Jun 13, 2023
Contractors Say You Can Save A Sh*t Load Of Money Upgrading Your Home With Any Of These Clever Things
Shopping Genius hacks for a high-end look — without the high-end cost. When it
Genius hacks for a high-end look — without the high-end cost.
When it comes to your home expenses, your rent or mortgage is just a fraction of the money you’ll pay while living there. From everyday utilities to emergency repairs — and all the decor in between — the expenses really add up.
That's why Bustle got in touch with over a dozen home experts, from specialized contractors to professional interior designers, for their top-secret tricks to upgrading homes while saving money. Even better: Most of these solutions are available on Amazon for less than $40. And you can tackle these quick projects on your own without having to call in a professional — especially since these pros were happy to share their insights for free.
For an even easier fix that's just as easy to remove, there's this under-door draft stopper. As per its name, you just slip it under your draftiest door, and its cotton-and-foam construction will insulate heat — not to mention sound, light, and odors. You can also cut it to the ideal length, and the cover is machine-washable and dryer-safe to keep it looking like new.
According to Michael DiMartino, SVP of project services at Power: "Windows provide a huge opportunity to make an updated curb appeal statement, but can quickly turn into an eyesore if they are coated in seasonal residue, dirt, and grime. It may seem like a small detail or a daunting task, but cleaning your windows is actually extremely noticeable from both the interior and exterior of a home." This window cleaner kit comes with a squeegee and microfiber scrubber, both of which fit on the angle-adjustable head and extendable pole that reaches up to 53 inches.
If you’d rather wash your windows by hand, DiMartino wrote that it's an "extremely inexpensive DIY" with "no fancy tools needed." First, "use a microfiber towel to capture any big dust particles off the window. Next, mix up a homemade solution of dish soap and water." (According to DiMartino, harsh chemicals like ammonia or petroleum will likely do more harm than good.) Then, "here's the clever secret: you get the best results when you use newspaper on glass. Make sure you swap out the use of paper towels so there's no residue or particles left behind."
"Along with using a cable management box, use cable management sleeves or wraps to keep your cords tidy and bundled together, so they are not a free-floating and tangled mess," Urban wrote. Luckily, this job will cost you less than $10. Amazon has plenty of pre-split cable sleeves in various colors, so you can bundle and hide your cords in mere minutes. (They’ll also keep your pet from chewing on your wires!)
"A sculptural lamp can also double as a piece of art," Dapper continued. "Adding lighting above an existing art piece is a great way to elevate the piece and draw attention to it in a room." Once again, an electrician isn't needed; these LED lights also adhere to the wall with 3M tape instead of tools. They have a 360-degree rotating ball, three color temperatures, and three brightness settings so you can customize the angle and the light — and since they come in three gorgeous finishes, they’re artwork in and of themselves.
Bottles may not be the only thing cluttering up your bathroom counters; in that case, you can minimize the mess with storage solutions that hold multiple items at once. Take this iDesign tissue box tray, for example. The bottom holds, dispenses, and covers your tissues with its stylish matte-black design, while the top functions as a compact tray for your jewelry, makeup, or small toiletries. "Looks much better than an exposed tissue box," one reviewer wrote, while another loves the way it boosts "space efficiency."
"Maintenance projects might not give you the visual ‘wow’ factor, but they can make a huge difference in your day-to-day life – and can even save you money in the long term," wrote Mallory Micetich, Home Expert at Angi. For example, "adding weatherstripping" can "help keep your home insulated," and it's much easier than you’d expect. Choose a self-adhesive sealing strip (this one is made from durable silicone) and thoroughly clean the intended surface. Then just stick it on, cut it to the right length, and enjoy a warmer, quieter home.
"Smart lights are one of the trendiest home items today," wrote Jeff Brandlin, licensed residential, commercial, and industrial electrician and the owner of Assurance Electrical Services. "They can be controlled remotely using a smartphone app or voice commands, allowing homeowners to turn lights on or off, dim them, or change their color without physically having to be in the room. They are also energy efficient, consuming less power than your regular lighting. You may also schedule automatic shut-off to further increase the energy efficiency features." This brand is my go-to since it does all of the above and allows me to use voice activations alongside Alexa.
