Designers say these cheap home upgrades always impress the hell out of people

Big impact, low cost.

ByAlexa Vazquez
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If the phrase “home upgrades” conjures up images of endless dollar signs and months of messy projects, you’re not alone. The truth is, however, you don’t have to spend tons of money — or time — to make your home look better. In fact, I spoke to a standout group of interior designers for this article and each said there are plenty of impressive home upgrades that you can make for cheap.

In that vein, the following is a collection of items that will improve your home with little to no effort and that won’t break the bank. From statement-making pendant lighting to subtle upgrades like houseplants and new pulls for the cabinets, designers say these cheap home upgrades are sure to impress the hell out of anyone. The toughest part might be choosing where to stop.


Using a faux fur throw to create a layered, textured look

Melissa Frederiksen, the principal interior designer and owner of Atmosphere 360 Studio, says including a “faux fur throw [adds] layers, luxury and texture to your sofa or bed.” This one, which is hand-picked by Frederiksen, happens to be incredibly soft and cozy and is available in 10 elegant shades that are sure to match the rest of your decor. In addition to amping up the drama of a space, it’s plush and warm to snuggle under and is also wrinkle-resistant.


Choosing a sleek, modern lamp with built-in USB ports

Frederiksen suggests freshening up bedrooms by choosing a “clean and functional” table lamp, adding, “Bonus if it has a built in charging station.” A favorite of Frederiksen, this table lamp is a solid choice since it has a modern lampshade and minimalist base complete with two USB ports and a traditional outlet. Even better, you can adjust the brightness via touch control by tapping anywhere on the base.


Installing new handles to quickly refresh kitchens & bathrooms

Rather than undergo a costly kitchen or bathroom renovation, you can “[give] your kitchen or bath cabinetry new life by replacing the pulls,” suggests Frederiksen. She recommends these cabinet pulls made from sleek, brushed metal and boasting a modern, clean design. They’re crafted from solid zinc with a nickel finish and are designed to be ultra-durable for the high-use needs of the kitchen. Best of all, they’re installed in minutes, and screws are included.


Customizing your space with geometric wall panels that make a statement

For a cool custom look that won’t break the bank, James Stanley, the principal and founder of architectural design firm James Stanley NY, suggests adding decorative wall panels to create an accent wall that acts as the focal point of a room. Apart from being easy to install, Stanley says, “[They] come in many different patterns and you can paint them in any color you want.”

He likes these wall panels featuring a 3-D, geometric print that you can paint over in a complementing or contrasting shade. This comes with a set of 33 tiles that are easy to match up so you can tackle a kitchen backsplash or an accent wall.


Swapping out existing lampshades for ones with a different “shape, color, & texture”

One of Stanley’s top tips is to update decor by simply swapping out lampshades on fixtures that you already have. He likes this metal lampshade featuring striking cutout patterns inspired by trees. In addition to channeling its own mood, the metal construction is also extremely durable and it can go on table or floor lamps.

“My favorite addition here is when the sun goes down your new lampshades will create a whole different look and vibe,” says Stanley.


Simply & effectively upgrading a room with pendant lighting

When talking lighting, Stanley tells Mic, “Pendant lighting is a great way to add [something] fabulous to your home interior” — and you don’t even have to do any electrical work. “There are some gorgeous options that you just plug in,” he says. He likes this three-tiered pendant light crafted from linen with a hemp rope cord. It simply plugs in to install and comes with dimmable, LED Edison bulbs to complete the look.

Hang this above your dining table, above a reading chair, or hang a few in a cluster for a “dramatic, artistic effect,” shares Stanley.


Creating a standout gallery wall with coordinated frames

Creating “a gallery wall mixed with digital prints, canvas prints, original artwork, photos of family and more,” is a surefire way to give an otherwise blank wall some “wow factor,” says Nicole Ketchum, founder of interior design and decor company Hey Girl Decor. “The trick is to keep within the same 5 to 7 color tone range” so it feels like “one giant art piece that flows.”

This set of 10 is a sleek option. They boast the same natural wood finish and include a variety of sizes for visual interest and to house your items of choice — take Ketchum’s hint of mixing and matching what you put inside to reach that wow.


Mixing up the gallery wall with art on a canvas

For amped-up visual interest, Ketchum suggests mixing elements on your gallery wall — such as art on canvas — so long as they are “seamlessly integrated into the space.” This hanging poster is an example that complements wood-toned picture frames. It features a rustic mushroom print on a linen canvas in a fir frame with a weathered, vintage effect. It would make an eye-catching addition to any earth-toned gallery wall.


