Skip to main content

10 Affordable Interior Design Upgrades You Can Do Today

When SN and I bought our first home in 2007, we loved that it had an open floor plan, a two car garage, and was on a large corner lot in a desirable part of Albuquerque. We also loved...well, that was about it. Ours was just another plain box in our cookie cutter neighborhood, featuring the same white walls and not much else as all our neighbors. We spent the next few years upgrading our home and, when we sold it last year, the result of our effort was a 4-way bidding war.

We were just poor college kids back then. Here are a few of the affordable improvements we made.

interior design pinterest

Budget Interior Design Idea #1
Swap out some of your mirrors.

affordable mirrors
More photos of our Budget Master Bathroom Remodel

See the fancy mirrors above? Everyone thinks they're from Ballard Designs. Ours are actually from Michaels, which marks all of their mirrors down 50% every few weeks. These were about $35 each. We followed this same design rule for the mirrors in our new luxury home, forgoing the expensive mirrors our custom builder usually installed and instead supplying our own. We saved a fortune.

Budget Interior Design Idea #2
Upgrade some of your mirrors with decorative trim and moulding.

how to trim a mirror
You know those enormous wall-to-wall mirrors that come standard in builder-boring homes? I cringe when I see people on HGTV taking a sledgehammer to them. Giant mirrors make your home seem larger and they amplify available lighting, whether from a fixture or through a window. Rather than destroy them, easily upgrade their appearance by gluing decorative trim directly to the glass. Just be sure to paint or stain the front and the back, as you will see some of the back reflected.

Side note: I also cringe when I see an ad for MirrorMate Frames in a decorating magazine. I could've been rich!

Budget Interior Design Idea #3
Fake a tray ceiling.

how to fake a tray ceiling
A faux tray ceiling in your bedroom beats the heck out of a plain one. Simply choose a paint color that is darker than your wall color and separate the two with a piece of trim. In the photo above, we used Valspar Cream in my Coffee on the walls and as the border on the ceiling and Valspar Toffee Crunch for the "recessed" (but not really) portion of the ceiling. We painted the trim to match the baseboard.

Budget Interior Design Idea #4
Use designer wallpaper in small doses.

blue bedroom with wallpaper headboard
Rather than pay for several rolls of wallpaper, which would have been overwhelming in our guest bedroom anyway, I bought only one and used it to create a headboard. We used decorative trim as a border and painted the rest of the room a matching blue. Wallpaper is having a design moment right now and the current options include features like 3-dimensional texture, metallic and glitter finishes, flocking, and water resistance. There are even options that are easy to remove - perfect for apartment dwellers, indecisive folks, and anyone who has ever lost their mind trying to scrape away old wallpaper little by little.

Budget Interior Design Idea #5
Chair rail adds big luxury for a small price.

living room upgrade on a budget
Have you noticed a trend here? Trim and moulding are a budget designers best friend! It costs almost nothing, it can be painted or stained whatever color you need, and it comes in lots of sizes and patterns. Can you imagine the living room above without the chair rail? Our "crown molding" is also a frugal find - it's actually less expensive baseboard, just installed around the ceiling.

Budget Interior Design Idea #6
Don't pay full price for paint.

paint color
Paint is an inexpensive way to infuse personality into your home, especially when you take advantage of sales and mail-in rebates. You can find the best deal of all by periodically checking the mistinted paints available at your local hardware store. These are perfectly good buckets of paint that were mixed but not purchased. The color above was perfect for my husband's office and it was only $5 a gallon at Lowes. You can also find paint at ReStore, which is owned by Habitat for Humanity and is a great resource for a renovation, though their paint is not usually brand-new like the mistints.

Budget Interior Design Idea #7
Create privacy with lattice fencing.

affordable way to add privacy to a yard
When we moved into our home, one of the first things we did was price raising the block wall in our backyard. The estimate was outrageous, especially considering we'd just put all our savings into buying the house. A much less expensive option was to install weather-resistant vinyl lattice on the sides of our covered patio. Unlike raising the wall, this privacy solution didn't even require the approval of our homeowner's association.

Budget Interior Design Idea #8
Decals cost almost nothing.

welcome decal on a red front door
The charming "WELCOME" decal on our front door? It was only a buck at Dollar Tree. I hadn't been sure I would like it, but for the price it seemed worth a try, plus decals can be easily removed without affecting paint. Since moving into our new home last year, I've picked up a few more decals from Dollar Tree, including three colorful cactus that cheerfully surprise anyone who open our white kitchen cabinets.