Adjustable drawer dividers are ideal "if you want something more permanent," Farr wrote. More importantly, they ensure that you can see everything at a glance, which — whether you install them in your desk or in your kitchen — makes "everyday tasks easier." Unlike modular containers, these dividers expand and have non-slip, scratch-resistant rubber pads for a secure, custom-like fit. In fact, reviewers wrote that they’re so sturdy and well-designed, they fit "the inside of the drawer like they were built in." Get them in white, gray, or natural.
Dust is one of those things that can ruin just about anything, from your air vents to your expensive electronics. "In my opinion, the most practical tool for cleaning is a cordless vacuum cleaner that comes with various attachments, such as a crevice tool, which can be useful for getting into smaller spaces," wrote Rios. The BISSELL AeroSlim handheld vacuum has over 15,000 reviews because it's USB-rechargeable and surprisingly powerful. Even though it's shockingly compact, its crevice tool and dusting brush can tackle tons of messes in all areas of your home.
"If your room is not large or has a small window, use mirrors," wrote Evelina Juzėnaitė, principal interior designer at the home improvement platform Planner 5D. "They will not only be a part of the decor but also visually increase the space and make it lighter." Juzėnaitė recommends that you buy a few small mirrors to make a "beautiful composition" which not only amplifies light, but doubles as art. These are affordable, durable, and come with self-adhesive for easy hanging.
"Steam-cleaning [your] carpets" will make a huge difference, according to Micetich, but you don't necessarily have to call in a professional. Amazon has steam cleaners that’ll cost you less than a single appointment — and you can use them on everything from your tile floors to your car's upholstery. This one comes with a handful of handy attachments and boils 1.5 liters of water for up to 45 minutes of cleaning, plus it's surprisingly compact and portable.
According to Michelle Urban, founder and lead organizer of The Organized House, cables and cords create "visual clutter," but "you can use a cable management box to hide power strips, adaptors, chargers, and cords." For that, Urban specifically recommends the Yamazaki cable management box. "It's a sleek, simplistic, and functional organizing system for hiding all the cables," plus it has a "beautiful aesthetic" in your choice of three colors.
"This is a trick that creates an elegant and vibrant mood for the chef of the house," wrote Luan Paja, Founder of Lightning Maintenance Ciro, and it costs less than you’d think and doesn't require an electrician. "Use an under-cabinet light." While Paja notes that some strips can cost as much as $100 per foot, "if you’re looking for savings, try [this] under-cabinet LED light plug-in." Even though it costs $30 for a pack of three, it "creates a bright atmosphere" and can be dimmed, scheduled, and controlled from your phone.
"A decorative sconce can make a huge impact on an empty wall and create a luxurious feeling in any room," wrote Leslie Dapper, lead designer at Rumor Designs. Fortunately, you no longer have to call in an electrician to get the job done. Amazon has cordless, rechargeable sconces that don't require any wiring whatsoever. Instead, you can just stick them to the wall using the included adhesive patches. On the dimmest settings, they’ll last more than 50 hours before needing to be recharged.
Julio Arco, an architect and interior designer, wrote Bustle: "Texture is another important aspect of interior design that can greatly enhance the overall sensory experience of a space. By incorporating different textures on walls or floors, I can create visual and haptic landmarks that define how a space feels, looks, and reflects light." If changing the texture of your walls or floors isn't in your budget, consider adhesive panels. These hexagon-shaped panels are both decorative and sound-proofing, plus they come in five designs that range from playful to elegant.
Similarly, you can try these frameless corkboard panels, which have a self-adhesive backing for easy installation. When hung above your desk, in your bedroom, in the entryway, or in your kitchen, you can create customized bulletin boards with notes, photos, and reminders. They currently have over 15,000 reviews on Amazon, and past buyers have called them "amazing" and "super easy to install."
According to Juzėnaitė, cluttered countertops are "one of the common mistakes in interior design." Fortunately, it's easy enough to avoid: "Replace multi-colored plastic containers with reusable glass or wooden bottles and dispensers in the same style. It is not expensive, and it will improve your bathroom design." This set of glass dispensers, for example, comes in a range of different colors and textures, but they’ll all add a more elevated, organized feel to your bathroom.
