Affordable Bath Updates

Is your bathroom in need of some updates but your budget doesn’t allow much in terms of wiggle room? The cost of a complete bathroom remodel can quickly add up.

Fortunately, there are several small, inexpensive projects you can do to give your bathroom a makeover without breaking the bank. Here are the ten most common small projects to turn your bath into a cozy and relaxing retreat and start upgrading your bathroom step by simple step.

1) Update Your Bath Cabinet Hardware

These small items say big things about your bathroom style. Changing out your knobs and pulls to brushed nickel or bronze can create a whole new decorative touch.

2) Update Your Bath Faucets 

The faucet is one of the most frequently used items in your bathroom, so it's important to select one that truly reflects your style. Updating your faucet with a new low-flow model is a relatively inexpensive way to cut water consumption while adding a refreshed look to your sink area.

3) Replace Your Showerheads & Hand Showers 

Showerheads and hand showers add a nice touch to your overall bathroom design, and they can make your showering experience more enjoyable. Replacing a showerhead is usually a quick and inexpensive project. Hand showers can be used as fixed showers or hand-helds and provide maximum versatility. Drill-less models are easily installed.

4) Update Your Bath Hardware 

A bathroom is not complete without hooks, towel bars and a toilet paper holder. Coordinating bath hardware items can liven up your old bath décor and add impact to your bath's overall design. And for both style and safety, don't forget to include decorative grab bars for your bathtub and shower.

5) Update Your Lighting Fixtures 

A new lighting system will add a touch of illuminating ambiance to your bathroom. Consider updating the existing fixtures or adding a few decorative sconces to complement your faucets and hardware.

6) Paint Your Bathroom Walls 

Color is the key to any room's personality. The right wall color will make all your other bathroom updates really stand out. For a look that takes center stage, choose a color that complements your countertop, faucet and hardware.

7) Update Your Bath Fan 

Bath fans play an important role in removing excess moisture and odors from a bathroom. Newer models are fashionable as well as functional, offering quieter operations and an assortment of decorative features to complement any bath lighting system.

8) Refresh Your Vanity Top 

Whether you choose to go with laminate, granite or something in between, a new vanity top can add dramatic new texture, style and color to your bathroom. The variety of styles, materials and finishes make replacing a vanity top the ideal project for any budget.

9) Replace or Update Old Cabinets 

Replacing old, outdated cabinets can transform your bathroom into an entirely different space. With styles ranging from eclectic to traditional, new cabinets can greatly enhance the storage, functionality and look of any bathroom.

10) Replace Your Toilet 

Most people think of toilets as purely functional, but today's models offer a level of performance, efficiency and style that wasn't available a decade ago. Choosing an economical high-efficiency or ultra low-flow toilet offers substantial water savings without sacrificing performance or aesthetics. 

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10 DIY Home Décor Projects to Get You Through Winter

Forget winter doldrums! Power through the cold and the gray with these fun and inspiring DIY home décor projects.

1. Boring Cabinet Redo

Skill level: Moderate

 

Why we love it: We all know those store-bought, low-personality furniture pieces. They’re great on the budget, but not so good for making a style impact. Naomi, of Design Manifest, saw the potential in two boring-and-basic dressers and turned them into a one-of-a-kind TV console.

2. Sweet Fabric Votives

Skill level: Beginner

 

Why we love it: Not only does this DIY home décor project from Claire at Fellow Fellow offer a perfect way to put those favorite fabric scraps to good use, but it also reuses glass jars in a unique way. And if making Mother Earth happy weren’t enough, these pretty little beauties create a sweet display for dinner parties -- or any occasion.

3. Yarn-Wrapped Frames

Skill level: Beginner

 

Why we love it: Even home accessories need a winter sweater! Rachel, of 52 Weeks Project, gives old frames a new, cozier life by dressing them in her favorite colors of yarn.

4. Dip-Dyed Vases

Skill level: Beginner

 

Why we love it: You know those basic, clear vases you get with florist arrangements? Here’s another idea from 52 Weeks Project that’s a quick-and-easy way to add some artistic style to them (and your interior!).

 

5. Geometic Duct Tape Lamp Shade

Skill level: Beginner

 

Why we love it: The end result of Justina Blakeney’s project is an attention grabber that you won’t find in any home décor store. And all it takes to achieve the look is some duct tape and a little creativity.

6. DIY Stair Runner

Skill level: Advanced

Why we love it: Jenny Komenda at Little Green Notebook gave her stairs a refreshing new look by ripping out the existing carpeting, refinishing the stairs (for the eventually exposed wood floor) and laying down affordable area rugs to create a sleek runner. Whether or not you have carpeted or wood stairs, this is an easy way to spruce up a bland stairwell.

