Make your home look more expensive with 8 surprising updates

Do you wish your home was always clean, bright, and elegant? Do you want to get the most money possible when you sell it? Sure you do. That's why I have compiled this list of brilliant hacks that will make your home look more expensive without major renovations.

This is a post with great tips for people who:

  • Are selling a house and don't want to make a big investment but need it to look great.
  • Just moved into a new (to you) home and want to freshen it up before tackling the big stuff.
  • Want their home to look great all the time. 

If that's you, read on!


If all your switch plates match and you clean them regularly, congratulations. They look great. If you live in an older home and haven't looked at your switch plates lately, give them a good scrub and switch them out if they need it. It's amazing what a difference this makes. 

You don't have to buy expensive plates. In fact, the fancy ones are hard to decorate around and will date your house as fast as wallpaper does. Buy simple white ones in bulk. If your walls are a little uneven, get the jumbo size. They hide all flaws. 

If your outlets are not white you will need to replace those as well. But never fear,this is a super DIY project. Chelsea at Two Twenty One Blog has a simple tutorial. 

About wallpaper:

I love wallpaper. It's just a fact that it will look dated sooner than a plain paint color will. Stick to grasscloth or show-stopping hand painted wallpaper. If you must have a fun pattern, put it in the powder room or laundry room. Or move to Palm Beach, where this sort of thing is expected.

Or, wait, there's one more option... go temporary with removable wallpaper

The best upgrade you can make is not to add kitsch, but to add function. Get some USB-enabled outlets. These are even better inside of a drawer for hidden phone charging. 


Vent covers collect dust. The ones in the ceiling are hard to clean. They just get dirty over time. Painting them the same color as your trim will make them look better and stay cleaner. Except for the floor vent covers, please!

Using a brush can be tedious and tricky as most vents have small louvers. It's easier to spray them, either with white gloss spray paint or with your trim color in a paint sprayer.

Be sure to use high gloss or semi-gloss paint. This does a better job of keeping the dust off and is easier to wipe clean for periodic maintenance. 


Rant alert, proceed with caution:

Way back when I worked for a design company in China, one of my responsibilities was proofreading just about everything the office produced in English.

Yes, there were plenty of crazy wrong translations and sentences that just plain made no sense, but that wasn't the thing that drove me crazy. What really drove me insane was the poor formatting. 

Have you ever read a paper or a website where it seems like every sentence is a different font or a different size or a different color? Have you ever come across a list that looks like this: 1) 2. C. ?

DON'T LET YOUR HOUSE LOOK LIKE THAT. Consistent formatting is KEY to a more expensive looking home. 

OK. Thanks for reading that. Now let's learn all about knobs, shall we?

Door knobs can be as cheap or as expensive as you want them to be, but I guarantee that if your knobs are dated, dented, or otherwise mismatched, replacing them all at once will make a HUGE IMPROVEMENT, even if you buy bargain basement knobs

Door knobs come in 4 basic types:

  • Dummy (for ball-catch doors - no latch)
  • Passage (for closets - latch but no lock)
  • Privacy (for bedrooms and baths - locking)
  • Entry (for exterior doors - keyed with a cylinder)

If you have small children or plan to age in place you may want to consider door levers. These are much easier to open than traditional knobs, and can give your home a custom look without a huge expense. 

Replacing interior doors:

If your doors also need replacing, consider solid core doors for your bedrooms and bathrooms. There's no need to go crazy and put solid doors on your closets, but they do reduce sound travel. If you value quiet then installing solid core doors is a worthwhile investment. 

4. Go crazy with a caulk gun.

This is the formula: CAULK GUN +  CAULK = smooth, clean lines around every window, door, tub, sink, and baseboard in your house. It's like magic

Sometimes I feel like caulk is the answer to everything. Baseboards or molding separating from the wall? Caulk gun. Outlet covers don't quite fit? Caulk gun. Minor cracks at the ceiling or wall corners? Caulk gun. Nail holes not filled in? Caulk gun. Trim separating from your cabinets? Caulk gun. I think you get the idea.

Use your finger or a wet rag to smooth the caulk into place. When it's dry, just paint over anything you caulk and you're done. This trick is best used on PAINTED trim and molding - please don't try it on your beautiful stained oak baseboards. 

Download our Paint Schedule from the Resource Library if you need a way to keep track of paint colors and finishes in your house. You should always keep the leftover paint (well labeled) in a closet in the house, as garages tend not to be climate controlled. 

Don't forget that different caulks should be used in different situations - latex (painter's) caulk is great for crown molding, baseboards, nail holes, and for windows and door casings. Silicone caulk is great for wet areas and those exposed to a lot of sunlight. 


Do not use caulk simply to cover up a serious problem. If you have a concrete foundation in an older home, learn to identify the signs that a foundation needs repair

5. Replace your front door.

A new front door is a glorious thing. If your door is a classic style it may just need a fresh coat of paint and some new hardware to look new, or you may need an entirely new door. Either way a new door is a sound investment that makes an enormous impact.

"Curb Appeal" exists for a reason. The first impression anyone gets of your home is at the front door. OK, unless someone enters your house through a garage that backs up to an alley and for some reason they didn't drive past the front of your house first. But really, if they are doing that, they've probably been to your house before. 

What does this have to do with a clean house? It's all in your head. The first impression of cleanliness is set at the front door, and it lasts. As the great Iris Apfel once said, "If your hair is done properly and you're wearing good shoes, you can get away with anything."

"If your hair is done properly and you're wearing good shoes, you can get away with anything." #IRISAPFEL

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Your front door is your shoes and your landscaping is your hair. (Inside, the lights are your shoes and the floor is your hair. You really should try to keep them clean.)

