Of all the cheap ways to make your home look nicer, designers say these 40 look the most expensive

These tips are kind of magical.

by Christina X. Wood
Originally Published: 
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When you flip through design magazines, it can seem as if having an elegant, organized home is only possible if you have crazy amounts of money to blow on it. Every time I get pulled into an article that promises to make my space more efficient, less cluttered, and more comfortable, I end up gasping at the price tags on the suggested furnishings, art, or strategies. Can real people afford that? But designers know a lot of tricks for acquiring interior beauty without breaking your budget. So we asked them for their secrets.

And you know what? They came through. So this is not one of those design stories that will make you feel broke and unable to implement any of the ideas. We asked for the tricks that make your space miraculously bigger, evoke beauty and comfort, and reduce clutter for very little money. And of all the cheap ways to make your home look nicer, designers say these 40 look the most expensive.

1. Incorporating strategic splashes of color (& making walls magnetic)

“Adding a splash of color is a great way to make your space feel more alive,” says Paige Anderson, interior decorator at Nitido Design. “Color is an excellent way to change the overall vibe of a place, whether you need to tone down a color or add a vibrant color to liven it up.” If you’re not ready to commit to a color, you can use this magnetic paint and primer — then simply add magnetic photo galleries and displays. And the coverage is great — because the primer and paint are blended — so you can achieve an even look with just one coat.

2. A stick-on decorative arch that makes adding color easy

This easy wall arch is another quick way to add a pop of color. It creates a decorative element on your wall in minutes without committing to the permanence of paint or struggling to execute a shape that requires skill and tools you might not have. Just peel and stick this arch wall sticker directly to the wall and watch as it creates visual interest, a feeling of space, and an artsy vibe that you can easily remove when you change your mind or move.

3. Choosing striking, budget-friendly accessories to add instant flair

“Accessories can be used to add flair,” offers Anderson. “Magazines are a great source of inspiration and ideas for how to accessorize a room. But you can shop around for a budget-friendly version of any design you see in a magazine,” she says. For example, put a couple flowers, a stem of cherry blossoms, or some dried grasses in these minimalist ceramic jugs to create a quick and easy statement. Or just leave them on their own. The set looks much more expensive than it is — as if you discovered it in a gallery or museum shop.

4. A set of candle holders that are simple & elegant

Equal parts decorative and functional, this set of pillar candle holders includes three different sizes, making it easy to create a visually interesting display. Finished in understated matte black, each holder has a sturdy base to resist tipping. Place them on a fireplace mantel or dining room table to instantly tie a room together.

5. Using mirrors as a clever trick to make spaces seem bigger

A nifty tip for enlarging the feel of your space is to “use one or two mirrors to create more visual space,” says Anderson. “With some clever mirror placement, your eyes — and the eyes of potential buyers — will be fooled into believing a space is larger than it is.” These pretty moon phase mirrors are five pieces, but they’re small and subtle and can be arranged how you like to beautify and open your space. Create a pleasing grouping above your couch or in an otherwise boring hallway to brighten things up.

6. Mirror tiles to create reflection and improve light

These four, 12-inch-square mirror tiles make it easy to create a full-length mirror or a large decorative wall. “Large mirrors refract the light back into the room,” says Anderson, “making it appear larger than it is.” These tiles are easy to install in whatever shape works for you and your space, and the reflection is clear and undistorted. Mounting them to the wall is super easy, too, with the included peel-and-stick adhesive.

7. Using textured fabrics to rejuvenate a space

“One way to spice up your space is by changing the texture of the fabrics of your curtains, pillowcases, or even table covers,” says Stacy Lewis, interior designer with Eternity Modern. Start with these elegant, semi-sheer linen-textured curtains. The linen texture looks expensive, lets in light, and is easy to coordinate with other linen-textured elements. “The texture... looks more expensive than they appear,” says one reviewer. “I ordered 96-inch length and it gently grazes the floor as if a designer did it. Just wow!”

8. A pair of chic pillow covers with texture for days

These handwoven, cotton throw pillow covers complement the linen curtains above and will change the look of your couch with ease, all while tying color and texture to the rest of your room. The contrasting, fringed weave is visually interesting yet suits a wide variety of decor styles. They come in three colors and five sizes so you can do the entire room or just update one or two pillows.

9. A tablecloth to tie it all together & create an upscale dining area

Whatever is happening with your dining table, a good tablecloth rendered in a texture and color that plays off the pillows and curtains makes your dining area elegant while making your space cohesive. This textured tablecloth is a muted fabric that will give your table a modern, minimalist look, and works well with the other linen pieces here. It comes in ten colors and six sizes so you can get exactly the bold color or natural vibe you want.