Budget Interior Design Idea #9
Up the WOW factor of a room with a wallpaper mural.

how to decorate with wallpaper
It's hard to imagine our dining room without the tulips on each side of the fireplace. A single wallpaper mural divided in half, it was only around $100 from Home Depot. Be warned, however, that one affordable addition to your decor can lead to more and more spending - the mural required that we spray paint our chairs to match, which required a new rug under the table, which required a nicer chandelier, which of course required replacing the tile surrounding the fireplace, and so on.

We loved our wallpaper mural so much that installing another was one of the first improvements we made to our new home.

Budget Interior Design Idea #10
Add a small patch of (always) green grass.

faux grass idea
I loved looking out our kitchen window at the green grass in our yard every summer. It was also lovely dappled with snow every January. And it was the most beautiful of all while listening to the neighbors mow their lawn again and again and again. Once you've had AstroTurf, you'll never go back. It's already a budget-friendly option when you factor in all the things you won't have to buy to maintain it, but the upfront investment can be lowered by purchasing remnants from a landscaping store, as we did.

If you enjoyed this post, please (pretty please?) share it.

interior design facebook

Popular posts from this blog

Cake Mix Pancakes

This reader-favorite recipe is *almost* as popular as my Cake Mix Cookie Bars recipe .  When making Cake Mix pancakes , the scrumptious possibilities are endless. Red Velvet cake mix pancakes. Chocolate cake mix pancakes. Butter Pecan cake mix pancakes. Funfetti cake mix pancakes. (Yes, Funfetti cake mix pancakes!) With this 2-ingredient recipe, you can turn your favorite cake mix into your favorite pancakes. Pancake making at its finest. Cake Mix Pancakes Personally, I think my funny napkin is the icing on the (pan)cake. It's Sunday morning and you're planning to do all the things today - scrub those grody baseboards, polish your quartz countertop that was supposed to be low maintenance but actually isn't at all, sort through the disaster that is the freezer.  While on your superhuman kick, you think I'm going to make my family pancakes for breakfast. Not just any pancakes - the best pancakes ever. I may even serve them as breakfast in bed! You pu

How to Move a Mattress

My site is popular for reviewing memory foam mattresses. With today's bed-in-a-box options lasting much longer than the traditional 7 years of a spring mattress, there's a good chance you'll eventually need to move one. But how? This is  how to move a mattress  without damaging it - even by yourself!  When we were faced with the challenge of moving our beloved Amerisleep AS3  to our new home, it seemed like my readers would enjoy the details. This handy tip should work for any memory foam bed, including Casper, Leesa, and Nectar.  I'm happy to report there is an extremely simple way to do it. Apartment and dorm dwellers rejoice! How to Move a Mattress At first, I wasn't sure how to move our king-size mattress down a flight of stairs. It's a problem we've dreaded solving ever since we made the decision to build a new house.  The answer? It was right in the back of our truck.  Ratchet straps . This solution could also serve as a 'How To' for returning

Chemical Peel Before & After

This article has been updated! My new chemical peel post, which includes pricing, Jessner peel before and after photos, product recommendations, and a helpful timeline for scheduling your treatments, is at the bottom. My original Jessner peel post (one of the most popular on my site of all time) is at the beginning. Original Chemical Peel Article Considering a chemical peel? I recently underwent my first Jessner peel and thought I'd share my results, post a Jessner peel review, and answer some frequently asked chemical peel questions. (I'm guessing that "Does a chemical peel hurt?" is a biggie!) I'd been planning to order an over-the-counter peel when we were in Iceland , but my computer led me a different direction. I decided to do this on a whim after Groupon greeted me one morning with a great $40 chemical peel deal. Now, I can read your mind. You just gasped in horror and thought  You trusted your face to a  discount  chemical peel?!  You're wondering w

Hello Fresh Complaints

Hello, my bloggy friends. I have a HelloFresh complaint and believe they are pulling a scam. Yours truly came *this close* to falling for it.  Maybe scam is too harsh of a word. Sneaky? You can decide for yourself. The fact that there are so many Hello Fresh complaints online does seem suspicious. My main complaint about Hello Fresh has to do with their promotional rate, which seems like it is set up to be intentionally misleading (more on this below). Despite so many people complaining about being charged more than they thought they'd agreed to, Hello Fresh maintains this as part of their business model and continues to mislead. So it's intentional, right? I do not recommend Hello Fresh. For starters, the service is just ingredients-by-mail with recipes, not meals. You can buy your own ingredients for much less, especially now that most grocery stores conveniently offer pickup and delivery. Excellent recipes are easy to find.  Click here for a list of top-rated, reader-favorit

Window Seat Idea - Dream Home Inspiration of the Day

See it? Waaay at the back of the photo?  I like how the window seat extends past the window all the way to the wall. How about you? If that's not your style, how about one of these lovely window seats? I'll seat you, my pretty, and your little dog too. How perfect would this be in a home office? I'd swap out that wimpy rug with a larger one.

