Show your space some gratitude with these repairs and upgrades that help you invest your tax refund into your house.

By Nafeesah Allen
April 14, 2021
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The past year has made every home in America an undeniable multitasker. Living rooms have been converted to day-care centers, bedrooms into corporate offices, and humble kitchen nooks into hardworking baking studios and homework stations. From apartments in the city to bungalows in the suburbs, no matter where you call home, your abode has likely earned some well-deserved kudos since 2019. And after the year we've all been through, your family's pandemic MVP (your home) could use a dose of pampering.

Investing your tax refund into your house is the perfect way to show your space some gratitude and these repairs and upgrades can help. We tapped Delia Kenza, a Brooklyn-based interior designer, and Lauren O'Neill, of Denver's Scout Interiors, to craft the perfect self-care slate with home renovation projects for every style and budget.

woman hanging wallpaper in home
Credit: Flashpop/Getty Images

DIY Projects Less Than $500

O'Neill says bold and bright colors are back in a big way. Want to dip your toe in the trend? Wallpaper in a powder room or on an accent wall can give your space an easy update. "There are a ton of fabulous peel-and-stick options that make DIY install easy and more affordable," she says.

In tight spaces without much natural sunlight, leafy designs or bursts of lively colors can lighten the mood. Brands like Mitchell Black offer a wide range of permanent and removable options. Or for a contemporary twist on toile, consider Sheila Bridges' iconic Harlem Toile wallpaper pattern. Once you've made up your mind, these temporary wallpaper application tips make the task easy and ensure your hard work truly sticks.

Home Renovation Ideas Less Than $1,000

Kenza and O'Neill agree that in this price range, the very best way to show your home some love is to have it professionally painted. "Yes, you can paint yourself," says Kenza, "but a professional painter—who truly knows their craft—makes a difference."

Calling in the professionals can go a long way, especially if you have, say, toddler-induced crayon to cover up or your walls have suffered through years of push pins, hammered holes, and sticky tabs. Depending on square footage, this could mean showering one special room with outsized attention or giving a few spaces a splash of color. Either way, Kenza recommends using eco-friendly paint to minimize health hazards. With many of us still spending more time indoors, non-toxic paint products are an easy win.

Dark gray wall living room with green couch
Credit: Greg Scheidemann

Home Projects Less Than $5,000

For this budget, Kenza suggests investing in a good quality sofa. "You can purchase a customizable sofa at this price point and select not only the fabric color but also the type of fill and seat depth," she says. The perfect pull-out couch can be the difference between a living room hub that is simply functional and one that feels like the very best seat in the house. Invest in kid-, pet-, and wine-friendly fabrics that are easy to clean and provide peace of mind.

What if you already have a couch you love? A deep-clean or reupholstery can't hurt, but O'Neill also suggests throwing in a couple of swivel chairs and a new area rug to tie it all together. Alternatively, if your dining room could use a jolt, upgrading light fixtures or adding a floor lamp or a statement chandelier "can pack a huge design punch," she adds.

Updates for Less Than $10,000

If one side of your dining room table is doubling as your office and the other as a homeschool classroom, O'Neill suggests investing in a remodel that finally gets you the corner office you've always wanted. Convert an unused guest bedroom or an empty basement into a productivity oasis. Get a standing desk with an ergonomic chair and finally order the office supplies to make remote work a breeze. If you have to share a workspace with a housemate, don't skimp on moveable furniture and modular partitions that will serve everyone.

If your home office is already in good shape, Kenza advises investing in the private space you need to unwind. "I suggest a bedroom redo because we all need an oasis," she explains. "The first purchase is a great mattress. A good night's sleep is a total game-changer. Then, get good quality blackout curtains or shades to block the light, so you can sleep in a little longer."

green and white bathroom
Credit: Helen Norman

The Biggest Tax-Return Splurge

When money is no object, both designers suggest upgrading a bathroom. Remodel a small bathroom with new tile and a decadent vanity. In a bigger space, consider rain showerheads, a clawfoot tub, or a low-flush toilet. Ditch your shower curtain and install a sophisticated glass enclosure. And if you have that basement washer-dryer hook-up that you always hoped to convert into a half-bath one day, now's your chance.

Collectively, these home improvements can improve your mood and maybe even increase the value of your home, making your home refresh an invaluable investment of this year's cash windfall. For the past year, your home has been working overtime, with countless late nights and weekend shifts. Providing yourself with a more elegant bathroom break sounds like money well spent right about now.

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