These quick fixes can freshen your home or get it ready to sell

By Kate Jonuska

 

Winter is a time for nesting and planning, making it an excellent season for home-improvement projects. Whether you’re looking at enhancing your house for sale or just for you and your family to enjoy, you don’t need to burn a lot of cash to get big results. We asked several Boulder County home pros to suggest impactful projects on a budget of $500 or less. Here’s what they said.

Make Places

“Finding creative ways to get storage in your house is a good investment, especially if you’re handy,” says Kathleen Spielman, principal designer with Boulder’s High Desert Interior Design. Foyer storage is particularly valued, she says, so consider benches with under-seat storage, hooks and pegs for coats and hats, and/or a table for keys, mail and other necessities. “It helps sell a home when it looks like there’s a place for everything,” she says.

Grand Entrance

“The front entrance is the spirit of the home,” says Karin Larsson, kitchen and bath designer with Boulder’s Makkadam Design. To make sure yours pops, put on a fresh coat of paint or stain in any color on the front door. Bright colors add curb appeal and draw the eye, she says. If you have a screen door, consider removing it to make the door appear more dramatic.

Larsson also suggests accessorizing entries with inexpensive items like seating, planters, wreaths and doormats. “It adds a personal touch,” she says, “and you can decorate seasonally, as it’s easy to swap these out.”

Powder Room Power

“Powder rooms are wow rooms,” says Barbee James, owner and lead interior designer at Boulder’s Details Design Studio. Since powder rooms are generally small, a little money can go a long way. “One great project is to find a quality stone remnant for your vanity, replace that countertop and freshen the vanity with paint,” James says. Local stores such as Atlas Flooring and Moros Fabrication offer remnants. For a cohesive look, update cabinet pulls, towel racks and other fixtures with new matching hardware.

Fill & Freshen

Take inventory of your home’s interior doors and give them a face-lift. “Even in homes with basic, hollow wood doors, we paint them a crisp white to match the house trim and it sharpens up the entire home,” says Katie Albee, designer and realtor with Boulder’s Care Realty Co. If you have more interior doors than budget, paint the cabinets in a kitchen, bath or bar. “If your cabinets or doors are dinged,” Albee says, “use a little filler to make them look nice and new.”

Turn Up the Heat

“Many people have brass around their house that’s old and dated, including brass fixtures on the fireplace,” says James of Details Design Studio. Heat-resistant appliance paint is safe and inexpensive, and one can of paint easily does the job. “For resale,” James explains, “it makes people think you have a newer fireplace than an older one from the ’80s or ’90s.”

Scenic Hospitality

Planting trees isn’t feasible in winter, but you can improve your yard by creating wildlife habitats, says Fred Berkelhammer, arborist and owner of Boulder’s Berkelhammer Tree Experts Inc. Birdhouses are a good place to start, he says. “You can buy beautiful, high-end birdhouses that are amazing works of art and we’ll fasten it to a tree—preferably in a spot you can see through a picture window so you can enjoy it every day.” Browse for your perfect birdhouse at McGuckin Hardware and local birding shops, craft shows and artist collectives. Berkelhammer adds, “We’ve put up a couple of bat houses, too.”

 

Make It Match

Carefully inventory all your home’s fixtures and finishes from top to bottom, and then standardize them. “Do your light switches all match? Do your door handles?” asks Spielman of High Desert Interior Design, who also cites trim and door colors, cabinet pulls and lighting fixtures. “Make sure everything has a similar look and appeal.” Replacing small fixtures can be cheap and easy, but painting them is a great alternative. Metallic paint can make an old light fixture or towel rack look brand new. In terms of finishes, “classics like brushed nickel, brushed bronze and black are popular now,” Spielman says.

LED Love

Energy-efficient LED lighting can improve your home in any number of ways on almost any budget. “If you want value, put in as many LED can lights as you can,” says James of Details Design Studio. Can lights, also called recessed lights, are inexpensive and can be installed with only a few hours of electrical labor, meaning you may be able to light a room for $500 or less. For soft, inviting light James recommends 2700 Kelvin LEDs, and also suggests adding wireless LED lighting throughout the house. “Especially if you’re selling, add any decorative little glow light that you can,” she says. “Place them anywhere you have a soffit or an alcove to highlight architectural details.”

Light the Night

Outdoor living is a huge selling point, and solar light fixtures can brighten patios, decks and trees without costly electrical work, says Larsson of Makkadam Design. “Solar outdoor lights have been on the market for a while and now they’re pretty efficient and reasonably priced.” Consider lining your front walk or driveway with solar path lights, or hang solar string lights from your trees, over a pergola or above a seating area for instant ambience.

Updated Furniture

Valuable home updates don’t always involve construction projects. “As a designer and an agent, I can’t tell you how much difference it makes to just update your furniture,” says Albee of Care Realty Co. “If one house has modern furniture and one doesn’t, they’re perceived very differently by potential buyers,” she says. “Even accents like bedding and art make a difference, and those are things you get to take with you when you move.”

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