10 Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home Look Expensive

May 08, 2024

These are ten of my favorite ways to elevate the look of your home, both inside and out! 

Over the years I've discovered some easy decor and DIY changes that make a big difference in our home. 

I could make an endless list of ways to do this with bigger projects like crown molding, wall trim and built ins, but these examples are much simpler and less involved. 

Most of these can be done in a few minutes. A few of them are projects that will take a little more time, but thankfully I have tutorials that will help you out if you decide to tackle them. ;)

I've always thought that some of the more subtle changes make a big difference in a house, especially when repeated throughout. 

They are the little touches that give your home a high-end look!

A few of these are splurges, so when I update multiple like items all over the house, I do it over time. I'll grab one or two on trips to the store as the budget allows. 

Some of these have taken me a year to finish, some aren't done and some I've just started!

ALL are little details that I think give our home that extra little something. :)

1. Replace or paint floor HVAC grates

For years I've spray painted our inexpensive floor vents to a darker color that flows with our floors better: 
dark hardwoods black vents

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I've done that with all of the basic tan floor grates that we've had in both of our houses over the years. They hold up surprisingly well!

Last year I was strolling down an aisle at Lowe's when I noticed how many pretty floor vent options were available. I tried one of these cast iron metal grates in a room that day and fell in love: 
iron black floor vents

Over the past year I've been grabbing one on trips to the hardware store here and there. Since we only have the floor vents on the main floor, I didn't have as many to replace as I thought. 

I love the pretty Marquis design that fits in well with our modern Craftsman home details:
upgrading floor vents

There are a ton of designs available, in both metal and the heavier duty iron versions I've used. These are still operational like the previous grates -- we can adjust the air flow no problem. 

I also updated one of our air intake vents with a DIY vent cover that looks SO much better!:
DIY air intake vent cover

2. Change out your light bulbs 

Now this one may seem trivial at first (and honestly, in the scheme of things, all this stuff is!), but over the years as we've had to change out light bulbs, I've replaced some with these round bulbs instead:
round light bulbs clear glass

If you have exposed bulbs or clear glass, they just give the whole light fixture a higher end look:
blue green floral wallpaper

Overall I prefer the white bulbs over clear ones, and the white ones soften the cast a bit, which is nice. 

I've only added these on a few lights so far, but they really do elevate the look of the light fixture! They don't cost that much more than regular LED light bulbs, so this one won't break the bank.

I like these round LED bulbs because they don't have the white plastic base that so many have:

full glass led round bulbs

They look better, and let off a bit more light.

Of course, if you know the basics of electrical, replacing your regular switches with dimmer switches allows for softer, dimmed light in the evening that is just lovely!

You can also update your light fixtures with new decorative glass globes or covers, found at most hardware stores.

3. Paint a (interior or exterior!) door

The first time I painted a door in our home black, I was HOOKED. At our last house I got all of the doors in our basement and main floor painted: 
black door white shiplap

That was probably 15 years ago and I haven't looked back. :)

No, you don't have to paint them all at once! 

It took me years to paint all of our white doors black, and I didn't even touch the upstairs doors.

I've started the process in this home, but it's gone much slower since I've been so focused on bigger projects: 
black pantry door
See our pantry reveal here!

This DIY takes some time but isn't difficult. I shared my tips for painting interior doors black -- using this tutorial will give you a super smooth finish that looks like it was sprayed on!

AND, did you know that painting your front door is one of the easiest ways to improve your curb appeal? 
brick red front door

4. Dress up the base of your indoor plants 

This small change is one of the easiest! I have a ton of plants around the house (mostly these fiddle leaf figs): 
fiddle leaf fig tips

Plants like this come with small containers that can look a little wimpy. I suggest replanting into a large pot and placing that in a simple basket or pretty vessel. 

This adds some texture and weight to the plant. 

I use large, cheap plastic pots all the time! You don't even notice when they're placed in a basket. 

The added width at the bottom makes the whole thing look bigger...which is especially helpful if you don't have a green thumb!: 
white foyer simple molding

And it's just a nice decorative touch that adds a little something throughout the house. 

I used to place rocks on top of the plant soil (we have a cat that used to love peeing on the plant bases and the rocks deterred her), but over the years as I've replanted, I left those out.

Recently I've been adding something different at the base of the plant. I had a ton of this pretty, soft moss in my craft stash and tried laying it out over the dirt: 
moss on base of plant

LOVED it.  Such a simple thing, but the added greenery makes the plant look even more lovely!
soft moss on plant soil

I love this deep green reindeer moss -- it's super soft and easy to spread, but stays put.

I swear this has helped our plants! It seems to help retain water and prevent them from drying out. I could be imagining that, but I think it makes a difference. 