7. Books Headboard

Skill level: Moderate

 

Why we love it: Reading in bed has never looked so stylish. The most difficult part of this DIY home décor project from Design Every Day’s Kassandra is finding the perfect selection of books to fit your needs. But the end result is a stunner -- and would make a great accent wall too.

8. Rope Vases

Skill level: Beginner

Why we love it: Want to repurpose or give a new look to old vases? Justina Blakeney has another great idea that’s even easy enough for kids to do. These rope vases will add a unique rustic style to your interior.

9. Refinishing Furniture

Skill level: Advanced

Why we love it: Jenny Komenda’s easy DIY instructions for stripping paint from vintage furniture (to refinish and beautify a console table) is a helpful how-to for any homeowner who has a beloved piece of furniture or a random vintage find that needs a little TLC. Take on this DIY to check off that “I’ll get to it someday” home décor project you keep putting off.

10. Antique Mirror Project

 

Skill level: Moderate

 

Why we love it: Cheryle Rhuda and Danika Herrick came up with O’verlays, an awesomely affordable way to add architectural detail to furniture. They can also help you achieve that antique mirror-frame look. If you’ve been eyeing that pricey vintage mirror at your local antiques store, take on this project and it’ll be a thing of the past (yet again).

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Window Weather Proofing

Windows contribute enormously to the beauty and personality of our homes. Yet they can also be the single largest source of energy loss. 

Today’s modern windows are extremely efficient when compared to those installed in homes just a decade or two ago, but even if you can’t afford to replace old windows, there are things you can do to help save money on your heating and cooling bill. Follow the steps below to eliminate drafts from the most common areas of a typical single- or double-hung window.

Skill Level: Medium

Time Required: Variable

Tools:

Tack hammer

Caulk gun

Stapler

Materials:

Adhesive-backed V-Channel

High-quality neoprene strips

Metal tension strips

Reinforced felt

Tubular gasket

Clear silicone caulk

Shrink-wrap product

Step One:

Cut metal or vinyl v-strips to fit in the sash channels. Cut them long enough to extend at least one inch beyond the sash ends when the window is closed. Cut vinyl with scissors; cut metal with tin snips.

Step Two:

Remove the adhesive backing and stick the vinyl in place. Tack metal strips in place, driving the tacks flush so that the window sash will not snag on them. Flare out the open ends of the metal V-channels with a putty knife to create a tight seal with the sash.

Step Three:

Wipe down the underside of the bottom sash with a damp rag and wait for it to dry; then attach self-adhesive closed-cell vinyl foam to the edges of the underside. The surface must be at least 50 degrees for self-adhesive strips to stick.

Step Four:

Seal the gap where the top sash meets the bottom sash. For double-hung windows, raise the bottom sash completely to the top, and then lower the upper sash a couple of inches. This reveals the lower rail, which is normally hidden. Seal with V-channel weather stripping. If the top sash is stationary, tack tubular gasket to the outside of the lower sash so that it compresses slightly against the top sash when the window is locked shut.

 

Step Five:

Apply paintable caulk around both the interior and exterior window trim. Smooth the caulk -- a craft stick or even a spoon will get the job done! Once the caulk has dried, paint over it to hide your job well done. 

DIY Paint Ideas: Disguise an Ugly Wood Floor With Paint

Replacing an old wood floor can be a time-consuming and expensive home project. If you don’t have the bandwidth or budget to refinish old wood floors, try updating them with paint. All you need are the right tools and a favorite paint color -- and maybe a great pattern idea to create a custom design that will liven up any drab surface (see below for our favorite ideas for home).

Interior designers such as Illinois-based Jeannie Balsam like to use this paint trick for a custom look. She’s executed the technique in several spaces, including her own design studio.

“An inexpensive and easy update is to paint an old stairwell, treads, thresholds or trim with glossy floor paint,” says Balsam. “The space immediately feels fresh and modern. To add a little interest, you can also incorporate numbers or words on the treads.”

Whether you want to paint wood floors, stairs or trim, consider this DIY home décor project to give any surface a dose of personality.

Time: approximately three days

Materials:

Sanding sponge
Sponge
Painter’s tape
Paint roller
Paintbrush
Pencil
Ruler
Porch or floor paint
Polyurethane

Steps:

1. Give the wood floor surface some traction and even out rough spots by grazing over them with a sanding sponge. With a damp sponge, wipe away sanding residue and allow it to dry.

2. Tape off all the areas you want to protect from the paint, such as baseboards. With a paintbrush, begin by painting your base color a few inches around the perimeter of the painting area. With a roller, fill in the rest of the area. Let dry and paint another coat if needed. Let dry overnight.

Skip to step 6 if you’re painting a solid color. If you’re painting a pattern*, follow steps 3 through 5.

