Here, the easiest ways to turn so-so space into your dream home. Plus: under $25 ideas from top designers.
1 Make wall space your showplace. Instead of paintings or prints, hang shelves to display keepsakes and collectibles.
2 Do bamboo. Turning up in everything from place mats to pieces of furniture, it’s an accent that’s hotter than the tropics.
3 Hide the home gym. All it takes to conceal your treadmill is a beautiful screen.
4 Dine with dishtowels. A great napkin substitute, they’ll bring fun and color to your table.
5 Rethink faux flowers. Artificial blooms have gone upscale. For a chic arrangement, pack them in a tight mound and hide their stems in an opaque vase.
6 Streamline your computer cords. Tidy the growing tangle of cables under your desk with the Wiresnake, a nifty rubber casing that bundles up to eight cords into one neat unit.
7 Try a new deck stain. Banish the dark reds and browns; go all out with a more cheerful choice like green or bright red.
8 Dress up your chandelier. To give new life to the old fixture, add candle shades, strings of glass beads, or a coat of surprising color (may we suggest copper?).
9 Custom-design your carpet. The latest innovation in do-it-yourself flooring: modular pieces (think big squares with adhesive backs) from companies Flor and Milliken. With just two complementary colors, you can create a border or a checkerboard pattern.
10 Turn your kids’ curtains into a treasure trove. Fashion little pockets out of colorful napkins, bandannas, or spare swatches of fabric and sew them onto the drapes. Fill the pouches with small dolls and other toys.
11 Use mirrors to increase the feeling of intimacy. In a large living room, angle a wall mirror downward so it reflects the seats–not just the tops–of furniture. (To create that outward tip, hang the mirror from a slack wire that’s attached to the frame at its midsection.) Cozier now? That’s because the reflection gives you the sense of a lot more furniture in the room.
12 Add dimension to a wall with a chair rail. New synthetics make it easy–just glue or nail them on.
13 Fake a new fridge. Freshen its front with appliance epoxy paint. For a chic facade, try Rustoleum’s appliance epoxy in Stainless Steel.
14 Replace your ceiling fans (especially if they look like helicopter propellers!). New models have blades shaped like everything from boat oars to palm leaves.
15 Plant whimsy at your children’s feet with colorful scatter rugs from the Majestic Rug Company in designs such as butterflies, stars, fish, and more.
16 Neaten your nightstand. Remove reading lamps and mount swing-arm lights on the wall.
17 Accent your garden with decorative stakes. Whether topped with ceramic teacups or pretty glass prisms, they’re all the outdoor rage.
18 Pack an old steamer trunk with new punch. Change the hardware and line the inside with patterned paper. Use the trunk for storage or as a table.
19 Heat up your patio with an outdoor fireplace. (If you select one that’s a wood burner, be sure it has spark guards.)
20 Break away from solid-color sofas. Borrow the fresh style of La-Z-Boy’s new line and put print slipcovers over your cushions.
21 Find a new place for plates. Hang an assortment above the kitchen sink for a unique backsplash.
22 Take a novel approach to bookshelves. Lose the library look by stacking some books horizontally, some vertically, then accenting the shelves with interesting collectibles.
23 Trash the can. Retire the metal wastepaper basket and use a pretty hamper as a rubbish bin instead.
24 Modernize your faucets. In terms of time and money, this is a minor project, but it will have major impact.
25 Single out a wall. In a big space, finish just one wall with something unusual, like a Venetian plaster.
26 Hide your heater. The Wooden Radiator Cabinet Company custom-makes attractive units to match any decor.
27 Make over your mantel. Remove small objects and hang a painting or ornamental mirror above it.
28 Theme your child’s room. Using cast-resin wall appliques from Bombay Kids, create a jungle scene (with giraffes and trees–each four to five feet high) or a sky (with sun and clouds).
29 Cluster candles. On a sideboard or hall table, place candlesticks that are varied in size and style but united in substance (brass, silver, glass, etc.).
30 Reface your kitchen cabinets. Cheaper than installing new ones, this service is available from Sears at www.sears.com.
31 Give your master bathroom the spa treatment using such luxury touches as plush terrycloth towels, a heated bar to dry them, and scroll-style or wire-basket shelves.
