Today's Paper Latest Elections Sports Core Values Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive Story ideas iPad

Eight ways to spruce up your house — on a budget

by The Washington Post | May 14, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.

Yes, it's spring-cleaning season, but refreshing your space isn't limited to washing windows or deep-cleaning your grout. It also doesn't have to mean a kitchen renovation totaling tens of thousands of dollars. If you're looking to update your house — indoors or out — while sticking to a budget, we're here to help. We asked design experts to share their favorite home improvement projects for less than $2,000. Here are their suggestions.


Make cleaning out your closet a priority, says Michelle Gage a designer in Pennsylvania. First, pare down: Toss anything you don't see yourself using again. Donate old linens to an animal shelter. Then, "invest in some good baskets and organization solutions — perhaps a semi-custom modular closet system — to make sure every little item has its place," Gage says. She likes the Elfa closet system from the Container Store. And if you want to take things up a notch, Gage suggests installing wallpaper in the closet. For even more pizzazz, consider painting the ceiling and adding a statement light fixture.


Mounting flat-screen televisions and running the cables behind the walls can enhance the look of any room, says New York-based designer Eneia White. "A clean approach to displaying your TVs contributes to a visually organized space," she says. And the process is relatively simple: Buy a TV mount and a routing package for the wires, then hire an installer to ensure the wires run behind the wall properly.


An organized and stylish entryway — whether it's a mudroom, foyer or garage — helps your home make a strong first impression, says Beth Diana Smith, a designer in New Jersey. First, tackle storage by stocking up on bins, baskets, an umbrella stand and hooks to corral coats, bags and other items. "Then add paint or wallpaper, new rugs, decor and art, and new lighting for a new look," Smith says. "The options here are relatively endless and can be really fun." And don't be afraid to incorporate color. "I always recommend going bolder in the entry, since it's a small space and can easily be changed when the mood strikes," she says.


Although your lamps may work fine, they are probably more than three to five years old, and the shades have probably seen better days, says Los Angeles-based designer Jeff Andrews. "We don't realize how dirty and dingy they can get over time, and updating a lamp with a shade in a new shape or material makes it feel like an entirely new piece of decor," he says. It's best to upgrade all of the shades in a room at once, choosing similar shapes that complement each lamp base's shape. "Use the same fabric so that they have the same quality of light," Andrews says. "You should also use the same wattage light bulbs in all the lamps."


Flex your muscles and change up your kitchen without breaking the bank, says Rashida Banks, a D.C.-based design influencer. "The quickest and most cost-effective upgrade anyone can tackle is painting their cabinets," she says, noting that a waterborne alkyd paint is best, considering it dries hard and adheres well to the surface. Using a paint sprayer, which you can probably rent from a hardware store, makes for the smoothest application. Unsure what hue to go with? "Right now, creamy, earthy whites, greens, blacks and muted blues are trending paint colors," Banks says.


Another simple do-it-yourself job is installing faux built-in bookcases to house all of your favorite books or other decorative items. "Novice DIYers could tackle this project for a great price, particularly if they're going the Ikea route," says Dominique Gebru a D.C.-based design influencer. She suggests buying a few wooden or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) bookcases, as well as trim, caulk, primer and paint.

"After assembling the bookcases, secure them to the wall. You may want to construct a simple platform base and set the shelves atop that prior, depending on how tall your baseboards are," Gebru says. "Then secure trim along the face frames and edges using a brad nailer or a hammer and finishing nails. Use wood filler and caulk to fill in nail holes and gaps, respectively, to create a seamless look, and finish with a shellac-based primer and paint."


Megan Hopp a designer in Alexandria, Va., says spring is a great time to replace tired doors. "If you have a standard-size door frame — be that a single or double — upgrading to a classic French door or modern glass option can have you seeing outside and in, in a whole new way," she says. Hopp hired a pro for this task, which involves removing the trim or casing and the old door, then hanging the new door and replacing the casing. If you're handy, she says, and you have a helper, you may be able to tackle this upgrade without a professional.


"One of the most transformative things I've done is power-wash my patio, fences and the exterior of my house," says Erin Gates, a designer in Massachusetts. Whether you rent a power washer or hire someone, the results will be more than worthwhile, Gates says. "It makes everything look brand new and sets the tone for any additional landscaping or decorative work you do in preparation for summer." Evaluating your outdoor furniture and replacing anything that has seen better days is also key this time of year, says Clara Jung, a designer in Berkeley, Calif. "Perhaps your string lights need to be replaced, or the outdoor rug needs a deep cleaning, or your outdoor sofa cushions need to be washed," she says. "As warmer weather approaches, this is a good way to spend some time outdoors while also placing some finishing touches on your home."

Another quick and easy outdoor update is to add some eye-catching planters with greenery. "Beautifully made stone planters are a wise investment for any garden," says Marika Meyer, a designer in Bethesda, Md. And although pricing for the containers and plants can run the gamut, it's certainly worth making an investment purchase if possible, she adds. "Think about these items as something you will keep for years to come, and the best pieces will stand the test of time — and weather — and will pay off in the long run."


Sponsor Content