10. Mounting a file holder to the wall to eliminate clutter

“Tidy up paper clutter in the kitchen,” suggests interior designer Michael Helwig. “Don’t let mail, papers, homework, or other unnecessary clutter accumulate on the counters, table, or island. If papers need to stay in the kitchen, use wall-mounted file pockets to organize them. I love to use vertical space in any room, but a system like this three-tier file holder is great for an underutilized wall in the kitchen.” It mounts easily with two screws, you can write your own labels on the tabs, and the chicken wire design can morph easily between farmhouse casual and urban modern.

11. Utilizing bigger document holders to bring serious order

If you have lots of paper to contain — maybe you are using the kitchen table as a home office — and the paper clutter is industrial-sized, consider going bigger with this three-tiered desktop paper organizer. “Clear it all out and put everything where it needs to go so your kitchen is clean and organized,” says Helwig. ll.

12. A nice box to turn clutter into a decorative element

Out of sight, out of mind. Helwig recommends good-looking storage containers throughout the house. For example, you can “Hide your TV remotes, phone chargers, batteries, and cables in decorative boxes,” says Helwig. “These can be placed on the coffee table, on an end table, or on a shelf.” If taking off your accessories at the end of the day leaves a cluttered mess, for example, set this velvet jewelry box down on a dresser or bedside table to capture it into a tidy, good-looking element that lets you close the lid on the visual clutter. It has soft felt dividers and zips securely shut for travel. Plus, every purchase results in a donation towards clean water initiatives.

  • Available colors: 4

13. A tidy container for all the remote controls

If your plethora of remotes is creating a visual mess on the coffee table, set this compact box made of white plastic and bamboo down there and line up all the remote controls and anything else that clutters up the living space in it. No one will fight you because the remotes stand on end so they are easy to see and grab. The two compartments also make it useful for herding desk or vanity clutter to order.

14. Hiding the wires that mar the look of your walls

“I also like to conceal cords with conduits or cord management products,” offers Helwig. “When you get all the cords to all the devices concealed, your living room will look much nicer.” And this cable cover channel is perfect for the task. Just stick the bottom section to the wall or floor, run the cables into the channel, and snap on the lids. You get T-fittings, elbow corners, couplings, and flat pieces so you can go down walls and around corners to get to the outlets, concealing all the wires as you go. Once the wires are concealed, you can paint the cover to match your walls.

15. Tucking ugly power strips into tidy boxes

When when you get to the power strip, you can hide that ugly — and potentially dangerous to pets and children — mess neatly and safely away in these two cable management boxes. Use the included wire ties and clips to eliminate all the chaos and disorder running up to the box. The boxes are big enough to fit an entire power strip and everything that plugs into it.

16. Enough hangers so your closet is streamlined & clothes easy to put away

“Make the most of your closet with inexpensive hangers, shelves, and hooks,” says Helwig, and use all the space in the closet – top to bottom. “These kinds of items help you keep your clothes neatly put away and not cluttering up the floor or bed.” For example, this 50-pack of velvet-flocked hangers — with slots so your delicate garments don’t slide off — will turn your wardrobe into a thing of beauty. It will also let you hang more clothes because the slender hangers take up much less space than plastic ones. They come in seven colors so you can even coordinate the whole thing as if you live in an upscale boutique.

17. A set of hanging shelves to improve closet storage

A small investment in a set of hanging shelves makes it easy to add a space in the closet to easily put away folded sweaters, towels and linens, and other items that won’t hang from hangers. Just attach the top of the shelf to the closet rod, and use the four open shelves and five bin drawers as you need. Mesh pockets on the side provide additional storage.

18. An over-door hanger that taps unused closet space

This over-door hanger turns the back of the closet door — space that is often overlooked — into useful, and easy-to-access storage. Just hang it over the top of the door to add a mesh basket shelf you can use for purses, wallets, or other sundries, along with five hooks that are the perfect place to hang bathrobes, coats, belts, or backpacks. It comes in black or white.

19. Using the under-bed space for storage

“I love to use under the bed for storage as well,” says Helwig. “Get plastic boxes and put things like off-season clothes, shoes, bags, and seasonal décor there.” If your shoe storage situation, for example, is out of control, these two under-bed shoe storage containers will rein it in. Between them, they hold 24 pairs of shoes in a space that was previously being used only by dust bunnies and the cat to hide. And your shoes will be easy to access and stay free of dust under there because there are handles on the sides and a clear plastic cover so you can see your collection at a glance.

