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One of the biggest temptations of buying a new construction home is the sparkly brand new-ness of everything (immaculately painted walls, shiny new door hardware, that new-carpet smell…)
More often than not, that luster is notably missing from older homes. While it may take a little effort to overlook superficial shortcomings to see an old house’s ‘dream home‘ potential, rest assured that those modern touches and sparkly finishes are more easily attainable than you might think.
Here are five quick and easy upgrades that made our old house feel brand new…
1. Replacing Outlet Covers
COST: $$$ | DIFFICULTY: Literally the easiest thing you’ll ever do in your entire life
I had no idea power outlets could be so high-drama until I got a good look at the hodge-podge of plate covers that the previous owners of our home had left behind. A select few had been hastily upgraded to decorative (but dated) designs, and almost all of the outlets had stained sockets from sloppy paint jobs (which meant that in addition to new plate covers, we also faced the possibility of having to replace the actual receptacles).
We lucked out when we found these wall plates that had the sleek and modern style we were going for, and covered the entire socket — killing two birds with one stone.
How to DIY: Replacing outlet covers is the definition of “cheap and easy,” and makes a big difference in the overall look and feel of your room. (Just be sure to turn off your power supply first!)
2. Replacing Bulky Light Fixtures with Recessed Lighting
COST: $$$ – $$$| DIFFICULTY: Several beers and a prolonged head scratch
We got lucky when it came to ceiling height: ours were a foot above average compared to other houses we looked at in our neighborhood. The downside? A lot of that extra space was eaten up by bulky light fixtures and hideous ceiling fans.
The situation was particularly dire in our family room. Already on the smaller side, the room was further dwarfed by this giant wood-and-brass monstrosity hanging overhead. In order to maximize the space, we needed to come up with a solution that minimized the presence of light fixtures, but at the same time maximized the amount of light. The perfect solution? Recessed lights.
How to DIY: This was one of our trickier DIYs to date, but the results made a huge difference. I documented the entire process, and you can find the step-by-step guide here.
3. Replacing Door Handles
COST: $$$ | DIFFICULTY: 2 Beers
The previous owners of our home made plenty of questionable decor decisions, but one of the oddest was the mismatched collection of door handles they had chosen. Some doors still bore the original circa-1990s brass knobs, others were upgraded to decorative satin nickel knobs and levers. The only thing they all had in common: no two knobs were alike.
Replacing every single door handle seemed like a daunting (and expensive!) undertaking, but it was surprisingly easy, and it was actually cheaper than we anticipated.
How to DIY: Skip the hardware store and buy your door knobs online to save money. Budget for an average of $20 for passing and locking handles, and $10 for dummy (non functioning) handles. This is a great project to tackle solo, so grab a screwdriver and a couple of beers and plan on dedicating a few hours to this project.
Read more about our experience shopping and swapping door handles here.
4. Upgrade Your Lighting with LED Bulbs
COST: $$$ | DIFFICULTY: Literally screwing in a lightbulb
If you’re like me and you’ve been
living under a rock living in a dimly lit apartment illuminated by the paltry incandescence of old-school lightbulbs, the discovery of LED lightbulbs will totally revolutionize your life. If you’re like the other 90% of the world who discovered LED light bulbs lightyears ago (haha, light joke!), then just humor me for a second here…
LED lightbulbs can produce the same amount of light (or lumens) as a incandescent bulb, but with a fraction of the power (or watts). Obviously this is good news for your electricity bill (and your ambitions to single-handedly save the planet), but it’s also great news for your feng shui: with LED bulbs, you can double or triple the lumens generated by your favorite light fixture while still sticking well within that fixture’s maximum wattage requirements.
How to DIY: Let there be light! LED lightbulbs can be an expensive initial upgrade (upwards of $5-10 per bulb if you’re buying singles at a big box store), so shop online. Wanna skip the comparison shopping? Here’s a handy affiliate link to a multipack of 100-watt equivalent bulbs to get you started. Another tip: see if your power company is offering any incentives or freebies!
5. Never Underestimate a Fresh Coat of Paint
COST: $$$ – $$$ | DIFFICULTY: Lots of beer, lots of patience
We’ve put a lot of time and thought into updating our home, but one of the most substantial projects to date also happens to be the simplest: painting. We got lucky inheriting a house that had freshly re-painted ceilings, doors, and crown moulding — a fresh coat of glossy white paint on your trim or old doors can go a long way.
We also found that little paint projects (like painting our brick fireplace white) had the amazing ability to transform an entire room.
How to DIY: It may seem as easy as picking up a paint can and brush, but there’s more to it than that. We agonized over choosing the right shade of grey for our home. Read more about our color choices and considerations here.
WANT TO SEE MORE WAYS TO MAKE AN OLD HOME LOOK & FEEL NEW?
Check our room-by-room Before & Afters to follow our progress and see more of DIY projects that made our home update possible!