You can use this same tip inside your shower to minimize clutter, as well. These refillable pump bottles each hold 1 liter of shampoo, conditioner, or liquid soap, but they give your shelves or tub a more organized appearance. Each one is made from a BPA-free, food-grade plastic that's completely transparent so you can see what's inside, and since the pumps have a locking mechanism, they’re also great for mess-free travel.
"Replacing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors" is another one of Micetich's "favorite projects to recommend for homeowners." Personally, rechargeable batteries made a huge difference for me when it came to keeping my household devices up and running. Instead of having to buy new batteries every time something goes dead, now I can just pop them in the included charger and four hours later, they’re as good as new.
An impactful tip that costs less than $50, but still seriously boosts the elegance of your living space? "Layer a (piece of faux) fur over the back of your chairs to create a cozy feeling and luxurious seating area," Dapper wrote. "This adds texture and is especially cozy in the colder months." The Everlasting Comfort faux fur throw blanket has about 20,000 five-star ratings because it's machine-washable, plush and silky on both sizes, and comes in a huge range of stylish colors.
"Water security is often an overlooked topic, with most households generally relying on store-bought water bottles in bulk," wrote Brian Campbell, founder of Water Filter Guru. Fortunately, "under-sink water filtration provides an inexpensive gateway to a much more environmentally-conscious decision," Campbell wrote, and installation "typically takes less than an hour" with "no specialized equipment necessary." This Waterdrop filter system, for example, reduces heavy metals, chlorine, and bad taste from up to 8,000 gallons, so it’ll provide clean, fresh water for about a year.
According to Urban, "You can elevate the look of any space by adding hyacinth wicker baskets," like these handwoven ones with built-in handles. "I like incorporating natural materials into a room because it adds a nice textural element. You can keep items like iPads, remotes, books, blankets, or toys beautifully contained and organized." Get them in your choice of four different colors.
These rectangular hyacinth storage baskets are another great option — especially for shelves without cabinet doors. Thanks to their 90-degree angles and cut-out handles, they’re like the elevated version of those canvas cubby boxes; while they’ll help you hide clutter and keep your stuff organized, they do so while lending an elegant, natural aesthetic to your closets, bathrooms, and side tables. They also come in three sizes and four colors.
If you’re a collector, you can use your collections to create your own custom decor. Natalie Rebuck, principal designer for Re: Design Architects, recommends that you take your "marbles, shells, keys, rocks, ect." and "put them in a glass dome," like these cute, affordable jars with cork lids. "This is a quick and easy way to decorate inexpensively," Rebuck wrote.
You can do the same with ingredients in your pantry or essentials in your bathroom. These food storage containers come in multiple sizes, so they’re great for everything from coffee beans and pet treats to Q-tips and cotton rounds. Since the high-borosilicate glass is thick-walled and BPA-free, and the lids are airtight and made from bamboo, they’re both functional and gorgeous anywhere in your home.
"If each item has a dedicated place, you will save time while cooking or getting ready," Juzėnaitė wrote, which is why you should "use organizers" wherever possible. For drawers of any kind, these bamboo organizers are "one of the best things" reviewers have "ever bought." They come in multiple sizes and have a modular design, so you can arrange them however you need in kitchen or desk drawers. That said, some reviewers don't want to hide the beautiful bamboo construction, so they leave them out on their counters instead.
Looking for a quick, affordable upgrade that boosts functionality and aesthetic at the same time? Toss out your old bathroom or kitchen towels and grab a new set. "I love a light linen/cotton blend for towels because they look good and are quick-drying," wrote interior designer Jessica Love. These come in a set of two, each with cozy tassels and a timeless striped design in your choice of seven colors. According to reviewers, they’re soft, well-made, absorbent, and beautiful.
According to Love, another way to upgrade your space is by adding a "natural tray for texture." This wooden tray comes in four sizes and can be used to create a vanity tray, sink organizer, or countertop display. It's made from 100% acacia wood that's been finished with a food-grade seal, and its rounded edges and natural aesthetic have reviewers raving: "beautiful" and "love the elegance [it adds]."
