Home renovations often require a big budget, months of planning, and a team of contractors to achieve the results we want. But thankfully, there are some home upgrades that don’t require a significant investment of time or money. Often, it's those tiny yet meaningful design choices that breathe new life into a space, making it more functional, beautiful—or both. From elevating a piece of tired old furniture to adding color to a room, home design and renovation experts share small, inexpensive home upgrades that make the biggest impact—for under $100.
Paint your front door—or the floor
On your early evening walks, you always admire the neighbor down the block who painted their front door a striking, bold red. Why not follow their lead? Painting your front door a vibrant color is a cost-effective way to boost your home's curb appeal instantly, and requires just a small amount of paint time, says Danielle Elderkin, the co-founder of Reloved Cabins.
If you’re not ready to explore your exterior—look down instead. Painting your floors is another upgrade that’s fast, easy, inexpensive—and often dramatic. "Maybe your floors can’t be refinished again, and you want to change it up," says Ami McKay, creator of PURE Design. "A charcoal gray and white checkerboard pattern is popular, or try a whitewash so you can still see the character of the wood underneath. Embrace the patina and character!"
Install lights in closets
Though you may not have the square footage for an oversized closet and dressing area with a bench, installing lighting in a closet looks (and feels!) high end, says Jane Stoller, a productivity and organizing expert. "Many closet makers and designers also place lighting above the wardrobe that will activate once the door opens. It might seem pricey, but you can actually add a motion-sensored strip lighting to your closet that is easy to install for under $100, and doesn’t require wiring," she says.
Not only is thrifting a fun weekend activity, but it’s a playful and creative way to upgrade your home for pennies. Enhancing your living space with new artwork is an effortless and economical way to refresh its ambiance, says Elderkin. "Scour thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or garage sales for budget-friendly vintage pieces," she says.
Another way to use your imagination with thrifting is to give your old furniture a new lease on life through upcycling. "Hunt for secondhand or thrift store finds, such as an outdated wooden dresser or a worn-out chair," says Hayley Kidd, a design expert from Freemodel. "With a small budget, you can purchase sandpaper, paint, and new hardware to transform these pieces into personalized gems. Experiment with different paint colors, techniques, and finishes to achieve your desired look."
Upgrade cabinet and drawer hardware
Completely renovating your kitchen is a multi-month project that costs thousands of dollars. However, replacing old, outdated knobs and pulls on kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities can tremendously affect the room's overall aesthetics for far less, says Philippa Radon, a paint design and color expert for C2 Paint. “You can choose modern or vintage styles based on your preferences and the existing decor,” she says. “This upgrade enhances the look and adds a personalized touch to your space.”
Ground your space with a rug
A rug is one of the best ways to infuse space with warmth, character, and style, says Heather Goerzen, the design director at Havenly. "I’m especially partial to vintage-inspired rugs that feel like they weave in a sense of history, character, and warmth into a room," she says. "They feel simultaneously elevated and effortlessly chic." While rugs are usually investment pieces, many affordable (and chic) options exist. The trick is to follow sales, scour thrift stores, and check out Facebook Marketplace.
Add trim or molding to your walls
If you have some DIY spirit and are handy with a saw, installing applied molding to your walls is an inexpensive way to add character and interest without much cost, says Ashley Macuga, a principal designer at The Collected Interiors. "We love adding moldings in entries or primary bedrooms to frame out sconces, mirrors, artwork or even headboards," she says.
Don't be afraid to experiment with your trim. "Most of the time, moldings are painted the same color as the wall, but I wouldn’t feel constrained by the norm," she says. "Use a shade or two darker or lighter to increase the molding's impact." The key here is to finish the molding with a sheen by choosing a semi-gloss or satin finish paint.
Replace the bathroom accessories
Even if you're still waiting for the Victorian clawfoot tub of your dreams, you can still add a little personality and style to your bathroom by replacing the towel bar, toilet paper holder, and hand towel rings or hooks, says Lee Crowder, the national director of design and model experience for Taylor Morrison. "Many secondary baths were built with brass plumbing and accessories; you can do a beautiful mixed metals look by replacing with black or go all in and do matte gold," she says. "The options in bath accessories are modern, fit so many design aesthetics, and are also really functional."
Install a programmable thermostat
Not all home upgrades are beautiful—some are designed to make life easier or help your home run more efficiently. "Programmable thermostats offer the flexibility to set different temperature schedules based on the occupants' daily routines," says Stoller. "This ensures that the home is only heated or cooled when necessary, reducing energy waste. By adjusting the temperature according to occupancy patterns, homeowners can save up to 10 percent on heating and cooling costs annually, making it a budget-friendly upgrade with long-term benefits."
Even better, the installation is easy: Turn off the power, remove the existing thermostat, and connect the new one according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Seal your deck
Many homeowners forget the importance of caring for their deck, especially if it’s wood. “Decks take the brunt of mother nature,” says contractor Eric Marie. “Without being maintained regularly, the deck's life is shorter, costing you more money in the long run.” Sealing your deck is an inexpensive way to extend and preserve the life of your outdoor oasis without much elbow grease. "Not only will your deck look great, but it may last twice as long, saving tens of thousands of dollars," he says.
Upgrade your light switches
While bright, overhead lighting might be ideal for some of your space, softer lighting can make a big difference for more private or intimate areas. That’s why Kidd suggests upgrading standard light switches with dimmer switches to create ambiance.
"Dimmer switches allow you to control the brightness of your lights, and it will create the perfect atmosphere for different moods," she says. "For around $20 per switch, you can enjoy the adjustable lighting in bedrooms, living areas, bathrooms, and so on."
Whether your thumb is green or black, adding plants to your home adds life and texture, says Kat Christie, a licensed carpenter, handywoman, and DIY expert. “Plants boost mood, reduce stress, filter air, and enhance your aesthetic,” she says.
You can create a living wall with shelving, opt for a large potted plant or tree that serves as an eye-catching statement, or just pick a few to scatter around the spaces you spend the most time in.
“A little tip is to check out your local pharmacy or grocery stores for plants, too! Sometimes they are even cheaper and can have great sales,” she says.
Create a gallery wall
Adding art to your walls can be transformative, and it doesn't have to be expensive, simply source frames from thrift stores, yard sales, or discount stores, says Radon. "Curate a selection of prints, photographs, or even fabric pieces that represent your style and arrange them on a large wall space," she says. "A gallery wall adds character to a room and becomes a focal point that sparks conversation."
Upgrade your curb appeal with a new doorbell and mailbox
Giving your front porch an instant upgrade with a new mailbox and doorbell cover, or even simply painting your mailbox stand, is a big way to wow guests. "Exterior metals get the brunt of the environment and can feel a little worn and tired over time," says Macuga. "We love the new aged brass options that patina beautifully over time—keeping their luster as they age."