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An inexpensive home fix or cheap upgrade might feel too good to be true. Like, “I can make this change to my living room or bathroom for only that much money?” But these experts are here to tell you that, yep, sometimes what seems impossible is well within reach. In fact, of all the cheap home upgrades you can do yourself, designers say that the ones on the list ahead will make the biggest impact.
My personal favorites are those of the peel-and-stick variety, but new and experienced DIY-ers will appreciate how all skill levels are represented here. Whether you have a specific area in your home that you’re looking to elevate (please, no one look too closely at my bathroom counters), or your home is currently a blank canvas in need of inspiration, you’ll find plenty of fabulous ideas here.
If your walls are in need of some serious attention, Christa O’Leary, CEO and Design & Lifestyle Curator of Home in Harmony Designs, touts the ease and effect of peel and stick paper. O’Leary says, “Everyone knows that paint is an easy way to revitalize a space, but have you ever thought wallpaper could be easy and affordable? The trick is using [peel] & stick wallpaper! [...] It is a cost effective fix for those that want to make a big statement. And, don’t think just walls! Know that you can wallpaper ceilings too. This is a fun way to make a powder room pop!”
Your wall upgrades don’t have to stop at wallpaper. O’Leary also tells Bustle, “Swapping out artwork is another tip and the trick is to use frames that are consistent. This creates a professional feel and looks like it was purposefully curated.” A coordinated art set makes this a cinch, and she recommends considering this one, which includes four botanical or floral prints, as well as black and beige choices for frames.
Floors are an often overlooked choice when it comes to upgrades. According to O’Leary, “Another inexpensive, easy and durable trick (especially if you have animals or kiddos) is to use an outdoor rug, even inside! Outdoor rugs have come so, so far and they are quite beautiful. Many [times] you can’t even tell that they are outdoor because of the textures and quality.”
For example, this reversible and waterproof rug is super versatile and you can even fold it up for easy transport to camping, photo sessions, events, and more.
Speaking of texture, O’Leary says, “If you are tired of your current pillows, pull the inserts out and just buy the decorative pillow covers.” Elegant pillow covers like these are not only cost-effective, but you can find features like hidden zippers, washable materials, lots of size choices, and stylish designs. Plus, when you opt for a budget-friendly two-pack, you have an instantly coordinated look.
“The Coastal Grandmother style is the latest trend,” O’Leary reminds Bustle. “Painting with chalk paint can help you achieve the look. Find an outdated piece of furniture and give it a little love with your favorite color.” A selection of gorgeous colors, three container sizes to pick from, and a quick-drying finish ensure that this chalk paint is a breeze to work with, too.
Courtney Wollersheim, Interior Designer at FLOOR360, says, “Decorating with gold, brass, silver, or copper is trending high for home interior design. Find a piece that mixes metals so you can gradually add other metal matching objects to create a metallic motif in your space.” To follow her advice, consider a single decorative piece, a group of wall sculptures, a vase, or statue.
She adds, “Metallic cool tones like silver are great for modern and luxe design while warm golds or brass compliment your farmhouse or even Scandinavian design.”
This metal moon phase garland is another great example of how you can take Wollersheim’s tip and use metal as a striking addition to your space. The lunar vibes of this decorative piece fit into modern, mid-century, and eclectic styles, and there are four finishes to choose from, too: silver, gold, rose gold, and black. With two sizes available, that are both oh-so-affordable, you can select a single piece or display both as a matching set.
Wollersheim explains that texture can be a game-changer for your space, too. And, the effect doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve. “There are peel and stick PVC interlocking tiles that adhere easily to your living room, dining room, hallway, bedroom, or lower-level space,” she tells Bustle. Wollersheim continues, “This is exactly the thing to elevate the design of an all-white kitchen, bedroom, or living room to liven up [plain] white walls with some architectural interest and warmth.”
“For a luxe look, DIY a tile accent wall install with a peel and stick marble mosaic tile that doesn’t require grout,” Wollersheim advises. Even better, the sheets of these tiles measure roughly 10 by 10 inches, so you’re not tasked with applying every tile individually (phew!). The vibe is more subtle than bold and textured tiles, while still sleek and stylish.
