A neighbor stepped into my kitchen recently and said, “This is why I’ve been hankering for color in my house!” (I’ll admit that I went full force with some red.) I did not point out that my lovely kitchen is a masterpiece of thrift more than of color — but cost-effectiveness is the element of its design that I’m most proud of. I have a high-end kitchen for what this neighbor paid for a single appliance. And it’s not just my kitchen. My whole house is a study in making impressive home upgrades using very little money. Some of it I repurposed or found thrifting, but much of it I got on Amazon and installed myself. And I’m now sharing that part of my secret: Here are 45 cheap, clever things that'll make your home way more impressive.
The colorful elements in my kitchen include some stick-on subway tile that was so easy to put up, and so inexpensive that I don’t tell people the details anymore. They just end up mad that they spent so much installing tile. But the thing that impresses people the most was even cheaper and easier than that. When I leave the house, I say, “Alexa, I’m going out,” and my artificially-intelligent assistant turns off all the lights, the coffee machine, the music, and any fans that are running. When I get home, I say, “It’s dark in here!” and she turns all the lights on, just the way I like it. All I needed for this bit of magic was an inexpensive Echo Dot and a few smart plugs.
Read on. I’m sure you’ll find a few clever ways to make your house more impressive. You only need to keep them a secret if you want.
1. An entryway organizer so you never lose your keys or mail
Creating habits around where you put things is the easiest way to avoid clutter and the irritating search for lost essentials. This entryway organizer is designed with a roomy basket and five hooks with attractive wooden knobs so you have a place to hang your keys, set down the mail, and stash your wallet and hat. You will always know where your essentials are and they will be handy when you’re rushing out of the house.
2. These lights that transform your TV into a movie theater experience
Peel and stick these TV backlights to the back of your set and turn it into a lamp when it’s off, and a home theater when it’s turned on. A built-in microphone picks up your music and movies and can play lights to match the rhythm. Or choose a color to illuminate behind the TV for perfect theater lighting. You can connect the lights to your smart home for easy voice control or use the Govee app to control them.
3. A four-pack of plugs to take your smart home up a notch
Take your smart home to the next level with these four smart plugs that let you connect lamps and appliances to your AI. You can set up a routine so all the lights go on or off with a single voice command, because they work with Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, or you can use their own Kasa app to create schedules and timers. They are easy to set up and over 23,000 people give them five stars.
4. This light-blocking curtain so you can control the sunlight
This faux linen, light-blocking curtain is an easy and simple way to control the light in your indoor space. Pull these insulated curtains closed to darken the room so you can nap or watch TV, and close them at night to insulate the windows so you don’t lose heat or air conditioning through the glass. A high-density blackout layer of fabric is sandwiched between the decorative linen front and the lining, and there are 10 colors to choose from.
5. The clever tiebacks that create elegant curtains
When you want the light or air to pour in, these eight clever, magnetic curtain tiebacks turn your open curtains into a decorative element and help them stay put. Just pull the curtain to the middle or side of the window, wrap the cord around it, and let the ends of the tieback snap together magnetically. They are super versatile and come in 10 color combinations.
6. These cabinet pulls for a dramatic kitchen upgrade
Ready to up-level your kitchen? You need not undertake a full-blown cabinet replacement, because changing the cabinet hardware can have a dramatic effect on the aesthetics of a kitchen — and it’s so easy to do. This 30-pack of elegant, minimalist cabinet pulls is available in black, nickel, or brass, creating a modern look while being super functional. It takes only minutes to unscrew your old ones and screw these in.
7. A quick paint & primer that changes the look of anything
Whether you found a great piece at a thrift store, are DIYing your own solution, or are trying to create a pristinely cohesive look with a single color, this Krylon matte black spray paint is an easy solution. Spray from any angle to get complete coverage that dries quickly and doesn’t require that you prime it first. The matte black is not only on-trend, it creates drama and crisp architectural lines while being easy to clean.
8. This palm tree that looks surprisingly real
For quick greenery that will pass most casual inspections, this 12-inch tall artificial palm tree is perfect. There’s no need to water it, worry that it won’t get enough light, or know the first thing about growing a palm because it shows up in a white ceramic pot ready to make your space — even if it’s too dark to support life — homey, tropical, and welcoming.
