The kitchen is the most frequently upgraded room in the home and homeowners are smart to invest their home improvement dollars there since it’s almost always the most important room to prospective buyers and can easily make or break a sale. They also tend to add considerable value to a home while adding to its aesthetics and functionality as well. But not all kitchen remodels are created equal. Many homeowners make the mistake of investing too much--more than they can ever expect to get back--for luxury upgrades that aren’t really necessary. Here are the kitchen upgrades that would-be buyers really want, the upgrades that will be the best for your money.

A backsplash

Tiled backsplashes are relatively easy to install on your own and they’re also fairly inexpensive. They add to the functionality of the kitchen since it makes it easier to clean up after preparing a meal. It also beautifies the space in a way that wallpaper or paint can’t.

Stainless steel appliances

After buying a home, people don’t want to spend more money on new appliances so seeing shiny, stainless steel appliances and knowing they come with the house will encourage them to buy sooner and spend more.

New countertops

Countertops are another great way to add functionality and aesthetic appeal. Don’t go with luxury materials like granite or marble. Quartz or butcher blocks are less expensive, more durable, and require less maintenance.

Storage space

Depending on what you have to work with, you might be limited when it comes to adding additional storage space but you need to do whatever you can to maximize storage space whether that’s hanging a pots and pans rack or just getting better cabinet organizers to use the space you have more efficiently.

Laminate floors

Laminate floors are less expensive and more durable than hardwood and people won’t believe you when you tell them it isn’t actually hardwood. Laminate can so perfectly simulate the look of real wood that there’s no reason to spend more for it.

New fixtures

A new kitchen sink, upgraded light fixtures, outlet covers, light switch plates, drawers, and knobs, baseboard radiator covers, and a high quality faucet are all great improvements because they don’t require extensive remodeling and you can do the work yourself to save money. These are the tiny details that can make all the difference when it comes time to try and sell your home.

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Contrary to popular belief, the majority of professional interior decorators don’t have a degree--at least not in design or decorating--unlike interior designers which must have a degree, decorators do what they do more off of instinct. A good eye for colors, patterns, and textures, and you can create your own great interior spaces without having to pay out for a pro. Here are a few fast tips.

Start with color palette

Don’t make the mistake of trying to pick out pieces without an over-arching plan. It’s best if you start out with a
color palette (two or three colors) and try to match things to that. If you’re planning to repaint the walls, start with that. Then match your larger pieces like sofas or recliners. Finally fill in with your smaller furnishings and accessories. It’s best to have a more subdued tone for your paint and large pieces and let your smaller pieces add the pops of color.

Select a few statement pieces

Instead of spending a lot of money to purchase many inexpensive, small accessories and pieces of artwork, splurge on a handful of statement pieces--larger works of art or furniture with a more bold design. You can fill in around these with less expensive, less showy pieces but let the items you’ve splurged on take center stage.

Create ceiling height

Unless you’re lucky enough to have vaulted ceilings, you should try to create the illusion of higher ceilings. A great way to do this is to make the most of the vertical space you do have. Instead of hanging curtains so they’re just above the top of the window, hang them so they’re right up to the ceiling and hang down to the floor. Crown molding and floor-to-ceiling furniture such as book cases can also create the illusion of higher ceilings.

Add color with window treatments

Your window treatments need to be both functional and beautiful. So even if you already have a good set of blinds that lighten and darken the space or grant privacy, you also need some curtains or drapes. They’re a great way to introduce textiles into a space. A high quality set of curtains can function as art and create visual where there was none before.

Create space

Many people push all the furniture up against the walls to maximize the amount of available space in the center of the room. This actually makes the room feel smaller. Instead “float” your furniture a few feet away from the walls. Don’t try to trick the eye into seeing a smaller room by purchasing too-small furniture. Furniture should be comfortably sized for your needs. Instead, purchase fewer pieces of furniture. Mount TVs on the walls so there’s no need for an entertainment center. Instead of an ottoman and coffee table, have one oversized ottoman, etc… Hanging a few mirrors to reflect light around is another way to create the illusion of more space.

More mix and less match

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everything needs to match up perfectly. Good interior design includes contrast as well as symmetry and uniformity. Worry more about pieces going well with each other and don’t concern yourself with whether or not pieces match.

Make use of baseboard heater covers

Baseboard heater covers are a quick and easy way to update the look of baseboard heaters that are looking old and really dating your home. Use them instead of trying to replace or repaint them.

