It's easy to fall out of love with your house. Maybe you saw a beautiful photo in a magazine, or found something fabulous-- but way out of your budget-- on the real estate listings. Or, if you're like me, your friends just bought a fabulous house down the street- and it's got you thinking that your own home isn't that great.
It happens. Just don't dust off the moving boxes quite yet. Instead lose the sad face and stop shuffling around the house looking at your home's glaring deficiencies. The cure is putting on your creative decorating hat, or dusting off that list of must-do projects, and getting to work.
If you just don't love your home as much as you once did, there are plenty of fix-its for every budget that will reignite your passion for your home...
If your budget is....$0.
Declutter. Getting rid of stuff that's covering desk tops, gathering dust in closets, or otherwise clogging up your surfaces can have an amazing impact on your feelings about your home. I'm much happier when the house is clutter-free and when I've given away a bag or two of tchotchkes to the Salvation Army.
Organize. Also a great way to refresh your home. Tackle some of those organizing projects on your to-do list. Do one small area every day or every weekend-- i.e. empty one closet, or clean out one drawer, so that the task doesn't seem too overwhelming. Your small successes will keep you motivated.
"Spring" clean. We all know that sad truth is that our generation will never keep our houses as tidy as our mothers and grandmothers. There is nothing wrong with that. We just have different priorities and bigger things on our to-do list than to spend hours scrubbing the tub surround.
But, there is psychological benefit from a massive deep scrubbing. If you are low on funds and want to love your house again, the best thing you can do is scrub it. And we mean the kind of deep, thorough cleaning that happens rarely, not just the maintenance cleaning we do all the time, like washing the dishes and folding the laundry.
Rethink your use of space. I use to think that I needed a pantry. My countertops were accumulating more and more items that seemed to not have a home. But the solution was not to add on or build up, it was to use the cabinets I had more wisely. Making better use of the space you already have is a tonic for many house woes. Go room to room and ask yourself if you are making the most of each space. How could you get more use and value out of the spaces you already have? Are there any 'hidden' spaces, like the area under a staircase, you could make usable?
Paint. Or repaint. I have painted my kitchen, my bedroom, and my half bathroom no less than three times each. Paint is fun and easy to change. Even one accent wall, which can be had for the cost of a $9 quart of paint, can freshen things up and make it feel like a whole new room.
Revamp your lighting. Replace that sad lamp you've had since college with something fun from the thrift store, swap meet, or antique mall. Or, romance up the mood a bit with a wall of glass tea light candle holders. (I saw David Bromstead do it on Colorsplash and have been dying to try it ever since!) The power of mood lighting should not be underestimated. Good lighting can disguise architectural oddities AND disguise dirt. What's not to love?
If, like me, you are living in a house that's cool but was a bit, well, old-lady, when you moved in, it may be time to upgrade some light fixtures. It can do wonders for you. Wired lighting can be expensive, but that isn't always the rule. Good, stylish lights can be had for under $50. I replaced the icky fluorescent light in my half-bathroom with a stylish oil-rubbed bronze-y number for a mere $42, thanks to the sale rack at my local hardware store. It pays to shop around and keep your eyes peeled for deals.
Buy some fun fabric. Buy some new fun fabric and turn it into pillows, or a throw, some curtains, or a new duvet. If your handy that way, of course. I find that the basic quilting cottons at Jo-Ann Fabrics often have some really mod, hip and fun patterns for less than $5 a yard.If you don't sew, pending a little something on a new luxury pillow, some really nice sheets. or a new bedspread may be the cure for a dull room.
Buy a plant. Never underestimate the power of a giant palm or a sexy snake plant to sass up a room. I've rescued sago palms and ponytail palms from hardware store clearance racks for a pittance. Plants can add a lot to a sad space, and they don't cost a lot. Pots, however, can cost a pretty penny, so it's wise to always keep your eyes peeled for bargains, whether on freecycle, the local swap meet or yard sale, or the end of season clearance at the hardware store.
