Room refreshers for $500 and less
From creating a faux granite countertop to adding a wall-mounted fireplace, here are easy, affordable ways to transform your space.
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WITH SPRING APPROACHING, everyone’s looking forward to new beginnings. Tearing out the old kitchen and starting from scratch or adding on a family room can run into serious money, but there are plenty of smaller projects that can make for big transformations with little cash outlay.
> $100 and Under
“SHOP” YOUR HOME
After a few years of homeownership, many people start building up a small inventory of unused furniture. “Revisit some of that stuff in the attic, garage, and basement, and start swapping things out,” says Kimberly Merritt, a design instructor at the Academy of Design and Decorating in Peterborough, New Hampshire. “Think about what the possibilities are, because oftentimes they’re endless.” Some pieces may take on new life with a coat of paint or fresh upholstery, or simply by being moved to a different room than the one they’re meant for. Try using the dining room’s hutch in the living room as a bookshelf, for example, or placing a love seat along one side of the dining table as banquette seating. “Sometimes people think all they have is junk,” says Mark Haddad of Haddad Hakansson, a design firm in Belmont, “but they have some beautiful pieces they’re just not utilizing properly.” Cost: $0
GIVE SHELVING A FACE LIFT
Bookcases or display shelves take on a whole new look — and brighten up the entire room — when you line their backs with fabric or wallpaper. Merritt suggests creating inserts using Homasote or another lightweight board covered in stripes, zigzags, or toile. “When you get tired of it,” she says, “just pop the inserts out and reupholster. It’s a quick fix, fun to do, very inexpensive, and you can change the look whenever you’re in the mood.” Cost for a 4-by-8-foot bookcase: $50
ADD ZING TO YOUR WALLS OR CEILING
Perhaps the simplest way to transform your space is with a can of paint. “Painting a room can give you a lot of bang for your buck,” says Haddad. Paint an entire room — powder rooms or small bathrooms, in particular, call out for “really splashy colors” — or just a ceiling or accent wall. “Not only does it anchor the furniture,” he says, “but it also adds interest to the space.” Cost for 1 gallon of paint and supplies: $60
EXPERIMENT WITH WALLPAPER
“One thing that is totally underrated because we got traumatized by it in the 1970s is wallpaper,” says Celine Riard, owner of Chic Redesign in Framingham, “but it’s an amazing way to bring a space to life.” A 15-by-15-foot room with 8-foot ceilings will require 11 rolls at as little as $30 each, but Haddad recommends doing only an accent wall for a more dramatic look. “It’s not as expensive as a whole room, and you can still get the effect of a very special detail,” he says. A 15-foot wall 8 feet high requires only three double rolls of paper, and, because there are no corners, is easy enough for any DIYer. Cost for one wall: $100
REVIVE THE FLOOR
To freshen worn hardwood floors, painting is easier than refinishing. You need only roughly sand the floor before laying down a coat of paint in a solid color or a checkerboard, striped, or diamond pattern. “If you have more time, you can do a stencil,” says Merritt, “which can look almost like a custom tile.” Decking paint, she points out, can stand alone, since it cleans up well and is more rugged than regular latex, which needs a couple coats of polyurethane over it. Cost for a 200-square-foot room: $100
> $200 and Under
CREATE A PANTRY
An underused utility room or closet near the kitchen can become a space-saving pantry with the addition of a few shelves and other organizers. Big-box home stores have lots of options, from hanging baskets to corner units; wire shelving can cost as little as $4 a linear foot, while a more finished look can be achieved by hanging painted pine with decorative brackets for as little as $5 a foot. IKEA offers even more choices at budget-friendly prices. Once the room is done, Merritt suggests you make the back of the door “organization central.” She recommends using chalkboard paint, hanging a magnetic or fabric-covered bulletin board, and perhaps installing a hanging pocket-style mail organizer with key hooks underneath. “That lets you utilize all the space and give everything a place,” she says. Cost of all supplies: $175
SWITCH THE ART
Sometimes you need a large piece of art to balance the room — say, over the couch or sideboard — but that can be expensive. You can get the same impact by uniting many smaller pieces. “Use new frames on existing pieces,” Haddad advises. “Make a themed collage wall with the family history or places you’ve traveled, or hang kids’ art. When you frame it, all of a sudden it’s a beautiful piece.” To pick up works from emerging artists, he suggests going to places such as the SoWa Open Market in the South End, Mudflat Studio in Somerville, and Atlantic Works in East Boston, as well as to student art sales such as the one at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Barbara Elza Hirsch, an interior designer and principal of Acton’s Elza B. Design, notes that Etsy is also a “gold mine” of inexpensive art. Cost for nine frames and prints: $180 Continued...