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No matter how prepared you feel you are, you still won’t be fully ready for the difficulties that come with a major remodel. The following tips can help you get through it however.

Establish a line of communication with the contractor

Whether you’re making arrangements to live elsewhere during the remodel or you plan to stay in your home, you won’t be around every second of every day to monitor things. Occasionally your general contractor will encounter an issue that needs to be run by you before proceeding. Your contractor will need a direct line to reach you and you likewise will want a way to reach your contractor. For less urgent concerns, you can designate a place in the home for a small notebook where each of you can write notes when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible.

Lay down some ground rules

Since workers will be coming and going for however many days or weeks it takes to finish the project, it’s important to decide on some ground rules before work begins. How will workers enter and exit the home. Is there a back door you will prefer them to use so they don’t interfere with your own comings and goings? Will they need their own key or will someone always be home to let them in at the start of the day? Perhaps you’ll want to set up a temporary combination lock for the duration of the project. Can the workers park in the street in front of your house or must they park further away and walk? Will they have access to a guest bathroom or will they need to rent a porta potty? Are they allowed to smoke, listen to music, use profanity while in your home? You will need to make your wishes clear on all of these matters and come to an agreement with the general contractor in advance?

Ask about cleanup

How much waste will the project create? Will you need to rent a dumpster for the project or will contractors haul it away as needed? How will workers manage the dust? In addition to the general cleanup after completion of the work, will you expect workers to do any daily cleanup before leaving for the day? If so, this will need to be specified in the contract.

Pets, children, and food prep

Finally, you may need to make plans for pets, children, or food preparation as circumstances require. If kids or pets live in the home and can access the work site, dangerous tools will need to be removed from the home at the end of each day. You may need to board your pets somewhere else temporarily. If the kitchen is the work site, you will need to set up an alternative food prep area somewhere else in your home.

As you can see, preparing for a large remodel is no small thing. If you’re reconsidering whether it’s worth the hassle, you might try smaller DIY projects instead to help you be satisfied with your home until you can move into one that better suits your needs. Projects like repainting, upgrading light and sink fixtures, and installing baseboard radiator covers won’t require the help of contractors and the stress that comes with it.

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Amateur decorators and designers are bound to make mistakes along the way. After all, they don’t have the training that professionals do. But even if you’re planning on decorating your home yourself to save money, there are a few mistakes you can avoid. The following five interior decorating mistakes are ones that homeowners should be able to avoid.

The wrong-sized area rugs

Homeowners tend to buy too small when it comes to area rugs. Area rugs are supposed to be the foundation for the space you’re decorating. It needs to tie all the elements together. In order for that happen, it needs to enclose everything within it. But many homeowners will have furniture that is only partially on the area rug. With the exception of the sofa, and loveseat (the back legs can be off the rug if they’re close to a wall) every piece of furniture in that space should be completely on top of the rug.

Clutter on display

Even if it’s not exactly junk, all the little odds and ends that accumulate in every household will look like junk, especially when everything else is immaculate. There’s no way to completely get rid of clutter since some clutter is necessary, but it shouldn’t be out in the open. Fabric bins, storage ottomans, shoe benches with internal storage, and any other creative storage solution you can find are all great ways to keep clutter out of sight so your interior decorating can really stand out.

Too much matching

Furniture and home decor stores make a fortune on selling complete furniture and accessories sets to consumers. We like things to match and consequently, we enjoy the ease that comes with purchasing a ready-made collection from a retailer. But if you have a matching bed frame, dresser, wardrobe, and nightstand set and a matching bathroom set with shower curtain, bath rug, towels, waste basket, and soap dispenser, your home won’t look like it’s really yours, it will look like a picture in a catalogue. That’s not to say that your home should be a hodge podge of furniture and decor of all different colors, styles, and time periods. You should try to select pieces that go well together, just don’t fall into the mistake of thinking everything has to match perfectly with everything else in a space.

Insufficient lighting

Most homeowners think a single overhead light per room is sufficient but light needs to be suffused evenly throughout every room. Overhead lighting won’t illuminate all the dark corners so a combination of desk and floor lamps and perhaps even some accent lighting to go along with that overhead lighting can help spread the light around more evenly.

