Make Your Fixer-Upper Fabulous on a Budget
So many makeover projects, so little time and money. Here's where to focus your home improvement efforts for the best results
Houzz Contributor. You can also find me on Lolalina (http://www.lolalina.com/), my blog devoted to all of the things that make a house a home - decorating from the heart, living with intention, and savoring life's simple pleasures.
When the to-do list around your house includes everything from "new roof" to "gut kitchen" and "buy furniture" (and you could easily pour your entire budget into just one room), you know it's time to make a plan. These 12 ideas will help you make the important decisions on where to put your money (and sweat) to make your house budget stretch the furthest.
Where to begin? Big projects, including repairs to the roof, the foundation and systems (like heating and cooling), should be prioritized, for obvious reasons — with one caveat. If a major project needs to be done but is not totally urgent (say, your home inspector said you'll need a new roof within the next few years), you might want to put more of your current savings toward cosmetic fixes you will appreciate right away.
Landscaping is a good example. Early on is the time to begin planning (and planting) upgrades to your yard. Mature trees and plantings add significant value (and curb appeal) to your home, and the most budget-friendly way to get there is to buy small, young plants and give them time to fill in.
How to boost your curb appeal
Think about functionality first. Fancy appliance upgrades can wait if what you have works. Focus your budget on essential big-ticket projects as needed, and after that on beautifying projects that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Get creative to keep costs down in the kitchen. Katherine Fugit and husband, Conan, whose kitchen is shown here, were able to accomplish an impressive transformation in their kitchen for less than $400. Rather than purchase new appliances, they scored a cool vintage stove for $45 and painted their old fridge with chalkboard paint.
See the rest of this house
Be willing to learn a new DIY skill. As a point of reference, here's the before photo of the Fugit kitchen. Several layers of funky linoleum were removed, and the couple refinished the hardwood floors hiding underneath. By putting in their own elbow grease and forgoing expensive new products, they were able to create a warm and functional kitchen within their tiny budget.
If you have never picked up a paintbrush (or rented a power sander), now is the time to dive in and pick up that new skill. If you are nervous, check your local home improvement shops — many offer free classes in everything from painting to building cabinets.
Help with home fixes and decor
Paint or refinish cabinets rather than replace them. Kitchen cabinetry is one of the biggest-ticket items in a kitchen remodel, so unless your current cabinets are completely beyond repair, make do and mend them. You can't go wrong with black or white, and new knobs and bin pulls will give the cabinets a completely different look for a few extra bucks.
8 paint palettes for kitchen cabinets
Consider doing without the medicine cabinet and vanity lights. In the bathroom, consider choosing a regular flat mirror paired with sconces instead of the expected off-the-shelf mirrored cabinet and row of lights. This is a much more current look, and if you hunt for a sale, it should be a fraction of the cost of most products made specifically for the bathroom.
Do swap out kitchen and bath faucets. Sleek new faucets can upgrade the entire room, and big-box stores often have great-looking options at a low cost.
Upgrade outdated light fixtures. Many can be found for well under $200, and the difference that beautiful lighting makes in a home is immense. Go for simple shapes and useful details, like a diffuser covering the bottom of a pendant light (as in the one from West Elm shown here), which shades your eyes from the bare bulb when you're seated underneath.
Browse light fixtures
Browse light fixtures
Save on window coverings. Surprisingly, drapes and blinds can add up to be one of the most expensive purchases in decorating your home. If you need to cover lots of windows, save your pennies by choosing off-the-rack curtains (hem them yourself) and simple matchstick blinds.
Style tip: Inexpensive curtains look far more chic in solid, neutral hues; natural fibers (cotton, linen etc.); and pole-pocket or clip-top style. Tab tops tend to look a bit saggy, so I would avoid those.
Decide what to cover up — and what to reveal. A before shot shows how this living room needed some serious TLC. The dingy brick fireplace stole the spotlight, while hardwood floors hid beneath scratchy industrial-blue carpet. But then ...
Paint outdated brickwork for an amazing after. Here is the after. Interior Designer Kate Jackson gave the space a coat of fresh, white paint and removed the carpeting to show off lovely hardwood floors. The whole space feels completely transformed.
See the rest of this project | What to know about painting brick
Enhance curb appeal with key details. Have you noticed a theme? Embrace the details. They are the budget decorator's best friend. When it comes to curb appeal, try painting (rather than replacing) the front door, freshening up trim (rather than painting the whole house) and adding potted flowers, new house numbers, and fresh chair or bench cushions.
Ideabook published on Sept. 19, 2012.
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