3. Measure and tape off your chosen design (remember to measure twice and paint once!). Using painter’s tape, mark the areas you don’t want to paint with an X. Next, rough up the areas to be painted with a sanding sponge. Then wipe away sanded areas and stray pencil marks with a damp sponge (a pencil eraser can damage the base coat). Let dry.

4. With a paintbrush, paint your pattern. Clean up any drips or spills right away with a damp sponge.

5. Before the paint dries, carefully peel away the tape from the floor at an angle.

6. Let paint dry for a day. Once the floor is fully dry, apply a coat of polyurethane with a paint roller to seal in the new design against heavy foot traffic.



*Brush These Patterns On for Size:

Preppy Stripes: Aside from a solid color, this idea requires the least amount of tape. Go broad and bold with two colors for a classic look. Or add funky texture to a kid’s playroom with skinnier strips of three or more colors.

Checks: Don’t think gingham or chessboard -- unless that’s your intention. This pattern is about as versatile as it gets. Two-tone squares magically make everything else in a room seem more cohesive.

Faux Rug: Skip area rug hunting and bring on the double takes by painting one instead. Rather than tape off the whole floor, focus on one area of the room, or just leave a border of unpainted floor around the edges.


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How to Organize Holiday Decorations

The holidays have come to a close, which means you can finally relax and stop worrying about that persistently pesky to-do list. But before you get too comfy, you’ll need to tackle one more holiday task -- storing and organizing holiday decorations.

These expert tips will get your decorations perfectly organized and ready for next year. Your ghost of Christmas Future will thank you!

GENERAL ORGANIZATION

Downsizing is an important element of organizing holiday decorations. Before you pack away this year’s items, bring out all the decorations that didn't make the cut. Decide which treasures you can donate, give away or throw out, suggests organizational expert Kammie Lisenby of Seattle Organizing Experts. Just think: If you get rid of old ornaments, you’ll have extra space for new ones next year!

• Store decorations in “the heavy green and red containers that are on sale this time of year,” suggests Marilyn Bohn from Get it Together Organizing. You’ll immediately recognize them as Christmas decoration containers thanks to the festive colors, and you won’t be scouring the attic or storage shed next year to find them. In addition, Lisenby suggests storing all your holiday decorations in one area for easy access next year. Somewhere that’s not prime year-round real estate -- such as the back of the garage or attic -- is best. And make sure that your containers are made of hard plastic and have a tight locking lid.

• Label, label, label, Lisenby says. Mark even individually wrapped ornaments so you’ll immediately know what’s what next year without having to unpack everything first. Clear nametag inserts attached to the outside of boxes are great because they allow you to change the label from year to year if needed.

• Accidents happen, so keep a tube of crazy glue with your Christmas decorations, suggests Bonnie Joy Dewkett of The Joyful Organizer. If you open your holiday decorations next year to find a break, you’ll be ready for a quick fix and the broken ornament won’t be left sitting in the corner all holiday waiting for you to “get around” to mending it.

• We all like to keep the original boxes with our grandmother’s writing on them, Lisenby says. But to really preserve memories, make sure you have the proper storage for your treasures (large, sturdy boxes in which to store the smaller treasured boxes). 

LIGHTS 

• One trusted (and inexpensive) trick for organizing holiday lights: Keep them from becoming tangled by wrapping them around a flat piece of cardboard -- a paper towel tube also works. Bohn, Dewkett and Lisenby all love this trick. On an exposed end of the cardboard or on a label tag, jot down where the lights belong next year (Christmas tree, mantel, entry window, and the like). Wrap lights in newspaper or packing paper and store them in a hard plastic, durable container.

Bohn recommends investing in a Lightkeeper Pro (about $25), the complete tool for fixing miniature lights. It is worth its weight in gold as it fixes light strands that have been rendered useless thanks to a fixable problem. Keep it with your lights for next year for ease of use.

BREAKABLES AND DELICATES

• Next time you’re at the wine or liquor store, Bohn suggests asking if you can take some empty boxes with bottle separators off their hands. The boxes are perfect for dividing and protecting bubble-wrapped delicate ornaments.

• For another affordable option to safe-keep breakables, glue the bottoms of plastic cups to a flat piece of cardboard, says Dewkett. Once the ornaments are inside the cups, place another flat piece of cardboard on top, tie them together and store in a tote or large box.

• Lisenby warns against wrapping ornaments (particularly delicate or valuable ones) in printed paper. Always use plain packing paper or tissue paper so the ink doesn’t rub off on your ornaments, she says. And when you purchase new ornaments, keep the original packaging if possible.

• If you have broken ornaments that you want to keep, fix them before storing them, Bohn says. As you’re downsizing, get rid of those you don’t like or don’t plan to use in coming years. If there are ornaments you don’t plan to use but will keep for sentimental reasons, store them in a smaller box, label it and place in the bottom of the larger storage container. This will save you the time of separating these ornaments from the others next year.

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Photo: Corbis Images