Budget-friendly home makeover ideas

Quick ways to remake a room with new paint, materials, and affordable finds

A before photo of a dining room with pine boards up half of the wall that has windows with interior shutters. A small table with two chairs is positioned in the middle of the room.

Dining room quick fix (before)

How do you lighten up your dining room without making a lot of costly changes? Interior designer Jeffrey Marks provides some useful lessons at his own beach house, where a low ceiling, knotty pine wainscoting, and old-fashioned shutters made the room feel cramped and tired.

A bright, white dining room with crisp, white cloth shades over the windows and a large circular wooden dining room table with pale, yellow legs and white chairs surround it

Dining room quick fix (after)

A new palette of materials creates a glow that blurs the room’s boundaries. High-gloss white marine paint covers the wainscoting, ceiling, and chairs. Walls are white plaster, and the shutters have been replaced with elegant Roman shades. An ebony stain on the oak floor and tabletop makes the sunny colors pop.

 

dated fireplace covered in gold and red wallpaper

Chic fireplace (before)

A cozy lounge reminiscent of a martini bar was Pasadena homeowner Carolyn Powers's wish. The reality was a charmless room with a dated fireplace.

sleek, stucco-covered fireplace with a dark wood mantel and a storage place for a stack of wood in this lounge space

Chic fireplace (after)

To achieve her dream of a glamorous hideaway, Powers extended the fireplace 6 feet along the wall and added a mantel and storage cubby. A sheer curtain tucks into the wall when not in use. The fireplace now works as the unifying factor for the multifunctional kick-back space.

 

before-makeover photo of two arm chairs facing an ottoman in front of a fireplace with a couch opposite

Budget-friendly living room makeovers (before)

Limited light and gray walls conjured the feeling of a submarine more than a sailboat in this benighted beach house.

white walls and cabinets in the living room highlight black and white patterned pillows on the arm chairs, with a red throw set behind the couch

Budget-friendly living room makeovers (after)

From dark and dismal to bright and breezy, this living room seems twice as large with the addition of new doors; wider openings to neighboring rooms; and a crisp, unifying coat of white paint.

 

living room

Big city apartment, small town budget (before)

Decorating an apartment that reflects a polished, professional lifestyle can be a challenge, but one New Yorker does it just right (and on a dime).

 

living room with mid-century furniture, lamps and arm chair with framed art on the light cream walls

Mid-century makeover (after)

The homeowner scoured vintage stores and Web sites in search of bargain pieces that reflected her mid-century design aesthetic. With a few new large pieces of furniture, she created a cohesive and comfortable look suitable to her young professional lifestyle.

 

bright yellow desk and roller chair

Old desk (before)

This little desk needed just a little paint touch-up and a mirror to become glamour girl worthy.

a rectangular glass-framed mirror sits atop a yellow desk with a variety of perfume, make up brushes, photo frames and jewelry decorate the top of it

Old desk (after)

A light coat of white paint and a few accessories later, it’s a retro-chic bedroom vanity.

 

flowered wing chair with a curved top part

Instant furniture makeovers (before)

This wing chair is covered in dated fabric but has a uniquely striking shape.

wing chair re-covered in tan-dotted fabric and lined with dark brown lining set into a living room with classic styling

Instant furniture makeovers (after)

This chair goes from floral to sophisticated with a smart upholstery update. Exposing the wooden legs and adding a nail-head trim make this chair conservative yet hip -- the perfect combo for a new couple's first home.

Wing Chair Fabric: Ottoman Leaf in Chocolate by Robert Allen; 1-800-333-3777

 

before photo of a red painted dining room with spare furnishings

Small dining room (before)

This room was sparsely furnished with hand-me-down furniture, and it suffered from a spotty red paint job.

after photo with a dining room that’s wallpapered in pale, green Asian designs, and a dark wood dining room table in the middle of the room set with china (and chairs surrounding it).

Small dining room (after)

Balancing worthwhile splurges and budget-friendly extras, we transformed the space with bold Asian flair and green accents for less than $2,000.

 

before photo of a bedroom with a pale blue duvet cover

Bedroom makeover on a budget (before)

Turn a bleak extra bedroom into a chic guest room with our creative shopping tips and stylish projects you can do yourself.

