Project On A Penny: Home Improvement Ideas For Updating The Outdated Part I

This post is refreshed and ready for a reread.  Asking Dave the Builder not to bring his work home with him is like asking the man not to breathe. The man eats, drinks and lives the all things house that make a home life. Our how did your day go question and answer sessions somehow loop back around to remodeling, updating and home improvement ideas on a budget.  Who am I kidding?  Many of the conversations around Places In The Home center around remodeling, updating and home improvement ideas on a budget.  We speak fluent house & home and we do like change! Keeps things fresh and current.  We also like when remodeling, updating and remodeling projects leave a little change in our pocket.  Design on a dime is good, but project on a penny is even better!

home improvement ideas on a budget

Purchasing a new house doesn’t always mean purchasing a new house. Older properties appeal to a large portion of the buying market such as first time home buyers, downsizers, and the fixer upper-more bang for the buck inclined. Both our flipping and personal home owning portfolio has consisted of pre-owned homes in established neighborhoods flush with properties primed for remodeling.  It’s a fact of real estate and home owner life that not everyone can afford a total remodel of their new older home after purchase. A business associate shared with me her philosophy as to why so many occupied properties on the real estate channel are sparsely furnished. “Too much month at the end of the money.”  Hey, it happens to the best of home buyers.


When there’s too much remodel at the end of the dollar, and the budget is shy of taking things down to the bare walls, work with what you have. Good bones and budgets pair well together.

Stand back.

Take a design and decorative inventory.

Make a priority list.

Decide what one space or one part of the space is first in line for remodeling take off.  Let me share with you Dave the Builder’s short and to the point philosophy. Remodeling projects are like eating an apple- take it one bite at a time.  The info I want to share and suggest is making for a long post, so I will divide this into two posts.  Let’s look at 10 affordable, obvious, not so obvious and decorative ideas to enhance the spaces and places in the home on a budget.

outdated kitchen


1.  Function isn’t always stylish so dress it up!

Fluorescent lights offer reliable affordable lighting for main and task lighting in a kitchen.  That’s the good.  The bad?  Basic fluorescent lighting fixtures.  I’ve got a couple of solutions for this dilemma that are relatively simple and inexpensive.  Frame a plain fluorescent light with decorative crown molding.  Painting the crown molding in a favorite designer color is another way to introduce a custom look to the project. Another option is to take down the fluorescent light and replace its ceiling footprint with a decorative panel.



2.  Home on the Range


A new and improved range hood is both an investment and instant update that has the decorative power to draw the eye.  A contrasting finish can make a commanding focal point. Decorative embellishments such as corbels, onlays and appliques will give the range hood a custom look.

3.  Kitchen, Bathroom and Built-In Cabinets and the Techniques That Improve Them


Paint. Electing to paint kitchen cabinets, walls, ceilings, molding and even countertops will bring change with instant visual gratification. Select your colors, grab a brush, bucket, roller, pan, painters tape, a couple of drop clothes and proceed to color your world!

101899218.jpg.rendition.largestBetter Homes & Gardens

How about adding a glass-front insert to an existing cabinet door? DIY instructions here.  Once the cut out is complete, I prefer to take the doors to a local glass company. The pros measure, cut and install the glass, and the costs involved is surprisingly affordable.  Farmhouse is in, vintage is hot and chicken wire fronts will achieve that unique decor look. Instructions here.


4.  Hardware Schmardware


Replace cabinet drawer and door hardware for an instant update. Consider replacing the hinges for a totally refreshed look.  Clearance bins, Overstock, Amazon and ebay are excellent places to pick up super affordable cabinet hardware.


5.  Floors & More


Older properties sometimes surprise you with their quality design and decorative features, such as original hardwood or tile flooring. Unfortunately, older properties can also mean older color palettes where orange, yellow and avocado green reign 1970s supreme!


Here’s a few suggestions:

Replace the existing outdated flooring

Well, duh!  Who wouldn’t want to replace outdated flooring?  What we want, and what we can afford, don’t necessarily line up.  Don’t you hate that?  If new flooring is the area of priority, first search clearance bins, salvage stores, discount building supply warehouses, liquidators, online retailers and ebay for discounted deals.  If buying local, shop prices! Inquire about flooring goods left over from large jobs. Retailers will often sell these at great discounts. Dave the Builder wants me to share with you all a trade secret.  Shop flooring installation prices as well.  Negotiate the best price with the flooring retailer on the flooring and get a quote for the install.  Contact other independent and reputable installers in your area to see if you can negotiate a better price.

When Replacing Is A No-Go, Kick It Into Clean & Save Gear


One bucket, one bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid, cold water, a mop and good old fashioned elbow grease does an existing floor good.  In our flipping days there was many a time the budget left no room for new flooring.  I hired a professional floor refinisher to come in and clean the existing flooring.  He swore by the dynamic cleaning duo of Dawn dishwashing liquid and cold (yes, cold) water.

Cover It Up!


More times than not older properties come fully equipped with a case of the design and decorating uglies.  Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like a stylish home filled with stylish accessories.


A well placed  area rug covers a multitude of outdated sins.  Jute, sisal, seagrass and wool blends in natural palette choices colors inside the neutral lines.  A reliable non slip rug pad will aid in the fight against bust your butt syndrome.


A patch of sheet rock, framed piece of art or decorative architectural wall piece can cover yet more design sins of days past.  Unless your interior decorating style is retro chic, not that there’s anything wrong with that, conduct a cover up that only you and your work crew are privy to.

Project On A Penny: Home Improvement Ideas For Updating The Outdated Part II is on deck for tomorrow.

Show & Tell

1 thought on “Project On A Penny: Home Improvement Ideas For Updating The Outdated Part I”

  1. Thanks for all the really fantastic information in today’s blog. I love the picture of the ’70s kitchen. Brings back memories of my childhood! I was wondering, does Dawn and cold water also work on dirty walls? I can’t wait to read part 2!!

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