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Refreshing your home on a budget

Swapping out your blinds for woven bamboo blinds is a quick way to give your room a whole new look.
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If the TV home improvement shows were reality, everyone would have $100,000 to completely renovate their homes. It would involve moving out for six weeks and returning to a completely new place.

And now, back to reality.

Most of us don’t have the budget for a complete reno every five years, but you can refresh your home’s look with a few simple and low-cost touch-ups. A few updates in common areas can make them sparkle for a couple of hundred dollars.

“If you’re looking for a quick refresh on a budget, paint is your best friend,” says Heidi Huddleston, a certified kitchen designer and owner of Delicious Kitchens & Interiors in Charleston, S.C. “It’s the most affordable and impactful way to make a change.”

Inexpensive paints offer fewer color and sheen options, but otherwise get the job done. Huddleston recommends a flatter eggshell sheen in bedrooms and a shinier satin sheen everywhere else. Dark colors make rooms look smaller, so generally be careful with them.

Start by painting just the trim with a new color. You might be able to cover the whole house without exhausting a single can of paint. Or hit one wall in a room to add an accent. Painting is pretty high on the DIY meter.

Once upon a time, wallpapering was expensive and exhausting. But today’s peel and stick wallpaper is less pricey and more convenient. A hundred bucks can get a whole wall covered without the mess of glue. Wallpaper comes in a nearly infinite array of styles, so find the pattern that makes your heart sing and begin your aria.

In the kitchen, throw some new paint on your cabinets, says Cathy Rowland, owner of Cathy’s Custom Window Treatments.” It cost $200 and some time,” she said. There is lots of prep before you paint — cleaning, sanding, de-glossing and using a primer, so if you’ve never done it before, chat with a reputable paint person at stand-alone paint stores where that’s all they do.

Another quick and easy tip is to change out hardware. Flipping the cabinet pulls and knobs requires one trip to the hardware store and one screwdriver. Hello, Mr. Phillips!

Refreshing your home on a budget

Changing out the hardware on your cabinets is a quick, inexpensive way to give your kitchen a new look.
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If they’re gold colored, try silver or vice versa. Or get bold and go with black. A wide selection of styles provides a plethora of options. Unlike painting, this takes minutes and no prep time — unless you count opening the package.

If the budget rules out new drapes, says Rowland, update the pillows on your couch. Try something a little off the beaten track. Or change out your blinds to a woven look, like bamboo, seagrass or sisal. They’re available at big box stores and can tie in well with a rug of the same weave.

Adding window boxes and planters boost the curb appeal of your home.
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Don’t forget the outside. Curb appeal is king. Punch it up for a few hundred dollars by painting the front door with a bright new color, installing a new mailbox, and adding window boxes, shutters and planters, says Huddleston.

The bathroom doesn’t require much effort or expertise. Change out the shower curtain, rod and rings in minutes. If you have a builder-grade mirror without a frame, take it down, plug the holes, and put up a prettier mirror that better reflects your tastes. If you want to take it a step further, buy a new bathmat and some fluffy towels.

Updating old light fixtures is a great refresh, but unless it’s a lamp, you might need to call a budget-busting electrician. Try switching out shades as a wallet-friendly alternative. Or, if you’re adventurous, says Rowland, get some of that newfangled help. “If you don’t know how to do it, type into Father Google or Uncle YouTube and find a bazillion ideas.”

Whatever you do, says Huddleston, don’t fall for what’s hot or trendy or you’ll end up with a house full of shiplap. “Pay attention to what you like and don’t be sucked into what everyone else likes unless you’re just doing it for resale,” she said. “There are designers with a national presence who lots of people try to emulate because they think it’s stylish or fashionable, but I don’t think it reflects the silent tastes of people living in houses.”

It’s not a design tip, but decluttering can often deliver more bang for the buck than anything else. A beautiful interior can be ruined by … stuff. Rowland once turned down a job because the house was such a mess she couldn’t get to the windows for measurements. Make the effort to assign everything its place and return it there every night.

If your bankroll for these projects is more like $100, tackle one of these jobs and get to others later. If you have $1,000 for your refresh, stack ideas: a little paint, some new hardware, a bathroom update, window boxes and shutters outside and a new rug and pillows and — voila! Whose house is this?