Wollersheim also likes room dividers as a cost-effective, high-impact piece. She says, “A room divider that’s made from natural materials like bamboo, rattan or cane will help define a space in an open floor plan or serve as a stylish back drop for a seating area. [...] The 3 or 4 panel free standing room divider is the perfect marriage of style and function to give your open floor plan a makeover.”
This 4-panel room divider, for example, is 6 feet high and features an elegant weave pattern for a seamless blend into multiple decor styles. This one isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, though, so peek at the next list item for another option.
If you’re less concerned with texture, a simple and sophisticated room divider can also do wonders for enhancing your space. With a metal frame, fabric shade, and rotating hinges, with this version you still get the benefits of more expensive styles, but for a fraction of the cost. Plus, the 80-inch height gives you plenty of opportunities to create privacy, too.
“Mirrors automatically create shine and light to any home environment,” Wollersheim explains. She also tells Bustle, “[You] can revamp a living room or entry way with a clever grouping. A group of geometric shaped mirrors with an interlocking design can be arranged to create a statement in an entry way or above a mantle.” Be ready to field lots of compliments and questions about where you got such a striking piece.
If you’d like a little more say in how your mirrors are positioned, consider a pack of mirror wall stickers. These striking mirrors are made of acrylic, which helps the price stay down, and they’re a great dupe for the real thing. Multiple shapes are available, and they’re a cinch to install, too.
Bridget Mallon, Editorial Director of The Spruce, tells Bustle, “Most of us give little thought to our light switch and outlet plates, but swapping out the builder grade plates for something with a little flair can make an immediate difference without breaking the bank.”
A complement to other shiny picks on the list, Mallon adds, “These metallic [switch plates] are a great choice if you have metallic accents. This is one simple upgrade that instantly infuses your space with personal style.” Choose from ten hues, like matte black, stainless steel, and antique copper, and be reminded of your good taste every time you turn on the light.
“There are so many gorgeous candle options on the market these days,” says Mallon. “[B]ringing in a few pieces that fit your aesthetic can make a big impact in your space.” Among the many options, consider favorite colors, eye-catching shapes, and different height varieties. This 12-pack of pink taper candles also happens to be dripless when positioned correctly, another plus.
Mallon adds, “I love creating vignettes that feature both taper candles and scented candles in pretty vessels. Not only do they add visual interest, but lighting them is a great way to achieve a relaxing ambient light style.” This scented candle from Paddywax, for example, comes in luxe scents like Teakwood + Jasmine and Wild Fig + Cedar, and comes in a ceramic container with a copper lid. Better yet, when you’re done with the candle, the jar can be easily upcycled and reused.
Allison Babcock, Hamptons-based interior designer and founder of Allison Babcock Designs says, “[T]he bedroom is your sanctuary and an important space to make sure you always feel great when you are spending time in there. Fresh bed linens make a big impact and provide an easy way to instantly upgrade the look and feel of your bedroom.”
Her suggestion is to incorporate a set of “crisp white bed linens with an accent blanket.” These bamboo sheets are a favorite of hers, and for good reason: They’re eco-friendly, soft, and durable.
Getting fresh new sheets in the works doesn’t have to break the bank, either. These budget-friendly bed sheets have the look of more expensive styles and brands while costing a fraction of the price. Even better, they promise to be wrinkle- and stain-resistant, making them a practical and pretty choice.
To go with Babcock’s recommendation for a crisp white bedding, this duvet cover completes the look. It’s chic while being quite affordable, and has convenient features like corner ties and a zipper closure to make it easy to remove and wash. And it includes matching pillowcases to bring it all home.
Babcock suggests white for leveling up the bathroom, as well. “Elevate your bath design and bring in a sense of luxury by adding plush, classic white extra absorbent towels to your bathroom,” she says. Babcock adds, “Choose either 100% Egyptian and Turkish cotton for your bath towels, washcloths, hand towels and bathmat, this will give your bathroom that spa feel right in the comfort of your home.”