20. Jars that turn necessities into bathroom decor

The trick to a functional yet stylish bathroom is to turn all the necessities into design elements. “Take everything out of store packaging and place them in containers,” says Helwig. “Cotton balls, swabs, and make-up brushes can go in clear containers on a shelf.” These clear apothecary jars with bamboo lids are perfect for this. Each one holds 10 ounces and they come with six optional transparent labels with the words — cotton swabs, cotton balls, etc — already printed on them.

21. Matching soap dispensers to limit visual clutter on the vanity

Instead of cluttering up the sink area with product, says Helwig, “liquid soaps and washes can go in matching plastic containers or bottles.” If the containers are pretty, he says, like these amber glass pump-top dispensers, “these can double as décor as well.” The pump tops on these are stainless steel and available in six finishes, the dark amber glass looks decorative, and they come with elegant preprinted labels.

22. A cabinet to hide tools & sundries & create order

“Items like pill bottles, grooming tools, and makeup can be organized in drawers, cabinets, or decorative boxes to conceal them away,” suggests Helwig. This slim and well-designed storage cabinet will fit into the smallest of bathrooms because it’s just over 6 inches wide. But it has lots of storage. There are two compartments behind the doors, a dispenser for toilet paper, and a shelf on the top where you can set your phone (or flowers). It comes in seven colors so you can use white for your farmhouse decor or yellow in the kid's cartoon-themed bathroom.

23. A set of drawer dividers to bring further order to bathroom storage

These durable drawer dividers are another great way to tidy supplies that tend to clutter up the bathroom and fill the few drawers you have. They’ll make any drawer jumble shipshape, keeping the hair tools from the toothpaste, and protecting delicate items like cotton balls and swabs. Durable plastic construction means these won’t fall apart in time like fabric versions.

24. Using floating shelves for storage & decoration

“When you need some extra storage, these leather and wood floating shelves are a perfect way to add warmth and charm to any space,” says Beth Martin, founder and designer at Beth R Martin Design. “The natural materials make them feel extra luxe, and they are an ideal size to hold candles, plants, books, or other fun decor.” They are easy to install, too, since they simply hang from two metal hooks.

25. A marble organizer tray to elevate ordinary objects

“This high-quality marble tray will elevate your everyday objects and help pull together your entire space,” says Martin. “Any room in your house will feel professionally styled when you group together similar items to create pretty little moments throughout your home.” Though it’s made of resin, this tray looks so convincingly like marble that people will wonder about your inheritance. It’s large enough to hold all your colognes and lotions and makes cleaning the bathroom so much easier — as well as making it look super upscale — because you can pick up all those little bottles at once.

26. Peel-&-stick wallpaper for a quick style refresh

Peel-and-stick wallpaper is an easy and affordable way to impact your space without breaking your budget,” says Martin. “Choose a pattern that looks hand-painted because the added texture will feel extra special and more expensive.” The matte finish on these hand-drawn stripes gives it an expensive look and it is easy to apply without struggling to eliminate bubbles or match fussy patterns. It comes in three colors.

27. Incorporating a quality throw blanket into decor for a touch of luxury

“Invest in a nice throw blanket,” advises Cameron Johnson, founder & CEO of Nickson Living. “Placing it on a couch, at the end of your bed, or even on a chair, definitely evokes luxury in any room.” This soft, fleecy throw is perfect for this application and looks much more expensive than it deserves to for the price. It’s available in 26 colors with striped designs.

28. These LED lightbulbs for inexpensive smart lighting

“Strategically placing a smart light bulb in a lamp is an affordable way to incorporate a ‘smart’ element into your home and to achieve a custom lighting scheme,” says Johnson. This four-pack of smart LED bulbs works with its own app, Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home. The bulbs offer 16 million colors including various whites, and let you control the brightness with your voice or phone. Just set up a routine in your AI and changing the ambient lighting is a matter of saying a few words.

29. A statement plant that requires no green thumbs

“Green accent pieces, such as this fiddle leaf fig, can be bought affordably on Amazon,” says Johnson. “It both mimics an expensive potted plant as well as more expensive versions of the same faux plant.” The best part, though, is that it makes absolutely no demands on you because, even though it looks and feels like a miniature fig tree, everything about it is artificial. Go away on vacation, leave it in your vacation rental, or put it in a room with no light. It will look beautiful however you treat it.

30. Placing a beautiful book on a table or shelf

“Adding hard-covered books... to a coffee table, credenza, or bookshelf is a great way to add beautiful, seemingly expensive, and often informative, items to your home at a low price,” says Johnson. This option, The Finer Things: Timeless Furniture, Textiles, and Details by Christiane Lemieux, has hundreds of gorgeous photos of luxe home interiors from the present to the past, along with insights from interior designers, artisans, and fabricators to help you create a customized home environment, all while looking gorgeous on your coffee table.