The original door was solid wood, and had cracked from years of improper maintenance. Wood continues to dry for a long time. If it is allowed to dry unevenly it will warp and crack. Although real wood is undeniably beautiful, it is also more work to maintain than a nice steel or fiberglass door. If you want to refinish yours, here is a tutorial using gel stain

Replacing a front door does not have to be expensive. (Although it can be if you want stunning custom wrought iron double doors). THIS PARTICULAR new door and sidelights cost about $300 (unpainted). The lockset was about $100.

Of course, there were other changes here - painting the brick gray makes the slate tile on the porch look so much more appealing, for example. But the new door is what adds the most impact and really brings the home's facade into the current century. 

6. Add window treatments.

New windows are a great investment. They not only make your home look better, they reduce your energy bills as well. They also have a very good return on investment when you sell your home. Of course, if you have an older home with irregularly sized windows, replacing all the windows at once can become a very large expense. 

If you're not ready to replace all your windows, or if your windows are in pretty good shape but your rooms just don't look "finished", consider window treatments.

There are a million and one options available to you, but these are the 4 basic types (with a few options):

  • Blinds (aluminum vinyl, or wood; regular or mini; horizontal or vertical; cordless)
  • Shades (aluminum, bamboo, vinyl or wood; cellular, pleated, roller, roman, sheer, solar, or woven; cordless)
  • Shutters (solid, louvered, cafe)
  • Drapery (grommet, rod pocket, tab; sheer or lined; with cornices or valances; pleated)


At the low end are cut-to-size blinds and shades that you can get at your local big box store. This is a great option if you are in a rush to sell your home! Options may be limited but you will be able to walk home with blinds that day or have them installed, usually within a week. 


These are great if you are staying in your home for a while. They are easier to clean than curtains and drapes. Although they can be pricey, they are extremely durable and provide an excellent amount of control. "Plantation shutter" actually refers to a wide range of shutter styles in wood or a synthetic material sometimes called poly or polywood. 

Whatever you choose, have the installer take measurements or measure accurately! has a useful window treatment guide.


Drapes can be used instead of shades, blinds or shutters, or in combination with them. The cardinal sin of hanging drapes (heavier than curtains - often lined) or curtains (lighter than drapes - often sheer) is to hang them too low and too short. 

Drapes and curtains should be hung 4-10" above the top of the window frame. The rod should extend 4-13" beyond the sides of the window frame. Drapes should just hit the floor or extend past it and pool on the floor in a romantic puddle of silk voile and dupioni taffeta. Casey & Bridget of The DIY Playbook have a great tutorial here.


All light bulbs are not created equally, and changing yours can make a surprisingly large difference. Unfortunately, there is no exact formula to follow for the best lighting for every home.

That's because the color you see is affected by both the temperature of the light AND the color of the surfaces in your room. It's even affected by light reflecting off of the trees or concrete outside your window and the exposure (cardinal direction) that your windows face.

You may have to experiment a bit before you get it right but it will be worth it.


Here's what to look for:

  • Lumens (brightness)
  • Watts (energy usage - higher lumens + lower wattage = more energy efficient. You want that.)
  • Kelvins (temperature)

Kelvins is the number I want you to pay attention to. Higher numbers are cooler and bluer while lower numbers are warmer and yellower.

SOFT WHITE 2000-3100K: Warm and natural looking. Most people are happy in this range. Use them for ambient light (can lights and chandeliers) in the dining room, bedroom, and living room.

COOL WHITE 3200-4500K: Great for kitchens, task lights, and basements.

DAYLIGHT REPLACEMENT 4600-6500K: Very cool. I like these for the bathroom. They really help for applying makeup and shaving. The blue light also helps you to wake up faster in the morning. 


In general, a warmer light will look better with warm colored decor and a cooler light will look better with cooler decor. If you think you hate your paint color, try changing the color of your lights first - you may be surprised! 

If you think you hate your paint color, try changing the color of your light bulbs first - you may be surprised! 

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For lamps, especially bedside lights, use soft pink bulbs. They're very flattering. 

Use dimmer switches. These easy add-ons are great for quickly changing the mood of a room. Do make sure that if you are using LED bulbs they specify "dimmable". 


One of the best ways to have a beutiful house all the time is to reduce clutter. This means you need to do two basic things.

  1. Have a designated place for all the things you own.
  2. Own fewer things.

I can't really help you with #2. Yao tells me ALL THE TIME that I have too much stuff.

I can help you with #1 though.

A good remodel will address key issues of space planning, which is just a fancy way of saying "where everything goes". Good space planning addresses:

  • Use (what you do in the space and how large it needs to be to do that comfortably).
  • Proximity (which uses are compatible - a laundry room should never be next to a bedroom).
  • Circulation (making sure there is enough space to walk around comfortably).
  • Comfort (a comfortable couch is useless if the only place it fits is looking at a corner).

It does all that while respecting your personality and budget, the style of your house, and rules of scale, color, balance, harmony, contrast, pattern, texture and light. 


Where to start? You can start with this simple exercise:

  1. Make a list of all the things you think you need from your house. This includes storage and activities. You might need a big drop-spot or mudroom, for example. You might need a place for your kids to do homework. Whatever it is, write it down.
  2. Guess how many SF you need for each thing.
  3. Draw a rough sketch of your house.
  4. Locate each thing within your house.

If you don't have a space for something you need, consider how you can re-arrange your home to make the necessary space, or eliminate the need for it. 

It takes a little work on your part, but if you are really struggling right now with getting your home in order, identifying the root cause of your pain and addressing it will make your life so much more pleasant in the future. 

If you live in Collin, Denton, or Dallas counties and would like some help, give us a call, send an email, or schedule a free consultation

And if you like these tips and want a handy checklist of all the items mentioned, as well as access to our Resource Library, just fill out the form below. 

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