According to Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder at Arsight, "Plants are an easy and affordable way to bring life and color into a room. Not only do they look beautiful, but they also help purify the air." In some cases, they even provide you with money-saving ingredients — like this indoor herb garden starter kit. It comes with everything you need to grow your own medicinal herbs and teas at home, including burlap grow bags, potting soil discs, plant markers, and seeds for lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and mint.
"Whether you opt for a potted plant, a hanging plant, or a wall-mounted plant," Kropovinsky continued, "adding some greenery is a simple way to make a big impact." That goes double for plant displays that are decorative in and of themselves. This UppWell adjustable plant stand makes pots between 8 and 12 inches into modern, elevated statement pieces. The stand is made from natural, sustainable wood, and with each purchase, the brand plants a new tree.
Can't seem to keep any plants alive? No problem. "Faux is a great alternative if you don't have a green thumb," Dapper wrote. "Add greenery or a bouquet to liven up a room and bring life into an empty shelf or corner. You can also use it as a focal point in an entry or stairwell." These artificial potted plants look like the "real thing," according to reviewers. They also come in curved, stark-white pots that help any room look more "bright and airy."
According to Jason Farr, interior designer and the founder of Aviara Pavers, organization tools like lazy Susans "allow you to maximize space while keeping everything organized and within easy reach." This two-tier lazy susan has a bamboo construction that "looks nice on the counter" and has a "Scandinavian design look to it," according to reviewers. Still, it "turns perfectly" and its raised edges keep spices, cans, and ingredients from "sliding off the shelf," even when used in crowded cabinets.
According to Juzėnaitė, "Entryways are also usually cluttered with clothes and shoes. The best solution is to install closed cabinets and shoe storage. Not only will it make the interior and aesthetics of your space better, it will also help in organizing your items." Available in three designs (white, natural wood, and mirrored), this shoe cabinet has brilliant pull-out racks that are ideal for narrow hallways. Its three tiers can hold up to nine pairs, but when closed, it just looks like a stylish entryway piece.
Whether you have a shoe closet or you not, this covered rack organizer is a great way to keep your footwear neat and out of sight. Its stackable design can be used in closets and on shelves to create structure where there was none — or you can simply stack them on top of each other to make a freestanding unit. The resin-and-metal construction of each cube can hold up to 11 pounds, and you can remove the partitions to store taller shoes, like boots. Get them in black or white, and install the cabinet doors or leave them open.
"A new backsplash can give your kitchen a whole new feel without breaking the bank," wrote Micetich — but if you don't have the budget to actually replace it, you can still give it a face-lift. Peel-and-stick backsplashes come in tons of different designs and have adhesive backing that makes installation a breeze. According to reviewers, it "looks like real tile," "wipes off easily" in case of any cooking splatters, and is "very strong" to counteract humidity in the bathroom.
"There's a very simple tool that will make organizing much faster: a good label maker," wrote Rachel Rios, general manager of Guelph Maids. "Labeling all the items you’re decluttering will help you know what you’re getting of, and where it goes." This DYMO embossing label maker is surprisingly affordable, and it creates three different types that are modern and stylish enough for your cards, containers, and gifts. It also works without batteries and stores easily thanks to its compact size.
"If you want to make your home look more modern and modernist, you'll want to choose light fixtures that reflect this aesthetic," wrote Anton Giuroiu, CEO of Architecture Lab. "The best way to do this is by focusing on how many bulbs you have in each fixture, as well as how bright they are." Dimmable LED bulbs save energy and give you more control over a room's illumination. These Edison bulbs are brightness-adjustable and come in a range of different intensities, from 2200-kelvin warm white to 5000-kelvin daylight white. What's more, they look sleek and modern in any open fixture.
"I am a big fan of wallpaper transforming a space as well," wrote Rebuck. "It's a low commitment, you can install it yourself and it can easily be taken off." While Amazon has countless peel-and-stick patterns to choose from, this geometric hexagon wallpaper has been called "fabulous" and a "fun way to add some bling." It comes in four colors and five sizes, and since it's made from waterproof, easy-to-clean PVC, you can use it on everything from bathroom walls to home office desks.
This article was originally published on Feb. 25, 2023Maria Cassano