Framing your windows with some light-filtering shades

To frame windows and add some privacy, Ketchum suggests picking out some affordable shades. For her own home, she chose some “that highlighted our windows but did not disrupt our space.” These roller shades are a solid choice since they have light-filtering properties that invite just enough sunshine. They’re made from a semi-sheer fabric that’s available in an array of neutral, decor-complementing tones.


Cozying up sleeping rooms with a set of blackout shades

Ketchum has another window-treatment tip that she implemented in her own home: “We used light filtering downstairs and light blocking upstairs.” Installing blackout shades in your bedrooms, like these best-sellers, is an easy way to achieve maximum darkness. This can help encourage a good night’s rest, and a hotel feel, that’s sure to impress yourselves as well as any guests.


Making a bold statement with new paint

“I invested smartly and on a budget — with paint,” Ketchum tells Mic. That’s because a coat of paint can instantly transform the look and feel of a room in a relatively affordable way. Whether you paint one accent wall or an entire room, this interior paint, which comes in a number of show-stopping shades and has a glossy finish that looks like it costs way more, will add a bold pop of color to your home.


Upping the design factor with peel & stick wallpaper that’s easy to apply

Just like paint, Ketchum says that a roll of wallpaper “can give such a luxe design vibe without breaking the bank.” This peel-and-stick wallpaper, which has a modern, herringbone print, provides an instant and stylish upgrade to any room in the house. It’s a solid option since it doesn’t require any messy adhesive for installation. Even more, it’s renter-friendly since it promises not to leave behind any residue.


Getting lively with a statement-making wallpaper mural

While you can wallpaper an entire room, Ketchum says that another good option is applying “a mural wallpaper on one wall” to create an eye-catching backdrop for furniture that also doubles as an art piece. This version features high-definition graphics printed on silk canvas and comes in five easy-to-install panels. Choose from ornate florals, gradient geometric shapes, or lush tropical greenery.


Highlighting artwork with remote-controlled sconces

Alexis Peters, the strategic interior design advisor at Real Estate Bees, swears by smartly placed lights to elevate your space. The “soft glow draws a warm focus to the art,” which she says “really [highlights] it while simultaneously adding a warm hue of light to the space.” These picture lights offer a museum-inspired look with three hues to choose from, all of which can be dimmed using the remote control. They come with a rechargeable battery that can get up to 10 hours of light on one charge. Plus, the gold hardware looks way more expensive than it is.


Opting for a spherical table lamp for a luxe feel

“Large and round lamps automatically give off a higher end vibe,” says Peters, which is why she suggests adding some to your living room or bedroom to add that luxury factor. This table lamp is a solid example. It boasts a cream-colored spherical shape and a brass base that’s chic and subtle. It radiates a 360-degree, ambient glow that can be dimmed to your liking.


Selecting a rounded table lamp with endless color options

When it comes to lighting, “It’s all about ambiance,” says Peters and this smart table lamp is a surefire way to create the cozy, elegant glow that she recommends. This lamp is controlled via an app where you can adjust the color, temperature, and brightness — and it even has a timer you can set. With its round, oblong shape and three-legged wood base, this lamp is a unique find that complements most decor.


Installing wall sconces with contemporary linen lampshades

“Lighting is everything,” affirms Peters. “Small hues of warm lights anywhere add a beautiful luster of warmth to any space,” which is why these rechargeable wall sconces are an ideal addition to any room in your home. The textured linen lampshades add a contemporary yet homey feel that won’t go out of style. Even more, these cordless lights are adjustable to create optimal mood lighting.


Creating coziness with an ottoman that has hidden storage

When you add an ottoman to your entryway, Nichole Abbott, interior designer at Floor360, says, “It will remind you that your home is a cozy comfortable sanctuary each time you walk in the door.” Abbott suggests choosing one with hidden storage, like this one, which has tufted fabric, curved wooden legs, and sophisticated rolled arms. It comes in cloth or faux leather versions in five neutral shades and does double-duty as storage for seasonal blankets, decor, and books.


Incorporating soft textures like a velvet throw pillow

To further elevate your entryway, Abbott suggests styling the ottoman with a throw pillow to enhance the “comfortable sanctuary” vibe. This round, velvet pillow features elegant pleating that adds softness and a cozy feel while looking so sumptuous. It comes in several rich shades, from burnt orange to emerald green, so you can tie it with the other colors featured around your home.


Adding warmth with a round rattan tray you can style how you like

“A wood or rattan decorative tray placed on your sofa table, entryway table, dining table or living room ottoman adds warmth and texture to whatever it's placed on,” says Abbott. This round tray, which is made from woven rattan with built-in handles, was handpicked by Abbott. It’s handwoven and has a simple design that seamlessly integrates into nearly any room.