32 Reclaim the laundry room. Whether it’s on the main floor or in the basement, decorate the space by putting up wallpaper and shelves.
33-35 Learn the art of arranging a throw. It’s easy with these three elegant looks: Neatly fold the throw in half and lay it flat over the back of the couch; loosely fold the throw in thirds and drape it over a sofa arm, and cover the end spilling onto the seat with a pillow; or cascade a throw (gathered lengthwise) over the sofa back and seat, parallel to the arm.
36 Be creative with silk roses. Make an impromptu table runner by scattering a layer of petals over a console or a dining-room table.
37 Have designs on your ceiling? Mount a decorative medallion over the base of your ceiling light or fan. Style Solutions offers two-piece medallions that fit around the light fixture for simple installation.
38 Paint a faux kitchen rug. The braided look is warm (but, in this version, not fuzzy). Bonus benefits: It won’t stain or slip.
39 Make a room more feminine. Hang photos and other art with pretty ribbons to soften the hard lines of frames.
40 Rearrange the furniture in your living room. Some ideas: Split one conversation group into two cozier ones. If your couch is parallel to the wall, reposition it so it’s at an angle. Spin a rectangular area rug 90 degrees to make the room seem longer or shorter.
41 Change your kids’ view. On their bedroom windows, paint the mullions (the thin strips that divide the panes) a bright hue.
42 Give your floral arrangements a new bottom line. For an artful composition, fill the base of a clear vase with a layer of smooth black stones.
43-44 Boost your bed’s appeal. With New England Classic’s kit, you can create the illusion of a polished headboard by paneling the wall behind the bed in the desired height and width. Or, for an upholstered look, slip a fabric cover over your existing headboard; Spiegel offers styles that coordinate with their quilted slipcovers.
45 Accessorize your cabinets. Replace plain knobs with decorative drawer pulls. In styles from ceramic to leather, they’re a fast fixer-upper for old woodwork.
46 Add a mantel to a hearthless wall. Install a decorative one–or simply place a long shelf atop ornate brackets at mantel height. Then decorate the surface with candles.
47 Stick on some style: Decorate your bathroom tiles with decals.
48 Have fun with finials. Cap curtain rods with whimsical hardware for a fanciful effect.
49 Wallpaper the easy way. With Paperez from Eisenhart, you apply a special paste to a primed wall and then hang the paper. No soaking, no shrinking, no stretching–no problem!
50 Freshen up your shower curtain. Buy rings that have clips and hang two terrycloth bath sheets. Sew a grosgrain-ribbon trim a quarter inch from the bottom to complete the designer look.
51 Bring on the baskets. They’re the secret to containing shelf clutter, says interior designer Mary Gilliatt.
52 Support your artist-in-residence. Have three or four of your child’s drawings or paintings professionally matted and framed. Arrange them on one wall. As a collection, they’ll look striking and surprisingly mature.
53 Deliver your mailbox from boredom. Drop the standard-issue version for one with a built-in planter. Or, better yet, ask a local artisan to custom-build a box that’s a mini replica of your home.
54 Outfit a walk-in closet as you would a room. Put up wallpaper and hang a small, pretty mirror.
55 Fabric-ate closet and cabinet doors, Hang curtains to conceal storage shelves or a washer and dryer. To avoid clashing with the window drapes, choose a solid-color material.
56 Give your address some dash. Replace the plain (and probably faded) numbers on the front of your house with a distinctive ceramic plaque from Santa Barbara Ceramic Design. You can grout the number tiles yourself, or they can be mortared-to-order.
57 Frame your door with color: Using a glue gun, make a graphic border out of vintage photos or antique valentines.
58 Enjoy some firelight–even before the temperature drops. To get the warm glow without the roaring heat, arrange pillar candles inside the hearth.
59 Celebrate your kids’ creativity: Customize a wall calendar with their artwork.
60 Bring blooms into unexpected places–like the bathroom. Place flowers in Oxo’s suction-cup bud vase–it sticks to tiles.