I also use these tips to make our fake plants look more realistic. Our visitors think this faux tree is real all the time!: 
realistic fake tree

5. Adding exterior and landscape lighting

I will stand on my hill of landscape lighting forever! Ha! It's always been that one exterior detail that I've noticed about really lovely (and expensive!) houses. 

Years ago I was determined to add some to our house, and discovered how easy it was to add landscape lighting on my own

There's no electrical knowledge needed!:
easy landscape lighting DIY

I'm telling you, it will make your house look AMAZING at night. I hear from readers all the time who are shocked at how easy it is to install. 

It takes some time, but it's not a difficult DIY!

I've also fallen in love with pretty cafe lights that hang over a patio or deck: 
cafe lights over patio

I've shared how to hang patio lights when you don't have trees to attach them to (like above), and showed you how we hung them over our old patio and under the pergola
cafe lights under pergola

We know what a difference the right lighting inside makes, and I think it goes double for outside!

6. Replace switch/outlet covers

This is another small detail that on the whole makes a bigger impact than you'd think! 

I shared how I updated some of our switch and outlet covers at our last house:
decorative light switch covers

You'll need a flathead screwdriver and about a minute to change out each one.

In our current home I've replaced most of our switch covers on the main floor to these new plates with a raised frame around each one
white decorative switch cover

And the outlets and switches on our kitchen backsplash as well:
white wavy tile gray grout

I haven't done many of the other outlet covers yet, just because they're not as noticeable. You can definitely take your time with these small updates! 

The covers I used have an insulated backing that helps to retain both heat and cool air. Have you ever felt how much cold air comes through outlets in the winter? It's crazy.

There are a TON of decorative switch plates at most hardware stores, and most come in all of the configurations you will need. Ours come in multiple switches options, GFI outlet/switch combos, etc. 

7. Change out door knobs

Updating your door knobs is a great way to update your home! If you have basic door knobs, they are easier than you'd think to change them out. 

I updated ALL of the knobs in our last house and replaced the shiny brass knobs with lovely dark bronze hardware
black door white beadboard

I had to cut out (or mortise) where the door latch goes on EVERY DOOR. But it was worth it!:
mortise door for new knobs
If you don't have to do that, this is a much quicker job! Once you get the hang of it, each one should only take about five minutes. 

When we picked all of the details for our current home, I chose these simple black handles instead of knobs: 
black handle knob white door

I've loved having handles -- they are especially helpful when your hands are full. :) You can push them down or up to open so it's a little easier to maneuver. 

Not only do the newer door knobs look better, but they feel more substantial as well. It's an easy change that definitely makes a home feel higher end.

8. Update or add cabinet hardware

This is one of the easiest upgrades in the kitchen! If you don't have hardware on your cabinets, adding knobs or pulls is like adding pretty jewelry to your drawers and doors: 
DIY shaker drawer fronts

Hardware will reduce the wear and tear on your cabinets as well! 

This can get expensive if you're starting from scratch, but there are so many great options at great prices now! You can buy them in bulk for less too.

I love these simple brass knobs I used in my closet redo:
DIY folded clothes storage

Those are a little over $2 each when you buy a bunch!

As with many finishes in your home, spray paint will give your cabinet hardware a quick update for WAY less! If you like your hardware design but not the color, spray paint is a great solution. 

See how to paint your cabinet hardware for an easy refresh:
white cabinets black hardware

9. Updating drapery rods and adding pleats

Window treatments are huge! Hanging them a bit higher and wider than the window frame will make the windows feel grander. 

Earlier this year I tried a new window treatment update that made my store bought curtains look SO much more expensive: 
DIY pleating on drapes

I shared how to add pleating tape to the back of the drapes -- the difference is truly amazing!

They went from messy and floppy to perfectly spaced and pretty: 
green bookcase in office

I still have one more set of drapes I'd like to add this pleating tape to. I LOVE the look!

But the drapery hardware makes a big difference too. When we moved in, I bought the cheapest, skinniest drapery rods I could find. 

We've had those up since then, but I've replaced a couple over the years. I've used this pretty brass rod with the faux leather detail in both my office and our basement family room: 
brass drape rod leather

Not only is it a little thicker, but that leather finial at the end just gives it a unique little detail. 

By the way, I don't think your drapery hardware needs to match throughout the house! 

I shared where I found really long curtain rods for a great price a few years ago. The IKEA drapery hardware is excellent!

I've since added the pleats to these basement drapes as well. You can see the difference in how full they look (on the left) compared to the grommet curtains on the right: 
pleated drapes vs. grommets

10. Add a fixture to recessed lights

I LOVE adding decorative lighting where we have recessed lights. I think a pretty fixture goes a long way to updating a space and making a home look more expensive.

