These small, wallet-friendly tweaks will make a surprisingly large impact. The pros share their tips for giving every room that wow factor.
Photo: Joe Schmelzer
Fake a Bigger Space
You may already be using a mirror to make a space seem larger than it is, but consider repositioning the mirror to maximize the benefits. Remember: The more light a room receives, the bigger it feels. “A mirror can act as another window,” says New York City interior designer Libby Langdon, “practically doubling the natural light.” Jana Bek, an interior designer and home decor maker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, suggests hanging one opposite a window, a piece of artwork, or wallpaper to increase the impact of these elements in your space.
Upgrade the Doors
“Doorknobs are an underrated home accessory,” says Los Angeles designer Justina Blakeney. If yours are bland, you’ll barely notice them, despite touching them 100 times a day. But because you interact with them so much, an upgrade will make them a decor element to appreciate over and over. Search for a knob with a unique shape or a finish that complements the room’s existing furnishings—say, one with the same patina as the main light fixture. Switching out the hardware on kitchen or bathroom cabinets can also create a dramatically new look. If you’re up for a slightly bigger project, a fresh coat of paint on cabinets and doors will give your space a boost.
Freshen Up the Bathroom
New grout will make your bathroom feel brand-new and is a relatively easy half-day project, says Tracy Morris, an interior designer in Washington, D.C. Stick with the same shade of grout as was originally there so you can spot-treat rather than regrout the entire space. Dark grout, says Morris, should be handled by a pro because making the seams appear smooth can be more difficult. While you’re in there, consider replacing your shower curtain rod with a curved bar—this offers more elbow room in a narrow shower stall.
Awaken Your Walls
If an area of your home feels a little blah, rethink your artwork. Introduce a new piece or simply rearrange your frames, suggests Langdon. “We often stop noticing things that have been in the same place for a long time,” she says, so you may not even realize that your artwork is looking a bit dated. Install a photo ledge, lean a few pieces against the wall, and swap them out each season so your room stays current. Have a long hallway or stairwell that could use some love? Elsie Larson, cofounder of the lifestyle blog A Beautiful Mess, suggests giving it purpose and personality with a gallery wall of sentimental photos. Place black-and-white prints in inexpensive frames of the same size and color to keep things uniform, she says.
Fluff Your Pillows
Throw pillows with low-quality stuffing or ones that have endured years of use can look limp. Give them new life by upgrading your inserts, says San Francisco interior designer Katie Raffetto. Her go-to option is an insert made of “25 percent down and 75 percent feather that is two inches larger in length and width than the pillow jacket.” This will make your pillows extra plump and inviting atop your sofa, side chair, or bed.
Incorporate Vintage Pieces
Older pieces can make a room feel warm and interesting, says Amber Lewis, an interior designer in Los Angeles. “The best part,” she says, “is that the item is unique. No one else will have the exact same thing.” Use an old trunk as a coffee table, display tableware in an antique curio cabinet, or if you’re in the mood for a project, repurpose a credenza as a bathroom vanity.
Lighten Things Up
“Lighting is the crown jewel of a room,” says Los Angeles designer Orlando Soria. Swap out basic overhead fixtures for ones with personality; try a multibulb pendant over a dining table or a decorative flush-mount fixture in the entryway. You can DIY it, but hiring a pro shouldn’t break the bank (and could prevent headaches if you don’t know your way around a drill and a breaker box). Laura Hur, a Homepolish interior designer in New York City, suggests installing dimmers too. “Different tasks require different amounts of light,” she says, “and there is nothing worse than an overly lit dinner party.” Give table and floor lamps a modern update by trading bell-shaped or pleated shades for crisp white drum shades.
Find a comfortable combination of soft and hard materials to give the space a cozy, lived-in vibe. Adding elements with varied texture, like woven baskets, knit pillows, and raw wood accents, is an effective way to bring visual interest to a room that could otherwise feel drab. Bek says that the more materials you have in the mix, “the more curated the space will look and feel.”