Ever want to take on a home project (be it a simple redecoration of a bedroom or the total makeover of a bathroom) and feel completely overwhelmed at the mere thought (and cost) of it? Or, perhaps you've decided to freshen up the styles of a couple key rooms in your home but, working with a tight budget, have no idea where to start and which items to focus on?
That’s the boat I’m in as I look around my tiny apartment with its mismatched furniture, peeling paint and excess of sheer stuff (from clothes and shoes to books and knick knacks). Where do I begin and what should I focus on? I turned to major league design experts including Bobby Berk of Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” Drew and Jonathan Scott (of HGTV’s “Property Brothers”) and Stephen Fanuka (of DIY Network’s “The Million Dollar Contractor”) to compile a list of tips anyone can use when sprucing up their abode on a budget.
Find your inspiration on Instagram
Getting in the right mindset is half the battle and you can reach it by absorbing the inspiring posts from your favorite Instagrammers and Pinterest whizzes.
“If you want to get motivated, follow the people you admire on Instagram who are doing great jobs that you think you can't afford,” Fanuka tells NBC News BETTER. “You don’t have to copy the person, but you can do something similar. It’s about taking ideas and catapulting off them. Even I do this: take inspiration from others and apply my own feel.”
Get the clutter under control — starting with the junk drawers
Decluttering is a first step in any home project. But where’s the best place to start with what can be a daunting task? Consider the junk drawers.
“De-cluttering can be overwhelming so start with that one small thing,” advised Berk. “Clean out your junk drawers. It can lead to so many more beautiful things. Start there and you’ll find yourself cleaning the whole rest of the house.”
Get the closets in order
If decluttering feels impossible, get your closets are working at full capacity. Lisa Adams, CEO/founder of L.A Closet Design suggests these tips for tackling a messy closet and keeping it tidy over time:
- Have a trash can in the closet to avoid accumulating trash in a junk drawer.
- Have space for every item in your closet — this ensures that there is a place for everything and it’s easier to maintain organization over time.
- Fold t-shirts in drawers from front to back rather than top to bottom so that you can see every t-shirt in the drawer.
- Avoid stacking too high on shelves and use shelf dividers to keep stacks organized and from falling over.
- Have a system for dirty laundry, dry cleaning, alterations, donations and sell.
Make a budget and tack on at least 10 percent
Note that the bathroom and kitchen will be the most expensive spaces to invest in (thanks, modern plumbing!), but in any case, you should take your budget and inflate it by at least 10 percent.
“Before you start any job you really have to say to yourself, how much do I have to spend?” says Fanuka. “Too many people don’t take into the fact that if it's $50k, you'll spend 10 percent more easily, and you must be prepared.”
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Drew Scott adds to not take on too much at first.
Before you start any job you really have to say to yourself, how much do I have to spend?
“There are simple, small things you can do that really will impact the space,” he says. “Things like changing out your curtain panels to something that adds a fresh new feel. Or maybe a smart pattern. Also swapping out an area rug, throws and pillows can be done in no time, and really have a dramatic effect. If you want to take it up at night, and have some friends come over, simply swapping out a light fixture will make it feel like a whole new space.”
The bedroom is the best for a tight budget
If you're looking to make inexpensive but dramatic improvements, focus on the bedroom.
“Bedrooms are the easiest because they’re mostly just styling,” says Jonathan Scott. “No expensive fixtures/appliances to deal with like bathrooms and kitchens. You can swap out a comforter, blanket and some art to transform the space. We always like to have a feature wall in every bedroom. That can be done with three panels, wallpaper or even just a different paint color. And usually you wanted to be the prominent wall in the bedroom, which is usually behind the headboard.”
Paint one wall dark to create a sense of depth
Jonathan Scott pointed out the importance of a feature wall, which you can do in a variety of ways, but if you’re trying to make a small space look bigger, think about using a dark shade for one or two walls.
“A lot of people think that black makes rooms feel smaller, but it's the opposite,” says Berk. “Paint one to two walls black to accent the walls and create a sense of depth.”
Create height with tall curtains — and ‘celebrate’ the ceiling
“Put rods a foot or two higher,” says Berk, when asked how to make a room feel larger.“In a small space make sure you take thing all the way to a ceiling. I used to have a store manager who called it ‘celebrating the ceiling.’ Also, place art as high up as you can get it to elongate the walls.”
Fanuka recommends painting the ceiling a bold color to make the space pop.
“The ceiling is the fifth wall,” he adds. “Put wallpaper on it or paint it a bold color like blue, orange or purple. Or, if you have an item in the room you especially love, grab a color from that for the ceiling.”
Make your furniture do ‘double duty’
Furnishing a small room is challenging because, well, you haven’t got a lot of space to work with. To solve this, get furniture that, as Berk says, “does double duty.”
“Don't do a coffee table, do multiple cubes that have storage inside, because then those cubes can become extra seating in the dining room,” says Berk. “Instead of chairs, do a bench with storage. Plus, a bench is easier to push to the side of the room. You can throw a blanket and pillows on it, too, and in the process create more floor space.”
Inexpensive changes to the kitchen and bathroom can work wonders
You don’t need to gut your kitchen or bathroom to make them look nicer.
“In the kitchen, go for two tone cabinets,” says Drew Scott. “Maybe the island is a complementary color — that generally doesn’t cost any more money, but gives you a designer look. In a bathroom choose a bold color pattern on the tile on a feature wall. Simple changes like that add a unique element that stands out.”
Fanuka adds that if retiling the bathroom, you may want to use porcelain instead of marble tiles. “They look just as great and are half the price,” he says.
This Isn’t Just About Your Home; This Is About Your Happiness
I tend to feel a bit guilty when I think of making over my home because I feel like there are bigger, better things I can be spending my time and money on. But my talks with these experts helped me understand that making over your home isn’t just about making things look better; it’s about feeling and living better.
“I have been traveling so much that right now, my home is a mess,” Berk admits. “I wake up now and can feel how this puts me in a bad mood. But when I wake up in a beautiful clean space, it starts my day off right. So I strongly recommend designing your home in a way that makes you happy because it will change your day for the better, which can in turn change your life and help you focus on the things you really care about.”
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