9. The quick way to make your garage door look fancy
This set of magnetic door hardware for your garage door is like stick-on tromp-l’oeil. It looks like you have carriage-door style handles and hinges even though your garage is plain and you use a remote to open and close it. Super-strong neodymium magnets hold these four hinges and two handles to your metal door but they are easy to remove and leave no marks on the door. Presto, change-o.
10. This jumbo box of velvet coat hangers
Bring next-level order and tidiness to your closet by standardizing your hangers with this 50-pack of slender, velvet-flocked ones. The hook spins 360 degrees so you can’t hang your clothes in the wrong direction. The thin size — they are half the width of plastic hangers — means clothes take up less space, so you can fit more items. The notches and grippy texture keep clothes from sliding off.
11. A doorbell to go with your Arlo security system
If you have an Arlo security system in your home, this Arlo audio doorbell is a must-have accessory. Stick it anywhere at your front door, connect it to your Arlo base station, and you have a doorbell that rings your house and your phone so you can talk to visitors through your phone even if you aren’t home. They can even leave a message that you can listen to at your leisure if you’re feeling screen-y.
12. The genius solution for a mess of power strips & wires
No one wants to look at a power strip and its inevitable snarl of wires and power bricks except the pets who want to chew it, and the children who might play with it. Tuck it all safely out of sight in this clean-looking white organizer box with a decorative wooden lid. There are slots to run the cords to their destinations and the tight-fitting lid becomes a useful surface.
13. A humidifier & essential oil infuser with so many options
Whether you want a small amount of mist for a few hours or lots of humidity all night long, this diffuser is there for you. Set it to run for one, three, or six hours at low or high. Or just pick the mist level and let it run until the 550ml tank runs dry and it conveniently shuts itself off. Add your own essential oils to invite a mood change. It comes in four colors.
14. This bamboo bathmat for a clean & minimalist vibe
Create a modern and minimalist vibe in your bathroom by using this bamboo bath mat instead of a rug. It’s easy to wipe clean, has grippy pads on the bottom so it stays put, and keeps your wet feet away from the slippery floor. It rolls up for storage and the lattice design allows airflow so that it dries quickly.
15. The fluffy hand towels that look super luxe
Choose a color — there are 15 to pick from — and adorn your bathroom with these fluffy, absorbent, cotton hand towels. They are large enough to be versatile and useful, pretty enough to set out on the counter or display on a shelf, and there are six of them so the look of your room will always be consistent.
16. An amazing high-pressure shower that feels like rain
If your shower currently disappoints, this rain-style showerhead will fix that. It improves water pressure, is easy to keep clean of hard-water deposits so pressure doesn’t diminish with time, and it douses you in a wide, powerful, rain-like shower that makes getting clean an absolute pleasure.
17. This touchless soap dispenser for easier washing
Get rid of the tiny dish soap bottles, bars of soap, and everything else that clutters up your sink area and replace it all with this elegant touchless soap dispenser. Instead of lifting a bottle or bar (so old-school) just wave your hand or dish sponge in front of the IR sensor and it releases the amount of soap you prefer — there are three settings — onto it. A transparent soap tank lets you know when it’s time to refill.
18. A pair of velvet pillow covers for a quick couch makeover
You can completely change the look of your couch or bed by recovering your throw pillows with these soft, velvet pillow covers that come in 10 colors and eight sizes. The hidden zipper matches the color of the fabric and you can use them to standardize mismatched throw pillows, create a fun color palette on the couch, or refresh worn or stained pillows. Almost 45,000 people give them a perfect five stars.
19. This folding leather tray for your keys, phone, or dice
This handsome leather tray snaps at the corners to create a rustic catch-all for your keys, wallet, glasses, and coins when you unload your pockets. It comes in several colors, including a blue velvet0lined brown leather that would make a great place for dice to land or to store jewelry or small office supplies.
20. A decorative organizer & charger for your electronics
This handy bamboo organizer and charger has a place for all your electronics, including your smartwatch and rechargeable earbuds. Put your own power brick inside, connect your phones and tablets with the five included short cables, and it becomes a neat place to store and recharge several tablets, phones, laptops, accessories, or whatever gear you have.
21. This caddy that keeps all your essentials bedside
This clever bedside caddy has a deep pocket to hold your book, laptop, and tablet as well as several smaller pockets to organize remotes, your phone, pens, and other sundries. Charging cable ports let you juice things up while they’re stored and a water bottle pocket helps you stay hydrated. It easily and instantly attaches to the bed frame or couch.
