Design Ideas That Give the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

Monumental change can happen without monumental effort. So if you’re itching to improve your space but don’t want to break the bank to do it, I got you. Promise.

After all these years in interior design, I stand by the fact that you can have a gorgeous, luxurious feel to your home without spending a ton.  When you invest your time and money on the right things it is possible to avoid stressful, costly, unnecessary renovations.                               


These 4 small changes will make a major difference in your home design without shelling out a fortune. 


1.  Paint, please.  The power of paint is a real thing! It’s the most impactful way to freshen up any room. Professional painters can be super pricey but with the right materials (like a good paint and a high quality painter’s tape like FrogTape), you can TOTALLY do it yourself.  With a little DIY effort, you can achieve pro results for waaaaaay less money.  The question is…what color? Even the most easy going clients get stressed when they have to choose a color. Don’t fret. Instead of trying to commit to one color per room, take the pressure off and look for a family of colors. Most paint companies like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have paint decks and within those decks are strips with 6-7 colors a few shades lighter or darker from another.  Choose your favorite color from the strip and use that color first (in the kitchen, for example). 


One of the (million) paint decks I have in my office but you can find these pretty much anywhere quality paint is sold.


Paint the room adjacent to it 2-3 shades lighter or darker from the first, the next room the same idea and so on.  By bouncing up and down the spectrum you’ll have variety, yet a cohesive look. Even if whites are your go-to, there are so many shades you can bounce up and down the spectrum with those too.  And, before I forget…Here’s a good money-saver.  Since all the colors in the family will have the same base, you can take the leftovers from the lighter color and ask the paint store to deepen it so you can attain the 2-3 shade darker hue for the next room. No wasted paint. Color caveat: for smaller, open floor plan homes, stick with one color for all rooms unless it’s bathrooms or bedrooms.  It will help make the space look bigger. With a fresh coat of paint and a couple hundred dollars your space will be transformed!


For interest, we painted one wall in this Florida beachfront condo with a charcoal grey, leaving the other walls with a contrasting, fresh shade of white.


2.  Keep Your Eyes on the Island.  What if I told you there’s a cost-effective way to breathe new life into your kitchen and increase its efficiency?  I’m giving you a virtual high five right now!! Let’s talk islands. (Yes, the one in your kitchen.) Not only do islands make get-togethers convenient and cozy but islands also super-serve with additional storage, a place to do homework, food prep and extra seating.  If your island doesn’t match your perimeter cabinets. Embrace the difference and take it off your list of things to worry about. Instead, paint the island a bold,  contrasting color. Chalk paint is a favorite among novice painters since it’s so forgiving. If you’re not up for painting the island yourself and the piece is movable, take it to an auto body shop. They’ll prime, spray paint and dry it to a hard, durable finish.  To really punctuate the island, incorporate a different, yet complimentary, countertop surface. I’m a big fan of butcher block countertops because they’re super budget-friendly, warm, comforting and will match any existing countertop. And, bonus… if you’ve got some power saw skills you can do it yourself! (When you make the cuts, be sure there is sufficient overhang; 2 inches on all sides except where guests will sit which should be 12 inches. Then, just screw it in from underneath.)  If you don’t already have an island but are looking to add one, think about reclaiming an old dresser or sideboard/console, painting it and adding a countertop. Make your island the star of the show. Don’t ignore it. Feature it.


You can find affordable, ready-made butcher block counter top options from my exclusive line for Element Surfaces.


3.  Boost Your Backsplash. The best way to make a big visual impact with a new backsplash and save the most amount of money doing it is to tackle this project yourself. Buy mesh-backed mosaic tile that won’t require a tile cutting tool or a professional installer. Penny rounds and square mosaic tiles are attractive, user-friendly options. The trick is to select a tile that scissors can cut across in a straight line. If you’re not comfortable using the traditional thinset mortar to adhere the tile to the wall (I personally like mortar because it gives you the flexibility to make small adjustments once the tile is up), go to your local hardware store and pick up some double-sided adhesive made especially for tile. It’s heavy-duty so make sure pets or young children don’t accidentally rub against it.  I get that DIY is not for everyone so if the idea of tiling your own backsplash is causing anxiety go right ahead and hire a professional to do it. It will cost more money, but you’ll gain peace of mind and a return on your investment both financially and in how much more joy your home will bring you.  Because a backsplash is minimal square footage it shouldn’t be a heavy expense. And, since it’s in a high-traffic, highly visible area of your home, upgrades to it will be well worth it.  DIY or for hire…either way, giving your backsplash a boost is always a good idea.


Alternatively, for a seamless, grout line-free look, carry the counter top all the way through the backsplash like we did in this Boston area luxury condo.


4.  Make an Entrance. First impressions count and your home’s entrance is no different. This is your chance to show some personality and even be a little whimsical if that’s your jam.  Think punchy colors like bright yellow, cobalt blue and coral. You may not be daring enough to paint your living room walls these shades, but if you love them, the front door could be the perfect way to incorporate them into your home.  If you’re more like me (my comfort zone lies in all sorts of neutrals), think about a classic, timeless navy or off-black for a front door. Whatever color you choose, make it look crisp and cared for. And, hardware. Let’s face it, your doorknob is the first interaction guests will have with your home so make it count! A door handle completes the overall aesthetic of your entrance so make sure to choose one that compliments your home’s style.  Don’t forget the lighting! New sconces or overhead light fixtures at the entrance will not only brighten up the area but will also make it look refreshed and current. Take a look at the condition of your stairs and walkways. Cracked concrete can make your home look tired but like your front door, it can be painted too.  Solid concrete stain renews the look and easily masks imperfections. A brand-new coat of mulch in your landscaped flower beds helps by creating a striking contrast against plantings. Speaking of landscaping, if your lawn looks patchy pick up some sod to fill in the areas that need help. Any one (or all) of these easy fixes provide instant gratification curb appeal and will really step up your entrance.


The second you put your hand on this door knob you know you’re going to step into a bright, cheery home. Credit:


Paint. Kitchen islands. Backsplashes. Front entrances. You don’t have to rip out and tear down to have a stylish home. And, you don’t have to take out a loan to freshen up your home’s aesthetic.  By selectively putting your energy into the most impactful areas of your home, it gives the impression that you spent more time, money and resources than you really did. Most importantly, you’ll create a home you’re proud of and one that puts a smile on you and your guests’ faces.


If you know someone who’d enjoy this blog, please share it! Message me @taniyanayak about your ideas for future blog posts.  


I’m listening and always inspired by you!