You can style it however you please, although Abbott suggests using it “to organize candles, glasses, small plants, and other décor.”


A kitchen sink organizer to declutter your countertop

According to Abbott, decluttering your kitchen by using organizers is a simple and cheap way to upgrade your space (not to mention keep it tidy). She tells Mic, “A sink organizer can corral your dish soap, hand soap, washcloth, and scrub brush” so that everything has a designated place.

This caddy is made from brushed stainless steel and has drainage holes to allow your tools to dry while helping prevent rust. It has a nonslip bottom and separate areas for dish brushes, soap, sponges, and a dish towel. Maintaining sink-side order has never been simpler.


Showcasing (& organizing) spices & more with countertop shelves

To organize and showcase your most-used cooking ingredients, Abbott suggests you “[use] a countertop shelving unit to hold salt, pepper, spices, olive oil, or a coffee canister.” They can be a fashionable and functional upgrade to de-clutter your space. This two-tier countertop shelf is made from rustic wood and has a clean, industrial feel to neatly display all your things. It also makes a useful, stylish storage option in the bathroom or bedroom.


Making your entryway feel bigger & brighter with a round mirror

Adding a mirror to your entryway, says Hannah Burcham, interior designer at Designs by HLB, can “make your space feel larger, brighter and more complete.” She calls it “a cheap addition that goes a long way.” This round mirror has a minimalist design with a gold frame and matching chain for hanging. It features velvet on the back to protect your walls while the metallic details add to the luxe feel. A bonus tip from Burcham is to “center it over a styled entry table to create a moment.”


Centering your decor scheme around accent wallpaper

To really amp up your space, Burcham suggests using an accent wall to inspire your interior color scheme. This floral peel-and-stick wallpaper is an ideal choice for beginners since it’s made from durable vinyl with a simple peel-and-stick application. The shades of gray and warm pink accents provide a tasteful launching point for choosing how to treat the surrounding area. After getting your accent wall in place, Burcham advises to “choose a color from the wallpaper and paint the surrounding walls in that color. This will create a cohesive and intentional look.”


Updating a room with sleek & modern pull handles

“Not everyone can afford to redo the kitchen or do an entire bathroom remodel,” says Burcham. But you can swap out the hardware for a more elegant, modern, or unique look.” She says that antique brass or matte black hardware, like this set of cabinet pulls, is a popular option since it brings a clean, sleek look. The best part is that they take just minutes to install and look like you paid big bucks for a new look. These are made from durable stainless steel and come with different-sized screws for easy installation.


Adding unique flair by switching to vintage-inspired door knobs

Another easy upgrade is to “invest in some unique or classic door handles,” says Burcham. Replacing your door handles instantly elevates your home and allows you to add a personal touch to the space, like with this antique brass door knob that has a vintage feel. It’s designed to fit most door widths and is crafted from a heavy-duty zinc alloy.

To create a cohesive, thoughtful look, Burcham advises making “sure that all the doorknobs inside the house match one another,” then coordinating the exterior doors “when you have the budget” as outdoor knobs “tend to be more pricey.”


Amping up thoughtful design by replacing light switch covers

To keep with the hardware theme, Burcham advises “[swapping] out the lightswitch covers to match your new door knobs” to “add to the feeling that your space was designed intentionally.” This set of plate covers features a pair of polished zinc covers with an antique brass finish and a decorative border. Alternatively, you can choose from bronze, copper, or nickel versions. They come with matching screws for a truly cohesive look and also install in minutes.


Encouraging a bright, spacious feel with a set of sunburst mirrors

According to Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight, sunburst mirrors can be a key accessory. “Introducing such a mirror not only elevates the aesthetics but also bounces light, making spaces appear brighter and more spacious,” he says.

These sunburst mirrors, which have delicate gold frames, are solid options and can be mounted vertically, horizontally, or even diagonally. You can choose from different colors and shapes — including leaves or waterdrops — depending on how you want to contrast or complement your decor.


Playing with texture using a macrame wall hanging

In a nod to the ‘70s, Kropovinsky recommends adding a few macrame wall hangings to your home, saying, “These artisanal pieces pay homage to vintage designs while adding texture and depth to walls, perfect for those looking to blend the old with the new.”

The natural cotton cords on this wall hanging boast an intricately woven design while tassels add an earthy element that contrasts modern or rustic decor. The piece is handwoven and brings warmth and texture whether it’s hanging over a bed or above a couch in the living room.


