Do you ever find yourself looking around your home and the overwhelm sets in? You hate the kitchen, the living room is a mess of toys, and items are overflowing from the nonexistent entryway.
Maybe your space just lacks character and you don’t see how to improve it without a major overhaul?
I feel your pain. I’ve been there; I still visit there from time to time, despite being a designer who knows that major overhauls are not the only answer. In fact, there are a number of small changes you can make quickly and with a small budget to drastically improve your home and—more importantly—how you feel in it. Let’s jump right in.
Maybe you don’t need a brand-new dresser or kitchen cabinetry—maybe what you need are some handles that aren’t from 1980. Seriously, don’t underestimate how much of a facelift an older piece can get from simply swapping out the hardware for a more contemporary option. Updated hardware adds visual interest and can completely change the age of a piece, taking your existing furniture from outdated to upscale. I’ve used this trick to update outdated bathroom vanities, dressers and kitchen cabinetry.
Before you purchase the first new handle or knob you come across, make sure to measure your current hardware and the space between drill holes to ensure the replacement will transfer seamlessly. Keep a sanding block on hand in case the old hardware has left any indentations behind.
Wood putty can fill an extra drill hole, but keep in mind you’ll need replacement paint or stain as well.
Some of my favorite places to source hardware with beautiful artistry and quality are Etsy, Rejuvenation, and Anthropologie Home.
Light fixtures are having a moment right now, and I couldn’t agree more. Lighting can change EVERYTHING. I’m not joking.
It’s not just the beauty, visual interest, and personality that a stunning light fixture can bring into a space—it’s literal light. Look up: Do you have a standard flush mount on your ceiling, with the lightbulbs encased by murky white glass or something similar?
They not only lack all sense of personality, but they block out a TON of light. The result? A dimly lit space that feels gloomy and probably tires you out (not to mention the look of it is drab).
By replacing this type of lighting with a pendant or chandelier that drops down from the ceiling, you not only expose the bulb, immediately adding more light to the space, but you instantly add character and interest to a level of your home (aka the ceiling) that sometimes gets forgotten about.
When you walk into a space, and thoughtful design has taken place from floor to ceiling, it hits differently, trust me. A simple light fixture replacement has the potential to uplift your mood, increase your energy and productivity, and round out the design of the room—or take center stage. IKEA and Home Depot are great places to find affordable light fixtures and pendant kits. For really unique fixtures, Rejuvenation and West Elm are my go-to’s.
If I had a nickel for every home that relegated its walls to vast spaces of emptiness save for a lone “Live Laugh Love” plaque or singular family photo—I would be happily retired. USE. THOSE. WALLS. Here’s how:
Storage: Add decorative hooks or a larger furniture piece like a tall cabinet for practical storage space and visual interest.
Artwork: Have fun with this and tend towards the “more is better” end of the spectrum. Artwork should speak to you and about you, and it doesn’t have to cost a million dollars. It doesn’t have to all be the same size, frame color or material either. What it should do is contribute or add to the color scheme and design style in a thoughtful way. My favorite places to source artwork are Minted and local thrift stores/galleries!
Mirrors and sconces: Want to turn the ambiance up full blast? A beautiful mirror framed by wall sconces is a must. Mirrors are multifunctional—they give the illusion of having more space by bouncing light around the room, act as a stand-alone art piece, and of course, give you an opportunity for a quick hair check before heading out the door. Wall sconces add ambient lighting, which serves to round out a room design and set a real MOOD. Better yet? There are a number of battery-powered wall sconce options that don’t require new electrical work—check out Amazon for some steals.
My bed is my favorite place in my house. Why? Because I’ve invested (modestly) in making it the most comfortable oasis it can possibly be. The trick? Add layers of plushness. I won’t tell you to buy 16 pillows for your bed—it might look pretty in pictures, but is a practical storage nightmare. But maybe four pillows? Something to sleep on and something to prop you up while enjoying some tea and a good book.
Then just add a down comforter with a duvet. This is a game-changer. Down comforters (or down alternatives) add volume (like a cloud) and weight (for a feeling of total calm and security) without adding a ton of heat. The ability of down comforters to regulate body temperature is amazing; honestly, if you do nothing else, do this, because your sleep affects your whole life.
Add a duvet cover (and get the matching shams for those extra pillows!) to add a bit more weight, and to tie in the color scheme of your bedroom.
My recommendation is to keep the duvet either light and neutral or dark but earthy (i.e., soft grays, sage greens, warm taupes). You can always add a splash of color in the form of decorative pillows and throws, and swap these out as the seasons change without breaking the bank on a new duvet cover.
Lastly, add your favorite throw or quilt to the bottom of the bed as your final layer of BLISS. These changes not only drastically improve your comfort and ability to sink into bed at night, but they visually elevate your bedroom for a more inviting and complete space.
Take a second look at those kitchen cabinets. Do you hate them as much as you say, or do you hate the orange pine finish? (And maybe the hardware? See the first tip!)
In a world of massive home renovations on Instagram and stunning Pinterest boards, the power of paint has been lost. This is one of the most affordable ways to dramatically improve your space.
First, decide how you want to feel in your space. Yes, feel. Do you want to feel uplifted, energized, and ready for the day? Cool and light colors will give you some pep in your step. Looking to feel grounded and calm? Neutrals with brown undertones and earth tones are the way to go. Sophisticated and bold? Darker, moodier colors in both earth tones and jewel tones can set the stage. The list goes on.
Paint is powerful, but looks different online, on the swatch, and on your walls, from home to home and room to room. As such, be sure to always test colors on your walls. And if you’re going to change your lighting, do this first; the shift in lighting will affect the cast on your walls.
So, there you have it! Improving your home doesn’t have to be daunting. You can start feeling better about your space right away, without breaking the bank with these simple and DIY-friendly changes.
Rachel Acevedo is a Hawley-based interior designer who combines interior design with life design. Rachel believes that the right surroundings can transform your mindset and your life, allowing you to achieve growth mentally, emotionally and physically. She is committed to curating a design process for each client that helps them live their most elevated life.
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