$500 Makeover Ideas

Big-budget remodels can be hard to save for, but small-scale upgrades and redos can make a big impact. Here are 14 remodeling ideas to inspire your own wallet-friendly fixes.

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  • 1 of 15

    Swap out Window Treatments, Rugs, and Shades on Light Fixtures

    Your room's paint may be relatively fresh and its furniture and finishings still current, but old accessories can quickly make an area feel tired. For a quick pick-me-up that doesn't cost much, consider new window treatments, rugs, and shades, each with a distinctive pop of color or pattern. Focus on three hues that complement each other, and use them to varying degrees in each item. One bold pattern -- here, the rug -- helps to balance out other more recessive combinations.

  • 2 of 15

    Tile a Wall or Floor

    For a focal point in a bathroom, few things match the visual impact of a tile wall. It's a perfect DIY project and can work wonders to orient a space behind sinks or a tub. In a bathroom with mostly neutral finishes, consider a color or style that adds energy -- here, a bold blue -- as a complement to other accents such as this rug.

  • 3 of 15

    Install Modular Carpet

    Carpet can be a spendy, intrusive update in a home -- but carpet tiles? That's another matter entirely. They're flexible and functional, with options to blanket a whole room or create an accent rug. Plus, carpet tiles are a snap to install -- and even easier to change out. Use yours to add a color punch -- here, under a dining space -- or improve visual organization in a space, such as a new entry rug in a mudroom.

  • 4 of 15

    Add Built-In Bookshelves

    Built-in bookshelves can be a room-changing project that  creates needed storage. Depending on your size and skill level (or willingness to boost your DIY savvy), you may be able to install them yourself. Straightforward shelves with no extra trim or doors rack up costs mostly just in wood. Look for a bookshelf spot that surrounds a window or one that’s next to a door. Compare pricing between melamine and wood, and see if your lumberyard or big box store will cut at least some of the boards to size.

  • wallpaper, painted furniture, living room 5 of 15

    Buy a Good Piece of Furniture

    A small-scale budget won't enable you to invest in a room-changing sofa, but it will allow you the flexibility to build on long-term furniture purchases with a signature side chair or table. Go for mostly neutral pieces that offer flexibility for future accessory updates, as well as extra details -- here, nailhead trim -- that supply distinctive style, too. If it's a coffee, side table, or console, look for shelves or drawers to boost storage.

  • 6 of 15

    Wallpaper a Room and Add Trim

    For one-of-a-kind pattern and color, few things beat wallpaper. It’s an excellent way for even novice DIY-ers to include a strategically placed accent wall that unifies colors, adds a unique motif, or makes a visual statement. Wallpapering a single wall can take less than an afternoon, and very good wallpaper will cost about $100 a roll. To give a room even more presence, consider adding substantial base trim or ceiling molding. Prefab pieces of wood typically run about $10 a square foot, and a (rented) miter saw and finish nails are all the pro-style tools you need to install them in a room.

  • 7 of 15

    Install a New Thermostat

    Sure, a new thermostat isn't a life-changing design upgrade, but it can be routine-altering in other ways. Brand-new efficient thermostats can learn from your habits, adjusting temperatures based on schedules and, in the process, saving you on utility bills. Plus, new thermostats aren't that expensive or difficult to install.

  • 8 of 15

    Replace the Sink and Fixtures in a Bathroom or Kitchen

    Remodels are typically presented as all-in-one packages, but thoughtful planning can help you stage your redo in a way that’s budget friendly. Case in point: Careful shopping can yield a new sink -- great for remaking a central part of your kitchen work triangle. Match the size and counter setup to avoid intrusive (and costly) redos of adjacent surfaces, and if you have enough budget left, swap your faucet.

  • 9 of 15

    Add a Ceiling Fan

    Functional and beautiful, ceiling fans are a good way to tiptoe into the waters of redoing your home’s lighting fixtures. Newer ceiling fixtures boast Energy Star ratings, dimensional blades, a range of material options, and sizing to fit spaces from the smallest closet to the biggest family room. Pick up on a color that’s present in the room -- here, a rich wood finish -- and choose the overhead light option, too, to add energy-efficient illumination.

  • 10 of 15

    Update Cabinets with Plexiglass or Glass

    Same-door cabinets are typically the default choice for a kitchen, bath, or home office. But if you’ve got a few adjacent cabinets that also contain display-worthy items -- your best dishes, for example -- you might consider swapping out a solid front for a plexiglass or glass face. Plexiglass, in particular, can be found in opaque patterning, and is inexpensive and fairly easy to install.

  • 11 of 15

    Revamp Bathroom Accessories

    New sinks, new faucets, a new toilet: All those bathroom upgrades can get pricey in a hurry. But fresh accessories -- towel bars, soap dispensers, mirrors, even a few well-chosen knickknacks -- can give a bathing and grooming space a new look and feel with a miniscule budget. Choose a finish -- nickel, for example -- that matches your existing light fixtures or faucet to ensure a seamless transition.

  • 12 of 15

    Get a New Window

    Updating or upgrading ALL your windows can be cost-prohibitive. But a single window -- say, one that’s inoperable or too small -- is a budget-manageable feat that can dramatically change the look and feel of a room. Choose one that offers a new, but oft-used view -- say, in a kitchen -- or a window that needs a redo to match others in your home. Installed, a new small-to-moderate size window will probably run you just about $500.

  • 13 of 15

    Install New Countertops

    A small budget won’t get you high-end countertops in a big kitchen or bath. But a small investment and some DIY elbow grease can give you new surfaces in a mid-range tile or laminate. If you’ve priced it out and can’t do the whole project at once, pick a self-contained area -- near the stove, for example -- and take the new surface from countertop to backsplash.

  • 14 of 15

    Upgrade a Bathroom Sink Base

    For storage-challenged and design-dated bathrooms, a new sink base can be a good way to add function and beauty, especially in a staged renovation. You may be able to reuse the counter or score a vintage find (upgraded with paint) that saves even more on your renovation budget.

  • Next Slideshow 20 Weekend Projects Under $20

    20 Weekend Projects Under $20

    These 20 improvements may not cost a lot, but they'll make a big difference in how your home functions. Try one or more of these projects this weekend to make your home look and feel its best.
    Begin Slideshow »
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