Modernizing a Dated Home on a Budget

Updating an old house doesn't have to be expensive.

Updating an old house doesn't have to be expensive.

For many young families, home ownership means settling for an older home at first, or being cash-poor in the early years. Even when you're on a budget, however, you can update the look and feel of your older home. Today's home improvement and discount stores are a rich source of paint products, lighting fixtures and fabrics you can use to modernize the rooms in your home without breaking the budget or hiring professionals. Look at magazines, home decor websites and cable TV how-to shows to identify the techniques and colors you like; then apply them a room at a time to breathe new life into a dated home.

Wall Color

One of the most basic ways to give your home a new look is by painting it. Replace dingy white paint or faded wallpaper on interior walls with a warm golden beige, robin's egg blue or muted sage tones for a clean, updated look. A splash of lemon yellow or soft coral gives new life to tired kitchens, and a single wall painted a daring red or chocolate brown can add flair to a formal dining area. For the cost of 3 to 4 gallons of paint -- about $30 a gallon for interior, satin-finish latex at the time of writing -- you can give new life to drab, outdated rooms. Do a single room to start, and update others as your budget or schedule permit. Update the exterior of your house by adding a new trim color or painted shutters.

Window Treatments

Older homes often have tired sheers or old-fashioned metal Venetian blinds on the windows. Find bright-colored drapery panels and a contrasting valence at the local discount or department store and replace old sheers or heavy, dreary dark-colored curtains. Replace metal blinds with vertical fabric or wooden blinds for a quick, updated look in a matter of minutes. Update a plain or traditional room with a dash of color at the windows by adding colored sheers, or combine updating and savings by hanging energy-saving curtains in a brighter color.

Plumbing and Light Fixtures

If you're handy with tools, replacing dated kitchen or bathroom fixtures with modern versions is an excellent option to update these busy rooms. Most major home improvement and discount store chains offer a range of new, efficient faucets, taps, towel racks and shower heads that you can install yourself with a little online research, the proper tools, and a few hours of your time. Replace mottled chrome with pewter or burnished bronze for a classy, updated look. A sleek, high-arching single faucet gives an instant modernized look in place of your old, low squared-off faucets. Changing light fixtures to more modern versions is another budget-conscious update you can make yourself, but get knowledgeable help as needed on electrical work. Sometimes simply replacing an old fluted or ruffled-edge milk-glass lampshade with a smooth, iced-glass globe gives your overhead light a whole new life.

Decorating Touches

One of the most budget-conscious ways to update the interior of your home is through decorating. Add a jolt of color to a boring old living room by reupholstering large furniture pieces with a modern print or textured fabric. For an even easier, less expensive technique, dress up a couch with a throw and a few new cushions. Update your area rug in a geometric pattern or bright colors. With a screwdriver and a few minutes of time, you can change the old-fashioned wood or brass drawer and cabinet pulls in your kitchen -- replace them with sleek burnished nickel or colorful ceramic versions. Finally, the cheapest and most effective step you can take is to declutter your rooms. Use baskets for storage, toss piles of paper you no longer need and limit the number of items on display to a few eye-catching pieces.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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