20 Clever, Easy Tricks to Shave Years Off Your Home
Make your home look as fresh and new as an “after” picture with instant pro tips from home designers and stagers.
Tackle vertical clutter
It’s not just piles and stacks that are making your home look tired. “Taking down all of the magnets and pictures on the refrigerator makes the kitchen look instantly neater,” says Bedminster, NJ-based architectural designer Megan Cudia. File takeout menus in a drawer or binder (or simply bookmark your favorites online) and frame your favorite kiddie artwork so it can be hung elsewhere in your home.
Look at the walls of each room with a fresh eye: See any nail holes—or worse, half-finished patch jobs? Fill nail holes in walls with spackle or in woodwork with wood putty, then sand and spot-paint. Not only is this a job that takes mere minutes, but, “it brightens everything,” promises Cudia.
Clean windows, mirrors, and shower doors
When was the last time you washed your windows, inside and out? “Natural light and clear windows make a space inviting,” says Cudia. Grab a few microfiber cloths and try our favorite no-spritz technique (no streaks in sight) on all of the glass surfaces in your home.
Change the light bulbs
Nothing says “creepy cottage” like burned-out light bulbs. Good lighting makes all the difference. Replace the duds and even the dim ones with the brightest wattage possible, says Cudia. LEDs come in “daylight” and “soft white” options—pick your favorite. (Now, doesn’t your furniture look more interesting?)
Check your mailbox
Is it peeling or tarnished? Hanging by one sad screw? “Freshness needs to start at the curb,” says Tori Toth, author of Feel at Home: Home Staging Secrets for a Quick and Easy Sell. She suggests painting your existing mailbox or upgrading to a new one if necessary.
Clean your trim molding
Between dust, fingerprints, and vacuum scuffs, the baseboards, windowsills, and other molding in your home are bound to look grimy. Go over everything with a damp microfiber cloth to clean and brighten. (Check out one easy baseboard-cleaning hack here.)
Trim shrubs and bushes
Grab the hedge clippers—or at least some gardening shears—and trim back dead flowers, overgrown shrubs, and any other greenery that’s grown wild. Weeding never hurts, either. “You want it to look manicured,” says Toth. “When things are overgrown, it conveys old age.”
Shake out the welcome mat
If yours is covered with leaves, crusted with mud, or just plain worn out, it’s time to clean it or replace it. “People forget about that!” says Toth. “So often I’ll walk up to a person’s house and think, ‘Ok, that’s not very welcoming.’” Time to spring for a new one altogether? Check out this roundup of hard-working doormats.
Swap the switch plates
Builder-grade white plastic outlet covers and switch plates get discolored and worn out. Clean them with a damp microfiber cloth or, better yet, replace them. If they’re plastic, aluminum, or steel, you can even clean them in the dishwasher (but not if they’re enameled, painted, or plated).
Scrub the grout
No matter how pretty and polished the tile is in your entryway, mudroom, bathroom, or kitchen, if the grout is dirty or mildewed, the whole surface will look dated. “Cleaning the grout makes the entire area look instantly better,” says Toth. Admittedly, it’s no one’s favorite chore, but this how-to video should help ease the pain.
Get the carpet cleaned
Look down: Does your wall-to-wall carpeting need some love? Is it stained, matted, or looking worn? Toth suggests calling in the professionals to clean it—or at the very least, layering an area rug on top of it. “This only works if it’s defining a sitting area,” she notes. That means in front of your sofa in the living and family rooms, or under the table in the dining room. Her favorite look: Keep the rug patterned, with colors that pull in from the rest of the room.
Organize the bookshelves
Curate your book collection for a streamlined, finished look. “Unless you have a library room, you don’t want a solid wall of books,” says Toth, who organizes hers by genre (travel books, design books, fiction) then stands hardcovers with spines facing out and stacks paperbacks flat, with a decorative object on top.
Bring in plants
Natalie Moreno, co-owner of Premier Home Staging in Costa Mesa, Calif., has this advice to spruce up your home: “Add great plants.” Don’t have a green thumb? Moreno says artificial is fine: “Silk plants can be an investment, but they’re great looking, and they give life to a room.” She likes to put succulents in a pretty container on a side table along with an accent lamp and a stack of coasters or a family picture. In bathrooms, her team uses orchids to anchor a double sink, giving the eye something to look at other than faucets. “We also use silk fiddle leaf fig or fishtail palm trees in almost all our bedrooms,” says Moreno.
Brighten up dark furniture
A big dark sofa can suck up the light—and life—out of a room, says Moreno. Her solution: pillows. “Adding a pop of color with accent pillows can make the biggest statement in the entire room,” she says. Moreno likes to put two pillows on each side: A stripe or solid in the back, and a print in the front.
Style your coffee table
A tangle of remotes and dog-eared magazines isn’t doing your coffee table any favors. Moreno recommends this chic, classic look instead: “On the left, place a stack of two or three coffee table books, with the prettiest cover on top. Put a succulent in the middle, and then to the right we do a bowl with decorative balls.” (Moreno says you can buy natural-weave balls by the bag anywhere from TJ Maxx to higher-end design stores.) “It always looks great,” she says. Still need to stash those remotes? “You could add a decorative tray, with remotes on one side, a neat stack of magazines on the other,” she says.
Unsheathe your knives
Clunky knife blocks are magnets for grease and dust. Moreno suggests relocating knives to a kitchen drawer and recycling that hunk of clutter, pronto. Just think of all that reclaimed counter space! Find more smart kitchen organizing ideas here.
Curate your art collection
Nothing says, “We’ve been here forever,” like walls crowded with pictures and art. “We recommend hanging art on only one side of a hallway wall,” says Moreno. “It makes the hallway look wider.” In a room, always leave one wall blank, so the eye has somewhere to rest. “You don’t need to fill every inch,” she says. If you’re displaying a family photo collection, choose the same color matte and frame (say, silver frames, white mattes) so that as your collection grows, it will always look cohesive. “They don’t have to be the exact same style of frames, but they’ll all coordinate,” she says.
Shed some lighting
Dusty, tarnished chandeliers are the home equivalent of carbon dating: One look and you can tell exactly how long it’s been there, says interior designer Kim Kinz, of Functional Interiors in Westfield, NJ. “When you see a 1970s brass candelabra bulb fixture, you think, ‘Wow, this has been up for a while,’” she says. Cleaning that dinosaur until it shines will shave off a decade at least. Or replace it with an updated fixture in satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze to give your home a well-placed shot of design Botox.
Give your blinds some TLC
“With blinds and shades, the cords break, they’re stuck half-up, a slat is missing, or they get covered in dust,” says Kunz. “At that point, you need to replace them.” Even if you vacuum pleated shades or blinds, she says, the dust never fully comes off. “Spending just $25 to replace a blind can make a stunning visual impact,” she says.
Sweep the fireplace
Kunz can’t count the number of times she’s peered into clients’ fireplaces and seen giant drifts of ashes. Vacuum it out and place pretty birch logs from the local farm or supermarket in the freshly cleaned fireplace. “For about $20, it looks fancy and nice—versus an old burnt-out fire.”