No finishing touches

Homeowners often spend all of their decorating budget on the major pieces like furniture, rugs, and curtains but they don’t leave anything left for the accessories or finishing touches that will complete the space. A room will look bare and uninviting if it doesn’t have some artwork, decorative throws and pillows, and a few ceramics, figurines, or other decor items in the space, even if it has all the essential elements like a sofa, loveseat, coffee table, and rug. One great finishing touch to consider is installing baseboard heater covers since it’s a quick and inexpensive ways to completely transform the look of an old, outdated-looking baseboard heating system.

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Good lighting is a key aspect of interior design but it’s one that’s often overlooked. In addition to furnishings and accessories, don’t forget these lighting tips to make sure all your hard interior decorating work is well-illuminated.

Smart lighting

Smart lighting is a relatively new development in the ever-growing connected home craze. Smart light bulbs have a small chip embedded in the base that allow them to connect to your home’s wireless network. This enables you to control your lighting from your smartphone or tablet from anywhere in your home. You can turn them on and off or adjust the dimness or even the color so you have just the right lighting for every occasion. Your smart bulbs can even be synced with notifications on your smartphone. Though smart bulbs are considerably more expensive than your standard light bulbs they have a much, much longer lifespan since they’re LED bulbs.

Layered lighting

Good interior design includes layered lighting so that there’s light and varying heights. Layered lighting means that not all the light comes from overhead, but rather, is spread out more evenly through the space. A combination of chandelier or dome lights and floor and table lamps allows you to stagger the lighting at varying heights.

Ambient, task, and accent lighting

Not only should your lighting be layered, it should serve various purposes. Ambient lighting is typically your overhead lighting that illuminates the room. Task lighting is placed as needed based on the things you typically do in that room. It could be under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen for food preparation, a lamp on a night table for some reading before bedtime, or a desk lamp when you need more light than ambient lighting can offer. Finally, you can include some accent lighting to draw attention to a particular piece of artwork or an architectural feature in the home such as an arch.

The right window treatments

No amount of artificial light can make up for a lack of natural light. Instead of dark, thick curtains that block out light, opt for lighter, airier window treatments that still grant privacy but let in more light. If remodeling to get more and larger windows or a skylight isn’t in your budget, you can exaggerate the amount of natural light by placing windows strategically across from windows so that natural light is reflected throughout the home.

Lots of white

Just as lots of light makes a space feel more open and large, lots of white does as well. If you’re not crazy about white in your interior design, go with a color that’s lighter rather than darker. You can paint your walls white or even install white baseboard radiator covers to complete the look. Plenty of lighting combined with a white foundation in your interior design will really make your home feel bigger than it really is.

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So you’re finally moving out of the dorm you shared with several college buddies and into a real home or apartment? Decorating that first space you can actually call your own can be exciting but if you just carry everything over from your previous living arrangements, your new space will still have that dorm room feel. You want to show your guests that you’re a full-fledged adult now. Here are a few tips.

A little plant life

It’s been said by many that you should have a pet first in order to see if you’re up to the task of having a child. Well, consider taking care of a plant a precursor to having a pet. We’re not talking about fake, plastic plants, but real plant life that requires some care attention to keep them alive. You know your own abilities so don’t choose plants that require more time and attention than you can give them. It may be helpful to set a daily alarm on your phone to water them or get them some sunlight. Your home doesn’t have to be teeming with plant life but a few plants spread throughout your home that aren’t dying will surely make you look like a capable and responsible adult.

Scented candles

Good interior design is about more than just the visual. It should appeal to other senses as well. A nice scented candle adds a nice touch and can disguise the smell from the trash you haven’t had the time to take out yet or the sink full of dishes you just haven’t been able to get to. Your guests are sure to be impressed when they come to visit and find that your home smells as good as it looks.


You wouldn’t want anyone to think that you’re one of those people who just sets beverages onto wood furniture without a coaster. That’s barbaric. A nice set of coasters in a conspicuous place where you’ll be entertaining, preferably a set with a monogram containing the initial of your last name will tell your guests that you’re a person of sophistication and refinement and it will let them know they better not damage your end table by setting a glass down without a coaster.

Bar cart

Since you have the coasters, you’re going to have to create occasions to use them. A nice bar cart is a great added touch for when you’re serving up drinks. If you really want to impress, get a nice cutting board so you can serve up some ridiculously overpriced exotic cheese to go with the wine. Nothing says adulting like hosting a wine and cheese tasting.

