6 Great Alternatives to Remodeling Your Home


If your home feels a little “blah,” but a new kitchen or bath is not in the budget, try some of these less-involved solutions. They are all designed to freshen up your look or make your living space more usable. Plus, they cost less than a major remodel and are considerably less stressful as well! (See also: 15 Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5)

1. Try New Trim

One way to add a little “oomph” to a room or hallway is to hire a good trim carpenter to install a high-quality trim or crown molding. Douglas Breaker, CEO of HomeFinder.com, swears by this small update that can really dress up a house. Since it comes in a variety of looks, you’ll likely find the perfect option for your age and size of home.

2. Dress Up Doors

Douglas also vouches for the value of new exterior doors (both aesthetically and in regards to property worth). “Exterior replacement projects, such as a new garage door and a new entry door, offer some of the best returns at resale,” he advises. Most homeowners can recoup 70% or more of the cost of the project at resale, and even if you don’t plan on selling, it can create a stunning transformation for your home’s exterior.

3. Move Your Furniture

Instead of buying all new furnishings, consider maximizing space with the items you already have. Lauri Ward of Redecorate.com suggests creating a “u-shape” with your furnishings, instead of an “L-shape,” to create a more comfortable conversation area. Other tips include making sure your furniture isn’t blocking traffic patterns and avoiding having all your furniture against the walls (something people commonly do when trying to “open” a room up). Both mistakes can make rooms appear clunky or smaller than they really are.

4. Declutter Walls

Lauri also recommends that one wall in every room be left clear of artwork so that the eyes have a place to rest. You may also want to move artwork three inches lower than where it already hangs as well. “Everyone hangs art too high!” she claims.

5. Update Cabinets

Cupboards and cabinetry take up a large amount of kitchen wall space, so it’s important to do it right. Susan Serra, blogger at The Kitchen Designer, reminds us that cabinet hardware is the “jewelry” of the kitchen, and she recommends replacing old knobs and handles with something stylish. She also advises home owners to remove one or two wall cabinets and replace them with open shelving; this can create a more spacious look for any size kitchen. Her best tip? ”For paintable/older cabinets, paint a few featured cabinets a different color (equal size wall cabinets on each side of the sink, for example).”

6. Redo Lighting

Finally, there are several simple solutions to help correct and enhance the lighting in any room. The experts I spoke with came up with two that can be done right away, and both are more budget-friendly than a full room redo. Lauri Ward recommends pairs of lamps — never just one — for better illumination. She also explains that lighting directed downward and not at the ceiling can help your room avoid “tiring and unattractive shadows.” All of our experts liked the look of LED lighting under cabinets; this appearance can be achieved with DIY products that have the wiring done for you.

While a full remodel will cost $10,00–$65,000, it isn’t something that’s feasible for many cash-strapped homeowners. By starting with even just one remodeling alternative from this list, you can give your home new life — for a fraction of the cost.

What have you done to perk up your home’s look?

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Julie Rains's picture

We are using a textured wash to redo our living room. It's easier and cheaper than repainting everything. I'm not usually so adventurous but the current paint (yellow) turned out to be a little too bright for my taste (after trying it out for a while) so this is an inexpensive redo.

Guest's picture

For hanging art, could we get more specific advice than "three inches lower"? Let's say I don't already have art hung; how high should I hang it?

Guest's picture
Thad P

We painted the living room, and it changed everything. Add new blinds, and everything looked totally different.

Kentin Waits's picture

Great article -- I'm a big fan of combining new paint with new layered lighting to give spaces and entirely different feel.

Guest's picture

I agree. Replacing kitchen cabinet hardware can do wonders and is so cheap to do. We recently changed our hardware out. The new hardware fit in the same holes as the old hardware, so it was real quick and easy to do and only costed a little over a $100.

Guest's picture

If you are going to restructure your house, just make sure that you are going to enhance ventilation and natural lighting in the darker portions of your home. It will help you to provide a feeling of freshness.