When it comes to your space, either home or rental, you may be considering making a temporary upgrade. I’ve been thinking a lot about how can we change our spaces that we’re in without having to move walls and tear down. Looking at cost-effective upgrades for our spaces is one way to completely transform the home, apartment, condo, or wherever you live.
I know one of our biggest frustrations over the last decade was not always being able to make the changes right away. Whether it was from not having the cash to do it or constraints of a rental, I often found myself frustrated with the space around me. To be honest, I never considered these different ways I could have upgraded our home from the beginning. Now that we’re spending a lot of time at home, it’s an opportunity to reevaluate.
It’s often the fact that some homes may not be permanent that I’m reluctant to make big upgrades or spend a lot on decor. So with a ton of research and firsthand experience, I’m sharing a few creative ways to temporarily upgrade your space. Those that are more cost-effective, and if you do move, can take with you.
15 Temporary Ways to Upgrade Your Space
1. Switch out handles and knobs
I am always shocked by how much a cabinet knob can change a space. When we re-envisioned the kitchen cabinets, we wanted to save money so kept the original cabinets (sanded and painted) and upgraded the hardware. This is such an easy thing to do, just unscrew the existing and pop in some new pieces. What is so great is that if you do leave, you can take these with you.
I’m a sucker for classic hardware in brass but there are some other great options. Here are some fun ideas for handles and cabinet knobs:
2. Change up lighting fixtures
Whether it is lighting that plugs in or is hardwired (may need a professional for hardwiring), you can add a lot of charm to a space through lighting. The three areas of lighting I always consider are wall lights, ceiling lights, and floor/table lamps. Each of these adds a dynamic of depth to a room.
If you’re not looking to change out a hardwired sconce, I’ve rounded up a few plug-in sconces that are perfect for hallways and alongside a bed:
Some ideas for pendants/flushmounts that are under $100
BONUS TIP: If you’re looking to fill a space where a pendant could go, one idea that doesn’t require hardwiring is hanging a pendant bulb in a corner that needs more light. You can get one that plugs in and string it up like this:
3. Consider an area rug or runner
Whether your floors are carpet, lino, or wood, a rug can do wonders for making a space your own. I personally stayed away from rugs because I knew how much they cost until I found a low-cost version. Meet the Turkish rug and my favorite vendor on Etsy.
I shared this blog post recently that had a ton of Turkish rugs under $200. There are so many to choose from and varying sizes allows for you to fill spaces throughout your space.
4. Add plants (everywhere)
Plant babies — ever heard of them? They are seriously such a rewarding addition to your apartment or home. The plants add life to a corner, table, or bookshelf. The best part? You can truly go overboard with them as there are never enough plants. I like to stick to easier indoor plants like sansevieria, rubber plants, and philodendrons as we are on the road frequently.
You can also get really creative with the pots and planters you use to house them. These pieces themselves can be a decorative item.
A few other fun accessories:
5. Replace the kitchen faucet
Seems basic right? Well, by replacing fixtures like a faucet in a kitchen can add a whole new element of design. It’s a statement piece, whether it’s a sleek and modern black faucet or maybe a more rustic brass selection. You can add your own personality through the hardware in your home. (Worth noting: anything plumbing related may be worth talking to landlords prior to switching as it may need a professional installation).
These are a few beautiful kitchen faucets for under $100:
6. Add cost-effective blinds
This was our first purchase in this home and the first thing we wanted to make our own. We didn’t have a ton of money to get top of the line blinds installed (they run over $300 a piece) so we opted for these bamboo blinds. It’s the most requested question about the house: where are these bamboo blinds are from?
They are the bamboo window shade from Arlo on Amazon in Tuscan. Range from $40 a piece.
*Good to note: they’re slightly transparent when there is a contrast of light. If you’re looking for full privacy blinds, these are NOT them.
7. Paint your walls the perfect white
Something I’ve seen over the years is that landlords often will paint the walls white, but the shade is typically very yellow or too blue. So yes, it may sound insane to paint over a white wall with another white paint, but trust me, the right shade of white makes a world of difference. Our favorite shade of white (the one we use in our spec homes and our house!) is White Dove by Benjamin Moore.
A white palette will make everything in your home pop with color and this neutral white is the right balance of warmth.
8. Use a birch wood rack to add function
One of the best additions for a utility room or kitchen is a simple birch wood rack with pegs. It works well on a side wall in a kitchen for hanging up utensils or in a laundry for hanging up broomsticks and other items. The style is very much European and reminds me a lot of what I’ve seen in homes in France and Spain. You can grab one on Amazon as well for under $30.
9. Re-finish your appliances with stainless steel contact paper
One of the most brilliant finds I found for ways to upgrade your space, is this contact paper. New appliances are SO pricey but you can at least resurface it for under $50. With this Stainless Steel Contact Paper, make your old appliances look new. This guide here is very helpful if you’re taking on this project.
10. Add some shelving
Not every apartment and home comes with built-in shelves so you may want to add some of your own. Both great for function and design, you can easily do this. Our most recent project in the house was exactly this — a series of 5 hanging shelves. I shared a full guide on how to do it for under $100.
11. Place mirrors strategically
Need to open up a room or bring in more light? Add a mirror. The trick is to place it strategically in the room. I like to consider those two factors of placement and note where the light is coming from. If natural light is coming from the east, then I’ll place it on the west wall. For opening up spaces, mirrors do well at the end of a hallway or in an entry, giving an illusion for a larger room.
A few of my favorites:
12. Lean art instead of hanging
If you can’t hang art/put holes in your walls, then I really love the design concept of leaning your art against the wall. This works great on console tables or even dressers in rooms. We did this with our mirror in the living room as we were not ready to commit. It ended up staying that way as we loved the effortless look.
Design tip: stack multiple pieces of arts and prints to fill in a space.
13. Use a marble contact paper for your countertops
Have old countertops that could use a refresh? Well this marble, self-adhesive contact paper is your best solution. Simply cut to shape and place on. When you leave, you can pull it off.
14. Tack on LED lights under your kitchen cabinets
One of the number one ways to make your kitchen feel bigger is through lighting. You may not want to add a lamp or have the best overhead lighting in place already, so a tip: add LED lights under kitchen cabinets. It adds a wonderful warmth, plus a functional element to giving light to corners that need some.
15. Add sticker tiles to your backsplashes
Oh there is literally a sticker for anything and these faux-tiles may be my favorite yet. You’ll definitely want to get some practice before placing on as it is important to not let any air bubbles in.