22. A charcuterie board that has thought of everything
Turn your meat, cheese, nuts, and other delicious snacks into a catering-level spread with this big bamboo charcuterie board. There are two concave wells that are perfect for small items like nuts and berries that tend to roll away, recessed handles that make a full board easy to carry, and a hidden drawer underneath that houses all the cheese knives and spreaders you need.
23. These containers for a pretty & organized pantry
Move all your bulk cereals, pasta, and grains out of the awkward and mismatched bags and boxes they came in and store them sleekly in these clear glass storage containers. They have sealing bamboo lids to create a pantry that not only looks appealing, but functions well for food freshness. This set of six comes in a variety of sizes for everything from nuts and candy to rice. They even stack.
24. A simple standing rack for all the coats and hats
Need a place to hang your hat — or coat and bag — when you walk in the door? This simple, metal coat rack assembles easily, looks modern and minimal in an office or entry, and has almost 6,000 perfect five-star reviews. It comes in four colors so you can use it as a design element that blends with or contrasts your interior colors.
25. The flameless candles you control with a remote
This set of nine flameless candles comes in a range of sizes, and is so realistic people will be surprised to learn that there’s an LED light and batteries behind that warm, candle flicker. They’re covered with wax so they look and feel like real candles. They also come with two remotes so you can control their settings from different places in the house, like you’re a fresh graduate of Hogwarts.
26. These pretty ceramic coasters that absorb water
These marble-designed, ceramic coasters are a terrific solution for glassware that sweats on the furniture and hot beverages that leave marks on finishes. The ceramic is absorbent so the condensation from glasses is quickly absorbed, and the cork bottom is quiet and gentle on the furniture. They come with a nice-looking stand to keep them convenient and organized.
27. A slim toilet-paper dispensing cabinet that fits anywhere
This tall, slim cabinet looks perfect in a bathroom and brings much-needed storage to even the tightest corner. It’s just under six inches wide, but tall enough to hold cleaning supplies and rolls of toilet paper. A dispenser handles TP distribution and the flat top is a great place to set a plant, a phone, or wipes.
28. The toilet paper holder that has a shelf for your phone
Welcome to modern times, where going to the bathroom means taking an expensive phone out of a pocket so it doesn’t fall into the bowl — then discovering there’s nowhere dry to set it down. This toilet paper holder brings your bathroom into the information age with a flat shelf for your phone, complete with a safety lip, conveniently above the TP roll. It also installs easily; the back has an adhesive pad preinstalled.
29. This lamp with a built-in charging station
What two things does every desk or bedside table need? A light and a phone charger, right? And this lamp is both of those in an elegant package. The refined-looking lamp takes a standard bulb, and you simply touch the base to turn it on or off. It dims, too, by touch. There are two USB ports on the side as well.
30. A slick, mirrored digital alarm clock
Dress up your bedside table with this flashy mirror-finish alarm clock. The numbers are big and clear so you can see them from anywhere in the room and you can set the brightness to one of three levels. There are two USB charging ports on the side, the snooze button is big and easy to find, it comes in seven colors, and you can click off the display so it actually functions as a mirror.
31. These shelves so your books appear to float on the wall
You never see these shelves once you put your books on them, which makes them the perfect method for showcasing your collection as an art display. Tuck the cover of the bottom book into the specially designed shelf and pile other books on top of it. They’ll look like they are floating on the wall so you can create themed groupings, show off art tomes or cookbooks, or just get your to-read pile up off the bedside table.
32. A sleek-looking trash can with a soft-close lid
If you have trash that you want to conceal — diapers? cat litter? — or the pets have bad trash-diving habits, a lid is necessary. This five-liter can has a soft-close lid that you lift with a foot pedal so it not only ticks all the boxes, it exceeds them. It also looks elegant, as far as these things go, and has a removable inner bin so you can skip the plastic liner if that’s your jam.
33. This coir doormat that will make visitors smile
Upgrade your entrance — and keep the interior floor cleaner — by setting this natural coir doormat down at the front door. It’s made from natural coconut fibers, has a rubber backing so it won’t slip around, and comes in 22 fun patterns and colors. It’s easy to clean, too, with a quick shake or a sweep.
34. These Art Deco-Style house numbers with street appeal
Mount these big, five-inch-tall house numbers at the front door or on your mailbox so that visitors can find your address easily. The font is slender and simple and you can install them flush or use the included spacers to create a drop shadow effect. They are made from a durable zinc alloy, coated in glossy black, and come with templates that make installation super easy.