Babcock’s recommendation works for small pieces like hand towels and washcloths, too. Display Egyptian cotton washcloths on your counter, and your home will feel like a spa — also, you’ll have a fresh one on hand whenever the current one needs replacing. Not only will you enjoy it, but guests will have no idea that each cloth is less than $3 apiece when you opt for a smart set of washcloths like this one.
“Replacing dusty and old lampshades can also help freshen a room,” Babcock says. She continues, “Shades tend to yellow over time and the light in the room suffers as a result, often resulting in rooms that are dimly lit and dark, or worse, depressing. Lampshades do not have to be expensive to do a good job. I do recommend selecting lampshades made of fabric, they filter the light the best while still allowing in the perfect amount of illumination.”
Linen, like in the classic drum lampshade here, is often a great choice; it’s functional and practical, yet still chic and stylish.
Were you into bedazzling as a kid (or adult)? You’ll love Babcock’s next suggestion. “If you want to jazz up a fabric lampshade, grab a glue [tool] and a simple colorful grosgrain ribbon and let your imagination go free.” Wrap your favorite color, create weave patterns, add ombré rows — the sky’s the limit.
If you want to follow Babcock’s advice, or have crafty and creative DIY ideas of your own, then a hot glue tool is an essential item to have on hand. Inexpensive and efficient, hot glue is an effective adhesive for a multitude of surfaces. A mini one like this is also easy to store and to maneuver. Plus, it comes with 30 tubes of glue — plenty to get started.
An elegant spin on a classic piece can often be the way to go. Nina Edwards Anker, a New York-based architect, interior designer, industrial designer, and founder of NEA Studio, recommends this solar lantern for outdoor dining spaces in particular. What sets it apart? It’s handmade and features a delightful dot design embellished onto the lantern itself. Six styles are available, each with a steel frame and battery-operated solar panel.
You’ve probably seen in-ground solar lights in use before, but have you seen them positioned to highlight trees and other outdoor features? Edwards Anker recommends this strategy, and with solar ground lights available in budget-friendly sets of four, eight, 12, or 16, you’ll be able to experiment with all sorts of set-ups and styles.
Your outdoor updates don’t have to stop at lighting — try a dramatic and functional element like these sun shades. Edwards Anker says, “These sails are beautiful hung between simple wooden posts for outdoor yoga/dining.” With dozens of sizes available, ranging from 4-foot sides to 32-foot sides, and 11 colors and patterns to choose from, you’ll be able to select the perfect shade or set of shades for your home.
Edwards Anker recommends tea light candles for chic centerpieces and decor, noting that they’re “especially atmospheric for summer floating in water bowls with flowers.” If you’re planning on hosting at all this summer or looking to elevate a reading nook, tablescape, or coffee table, pick up a 96-pack of tea lights and unleash your creativity with a side of gorgeousness.
If you want ideas for just the kind of container to take your tea light set to the next level, look no further than this glass bowl pair. The bowls are a consistent shape but in complimentary sizes, perfect for terrarium-style displays, low floral bouquets, succulents, and yep — floating tea lights, too. Use them side by side or position them apart to tie your space together.
Emma Glubiack, Design expert and Social Media Manager of The Spruce, is another peel-and-stick wallpaper enthusiast and has discovered perhaps the easiest way to achieve a fun pop of wall flair with the stuff. She says, “[A] smaller peel and stick piece makes a big impact [...] I put this arch in my living room in order to define my small dining area, and it makes all the difference. Now, despite having just one big room with our sofa, TV, and dining table, it feels like two distinct zones. It took minutes to install.”
Glubiack shares, “The easiest way to make your kitchen feel brand new? You don't have to paint your cabinets or get new countertops. Simply switch out the hardware on your cabinets and drawers. Especially if your hardware is outdated, introducing something that feels more current, and more cohesive with the style of the rest of your home can make a huge impact. I like these simple handles for a great price.”
The chic two-tone combination comes in multiple designs and styles, and you can opt for a set with as few as two pulls, up to a more cost-effective collection of 50.
