You don’t need to spend all weekend building decorative accents to give your home a visual overhaul. Here are 14 inexpensive, easy design updates to make your home feel as fresh as it was on move-in day—or even fresher.
Interior designers recommend hanging mirrors as a way to open up your space, add light, and create a decor accent. Mirrors reflect light and make small rooms look significantly more spacious. Place them near beams of sunlight or lamps to brighten the room, or put them in view of plants to double your greenery. Even if your space seems bright and open, a small mirror can make a great wall accent.
2. FAUX BACKSPLASHES.
Not every kitchen and bathroom has a stylish tile backsplash, but it’s easy to fake one without having to spread any grout. You can buy peel-and-stick gel or PVC material that rolls onto the wall in one piece, creating the illusion of a real tile, stone, marble, or tin. The self-adhesive material is easy to remove with a blow dryer, making it a perfect choice for renters. For just a few dollars per square foot, you can have a whole new wall.
3. BASIC SHELVING.
Adding more flair to your walls is an easy way to totally transform the space. Shelves can break up blank walls while giving you extra storage space for both necessities and knick-knacks that are decorative in their own right. New shelves don’t have to be pricey. After all, they’re just wood and mounting brackets. If you don’t want to shell out for pre-made shelving unit, you can buy the wood and the mounting hardware separately, creating a custom look for less. Hardware stores and online retailers sell decorative brackets that run the gamut from simple supports to antique cast-iron scrolls to industrial-style pipes. Then, all you have to do is cut wood planks to fit and paint them in your favorite color.
4. UPDATED THROW PILLOWS.
Throw pillows are a surprisingly cost-efficient way to redo your living room. Most square throw pillows come in standard sizes with removable covers, so if you want to put a totally different spin on your couch and armchairs, you can just replace the covers with new designs. You can get decorative cushion covers for as little as a few dollars each online, and there are a near-infinite number of elegant patterns and color schemes to choose from. Arrange them on the couch to your liking and marvel at your new look.
5. WINDOW FILM.
You can easily block out a less-than-scenic view without sacrificing the precious light that comes with it. Window films are easy-to-install, temporary solutions that make your windows into opaque panels, giving you a bit of privacy, to boot. They come in simple matte or patterned designs, including stained glass versions, and most rolls may only cost $20 to $30.
Indoor plants filter the air and can help boost your mood, so they’re an easy choice when it comes to making your living space a little more inspiring. Place them on shelves and side tables or hang them in windows. If you don’t think you have enough natural light to support a whole indoor garden, ask someone at your local hardware or plant store to help you find species that don’t need hours of direct sunlight (or particularly tender care), or go the less hands-on route. Fake plants can look surprisingly realistic. (Hint: Go for greenery, not flowers.) Dried flowers can also make your space feel homey and fresh without the worry of wilting petals.
7. NEW ART.
Bare walls can make an apartment or house look like you just moved in. Try creating a gallery wall with several favorite photographs, prints, and posters, which can have the bonus effect of making your space look a bit bigger. Spring for frames, because a wall full of unframed posters will make your room look like a dorm. You can either go for budget versions or browse thrift stores for framed art that might not exactly match your taste, but has a great frame you can use.
As for the art itself, you don’t need to spend a fortune. Search sale inventory at poster shops, collect postcards, and look for high-resolution public domain art (like vintage travel posters or scientific illustrations) you can print yourself or track down in inexpensive prints. Or, purchase a pre-stretched canvas and wrap it in a bright or patterned fabric and hang that on the wall. And in the right frame, a patterned tea towel can look as artistic as a poster, as can certain matte wrapping papers. Using mats will give your art a more professional vibe, especially if it’s something like a tea towel.
8. BOOKCASE FLAIR.
The back panel of your bookcase can provide an unexpected opportunity to add design flair to an otherwise standard piece of furniture, and it may be one of the most inexpensive ways to do so. You just need cardboard and some fabric, wrapping paper, wallpaper, or painting skills. Cut the cardboard to fit the dimensions of the shelf, then wrap that piece of cardboard tightly in whatever material you’ve purchased, or paint a design on it yourself. Push the cardboard into the back of the shelf against the panel, and you’re done. If the back panel is easy to remove, you can also take it off and wrap the entire panel in your patterned fabric or wrapping paper, then replace it—but if it’s a wide bookcase, you’ll have to be careful so that visible seams between the panels of paper don’t show.
9. UNIQUE LIGHT FIXTURES.
You don’t have to shell out for a chandelier to make your home lighting look a little classier. Don’t be afraid to swap out your overhead light fixtures for something trendier with a little more personality. It’s a simple way to make a home look truly yours. You can make it into a DIY project for a true bargain, or buy yourself a unique piece that will add a little artistry to your ceiling and give you the exact type of lighting you want for your room. In some cases, you don’t even need to swap out the fixture itself. Just replace the existing shade with a new one that’s more reflective of your taste.
10. REUPHOLSTERED DINING CHAIRS.
While reupholstering a sofa is a slightly involved task, giving your dining chair cushions a revamp is fairly easy. All it requires is a little bit of fabric and a staple gun. You’ll need about 1/2 a yard of fabric for each cushion. Once you remove the cushion and the old fabric cover, you can use the foam cushion as a pattern to figure out what size to cut the new fabric. Cut it into a square slightly bigger than the cushion, then wrap the fabric around it and staple it to the bottom of the frame, and you’re done. If your old chairs are truly worn down, you can also buy foam to replace the worn-out cushion.
11. ACCENT DOORS.
You may not want to go to the time, trouble, and expense of painting a whole room, but it’s much easier to paint a door, or even just part of one. You don’t need to buy a whole gallon of paint, since you’ll only need a fraction of what you’d use to paint a room—you can stick to quart-sized cans instead. For a more subtle look, stick to painting just the trim a bright color, leaving the white of the door itself intact, or paint only the door’s raised or recessed panels.
12. SPRUCED-UP STARTER FURNITURE.
Just because your furniture was inexpensive doesn’t mean it has to look shabby. There are a variety of projects that can give your furniture a more elegant look so that your home no longer looks like it’s a crash pad, and not all of them are complicated. Transform your plain side tables by painting them a splashy color or adding brass corners, or take some of that leftover contact paper from your kitchen backsplash project and give your coffee table a faux-marble top.
13. NEW CABINET AND DRAWER HARDWARE.
The handles, pulls, and knobs that adorn your cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and bathroom are often overlooked as a part of a room’s design aesthetic, but they can make a big difference. Adding new and unique hardware is an easy way to make a room feel custom without breaking the bank. You can choose from a multitude of materials and styles both retro and modern to make your standard cabinets look new again.
14. ROOM DIVIDERS.
Room dividers and decorative screens can add privacy or just give a little structure to spaces that otherwise feel a little big and empty. They come in a wide variety of styles that may cost as little as $30 to $40 each. If a tall fabric or wood screen doesn’t feel like your style, try a more translucent version or make your own by hanging a curtain on a moveable clothing rack. Bookcases also work well as room dividers. This can create a clear division of living spaces in, say, a studio apartment that doesn’t have a wall to separate the bedroom from the living room or kitchen, or make a private dressing area in a bedroom or an office space within a living room.
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