61 Stripe it rich. Blinds.com offers colorful designer blinds that match hues in most of Sherwin-Williams’s paints.
62 Deck out your patio chairs with colorful new cushions.
63 Transform an old table. For a rustic farmhouse feel, strip the dark finish from a flea market find to reveal the natural planks underneath. Rub a paste-wax sealer on top so the wood won’t dry out.
64 Express yourself. Personalize a room by posting your favorite quote or saying on a wall, using press-on sets from Wall Words.
65 Renew your outdoor furniture. Go to rustoleum.com for step-by-step instructions.
66 Make a wall arrangement out of your children’s baseball caps. In addition to boosting the family’s favorite teams, it’s also a colorful way to keep clutter under control.
67 Fake a crown molding. Apply stamped-metal appliques in a classic motif like fleur-de-lis or stars, from Architectural Products by Outwater.
68 Go to the mat. Step up the look of your stoop with a great pattern (like the one shown above, from Tag)–lots of color for not much money.
69 Get into mood lighting. Dimmers are easy to install, and they help you set the scene for your space–a cozy conversation in the living room or a quiet meal for two in the dining room.
70-71 Spruce up mismatched wooden chairs. Paint each one a different bright color, or–as an alternative–unify them by using a single hue.
72 Inspire the chef by changing the kitchen scenery. If there’s no window over your sink, brighten the space by putting up trompe l’oeil designs from York Wallcoverings to create the illusion of a view.
73 Let your kids paint a mural on canvas, then hang it. It’s easy to remove later on.
74 Soften the walls with upholstery. Fabric creates a luxurious look that also helps soundproof your room.
75 Dress up the details. Trim your curtains and pillows with fringe or tassels.
76 Give your house a front-lift. Paint the door a striking red (or another bold color you love). Or, replace the door with one that has panes or paneling (the one shown above is from Jeld-Wen). Complete the look by installing side- and toplights to create a grand entrance.
25 UNDER $25
America’s top designers reveal easy and affordable ways to revive any room in your home
77 Play with pillows: Instead of matching the colors to your sofa, go for shades that are striking.
78 For a long-lasting bouquet, gather sprays of lemon leaves in a vase. A big bunch costs about $15 and will stay fresh for weeks.
79 Paint the floor with two coats of shiny deck enamel. If you have light walls, try a rich shade like French blue or apple green.
80 Switch to pink lightbulbs in the bedroom to give it (and you) a rosy glow.
81 Stencil a border around the door frame of your living room or bedroom. Pick a pattern with personality and paint with a bold color.
82 Group botanical prints or photos as a collection for big impact.
83 Update an old wooden table or bureau by spray-painting it with white high-gloss enamel.
84 Give your kitchen table a lift–it’s easy with a new set of place mats.
85 Cover dining-room chair seats with fabric remnants. Vary the patterns, but stick to just one color.
86 Find art in unexpected places: Frame antique fabrics, a series of postcards, or pretty seed packets.
87 Stack a neat pile of books on a wooden chair or on an ottoman.
88 Hang paper lanterns in a family room or a hallway; unusual colors and sizes will cheer up the space.
89 Give a cozy room a touch of grandeur with extralong window treatments. Place curtain rods near the ceiling, or buy sheer panels that puddle on the floor.
90 Stir up some romance in your bedroom: Drape mosquito netting from the ceiling to craft an instant canopy above the headboard.
91 Use liquid dye to renew old sheets. Be sure to wash them separately.
92 To give a room more drama: Stick a small lamp under an indoor tree to cast shadows on the ceiling.
93 Scour flea markets for pitchers and vases of different shapes and sizes; display them together.
94 Place a row of small pictures above a door.
95 Paint your ceiling lavender or sky blue to make the room look bigger.
96 Table trick of the trade: Fill a wooden or metal bowl with fresh lemons or green apples.
97 Make your own wallpaper from old magazine covers, vintage sheet music, gift wrap, maps (road or nautical), or even a stash of beautiful wine labels. See instructions, page 220.
98 Dress up an end table by topping a long cloth with beveled glass (about $20 at most glass cutters).
99 Using blackboard paint, create a graffiti-friendly zone–a whole wall that your kids can draw on.
100 Lean a large print against the wall on a console table.
101 Brighten a bookshelf or a china cabinet by lining the inside with mirrored tiles.