can also organize them together on your dining table to make an artistic statement," says interior designer Michelle Harrison-McAllister.
Add some floating shelves.
Displaying your prized possessions doesn't have to mean cluttering up every tabletop and bookcase in your house. Instead, add some floating shelves to show off those collections with pride.
"They are cheap to buy but can add interest to a space that might otherwise just be 4 walls," says interior designer Sarah Macklin of Dream of Home. "When you get bored of the room again, you can just change the items on your shelves!"
Paint a chalkboard.
Get organized and spruce up your space in one fell sweep by adding a chalkboard wall in your entryway. In addition to being a great place to put lists or notes to your roommates or family, it can function as a fun design element. "On a weekly basis, draw a picture, or write a note from your house to you, in chalk, on a blackboard. Arriving home to a cute message from my home always makes me smile!" says house flipper Shaun Martin, owner of Watson Buys.
Incorporate accessories from your travels.
Who says the only thing you can bring back from your trip is jet lag and expensive artwork? You don't need a huge travel budget to find interesting pieces for your home. "People always think you have to spend a lot of money, but a kitschy postcard in a cool frame is chic," says interior designer and lifestyle expert Courtney Cachet. "Maps are free and look cooler in other languages."
And you don't have to fly overseas to add your travel findings into your home either. "If trips to Paris, Bariloche, or Mumbai aren't on your agenda, don't sweat it," Cachet notes. "A scarf you bought on the street at a flea market in San Antonio can be just as cool as one purchased in Montmartre. The things you cannot buy at Target are the little details that create conversation, that make a room unique—and you're documenting your history in your home."
Add color to your hallway.
Adding some color to a small space, like a hallway, can have a major impact—as long as it's the right one. Courtney Keene, director of operations for MyRoofingPal, says choosing a lighter color paint for these areas will "give the illusion of space." This way, the color won't overwhelm your home the way painting an entire room in a dramatic hue might.
Or paint your molding.
If you want to spruce up your space and don't have a huge budget, try switching up your moldings. "Change your baseboard, wall casings, and crown molding," suggests J. Pickens, host of HGTV's The Work Around. "I have toured [around] 1,000 homes and nearly 80 percent of them have the same three molding profiles. And if it's not in your budget, consider painting the molding with a color instead of just your walls."
Invest in a set of stylish bookends.
Adding some stylish bookends will make your floating shelves or bookshelves even more of a centerpiece. Opt for fun ceramic or even geode bookends instead of plain brass ones.
Add a few hanging plants.
Turn any room into an indoor garden with the addition of a few hanging plants. They also draw the eye upward, making low ceilings look taller. "They're beautiful, budget-friendly, mood-boosting, and add interest to any space they're placed," says Claire Boyle of ePlanters. "For more of an interior jungle vibe, use hanging planters with string of turtle or string of pearl plants for a veil of cascading greenery."
Install a gorgeous fireplace surround.
Even if you don't have a working fireplace, you can make your living room look like a million bucks with a pretty fireplace surround. Look for intricate wood or marble ones at antique shops and home improvement centers, like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Strategically place some backlighting.
"Just like theatre lights can change the appearance of a stage, lights in your home can make a huge impact," says interior designer Lori Wiles of Lori Wiles Design. She recommends using lights "in large plants or behind furniture to highlight their shapes and create interesting shadows."
Not ready to invest in a totally new lighting scheme? No problem! "Candles—real or battery operated—make dark shelves glow with warmth and help you see the more interesting spaces in the room," she adds.
Add interesting light switch covers in every room.
Little details matter. If you want to make your space less boring, take out those outlet covers that came with your house and replace them with more visually-exciting variations, like wooden ones or those with ornate details.
Turn clutter into collections.
Those tchotchkes may look like little more than clutter sitting around your home, but making them into mini collections and displaying similar items together can make your space more interesting without going full kitsch.
"Combining several small things with a few larger elements, like hurricane candle holders or simple potted plants, becomes an interesting collection that is meaningful to you," says Wiles.
Bring in a large leaning mirror.
If you want to make a room look bigger and more cohesive in one fell swoop, anchor it with a large mirror. Since it reflects the space around it, Jamie Safier, a luxury real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York City, says a big mirror will open up the room and give the illusion of depth, even in a space with minimal square footage.
Make cushions part of your seating arrangement.
Sofas and chairs aren't the only way to add seating to your home. There's a less expensive and cozier option right in front of you: Floor cushions! Pickens says that adding these can "open up the ways and places that you can sit and relax."
Spruce up a side table with a coat of black paint.
Have a side table that's seen better days? Painting it with a few coats of high-gloss black paint can camouflage its flaws while making it look more au courant.
Go for the gold accents.
Gilded pieces have come a long way since the brass-heavy days of the 1980s. If you want a fresh take on gold décor, opt for brushed metal instead of the shiny stuff, and pair it with rich jewel-toned furniture and accent pieces.
And embrace colorful accent furniture.
A bright shade of yellow, red, green, blue, or even purple can really liven up a room. Pickens urges homeowners to not shy away from color. "I'm not saying that you should paint your walls fuchsia," he says. "But, certainly a fuchsia chair in the right spot might spice things up a bit."
Mix and match your dining room chairs.
A little whimsy goes a long way when it comes to making your house look more interesting. To achieve this look in your dining room, mix and match chairs in different styles, but with complementary tonal palettes.
And do the same with your door knobs and hinges.
Your identical door hardware might look consistent, but that can be a snooze. "Not everything in a house has to be so perfectly matching. Variety is a good thing," says Pickens. "Use different door hardware throughout the house—bonus if you can find some cool antique ones."
Bring some outdoor furniture in.
