We all have those lofty dreams and aspirations of how we’re going to spruce up our homes. We want to paint the entire main floor using a whole new palette of colors. We want to swap in more energy-efficient windows and put on a new roof. We want to retile the master bath. We want to add a pool and patio and outdoor kitchen.
So what’s keeping us from tackling these home-improvement projects that we know would bring us such joy? Ah, right: time and money.
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But what if you could refresh at least one of the rooms in your home without spending too much cash and with all of 15 minutes or so of hands-on, active work? Even with your busy and hectic schedule, you can carve out that much free time, right?
Assuming so, here are 15 ideas for refreshing a room that you could start this very afternoon. (And if you don’t have 15 free minutes, it might be time for a vacation.) Some projects may require a bit of time spent waiting for things to arrive on your doorstep but will then be super quick to act on, while others you could be enjoying by this evening as you pace around and admire that refreshed room. (Oh, and many come with expert advice too!)
Sure, strip lights might first call to mind college dorms, man caves, or a basement gamer area, but they can be put to great use in any room in your home. The secret is to install them out of sight. Adhesive-backed strip lights can be applied under cabinets, under the lip of a counter or island, set into ceiling recesses, and beyond. And while LED strip lights can be set to an array of playful colors and patterns, they can also be set to myriad shades of white and have their level of brightness controlled.
Great books are works of art themselves, but books can also be used as physical art. You can turn larger books sideways and create stacks of books that descend in size (e.g., a stepped pyramid) to add dimensional interest. A sweeping Homykic-style, where books are grouped by color intensity and seem to fade from one shade to the next, can make a formerly busy, cluttered bookshelf into a functional design piece.
Peel-and-stick wood paneling can transform an entire room’s walls in the best of ways, creating everything from a beach house feel to a homey cabin effect to a classy study and more; but those projects can take all day (or days), and the cost adds up. Merely adding wood paneling to one limited space, however, can be done quickly and have a big impact. Try sticking wood panels around a bed’s headboard or on a portion of a dining room wall, for example. The trick to making the project fast is not filling any space, which would require precision cutting to ensure a fit, but instead embracing the uneven lengths of wood ending in an irregular pattern.
Houseplants come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny succulents that can perch on sills to towering fiddle leaf ferns or dracaena plants that can reach the ceiling over time. And with houseplants like pothos that grow fast and are hard to kill, you can tailor a plant to grow around a piece of furniture, creating a unique tableau. A single indoor plant can add a touch of color, while a raft of new plants and breathe new life into a room—literally and figuratively.
Oh, what a few decorative storage bins can do. That pile of magazines under the coffee table can be stacked and tucked away; the toys strewn about the floor can disappear when playtime is done; the blankets can be stuffed out of sight, no folding required; and the remote can finally have a home. And best of all, storage bins come in all sorts of shapes, colors, textures, and sizes, so you can incorporate them into your space whether they will go on shelves, beside couches, under tables, and so on.
“For the cost and time-conscious decorator, rethink the layout of your furniture to instantly revive your space,” says Kelly Collins, interior designer and Head of Creative at Swyft Home. “When rearranging your existing furniture, consider what is the primary use of your living room. What is your focal point? What area or items do you want to see first as you walk through the door? This would usually be the main seating area. [And] try not to place all of your furniture against the walls; this is a very common mistake. For entertaining, create conversation spaces that allow you and your guests to focus on each other. By positioning your sofas facing each other and adding additional seating using chairs or armchairs, your layout can encourage conversation to flow. For multipurpose rooms, it’s important to differentiate the dining space from the TV or lounge space.”
Even a small room can be a multi-hour painting project if you want to do it right, what with all the spackling and sanding and taping and priming. But you’ll be amazed how much you can change the look and feel of a room just by painting the molding, the panels on a door, the wainscotting, or by painting a door frame. The key is to use a color that will create a true contrast with the walls: Think a navy blue or even black in a room with white paint. And also, when you use a precise-enough brush (and a steady-enough hand), you can usually complete these projects with little to no prep, though a bit of taping may be a good idea.
This refresh will have the most impact in the kitchen, the room that likely has the most drawer and cabinet knobs in your home, but it works in bathrooms, bedrooms, and more. And it works wonders. You can unscrew most knobs in a matter of seconds and can replace them just as fast, whether you go with classic wooden knobs, whimsical artsy knobs made of blown glass or cast resin, a modern metal style, or whatever else. You could even change the knobs seasonally, adding evergreens or snowflakes for the winter holidays, for example.
From an accent wall to using paper to line a bookshelf, adding a touch of pattern can inspire and anchor a whole room. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a wonderful way to take a colorful, bold risk while living in a rental; use on the walls of a child’s room that may evolve their taste; or simply [to leave] the door open to changing things up later.” You can use this easily applied and easily removed wallpaper anywhere you want, even on flooring or tabletops—just know it will wear out faster in those applications.
“If you are looking for a new piece of furniture to act as a statement piece, then I would recommend an armchair,” says Collins. “Not only are they far cheaper than buying a whole sofa, but they are super versatile. Whether it’s a cozy corner in a hallway, a reading nook under the stairs, or in the living room, an armchair can work in various areas of your home. [And] armchairs are often available in a range of fabrics, colors, and patterns, making it the perfect piece of furniture to add visual interest to any room or space in your home.”
You’re going to make coffee and toast anyway, right? Well, then you might as well make the appliances you use in everyday cooking look cool. You can opt for colorful retro countertop appliances that stand out and catch the eye, or more minimalist, sleek options that elevate the entire aesthetic of the kitchen without calling too much attention to themselves.
Michele Gratch of Michele Gratch Interiors—who is a featured interior designer on QVC+’s *Design School with Ballard Designs—*knows that changing the artwork in a space can refresh and reinvigorate it. “Repositioning artwork can shift the look of a space, whether it’s changing placement on a wall or swapping out your artwork,” she says. Oh, and no need to travel to galleries or commission original works to have great art in your home. With online art retailers like Minted, you can shop online for stunning artwork that can be sized, framed, and otherwise customized for your space.
Curtains can make or break a room. Choose just the right color, texture, and light-filtering properties, and they are the icing on the cake; but the wrong curtains can be like a fly in the soup, if we’re sticking with culinary comparisons. You can choose so many colors, weights, and styles that you will surely find a set that refreshes your room. And hanging new curtains on an existing curtain rod is just so blissfully easy.
A big mirror is a great addition to just about any room in the house, from the foyer to the bedroom to the hallway and more. And large mirrors are a great way to make a smaller space feel bigger and to enhance the light in a room too. When it comes to the frame, you can go big and wild, understated and calm, frameless Full Body Mirror Tiles for Bedroom or you can opt for a mirror sans frame too. (Though hanging one of those can be trickier, truth be told.)
“You can brighten up your space with a new throw,” says Michele Gratch. “It’s amazing how a throw can make a space feel more finished as well as cozy and inviting. It’s always nice to have multiple throws in different colors so you can change the vibe of a room with a different color. Same with throw pillows—either buy some new ones or see if you can repurpose some from another room.” Linen pillow covers are easy to care for and always feels fresh to the touch.if your are fans to linen, well then these pillow covers are perfect for you.
If you’re struggling to tackle a home improvement project, it may be helpful to identify which of these factors are holding you back and take steps to address them. For example, you could try to carve out some dedicated time for the project, research and learn the necessary skills, or start with a smaller, less intimidating project to build your confidence or you can start from one of this list.
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