31. A nice-looking design book to add elegance & know-how

This lovely coffee table book, Made for Living, by trendsetting designer Amber Lewis, is both a lesson in interior design and a beautiful art object. Whether you are struggling to choose the right paint color or stone countertop, she will help you make choices that you will be happy with now and years from now. And the lush photographs will inspire you while they decorate your home.

32. Adding simple LED lights around the home

“Adding LED night lights around your home is a very affordable and underrated way to add a custom ‘night time’ lighting scheme that makes your space look more expensive,” says Johnson. “It makes a great alternative option for under-cabinet kitchen lighting, too.” And these three motion-sensing LEDs are the ideal, affordable solution. Mount them in the stairway to light a dark descent. Put them inside a cupboard so it illuminates when you open the door. Mount them under kitchen cabinets for on-demand task lighting. They come on when you approach and turn off 30 seconds later.

33. Utilizing a lamp & shelf to organize your space

“Clutter and disorganization can make a room feel smaller and less visually appealing,” says Ana R., co-founder and chief editor of Design Ideas Guide. “A stylish storage shelf can help organize your living room or home office while displaying pieces that elevate the space.” This etagere shelf with a built-in lamp is perfect for this and is easy to tuck into a corner. “You want something with a low-profile design that has been crafted using quality materials that won't look cheap.”

With three display shelves and a linen shade over the lamp, it’s a beautiful and functional piece that fits easily into a small space. And it comes in seven colors to match whatever vibe you are going for. “When displaying items,” Ana advises, though. “A minimalist approach is ideal for an elegant look.”

34. Hanging curtains higher up for an expansive, luxurious feel

“Using full-length curtains and hanging them at a higher level will help give the space a much more luxurious feel,” says Dan Wiener, founder and lead interior designer for HomeDude. “It will make your ceilings look high and make the room look even bigger because it draws the eye upward. It's best to use a light, sheer curtain so natural light can make its way into the room.” These elegant semi-sheer curtains are long enough to accomplish this and are also super affordable. They come in nine sizes and 13 colors.

35. Adding a new, shaggy rug to create comfort & warmth

“Simply adding a new rug to your home can make a big impact, both aesthetically and functionally,” offers Wiener. “It can also help define the space in a room, adding visual interest and creating a focal point.” Your feet will love stepping on this cushy, shaggy area rug, your wallet won’t complain, the cat will befriend it, and you will quickly find other cold parts of the house that need their own. It comes in nine colors and six sizes. A nonslip bottom makes sure it stays secure when stepped upon.

36. Peel-&-stick subway tile as an elegant & easy backsplash

“Opt to use peel-and-stick white subway tiles for your kitchen backsplash,” suggests Wiener. “These will elevate the space and give it a modern, clean, and luxurious look without you having to break the bank.” This peel-and-stick subway tile is made from a gel-like material that cuts with scissors, and installation requires only a couple of hours — at most — and a cutting tool. They are waterproof, come in six colors, and look really nice.

37. Brass cabinet pulls to elevate the entire kitchen

“If you have builder-grade or prefab cabinets, switching out the hardware can easily elevate the entire room,” says Lynn Stone, designer and co-founder of Hunter Carson Design. “It’s like jewelry for a space. Standard chrome knobs and pulls look basic but switching them out to brass is an instant game-changer.” And these half-moon cabinet pulls are a bold statement. They are 3-inches long, create a circle when the doors are closed, and bring an entirely different look to the room.

38. Glass storage jars in the pantry to create a polished look

“When you decant everything from detergent to rice, it gives your home a tailored, polished look,” says Erica Thompson, professional organizer at Organized by Design. “It’s like taking your home to the spa: It looks curated and cared for.” And these elegant glass storage jars from Anchor Hocking are not expensive. The thick glass is durable and the lids fit perfectly. The one-gallon size will hold a five-pound bag of rice, and the wide opening makes it easy to scoop out of them.

39. A glass terrarium ideal for a charming indoor garden

“These gold terrariums are perfect for small plants,” say Stefan and Meagan Bucur, founder and editor-in-chief (respectively) of Rhythm of the Home. “And they instantly improve the look of any room.” They are made of clear sodium glass and you can fill them with air plants, decorative items, succulents, or exotics for a beautiful display.

40. Long-lasting dried grasses for an elegant display

“Another great way to decorate a home is to use pampas grass,” offer the Bucurs. “This bouquet has a great mix of bunny tails, reed, and natural pampas grass and can be placed in a corner or in a neutral part of the living room. It will instantly add an artistic touch and elevate the room.” It requires no watering or maintenance and will last for years — win, win.

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