Real artwork

Time to store away the band/movie posters and the giant foam finger you got at the college football game. You want to show your guests that an adult lives here so it’s time to start an art collection. Curating an art collection is a lifetime endeavor so don’t worry about trying to do it all at once. Just start keeping an eye out for high quality art throughout your travels.

Baseboard heater covers

Old, rusty baseboard heaters simply won’t do if you want to be seen as a mature and responsible adult. Fortunately, you can purchase snap-on baseboard heater covers for a lot less than it would cost to replace the heaters altogether.

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Professional interior decorators and designers are usually employed by celebrities or the very well off while the average homeowner doesn’t want to put any of their limited decorating budget towards a professional decorator. But occasionally professional designers take to the internet to share some of their secrets. The following tips come from a professional interior designer.

Less is more

A rookie mistake is to try and cram too much into a space. Even if all of the pieces and accessories in a given room are carefully selected and aesthetically appealing, the overall look can come across as cluttered when you try to do too much. A little empty space goes a long way in creating contrast and visual interest and it makes the elements that are there stand out more.

Mix and match

The novice decorator assumes that matching is all-important for a good-looking design. But it’s not. While you do want certain design elements such as good symmetry and color scheme to tie everything together, there also needs to be contrast. Sometimes it’s a little bit of juxtaposition or seeming chaos that completes the look. When decorating, avoid purchasing ready-made collections of furniture sets or décor items. Instead spread out your purchases. Mix time periods and styles. Keep the charm but also make it modern by leaving the baseboard heaters and covering them with sleek baseboard heater covers.

Good lighting is everything

Even the best interior design can be ruined by poor lighting. There are three types of lighting that are essential for good design but most people only use one or two. Ambient lighting is for mood. It’s the overhead lighting that illuminates the entire space. Dimmable LEDs are a great option for ambient lighting since they can be brightened or dimmed as the mood calls for. Task lighting is more about functionality of the space, a reading lamp near a favorite recliner or under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen. Finally, accent lighting calls attention to focal points such as interesting architectural features, a gallery wall, or a favorite piece of artwork. Good design will have all three kinds of lighting spread throughout the space.

Make it yours

Don’t worry about trying to impress anyone else and certainly don’t aim to recreate a photograph you saw online or on the cover of a magazine, unless it perfectly reflects your personality and tastes. It’s your home so first and foremost in your mind should be creating a home you want to spend time in. Display something you collect, hang pictures from your travels, show off photos of your kids and/or pets.

Consult a professional

While hiring a professional decorator to oversee the whole process of decorating is outside the price range, most home owners can afford a one- or two-hour consultation with one. They usually charge between $100 and $175 per hour but they can save you more than that by helping you avoid common mistakes. This is an opportunity to get the opinion of a professional and run your own ideas by him/her before doing the work yourself.

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Unless you’re just doing a few simple DIY projects like installing baseboard radiator covers or doing some interior painting, you’re most likely going to have to hire a contractor or two. Large-scale projects might even entail bringing in a general contractor who will hire a number of subcontractors with various specialties. With so many strangers coming and going inside your home for a few days or even weeks, it’s important that you as the homeowner take some precautions to protect yourself and your property. Here are a few tips.

Don’t hire just anybody

Your top priority should be to carefully select your contractor(s). There are a few things you can do to limit the chances of hiring a dishonest person who will take advantage of you. First you should make sure that the contractor has a license to do the kind of work they do. Checking their BBB rating is another smart idea. Make sure the contractor is well-established in the community—that they’ve been in business for at least a few years and have a good reputation. Company logos on uniforms or vehicles is a good sign that it isn’t a fly-by-night operation.

Get the necessary permits

Obtaining the necessary permits from the city will ensure that your remodel adheres to local building codes. A reputable contractor will take care of all this for you but it’s a good idea to verify yourself that any necessary permits have been obtain before work begins. Failure to do so could mean further remodels down the road to be in compliance and it could negatively impact the value of your home when you try to sell it. Jobs that typically require a permit include additions, anything involving electrical or plumbing work, and anything related to HVAC but there may be others based on where you live.

Be careful how you pay

A good rule to live by when paying a contractor is to never pay too much up front and never pay with cash. It’s very unlikely you can get your money back when you pay with cash and the contractor doesn’t complete the work to your satisfaction. If you paid with check or credit card, however, you can often call and cancel the check through the bank or dispute a charge through your credit card company. By only paying a small percentage up front and the rest in installments, you provide incentive to the contractor to keep his/her end of the deal.