Knock a small, nagging nuisance off of your to-do list. In this dollar range, you can seriously begin to knock some of the smaller, yet really life-improving projects off of your to-do list. On this budget, you could realistically replace your water hog toilet with a new high-efficiency model (savings up to $100 a year in water, by the way), retile the ugly 1970s harvest gold floor in your bathroom, or even hire a pro to fix your leaky faucets.
Clearly how far you can stretch this kind of budget depends on your level of handiness or confidence, and your savvy shopping skills. at this price, don't be scared to shop off the rack at Home Depot (just think creatively, so it doesn't look like you bought the generic in-stock stuff...), or in the seconds bin at your local tile shop. Be prepared to spend a little more time in order to save money-- as in, more time savvy shopping and more time to get the work done if you plan to DIY.
Redo an entire room. Don't let the $25,000 and up makeovers on HGTV fool you. Those folks are living in la-la land. Redoing an entire room doesn't have to cost big bucks. With some creativity, it is possible to revamp an entire room for less than $250.
Here are a few budget re-dos I have finished lately:
- Half bathroom makeover, $210. My half bath just off the kitchen has been a wreck since I moved in. We had a new floor put in, only to have the toilet leak and ruin it. The quote to replace 15 square feet of floor was $500. Uh, I don't think so!. So, I got to work. I replaced the tiles myself, replaced the leaking toilet, and decided while I was at it to paint two walls in a rich chocolate accent color and replace the ugly flourescent lights. All for less than what one guy quoted to replace the floor. I spent: $9 for 1 quart of paint, $42 for new light fixture, $99 for new toilet (American Standard), and $60 to replace damaged floor tiles. Total: $210.
- Master bedroom makeover, $93. My bedroom has long been a dud--from the wall-to-wall mint green carpet and dirty walls awaiting when I moved in, to the not-quite-right wall colors I had chosen over the years. This makeover, though cheap, took time. I pulled up the mint green carpet and found lovely hardwood floors. Not a fun job, but a slam-dunk for even novice DIYers. Then all I needed was some creative painting-- one warm neutral to cover three walls and the ceiling, another for the accent wall behind the bed, and a third for a wide dramatic stripe behind the headboard, to make the room look taller and to show off a custom painting I made for the room. Voila. A much better bedroom. I spent: $58 on paint and primer-- 1 gallon primer, 1 gallon of paint, and 2 quarts of various accent colors, $15 for paint supplies, and $20 for a sale canvas.
- Master bathroom makeover, $270. OK, so this is cutting it close to our prescribed budget, but considering the scope of the work, still a grand value. My master bath used to be stuck in old-ladyville. 1970s blue floral vinyl tile, a 7-gallon-per-flush toilet, slime-crusted shower doors that were impossible to clean. You get the picture. While, it's not really as luxe as I'd like it to be eventually, a low-budget makeover is enough to make it much more stylish and to delay my remodeling urge for a couple of years until I can afford to do it right. I painted the vinyl floor-- yes, you can paint over ugly vinyl. You simply sand off the gloss, primer it, paint it with a high-gloss paint and seal it with about six coats of polyeurathane. I replaced the toilet with a 1.6 gallon per flush model, tore out the icky shower doors and replaced them with a curved rod and new shower curtain, and I painted the walls a metallic silver. I spent: $70 on special metallic wall paint, $30 for supplies to do the floor, $125 on a Kohler toilet, $25 on a shower rod, $20 on a shower curtain.
- Sun porch makeover, $170. Like many projects, this one was on the bottom of the to-do list, but a deal that was too good to pass up moved it up the list. The convent attached to the Catholic school I attended as a kid had a yard sale, and at that yard sale were four Charles Eames for Herman Miller fiberglass wing chairs. Oh.My.God. $300 new or on eBay, they were always out of my budget. So who could blame me for almost having a heart attack when these were only $5 each. I'll take them all, and, use them to replace the ratty metal dining chairs on my sun porch. This is where this project snowballed. The new chairs don't work with my old ratty dining table, so why not replace it with the $150 IKEA knock off of the Saarinen tulip table? Ka-ching. Although the room is still a work in progress, I feel like I'm off to a pretty good start. And my yard-sale score chairs gave me a much-needed decorating cue for the entire room.