“Switching up how your home is lit is something that can change the entire feel of a space,” Glubiack advises. And no problem if you’re on a lease, this is an area where you likely have some wiggle room. “If you are a renter you likely have generic overhead lights. Switching out your ceiling lights for something a tad more sleek can make all the difference.”
This flush mount matte fixture is a gorgeous option. The contemporary shape and style, and white or black color choices, make it pretty, practical, and perfect for a variety of design styles.
If swapping light fixtures feels like too much work, Glubiack says not to worry. “Consider layering your lighting by purchasing a few lamps to integrate throughout your space,” she says. Glubiack continues, “You can find these at your favorite thrift store for more affordability. Consider a few table lamps for accent lighting throughout the space, while keeping in mind that you might need brighter light in an area where you work or read.”
Better still, table lamps are easily moved and often versatile, so you can freely experiment with different angles and locations. This minimalist table lamp, for starters, comes in eight sleek styles, giving you plenty of sophisticated, modern options.
Here’s a desk lamp inspired by Glubiack’s advice that’s ideal for the office. If you’re looking for lighting options that serve as form and function, you’ll definitely want to look closely. Features like a bendable arm, dimming and brightening capabilities, timer settings, multiple lighting modes, and even a USB charging port make it an efficient multitasker for a desk or even a side table.
Design expert and founder of Casadar, Laurice Constantine tells Bustle, “By just picking up a can of paint and getting to work, you can give your boring, faded walls a burst of stunning depth. Your world might change after getting a new painting job.” Opt for a versatile interior/exterior formula, and you can spruce up multiple spaces in and out of your home.
“A vintage lantern can be repurposed to serve as an invitation to guests,” Constantine says. “Once you have the parts, the job is simple and inexpensive.” Pull one out of the attic, check yard sales, browse thrift shops, or buy new; there are lots of options. This wall sconce, for example, manages to be both timeless and trendy, and will make an immediate statement to anyone who comes to your door. All installation hardware is included, too, saving you the trouble of buying extra pieces.
Another light set for your consideration, this uber-affordable Bustle pick features a matching pair of timeless mason jar sconces with shabby chic twine rope, wood backboards, silk flowers, and twinkle lights — what more could you ask for? Use all the pieces together, or save the flowers and add your own decor.
Constantine suggests, “The uncovered side of most staircases receives little care [... and] can be made into a stylish eye-catcher by adding ornate stair brackets. Use inexpensive, easy-to-install wood brackets that are fastened with nails and adhesive.” Brackets are available for both the left and right sides of your stairwells, plus they can be easily painted for a custom look.
Sarah Bowen, UK-based interior designer and founder of home improvement site Spruce Up, shares, “Panelling is all the rage, and it's not surprising why. It's a cheap, easy way to redecorate your space, quickly turning a boring wall into one that's aesthetically pleasing.”
Bowen adds, “You can choose what moulding your panels follow and the paint colour, making it suitable for a range of home styles, from traditional, to modern and even regal! If you're keen on doing some DIY, I recommend giving panelling a go. All you need is [...] panels, No Nails Glue, a sander, level, hammer, tape measure, and paint!”
When it comes to paneling, Bowen says, “Reclaimed wood is an all-round winner. Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint, but you're also creating an in-style rustic feel. Reclaimed wood panelling looks excellent as a headboard, behind a sofa, or on any wall that needs a boost. It offers a unique, rough and ready texture unparalleled by any other panelling design.”
Installation can be as easy as adhesive or nails, and even better — you don’t have to source your own wood. Reclaimed wood planks are readily available on Amazon.
Bowen adds, “I recently paneled my bedroom wall and couldn't have done the task without my Ryobi Sander.” It’s wireless, battery-powered, and boasts 10,000 orbits per minute. A dust bag also captures potential messes, and sanding pads are included, too, making it easy and efficient for small projects around your home.
“I also recommend the No More Nails Glue,” Bowen says. “I’ve used it for many home improvement tasks, and it's always been a winner.” It’s made for everything from mounting, hanging, and repair projects, and works with a variety of surfaces from wood to concrete. Pick it up for a paneling project, and you’ll find plenty more uses for it around your home.