There are two ways to replace a canned or recessed light with a hanging fixture. The simplest is to use a simple screw in kit and a large shade like I did in this small hallway:
blue white floral wallpaper

You don't even need to turn off the breaker -- this is almost as easy as replacing a light bulb!

Those kits allow you adjust the length of the cord and everything. 

If you want to install an actual wired fixture in a recessed light spot, that's possible too! It takes a little more work, but isn't a hard job if you know how to change out a light fixture: 
adding hanging light canned light

I had a horrible time with one version of these converter kits, so be sure to check out that post before trying this DIY. 

Both options allow you to hang a pretty light where there was none! 

We later added this long brass and black pendant light in our tall stairway too: 
hanging light open stairway

Notice those pretty round bulbs? 😂 I love them!

**By the way, last year I also replaced all of our metal/light bulb recessed lights with energy efficient LED versions that are SO much nicer. (And you can adjust the light from cool to warm.) 

They look more streamlined, won't yellow over time and save money on our electric bill!

Bonus idea! Put your products in pretty containers

Now I know this one can get out of control, but after a few years of putting our most used products into pretty glass containers, I absolutely love how they look and function.

I empty our laundry detergent and cleaners into these basic glass containers with lids
glass jars with lids for detergent

Not only is it cute, but I can easily see when we're running low on products. And it's just as easy to access (if not easier) than the containers they come in. 

I also love decanting our hand and dish soap into glass dispensers:
glass soap pumps with label

You can find all of those cute soap and detergent labels here. They are waterproof and have held up great for years now. 

Anything that makes cleaning the house more enjoyable is a win for me! :) 

Have you added any of these decor and DIY updates to your home? Remember, it doesn't all have to be done at once. Take your time as your budget allows. 

I promise no one will notice that your switch covers don't match in every room. :) 

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  1. I love all these tips!!! You were the first to inspire me to paint a door -- after you painted your garage door black I did too and loved it. Recently I changed out ALL the doors in our house from the off-white builder base (that was some sort of enamel so it took a few tries) to pure white. I can't get my husband "into" the colored door look, although I painted some atrium doors that we were going to replace anyway just to show him how good a color would look. It didn't work, but the new doors are still on order and I'm hoping the color has grown on him :).
    When I painted all the doors we ordered light switches (again, the builder and/or previous owner had all the off-white light switches in) and new oil-rubbed bronze door knobs. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! I tried painting the door knobs, but it was a lot of work and they just weren't holding up. When ordering in bulk it does come out a bit cheaper.
    I paint our vents, too, but would love to change out to decorative ones eventually :)
    Looks like, with your inspiration, we need to switch out lightbulbs (I would never have thought of that!) and drawer pulls. I'm "big" into that decorative element too but it can get expensive.
    Everything looks so great and custom in your home. . .just love watching your updates and changes through the years.

  2. Love your blog, from a 75 year old still doing Reno decor changes on our home we built back in 1981
    You are extremely talented
    June Newhouse
    Mississauga, Ontario

  3. Could you please share the name and brand of wood flooring you have in your home? I love it

  4. I love, love, love my almost black doors! I also totally agree with the addition of exterior lighting and switch plate/outlet cover replacement. I went the other direction...simple, screwless style, and they have made a huge difference. I have replaced about 75% of mine so far. I am excited to try the recessed light make over. My 40 YO one on the front porch is UGLY! Thanks for sharing you talent and ideas through your site!

    1. Could you share a picture of your replacement outlet covers?

  5. These were great tips! I have been following you for a long time and you have wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you for all of your suggestions. Your home looks beautiful.

  7. Your blog post years ago about black doors inspired me to have all our doors painted in Wrought Iron by BM back in 2018 when we bought our "good bones/needs updating" house. 4 years later, everyone still comments on how pretty the black doors are. Thank you!

  8. Love all your tips! I've been a follower for years and have incorporated some of your tutorials in my own home, they've been very helpful. =) Also, can you share the source of the plaid curtains in your office? Plaid is my favorite! Thank you!

    1. I am a long time follower of Sarah's blog. I think those are from her previous house. I like them too.

    2. Thank you! I found those at HomeGoods years ago, but I share links to similar versions about mid-way through this post: https://www.thriftydecorchick.com/2022/02/DIY-pinch-pleat-store-bought-drapes.html

  9. So many great tips!! Thank you

  10. Hey Sarah Lovely Ideas here!! I have been a fan of your blog for years and use many tips from you in my home... Do you happen to have any ideas for dispensing liquid laundry detergent? I find the bulk store dispensers boring and want to pretty up the laundry space. Thank you !


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