Put Wasted Space to Work
Transform a plain wall into a storage and display showcase by adding stacks of open shelves or cutting out the drywall to create a recessed niche.
Refinish Wood Floors
"Refurbishing hardwood floors will enhance the look and the value of your home," says John A. MacDonald of Keller Williams Real Estate in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Just be ready for a few days of dust. If your floors are worn or stained, replacing them might be the better option. Consider splurging on wide-plank hardware floors in your foyer and living room, then scaling it back in the bedrooms.
Replace Your Windows
You don't have to put up with drafty rooms. Trade in older, energy-squandering windows for new high-performance units that swing in for easy cleaning. Energy Star windows can cut your fuel bills by as much as $340 per year over drafty, single-pane units.
Accentuate the Architecture
Call on simple molding or trim to draw attention to existing features, such as a high ceiling, or an attractive view from a window. In this cottage bedroom, pronounced beams provide a visual transition between the walls and ceiling.
Add a Fireplace
"A fireplace adds ambience that can't be attained any other way," says real estate expert Donna Freeman. It adds warmth and creates a focal point for the room. Dress up the firebox with a tasteful surround and a classic wood mantel. If you opt for a gas unit, upgrade to one with the most realistic-looking logs.
Already have a fireplace? Give it a fresh, fabulous facelift with a few smart updates.
Install New Lighting
You'll be amazed by how well-placed pools of warm light can make your home inviting and user-friendly. Even inexperienced remodelers can easily install simple plug-in puck lights under kitchen cabinets, inside built-in hutches, or in bookcases.
Add Function to an Awkward Space
Transform a basic bay or box window into a reading nook, or furnish an empty corner of the living room with a game table and storage cabinet. These features add value to your home and, when it comes time to sell, will likely resonate with potential buyers.
Upgrade your closets by installing rods on two levels for hanging shirts and pants and adding pullout bins for socks and undergarments. Increase storage in your kitchen cabinets by installing a spice rack or a lazy Susan in a corner cabinet.
Upgrade Your Foyer and Staircase
Since it is the first thing visitors will see when they enter your home, make sure the entryway welcomes them in style. If you can't change the whole space, concentrate on high-impact items. Splurge on the entry flooring, or focus on improving the staircase. Sand and restain treads, paint risers, and replace railings and newels. Be sure to check building codes regarding railing height and spindle spacing.
Polish Up the Laundry Room
Create an attractive, functional laundry room by replacing old appliances with units that offer the latest energy- and fabric-saving features. Also, equip your laundry room with long stretches of counter space for folding clean clothes, tuck-away bins for sorting dirty laundry, cabinets to keep detergents stowed out of sight, and a built-in ironing board.
Find a Spot for Dining
Add a small table at the end of a work island, or fit a bench and a table inside an existing window bay to create a cozy dining alternative to a breakfast bar where diners look at their food instead of one another.
Maximize your kitchen's storage capacity while upgrading its style. Use these tips to add even more storage during your makeover.
Upgrade Kitchen Countertops
Durable granite is "still by far, the most requested countertop material," says interior designer and space planner Mary Fisher Knott of Mary Fisher Designs in Scottsdale, Arizona. If granite is beyond your budget, however, consider laminate countertops that offer the look of natural stone at a fraction of the price. Add a beveled edge to these laminate countertops for an authentic stone look.
Add an Island
For many homeowners, an island work space is a kitchen must-have. For easy traffic flow, be sure to allow at least 39 inches of space all the way around it, Knott says. Need a budget-friendly island? "Use a sofa table topped with tile, or place two painted chests back-to-back and top with butcher block," Knott says.
Replace Old Appliances
If your appliances are more than 10 years old, consider buying new ones that use less energy. Energy Star appliances are not only good for the environment; they are good for your pocketbook, too. The appliances cost a little more up front, but the money you save on energy bills in the long run more than makes up for the initial price difference. Similarly, energy-efficient water heaters and furnaces pay back the extra cost after a few years of service and will continue to save you money for years to come.
Create a Pantry
A shallow pantry can be squeezed into just about any kitchen. "Hire a carpenter to frame the space between two studs and finish with cabinet doors," Knott says. "It's great for storing spices, soft drinks, or canned pet food. You can also adapt this idea for all those jars and bottles in the bathroom." If you have room for it, adding a walk-in pantry will pay off even more.
Change the Backsplash
Add personality to your kitchen with a new backsplash. For a low-budget update with big impact, choose inexpensive ceramic field tiles and add sparkle with knockout decorative pieces in glass or metal, or install a checkerboard pattern of several hues.
Create a spa-worthy retreat with these high-tech features and design touches.
Add a Bath
"Properly executed, a powder room, second, or even a third bathroom is an advantage. But if it's too small, doesn't fit into the flow of the house, or seems like an add-on, you do yourself a disservice," designer Shannon Freeman says. Also, make sure the room includes an exhaust fan -- something home buyers rank high on their list of desires -- and a window that will bring in plenty of natural light.
Change Your Showerhead
A new showerhead can dramatically improve your morning routine. Consider installing a pan-style model that simulates a refreshing rain shower.
Install a Second Sink
As any growing family or working couple will tell you, a second sink in a bathroom adds immeasurable value. If there's room to install two sinks within 30 inches of each other, the two can share drainage and supply lines, which decreases costs.
Upgrade Bath Materials
Change the faucets and fixtures on the sink, tub, and shower to stylish models in popular finishes like satin or brushed nickel. "Then upgrade your cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, and mirror to complete the fresh look," Knott says.
Improve Your Walkway
Whether created from concrete slabs or neat rows of brick, a new walkway is an easy way to upgrade your home's appearance. Take a look at these gorgeous ideas to get inspired.
Add a Porch
Front porches are back in business, especially if there's room for a bench or a chair to welcome guests to the front of the home. Be sure to check building codes for setback requirements. Also, if you plan to entertain there, make sure your porch has at least 12x24 feet of space.
The most affordable siding option is vinyl. Once a bland material that paled in comparison to real wood, vinyl is now available in a wide variety of colors and styles, including scalloped and square-cut shingles. If your vinyl siding is in good condition but looks worn or faded, consider sprucing it up with a product that cleans and restores its original color and sheen.
Freshen Your Landscaping
Quality landscaping enhances the style of your home and makes the exterior more attractive. "Cut back overgrown bushes, and fill in those bare spots," says Stacey Moncrieff, editor in chief of Realtor magazine. "A neat, well-maintained landscape instantly increases your home's curb appeal and suggests that your interiors are equally well-maintained."