Buy designer. Select a high-quality paint marketed under a decor-focused brand name like Ralph Lauren (sold at the Home Depot) or Benjamin Moore's Pottery Barn line, suggests Elizabeth Franklin, founder and chief executive officer of the Franklin Report, an online guide to home-renovation and maintenance-service providers. These manufacturers employ designers to select the color ranges and schemes for the rooms in the brochures. Consider it off-the-shelf decorator advice.
Cut out pictures. Frame pages from an art or architecture book. (Samflax.com has some inexpensive frame options.) "Anything looks like artwork under glass," says Franklin.
Think opposites. Upgrade air conditioners in winter and heating units in summer. "You'll be robbed if you wait until it's hot to call the air-conditioner guy," she says.
Consolidate home-renovation projects. Don't do just the bathroom if you plan to make over the kitchen and the bedrooms in the near future. "The bigger the project, the lower the margin the contractor has to make money off it," says Franklin.