Want to make your inside living space livelier? Bring those patio pieces indoors! For example, Wiles recommends using "colorful metal garden chairs around a vintage farmhouse dining table."
Paint a patterned wall.
Who says that accent walls have to be a single color? If you want to spruce up your space without spending big, you can completely transform any room by painting a patterned accent wall—think stripes, polka dots, or a chevron pattern.
Create a wallpaper accent feature.
Love the look of patterned wallpaper but don't want to—or can't afford to—cover an entire room? Just do an accent wall instead! Since you're only papering a single wall, you can go bold with your pattern and color choice without overwhelming the space. You can even use peel-and-stick wallpaper that'll make changing things up easy.
Or stick up some removable wall decals.
If wallpaper is too much of a hassle or expense, go for a similar look that comes with a lower commitment and a lower price tag. Stick-on vinyl wall decals will instantly add character to your space—and for less money than new wallpaper or a new shade of paint.
Install some wainscoting.
That beat-up looking drywall makes your house look dingy and dull. To spruce it up, install some wainscoting and a chair rail to your walls. It's a relatively inexpensive addition to any space, and you can have the boards cut at your local hardware store.
Or add some picture frame molding.
Picture frame molding can make your home look like it's right out of a Wes Anderson movie, without cluttering up your walls. It's the perfect decorative addition for the minimalist who also doesn't want to be bland. Here's a guide on how to do it yourself for under $50!
Add some 3D art to your walls.
Are your walls looking a little too flat? Pickens suggests adding a sculpture piece to bring them to life. It's a "great alternative—or accent—to a large, flat canvas on a wall," he says.
Use letter boards.
A little signage can bring a lot of character to any room. "Letter boards allow you to effectively inject humor into a space that's otherwise low on energy," says Nicole Gittens, principal designer at New Vision Interiors and Events. "Purchase a letter board or box in colors that coordinate with your home, and if you don't know what to make it say, search the internet! There are tons of fun things you can spell out that'll make your space come to life from one season to the next."
Decorate with pet portraits.
If you're a dog or cat parent, chances are high your pets are just as integral to your family as your human relatives are, so why not honor them with some artwork? Plus, adding pieces that include your fur babies can make your space more interesting—and you can easily commission pet portraits on creative websites like Etsy for relatively low prices.
Or make your own art.
Not every piece of art needs to be done by a professional. "Art is everywhere," says Gittens. "Think outside the box when it comes to nabbing some cool pieces for your home and even try your hand at creating your own art, especially if you have an artistic flair."
Create some interactive displays.
Good art doesn't have to be admired from afar either. Encourage your family and friends who visit your home to create their own masterpieces with an interactive display. For example, Pickens has nondrying modeling clay all over his house on little pieces of wood. "Everyone who comes in loves it. You can play with it and make shapes or sculptures," he says. "It's a fun thing to interact with while you are having a conversation and has been a big hit with adults and kids alike."
Put together a gallery wall.
One of the easiest ways to make a room come together is by putting up a gallery wall. And since these typically look better when they aren't too matchy-matchy, it's the perfect opportunity to use those frames that never quite went with the décor of your house.
Take the doors off your kitchen cabinets.
Why hide your beautiful ceramics behind wooden cabinet doors? "Use open shelving in the kitchen," says Pickens. "I love kitchen cabinets with no doors at all. Kitchen dinnerware and tools come in wonderful shapes and colors and can be beautiful when styled appropriately."
Install a patterned tile backsplash.
Mosaic tile may be the go-to for practically every interior designer on TV, but if you want to make your kitchen look a bit more elegant, go for patterned ceramic tiles in white and blue instead. And if you're planning to sell your home in the near future, Safier recommends a safe, neutral colored backsplash, which you can find cheaply and install easily using peel-and-stick tiles.
Hang long curtains in your kitchen.
While kitchens often have short café curtains that only cover the window, if you want to upgrade your space, try long ones instead. Going longer will not only make your ceiling appear higher, it's also an easy way to add a pop of color to what might be an otherwise monochromatic space.
Wallpaper your ceiling.
When it comes to decorating, Doreen Amico-Sorell, an interior designer based in New York, urges homeowners to not forget their ceiling. "Treating it as the fifth wall, more attention [should] be brought upwards by ways of wallpaper, molding, or painting in colors other than white," she says.
Since molding your ceiling can be expensive, try the more inexpensive wallpaper option method. Not only can a wallpapered ceiling in a bedroom cover up a myriad of plaster and drywall flaws, it can also give you something pleasant to look at when you're lying in bed at night.
Or try some faux tin tiles.
Adding some faux tin tiles to your ceiling does double duty: It can instantly add appeal, and also disguises any flaws without costing too much if you install them yourself.
Paint your flooring.
If your floor looks worse for wear, try painting it instead of the more expensive option, replacing it. Sand the floors down to remove existing paint or polyurethane. Then, you can use an oil-based paint to cover the imperfections in your flooring, making it look brand new.
Soften up your basement.
John Cook of design company wakaNINE says it's so important not to forget your basement's potential impact on your home's overall aesthetic. "Basements rarely have good natural light or windows, so bringing nature indoors via light fixtures can correct both issues. Light shades of natural materials and organic shapes can soften the often harsh lines in a basement," he says.
Brighten up your front door.
Want a one-hour, low-cost project that can make your house stand out? Simply repaint your front door. A pop of color on the outside won't clash or take away from your interior design scheme, but it will add some serious curb appeal.
And don't stick to a single store.
If you want to spice up your home—especially on a budget—you've got to shop around. "Don't shop for everything for your home in one place. That is most certainly the formula for boring," says interior designer Vicente Wolf of New York-based Vicente Wolf Associates. "You want to mix up the look with different ideas, giving your home depth and individuality."