Feature

8 budget-friendly ways to improve your home

Pendant lights, chalkboard paint, accent rugs, and more

It doesn't take maximum money to make maximum impact in your home.

Hollywood interior designer Nicole Sassaman, who recently completed her hundredth home renovation, says that all it takes are a few savvy design ideas to add value to your home — no matter your budget.

The home-flipper extraordinaire, author of the new book 100 Sassy Tips: Renovations, believes in reusing and repurposing whenever possible. "I don't want to cry over what I don't have," she says. "I'd rather ask, 'What do we have?' because that's how you create things no one else has."

Here, Sassaman shares some of the most budget-friendly (and high-style) design sense from her book so you can save some cents — and save yourself the headache of a total renovation.

1. Update your fixtures

The right light fixture can work wonders, and Sassaman has a penchant for pendants because they can subtly define the boundary between rooms like the kitchen and dining room. "Installing pendant lights in a row is a great way to add style and lighting, and to create a subtle sense of division between spaces," she says. Bonus tip: Clear glass pendants add light and keep the space light and open. And used in a smaller space like the bathroom, small pendants "will soften shadows on the face from overhead lighting," she says, "not to mention add dimension and more detail to your design."

2. Chalk it up

Put the fun in function by coating any surface with chalkboard paint. "I use it a lot in children's rooms, but it's also good in the kitchen and even in dining rooms," Sassaman says. Try it on a door, a wall, backsplash or the inside of a cabinet. "Just roll it on like any other paint," she says. Best of all, it's now available in any paint color.

3. Get creative in the kitchen

If you're a fan of the industrial look, Sassaman recommends using tool cabinets made for garage storage to create a modern kitchen — for a significantly lower price than traditional cabinets fabricated (or custom-made) for kitchens. For sourcing utilitarian chic at its best, try Sears or your favorite hardware store. "Think outside of the box and use ordinary things in extraordinary ways," she says. "I have also seen beautiful Asian armoires turned into food pantries."

4. Do a mini makeover

Bathroom renovations can eat your budget. So before you invest a mountain of money on a massive overhaul, Sassaman recommends a mini makeover instead. Her suggestion: If you can afford to lose about six inches in your shower stall, create a ledge tiled in glass mosaic to add more form and function. "It's so unbelievably easy to do," she says, "and perfect if you want to add a little bit of spice, but don't want to change everything or break the bank."

While you may need to employ a tile guy to frame a wall ledge and cut the tiles, Sassaman says this little update will cost a fraction of installing a new tub or retiling top to bottom. "It costs about $500 just to take out an old shower, and this will cost less than that." A typical shower is 100 square feet, and you only need 10 to 20 square feet for the ledge, she says. "You need a tile guy to frame a ledge for you at any height, waterproof it, then tile it." Tiles run anywhere from $10 to $110 a square foot, so choose wisely, she says. "You can find gorgeous options for $10 a square foot."

5. Rethink your floors

If you're contemplating new flooring, consider working with what you have before ripping up and replacing what's beneath your feet. "People think they have to change everything, but staining or painting the floor is an easy fix," she says. "You don't have to remove everything." Simply staining or painting a wooden or tile floor will make a huge impact, and Sassaman recommends keeping the floor color consistent from room to room — and even indoors and outdoors — to give your entire home a rich and spacious feel. "It creates a nice sense of flow," she adds. "Every time you break your floor, you chop up your house."

6. Pull the rug out

Whether your floor is covered in carpet, laminate, tile, or hardwood, a rug can cozy up your space and conceal any stains or problem areas. But that's not all: "Rugs can be an accent to a room and function as pieces of art," Sassaman says. "They can also define your space, like separating the dining and living rooms without the need of a wall." Stores like Ikea, West Elm, and HomeGoods sell affordable rugs in many shapes and sizes. But Sassaman says a carpet store can customize most sizes to give you limitless options.

7. Crown old windows

Breathe new life into old windows by adding crown molding. "You want to find someone who knows how to work with wood to cover metal frames that may be rusting or cracked with chunky molding," Sassaman advises. "This works best on windows that don't open — indoors or outdoors, and brings a richness, a polish to old windows." You'll spend a few hundred dollars on materials and labor, but you'll save a few thousand for your very own picture window. "It's far less expensive than replacing the entire window," she says.

8. Go to the dark side

While most people eschew shades like black and navy for the wall or ceiling for fear it will make a room look small, Sassaman says dark colors can warm up a room and add high-style drama that really makes a statement. "Don't be afraid to use dark colors in a room," she says. But there is a formula for pulling it off flawlessly. "If you're going to do dark walls, do a light ceiling — maybe even apply silver leafing." Or you could do a really dark ceiling with lighter walls. Warning: Pairing this paint with dark furniture is a mistake. Sassaman says, "Contrast is good."

This story was originally published on LearnVest. LearnVest is a program for your money. Read their stories and use their tools at LearnVest.com.


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