3 Minute Toaster/Convection Oven Smores

These are perfect when you're craving a quick, sugary treat. They work equally well in a toaster oven and a convection oven. Best of all, compared to eating an entire bag of Oreos (something I have never  done), they're quite healthy. What's that, you say? You already know how to make s'mores in the toaster oven? Well then, sit back and enjoy the ooey-gooey marshmallowy photos. (And if you're someone who works with me, please keep the "I've seen her polish off an entire bag of Oreo cookies" nonsense to yourself.)  Step 1: Put desired amount of graham crackers on a toaster oven/convection oven-safe pan.   Looks like it's time to clean this pan, Sexy Nerd Optional 1st step, which is Sexy Nerd's favorite: Spread peanut butter on each graham cracker (I'm not much of a peanut butter fan - WHAT?!? - so I skip this step.) Cover with yummy marshmallows. Top with chocolate chips. Place in the toaster o

10 Canned Cinnamon Roll Hacks

You're in for a treat. Today I'm sharing my best canned cinnamon roll hacks and improvements for turning store-bought cinnamon rolls, like the Pillsbury Grands ones or even the store brand, into something special.  Dry cinnamon rolls? No thank you. They need to be OOEY and GOOEY. That's just Cinnamon Roll 101. All of these ideas keep Pillsbury canned cinnamon rolls soft, company-worthy, and delicious. These are also great for taking homemade cinnamon rolls up a notch, but what a pain that is. With these better-than-homemade canned cinnamon roll hacks, you'll never bother to bake them from scratch again. Test out some of these ideas tomorrow. Won't it be nice to dig into a mouthwatering cinnamon roll for breakfast? You can't get a better start to your day than that. Canned Cinnamon Roll Hacks Actually, make that 11 easy ways to improve store-bought cinnamon rolls: you can top them with homemade coffee whipped cream . Yum! Nope, make that 12 canned cinnam

Anonymous Flower Delivery

Anonymous Flower Delivery Sexy Nerd and I came home from a day of running errands on Saturday to discover an odd message on my phone. It was a girl from a flower shop calling to confirm my address for a delivery.  I called and said there must be a mistake, as I wasn't expecting any flowers, to which she pointed out that people don't usually expect flowers. Oh, of course.  As nice as it would be to have someone send me flowers, it seemed unlikely. Sure enough, she was unable to find any orders for me when I gave my name. She did have a Danielle though, and asked if there might be a different last name. I told her my maiden name. There really were flowers waiting for me!  She confirmed the delivery address - the rental house Sexy Nerd and I lived in 3 years ago. I updated my address and ended the call, anxiously waiting to see who would send me flowers. Who sent me flowers from FTD? My mysterious stalker has beautiful taste! Strange? I had no idea how str

Baby Taped to Wall (But Why?!)

I could totally see Sexy Nerd doing this if we had a baby. Honestly though, I would probably be cheering him on. Also, I've read online that some folks are outraged by this photo, thinking the baby is being abused. To me though, the baby looks well supported, as if it is in a bouncy chair, and none of the duct tape is touching bare skin. I honestly think this was just intended to be a funny photo. It's not like the parents taped their baby to the wall so they could go out drinking and partying in a cocaine-fueled hysteria. I doubt anyone on cocaine could even achieve this. This photo is from 2010, maybe earlier. Wouldn't it be great to interview this older child one day? It's time to get on that, People Magazine. The internet wants to know what happened to the duct tape baby! Baby Taped to Wall Poor ducky. Enjoy this post? Please be sure to check out my  Amerisleep Mattress Reviews  page as well, which is my most popular blog post of all time.

Dental Memes

As the manager of two successful dental offices, my favorite memes are ones I can share with my dentistry dream team.  Happy Team = Living the Dream! You don't have to work in dentistry to enjoy these. After all, everyone is a dental patient. You have visited the dentist within at least the year...right? (No guilt if you haven't! I've scheduled patients who haven't seen a dentist since the 1970s. Dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, and dental administrators have seen it all. We love this field because we love helping our patients. It's never too late to get back on track!) Funny Memes for Dentists Reminder: National Dentist's Appreciation Day is March 6th! Funny Memes for Dental Hygienists Reminder: National Dental Hygienist Appreciation Week is always the 2nd week of April! Funny Memes for Dental Assistants Reminder: National Dental Assistant Appreciation Week is always the 2nd week of March! Funny Memes for Dental Office Administrators Reminder: Ad