Short on cash? Redecorate with a budget

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This photo shows a kitchen makeover, featuring brown painted cabinets, by designer Sabrina Soto.
A kitchen makeover by designer Sabrina Soto features white painted cabinets and a new countertop. Many homeowners are putting large renovations on hold in favor of smaller changes. (HGTV)

It's a reality of our fragile economy: Many homeowners who dream of the perfect kitchen or master bath are putting full-scale renovation on hold in favor of more limited changes.

"What's on everyone's minds is making the space feel a little better and function a little better until you can reach the ultimate kitchen or bath that you want," said Danny Lipford, host of the nationally syndicated home-improvement radio show "Homefront with Danny Lipford." He said he often hears from listeners planning smaller redecorating projects to tide them over until real renovation fits in their budgets.

But which small projects are worth it if you're going to remodel the space within just a few years?

Choose projects that offer big change at little cost, or that serve as first steps toward eventual full-scale renovation, said Sabrina Soto, designer and host of HGTV's new series "The High Low Project."

Look to the largest surfaces

Lipford suggests making changes to the biggest surfaces in a room, such as countertops or floors. Old laminate countertops can now be painted for less than $50, he said, and the results look surprisingly good. Using a type of paint sold in a kit (Lipford recommends one found at, homeowners can paint over the old countertop and then seal it with a coating that mimics the look and solid feel of laminate.

Cover a soon-to-be-replaced wood or tile floor with a colorful new rug, or put down peel-and-stick vinyl tiles.

Old ceramic tile floors and tile walls can get a facelift for just a few dollars if you use grout stain, Lipford said. You can make dingy grout a pristine white again or change it to a new color that contrasts with your old tile.

Tanya Memme, host of A&E's "Sell This House," suggests adding a tile backsplash to a kitchen wall for a burst of new style. Do it yourself to save money. "It might seem difficult to put up tile," she said, "But actually it's very easy to do." Small tiles come on a mesh sheet, so you're not placing each one.

Another way to bring big change to walls: Michael Hydeck, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, suggests painting with different textures. Try a faux finish like granite or marble, or buy the same shade of paint in two different finishes -- one shiny and one matte -- and paint alternating stripes in each.

Shed some light

Installing under-cabinet or over-cabinet lighting probably isn't wise if you'll be removing the cabinets in a year or two, Hydeck said. But a new ceiling light can be installed now and still be used when kitchens or bathrooms are renovated.

Changing window treatments also can change a room's lighting and bring in fresh color. Remove old blinds or shades and replace them with inexpensive curtains.

Think hard about hardware

Small items such as drawer pulls, electrical switch plates and doorknobs can easily be changed. Swap out old knobs for new door handles, switch from brass to nickel, or bring in jeweled, glass or ceramic pieces for added style.

Faucets also can be changed now and then re-used when you eventually replace the entire sink.

Out with the old

Old glass shower doors can be removed relatively easily and replaced by a stylish fabric shower curtain. Swap out old kitchen chairs with cool flea-market finds, or recover chair cushions yourself with a few yards of new fabric.

Replace a dated bathroom mirror with an inexpensive framed one, or build your own frame with strips of molding.

These projects can give an outdated kitchen or bath enough new life to keep a homeowner happy until true renovation is possible.

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