35. A complete set of edgy, matte flatware
Didn’t inherit your grandmother’s silver? Not to fret. This slick and modern stainless steel flatware set, finished in a matte gunmetal grey, is the comfortable, dishwasher-safe utensil set you want to eat from in these goth-leaning times, anyway. The handles are curved and comfortable. The pieces are edgy and balanced, and go beautifully with modern black stainless appliances or provide gorgeous contrast against white or colored dinnerware or linens.
36. A 12-pack of cotton & linen napkins
Ready to move beyond paper napkins? This 12-pack of colorful, cotton and linen napkins is reason enough. They come in 18 beautiful muted or bright colors and color combinations so you can create the tablescape you’ve always dreamed of. They are easy to launder, will get softer and more pleasant to use with each use, and will last for decades.
37. This clever way to upgrade anything to look like marble
Have you priced a marble vanity or counter? Ouch. That unattainable price tag, though, is no reason to live with something not to your taste, dated, or damaged. This marble paper is affordable for any budget and looks fantastic. Simply peel and stick it — carefully — over the vanity, table, counter, or furniture you have, and it will look luxe while also being waterproof, easy to clean, and durable. Over 24,000 reviewers give it five stars.
38. The easy subway tile that transforms a kitchen or bath
Instead of painting, tiling, or wallpapering the wall behind your sink, peel-and-stick this realistic-looking vinyl subway tile to the wall. The result will look like you spent money on tile but it takes very little time, a fraction of the cost, and there’s no messy remodel. The tiles are easy to clean, create a water barrier, and look terrific in any of the eight color choices.
39. This little device that does all your bidding
If you want your house to do more of the small daily tasks required of living in a home, you need the artificial intelligence that’s bundled into this tiny Echo Dot. Ask it to read aloud to you, play some music, do some math, turn on the lights, make the coffee, remind you where you left your keys, time the cookies, call your sister, and so many things. All it needs is Wi-Fi and a few minutes of setup and you’ll be fully living in the future.
40. The frother that’s the secret to at-home coffee drinks
You might imagine that putting a foamy top on your morning brew involves large equipment and a degree in barista science, but that’s just a myth. All you need is the creamer of your choice and this high-speed whisk that is purpose-built for making foam in hot or cold milk. An easy switch on the top turns the whisk on, almost 10,000 people give it five stars, and it comes in 30 colors.
41. This set of large-capacity, glass coffee mugs
Want to be able to see your coffee as you sip? These capacious, 14-ounce glass coffee mugs are stylish and modern for when you want to see the brew you created. The handle is comfortable and doesn’t get hot. They’re made of borosilicate glass that can handle rapid temperature changes, so won’t crack when you pour even the steamiest coffee or tea inside.
42. An arc lighter that never runs out of fuel
This slender, pen-like electronic lighter will never make you scramble to purchase butane because all it needs is a little time with a USB plug to keep right on lighting your candles, fires, and BBQ. And since there’s no flame — an arc of electricity lights things — it won’t blow out in the wind. It’s available in six colors, has a safety lock, and comes with a USB cable for easy charging.
43. A kitchen faucet with a pull-down sprayer
Your faucet is central to how well your kitchen functions, and there is no reason to struggle with a stationary, featureless model. The pull-down sprayer on this versatile faucet lets you pull the spout out of the mount to fill a pot that’s next to the sink, switch from spray to stream mode with the tap of a button, or pause the spray to avoid wetting the counter. It comes in nine gorgeous finishes.
44. This new Fire Stick & Alexa that will find your show
Tired of the endless scroll through streaming options while you hunt for something to watch? Hate typing into the irritating on-screen search box? The remote for this Fire TV Stick bypasses all of that by letting you press a button to ask Alexa to quickly find what you’re looking for. Installation is so simple — just plug the stick into your TV’s HDMI port and start watching everything from Amazon Prime Video to Netflix, to Hulu to YouTube.
45. A caddy that keeps all the water & soap in the sink
This clever sink caddy suctions to the inside of your sink to keep sponges and dish brushes where water and soap belong. There are lots of drain holes so everything stays dry and mildew-free, and the brush holder has a pop-out bottom to accommodate longer dish brushes. It looks stylish and reviewers love it, giving it close to 17,000 five-star ratings.