Improvement 1: Bathroom mini makeover—$430If you’ve long wanted the elegance of natural stone in your home, consider a new granite bathroom vanity top, which is a great, affordable way to get it. You can now find granite tops at Lowe’s, Home Depot and other home centers. Prices range from $150 to $450 depending on the size. Complete this bath makeover with a new faucet and mirror, and you’ll still keep the price under $500. Begin by ordering your new items and don’t start the project until you have them all on hand. Be sure to inspect them for flaws (a common problem). Then tear out the old fixtures and repair the walls as needed. Keep the old vanity if it’s in good shape. But paint it to freshen it. Use a few cans of spray paint to get a smooth finish and avoid brush marks. And replace the old pulls with new ones to dress it up. Next, paint the walls and add the new mirror. If your old mirror included a recessed medicine cabinet, make sure the new one fits within the existing opening. Enlarging the opening often expands the job considerably! Finally, mount the faucet, install your new granite top and connect the plumbing. Whew! If all goes well, you’ll finish in a long weekend. Cost: Granite vanity top, 31 in. long, $200; faucet, $130; 24 x 36-in. mirror, $60; paint and cabinet pulls, $40. Total: $430. Time: Two to three days. For more information type “bathroom,” “faucet,” and “towel bars” in the search box above.
Simple Bathroom MakeoverGranite vanity tops cost as little as $150 and come complete with an under-mounted sink.
Improvement 2: Wallpaper one wall—$280
Close-up of wallpaperFine wallpaper is affordable if you only paper one wall.
Wallpaper on One WallWallpaper on one wall adds drama to a dull room with less effort and expense than covering the whole room. It also lets you choose a bold pattern that would be overpowering on four walls.
Improvement 3: Halogen track lighting—$180
Halogen track lightingRail track lighting is practical as well as decorative. Use spots to highlight pictures and objects.
Improvement 4: Kitchen rollouts—$40 to $80
Installed rolloutRollouts turn wasted space deep inside cabinets into accessible storage space. Photo by Ramon Moreno
Improvement 5: Trim and paint—$380By adding two simple lines of trim—a chair rail and a crown molding—you create the perfect framework for any handsome two-color wall combination. This is one of the secrets of fast, easy redecorating. To have the biggest color impact, paint your trim. This also simplifies installation. You don’t have to cut perfect joints, because a little filler and paint will leave them looking sharp and crisp. You can also use less expensive materials. The trim combination we show looks best in rooms with at least 4-1/2-in.-tall baseboards. If your baseboard is narrower, consider replacing it or choosing a different wall decorating technique. (See “Wallpaper one wall” above.) Then make the new chair rail 60 to 70 percent of the width of your baseboard. Use a two-piece combination that mimics a windowsill (stool) and its apron (the trim underneath) if you have this type of trim. Otherwise, use trim similar to your window trim with a 5/8- to 3/4-in. strip on top. Center your chair rail at about one-third the wall height. Choose crown molding that’s 30 to 40 percent of the width of the baseboard. Finding colors that work well together and go well with the existing room furnishings can be challenging. We suggest that you take full advantage of pictures in magazines and the combinations recommended by paint manufacturers that you find at every paint store. Take photos of rooms you like (or clothing combinations you like!) and work with a paint dealer to match colors. Most home centers and paint dealers now offer small paint samples. You can try them directly on the wall or paint a 2 x 2-ft. scrap of drywall or cardboard instead. That way you can view the samples in different parts of the room. Then look at the colors both in daylight and with your lights on at night. (Some colors change dramatically under different types of light.) TIP: Prepaint the trim and paint the walls before you put the trim up. Touch up afterward. Cost: 6 gallons of paint—$180; 80 ft. of chair rail and crown moldings—$200. Time: Two to three days. For more information type “trim” and “paint” in the search box above.
Remodeled Dining RoomPainted trim requires less skill, time and expense than stained and varnished trim. To create wall stripes, apply easy-release masking tape over a light base color.
Right-Sized TrimTo accentuate—rather than dominate—colorful walls, choose chair rail that’s about two-thirds of the baseboard width and crown about one-third the baseboard width. For a more traditional look, choose crown that’s about two-thirds of the baseboard width.
Improvement 6: Backyard oasis—$450
Canopy anchorsScrew-in ground anchors are the best defense against strong winds.
Screened CanopyBlock out the hot sun and bothersome bugs with a screened canopy.
Improvement 7: Closet organizer—$100You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a neat closet. Wire shelving systems are inexpensive, practical and easy to install. They increase your storage space and simplify cleaning too. Almost everything hangs on the walls, keeping the floor clear for easy vacuuming. And the wire shelving won’t collect dust like solid shelving does. A novice can install a system with only a drill, a level, a hacksaw and basic hand tools. Begin by measuring your closet dimensions. At home centers, you’ll find basic kits with a full complement of shelves and clothes rods priced from $50 to $75. If you want a more elaborate system, either begin with a kit and then add accessories, or build a custom system from readily available parts. Visit a home center to see a complete selection of parts and get arrangement ideas. Then plan your system by laying out all the shelves and other components using masking tape on the back of your closet wall. You can also draw up a plan on paper, but measure carefully if you use this method. Often manufacturer Web sites have planning guides. Most brands have solid, drill-and-tap-in wall anchors that work well even in drywall. Use a hacksaw to cut the heavy wire shelving to fit your layout. Finally, check for accessories like shoe racks, tie and belt racks, and baskets to expand storage options and make the best use of leftover space. Cost: $200 for the closet system shown. Time: Half day to remove old shelves and install the new system. For more information type “closet” in the search box above.
Closet OrganizerMake the most of closet space with wire shelving and accessories. You can outfit an entire closet in one morning.
Improvement 8: Laundry center—$480
Close-up of floor tileBright, resilient floor tiles snap together for easy installation.
- Four 3/4′ x 23-1/4′ x 34-1/2′ Melamine supports
- Four 3/4′ x 23′ x 22′ Melamine shelves
- Two 1/4′ x 23-1/4′ x 34′ plywood backs