Hanging glass terrariums to utilize vertical space for plants

“A vertical touch of greenery can rejuvenate interiors, providing both aesthetic appeal and a breath of fresh air, quite literally,” says Kropovinsky. Plants can be a refreshing way to pull your home together, especially if they’re arranged in hanging glass terrariums. Fill these with succulents, moss, or air plants — all of which don’t require a green thumb — and hang them anywhere your home could use a little extra pizzaz. This pair features complementary round shapes that have flat bottoms in case you prefer them tabletop, though also come with jute rope to hang them.


Creating an inviting atmosphere with a textured pouf

Kropovinsky tells Mic that by simply adding a “textured pouf or ottoman” to your space, you can create a welcoming environment. This handsome pouf is made from faux leather with contrast stitching that adds a design element while creating additional seating or a comfortable footrest. It comes unstuffed so you can use it as storage for blankets, pillows, and more.

“Integrating different textures, especially through seating options, can add depth and warmth to a room, making it more inviting,” says Kropovinsky.


Making the kitchen chic with stunning marble cellars for salt & pepper

Cindy Ngo, the founder and creative director of Ink + Porcelain, calls these real marble onyx salt and pepper cellars a “chic home upgrade.” They’re beautiful enough to display atop your counter or dining room table and have convenient lids to keep your spices safe. They close securely and are designed to be accessible with one hand so they’re not only pretty — they’re also practical.

Ngo says the luxe shape and material are a great way to elevate your kitchen for a small price.


Brightening your space with new throw pillow covers

“Colorful throw pillows immediately elevate a dull room,” says Simran Kaur, founder of Room You Love. “Aside from an eye-catching splash of color, they add a lot of visual interest,” not to mention added texture and depth. Kaur loves these throw pillow covers, which are made from soft linen and have three vintage buttons for a cozy touch. Add a bunch to your sofa or bed for a cheerful vibe — they come in so many colors you can swap them out throughout the seasons and even in different rooms of your house.


Warming up a room with a woven area rug

Any room can be instantly tied together simply by adding an area rug. “It defines the space, giving it some order, thoughtfulness, texture, and warmth,” Kaur tells Mic. She suggests this woven area rug, which boasts a subtle, Moroccan-inspired pattern to create warmth and visual interest. It has a medium pile and can work in any area as it’s designed not to interfere with opening doors. Even more, this stain-resistant rug is available in a variety of sizes and colors to seamlessly suit your space.


Bringing the room together with a luxurious, faux sheepskin rug

According to Kaur, “You can’t play the design game without rugs.” To create a luxe look in your home, you can opt for a fluffy faux sheepskin rug like this one. It has nonslip suede along the bottom so it stays securely in place. It’s also super soft, making it the perfect addition to your bedside so you wake up to a cozy landing.


Enhancing lighting with a moon lamp that creates a cozy glow

“All decor and design become baseless where there is no good lighting,” says Kaur. This is why finding a lamp that not only looks nice but softly illuminates the space is a must when upgrading your home. Kaur likes this moon lamp, which looks just like the real thing held by a ceramic base in the shape of a hand. It comes with a remote control that allows you to change the color and brightness of the lights depending on the mood you want to set.


Getting clever with soft lighting like this lamp in the shape of a vase

According to Kaur, “Aesthetic, soft lighting doesn't pinch the eyes. It adds some softness [...] and immense comfort to the interiors.” Playing off her suggestion, this USB-powered table lamp features a frosted glass shade in the shape of a vase and sits atop a solid wood base for an earthy feel. It’s conveniently dimmable and you can actually place a bouquet of faux flowers, greenery, or pampas grass inside for an added style touch.


Choosing tasteful statement decor like asymmetrical vases

“Minimalist, ceramic decor pieces look very thoughtful, as if you've spent hours searching and picking the most tasteful piece,” Kaur tells Mic. This pair of asymmetrical, interlocking vases is one of her top choices since it adds a sophisticated yet fun flair to your home. Handmade with unique variations in each piece, you can style this with your favorite flowers and swap them out as the seasons change.


Making your space “slay” with pretty greenery

“Even if you've [got] to pick just one thing to add to your space to make it slay, it has to be a lot of plants,” says Kaur. This split-leaf philodendron is one such example. With its large leaves and tropical vibe, it thrives in medium to low light and doesn’t require much watering. Pop one into the planter of your choice, making sure it complements the rest of your decor.


Choosing unique houseplants like a ponytail palm

For something a little different, you can opt for this ponytail palm. With a bulb-shaped trunk and long, curly leaves — that do double-duty as decor while helping clean the air — this plant is quite low- maintenance. It’s a slow grower so is ideal for placement on desks and tabletops.

As Kaur puts it, “[Plants] not only make the room healthy and cool but also add aesthetic touches that no artificial decor can parallel.”