 

In the master bedroom, purple flowered bedspread with pale purple walls, white curtains and a white, modern chandelier

The chic makeover revealed (after)

The young couple repositioned the bed against the larger wall to visually increase the room size and evenly redistribute the floor space. A little smart shopping and practical do-it-yourself ideas transformed the junk room into a guest suite that looks like a million bucks for much less.

outdated kitchen cabinets with an old oven and stove in burgundy colors

$30 Makeover (before)

When Susan Churcher moved into her 1950s home, she faced a decorating dilemma in the kitchen. It was a dreary space with dated cabinets and dark brown appliances. Long-term plans called for a complete remodel, but what could she do in the interim?

In this kitchen update, periwinkle paint covers a kitchen oven and stovetop while the cabinets’ doors are painted a pale yellow color with rest covered in creamy white.

$30 Makeover (after)

Color was this kitchen's quick fix. $30 worth of paint even spruced up the old appliances, achieving an entirely new look.

See more of this budget kitchen makeover

 

barren front yard with yellow grass in front of a small cottage

Cheery entry (before)

This front yard was almost barren, and there was a dangerous drop-off between the front walk and a deeply recessed driveway.

bright purple and yellow flowers border the front sidewalk with a low, white fence behind them

Cheery entry (after)

A fence encloses the yard and runs along the sidewalk and the driveway. Inside, an inviting path of flagstones threads through a cottage garden to the front door.

 

bright pink-coral paint on the wall off-sets a white, fabric headboard with a gathered comforter on the bed giving a tropical feel to the decor

How to choose paint colors

Our decorating expert, Turner Carroll, shares her tips for picking the right shade for any room of your home. Plus, painting tips and tricks that make doing the job yourself a snap.

 

living room

Spend wisely

Caroline made careful choices about when to save and when to splurge. In the living room, she slipcovered a beat-up leather armchair with inexpensive white canvas, and then paired it with a more expensive silk throw pillow. She also took extra time to paint the insides of her bookshelves darker than the walls to provide a contrasting backdrop for her creamware collection.

 

young homeowner in front of her painted brick house with a white picket fence in front

Budget cottage remodel

"Our house was built in the 1920s, so it's filled with character," homeowner Caroline Willis says. She added a fresh coat of paint in soft, neutral tones and other inexpensive details to update the cottage while staying within budget.

 

coffee table made out of the base of a crepe myrtle with a glass top facing in front of a green couch with a zebra pillow

Hidden potential

"I had a West Elm moment," Jill says of the oh-so-cool crepe myrtle coffee table in her living room. Found curbside, Jill took the knotty tree home to begin its transformation. Branches, cut evenly, support a glass top. For stability, screws in a 20-by-20-inch steel plate custom ordered from the local hardware store anchor the stump. Total cost: $35.

Instances like these abound throughout Jill’s home as testament to her frugal savviness. Be sure to get them all to inspire your own home.

 

homeowner sitting cross-legged on a white loveseat in front of turquoise walls with a white birdhouse on small end table

Budget decorating done right

When Jill Gardner’s 1940s Greek Revival home was way past needing an update, she pulled out her piggy bank and pushed up her sleeves. With a lot of creativity, character-building manual labor, and frugal sensibilities, Jill created a bright, lively home that suits her family of five. Take a look at her budget-friendly decorating ideas, and be inspired.

 

classic and stylish dining room with a large black table with white, slip-covered chairs surrounding it and a striped arm chair at the head of the table

Instant style updates you can do now

You don't have to complete a decorating overhaul to give your home a fresh, updated look. For a new look today, try one of our low-cost tips (some are free).

 

family room wall with gallery layout of framed prints, paintings and mirrors hung over a red couch with pillows

Done in a day: salon wall

Give a random collection of art pieces museum-worthy treatment. A hodgepodge of materials and colors makes it look inventive and authentic, as if you had collected each piece over time. We’ll show you how to make your collection look this great in just three easy steps.

 

framed mirrors of various sizes hung on a dark, brown wall with an orange circular table with various sized vases arranged on top

Create a collection

Look around the house for things that share a common element. Maybe you have a plethora of white pitchers or silver picture frames. Group them together on a tabletop for an instant collection. Remember that odd numbers of items often look better together.

 

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