$50, $500, $5,000: Update your home on any budget

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

If you have some holiday money burning a hole in your pocket, why not spend it on your home? Whether your total comes to $50, $500 or $5,000, there are plenty of ways to renew your rooms. Get some guidance from local pros that show it doesn’t take a major investment to make a statement.

According to Sarah Macklem, a home stylist, blogger and owner of The Yellow Cape Cod in Grand Blanc who provides affordable e-design services, enhancing your home doesn’t have to break the bank.

The internet can be a treasure trove of inspiration for home improvement projects at all budget levels, adds Macklem who is considered a social media influencer through her online presence on sites like Pinterest. “It can be a wonderful tool to help you decide which projects you want to hire out and which projects you want to try on your own,” she says.  

With a budget of $5,000, you should have a comfortable allowance to hire a professional, she says. One of her favorite ways to transform a space is to have a finish carpenter install custom decorative moldings.

With a budget of $5,000 and some online inspiration, a kitchen upgrade may be in the cards. One way to change the look is to add 2 by 4s and moldings to the cabinetry like Macklem did in her own home to emulate the high-end, tall uppers often found in custom kitchens. Her laminate countertops were replaced with granite and the cabinets were treated to a fresh coat of paint.

Even the kitchen of your dreams may be more attainable than you think. “With a budget of $5,000 and some online inspiration, you can cook up a new look in your own home,” says Macklem.

You might want to update the cabinetry like she did in her home with the addition of 2 by 4s and moldings to make it look like the high-end, tall uppers often found in custom kitchens. Laminate countertops were replaced with granite and the cabinets were given a fresh coat of paint.

A focal point can also make a big impact, especially along a tall empty wall that makes a big space feel a little bare. With $500, you could easily recreate the look from one of Macklem’s projects. Gallery frames from Pottery Barn filled with family photos above an oversized console table with some decorative accessories gave the space lots of personality, visual balance and a new focus.

As she explains, a big change in your home doesn’t always require a big budget. “You can achieve dramatic results with just $50,” says Macklem. “Never underestimate the power of paint and a little elbow grease. A room can be completely transformed with a new wall color, and tackling your own painting project can save you a lot of money.” 

In a young boy’s room, the walls were painted in a comforting shade of gray, which was personalized with a tone-on-tone stripe around the perimeter. “This is a small detail that plays a big role in the overall look,” she says.

Makeover magic

For fifty bucks, some toss pillows can change the entire look of a sofa, says Chris Meredith Roy, owner of Your Nesting Place in Milford. By sticking with a neutral base, when you get sick of the pillows, she says the couch can morph into anything.

People are always looking for a new color, she says. You can introduce a new hue like Mediterranean blue or emerald green with statuary, a vase or a small lamp for $50 or more.

“With $50, you can get a 20 by 24 canvas wrap to make a statement in a small space like a powder room or your foyer area which is your first impression when you enter,” adds Roy.

Five hundred dollars can yield a new light fixture. “I don’t think people realize the importance of chandeliers and light fixtures and the type of bulbs you use,” she says. “You can get a smashing chandelier over a dining table or some pendant lights above an island and completely change the appearance of the room.”

Window treatments in the $500 range can make a room look more current, while distinct artwork, accessories and rugs can be found for $500 or less. Roy says a 50 by 60 piece of artwork can make a bigger impact than a bunch of cluttered objects on a wall. “Get one impactful piece to take that room to another level,” she says.

A $5,000 budget can pay for anchor pieces, like a new sofa and loveseat or a small sectional from Flexsteel and a couple of chairs and occasional tables.

Architectural elements that add character to your interiors can cost around $5,000. An update for one of her clients featured ceiling beams in the great room along with a new mantel made from reclaimed wood.

Tricks of the trade

For $5,000, you can get a great statement piece, according to Dan Davis and Paul Johnson, co-owners of room2improve, a design consulting service in Ferndale. For instance, this budget can buy a custom dining table, a built-in daybed or a killer custom sofa.

The same amount may also get you a dramatic backsplash, depending on the size of your kitchen (not including installation).

When spending $500, you can enhance a substantial painting with an ornate frame or reinvent a vintage chair with new upholstery. For the same sum, you can select one distinct piece of furniture to perk up a neutral space like a hammered brass coffee table.

Also in the $500 range, you can install an art wall with a variety of items or a bold wallpaper pattern in an unexpected spot like a master bedroom. “Wallpaper scares some people, but if you put it behind your bed, you don’t really look at it all the time,” says Johnson.

With $50, you can get clear glass lights with a seeded or rippled effect. They can be quite efficient, whether you choose a sconce for a bathroom or a pendant light in a kitchen. 

“Amazing design can run anywhere from $50 to $5,000. It’s less about what you spend and more about how you do it. With $50, you have to be very creative,” says Johnson.

Adds Davis: “You also need to be very focused on where you spend that money.”

As Johnson explains, you can still add that drama when you don’t use your money in an obvious spot like a sofa or rug, but spend it on unexpected pieces like art and accessories.

That was the case for a client who found some plastic letters at a garage sale for around $50. Davis took them to another level with a striking display. If you can’t afford a really great sofa or rug, he says finding something unusual and putting it in an unexpected place can be a real showstopper.  

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.