Ask about insurance

Most states require contractors to have insurance. This protects your property from any accidental damage and it prevents you from being liable for any injuries that might occur on your property during the remodel. If a contractor can’t supply proof of insurance, then it isn’t worth the risk.

Keep records of everything

Finally, keep a record of all written correspondence between you and the contractor. You should also have a copy of the contract you signed with the contractor that details the specific materials that will be used and an estimated time frame and cost for the project. Receipts from materials orders as well as any permits that were required are other good things to have. You may end up not needing any of it but if there’s a dispute, you’ll be glad you have a written record to look back on.

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Home remodeling is never as easy as they make it look on TV. For the eager homeowner anxious to do some remodeling work, it’s worth taking some time to carefully consider if it’s the right decision. There are at least three important questions that every homeowner considering a DIY remodel should ask first.

Do I have enough time?

Remodeling projects have a tendency to take longer than expected. One way to avoid this is to have more realistic expectations from the start. When considering a given remodeling project, it’s always a good idea to sit down and write up a step-by-step list of all the aspects to the project that must be completed as well as a realistic time frame to complete all of these steps. Even then it’s probably a good idea to add some additional time as a contingency. The internet can be a great resource in researching realistic estimates for various projects. With this done, you’re ready to examine your own circumstances and determine whether this is a project you can feasibly fit into your schedule. If you’re not absolutely certain that you can dedicate the time that will be necessary for the duration of the project, then this project may not be of the DIY variety.

Is there a potential for injury?

For obvious reasons, homeowners should avoid any project that comes with a reasonable chance of serious injury. There are many different ways that home remodeling can be hazardous. If a project will require the use of tools that can be dangerous in unskilled hands, it should be left to professionals. If the nature of the work involves inherent risks such as roofing work or any other project that involves working in high-up places, then it should be left to professionals. Finally, if the work would require a license if it were done by a contractor, it should be done by a professional. Electrical work, for instance can cause serious harm or even death if the person doing it is inexperienced.

Will it save me money?

Saving money is one of the major reasons that homeowners choose to DIY remodel. Ironically, DIY remodeling often ends up being more expensive than hiring a contractor. Homeowners can avoid this by taking the time to research the project and determine a realistic estimate for the work. It’s important to factor in the cost of any tools that would need to be purchased in order to complete the project. With a realistic DIY estimate, homeowners can compare it to the average cost of hiring a professional. If there is a likelihood that the project isn’t done correctly, that adds to the risk and could potentially lead to an even more costly remodel.

If a project will require too much of an investment of time or money or if it is potentially dangerous, it should be left to professionals. There is no shortage of simple, manageable projects that homeowners can do themselves instead. Repainting, installing baseboard radiator covers, or simple light or sink fixture upgrades are doable for the average homeowner.

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Major interior design projects can turn your home into a construction zone for days or even weeks at a time, but it doesn’t have to take forever to do some interior decorating. Here are a few simple projects that you can tackle in one hour or less.

New throws and pillows

Now that Spring is here, why not swap out old pillows and throws with new ones that better fit the colors of the season. Light blues, pinks, purples, and yellows are great colors for the spring. Mix different fabrics, textures, and sizes to imitate the look you’d get from hiring a professional decorator to do it for you.

Update the bedding

It’s time to put away the thick down comforters and replace them with lighter quilts or blankets. You can add some color with pillow shams or bedside table accessories. You should be able to swap out all the bedding in each room in less than an hour with time to spare.

Rugs and doormats

Warmer weather means more time spent outdoors. It also means more dirt being tracked into your home. Invest in a new doormat if your current one is getting worn. Laying down some new rugs in your home is another simple decorating project that takes almost no time at all.

Add fresh flowers

Nothing says spring time like fresh flowers so purchase an arrangement or two or make them yourself and find a place to display them in your home. The more plant life you can incorporate into your interior design, the better.

New window treatments

You can swap out a curtain rod and curtains in no time at all if you have a drill handy. Just make sure to use a steady chair or step ladder that can safely hold your weight. Go with light, airy fabrics for the springtime.

New artwork

Purchase and display a new piece of artwork. Curating an art collection is a lifelong project so don’t feel like you have to purchase a lot of pieces. One or two new additions to your art on display can make a big difference.

Baseboard radiator covers

You can measure out how many feet of baseboard radiators you have and install covers over them in minutes thanks to snap-on baseboard radiator covers than anyone can install.

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