DIY home improvements that cost almost nothing

I confess. I procrastinate. A LOT. I always say that I am most creative when it’s the 11th hour and I’m on a deadline. So it would only be natural that I write a story for This Old House about super fast fixes, quick upgrades and easy DIY home improvements that you can do on your home before company arrives. Haven’t yet hung pictures on the wall, even though you’ve lived in the place for months? Gave up on a set-in carpet stain (you don’t have to!)? Need to rid the guest bath of rust? All these answers—and 32 others—are in the November/December issue of This Old House and here too. And you can do most of them in a few hours. Don’t wait until Aunt Bethany comes knocking to get your home in entertaining-ready shape. Start on this list this weekend.

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Here’s a peek at some of my favorites that are super cheap too:

1. Perk up your front or back landscaping with potted boxwoods. Could be my favorite plant of all time. Why? Because boxwoods grow like living sculptures in a pot, look just as good in January as they do in June and require almost NO maintenance (they’re drought tolerant). Oh, and they’re incredibly affordable. Home Depot and Lowe’s have them for about $7.


I planted four on our patio last December (part of Scott’s Christmas gift; full post on that coming in a few weeks).

2. Hang some photos—or not. I have a trick for hanging heavy items with two hooks on the back. It involves painter’s tape and a level and can be found here. But why hang when resting and layering looks incredible and requires no quick—and rash decisions—and zero commitment, like I did in this dining room. Or here in this office, resting photos on a bookshelf looks modern, fresh and relaxed.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 3.26.20 PM(Photo courtesy of CasaSugar)

3. Light the walkway with lanterns instead of standard landscape lighting. I like the flexibility that lanterns give. We lit the aisle at our wedding with lanterns, and now I have those same lanterns scattered around our tiny patio to create a bit of ambiance when we’re using the space at night.


What do you have to fix, repair or upgrade before family arrives for the holidays?




Paint your front door

I was in London this weekend strolling through beautiful Notting Hill, and surrounding the famous Portobello Market, quaint restaurants and fantastic boutiques, there’s a neighborhood with some incredible charm. House after house features major curb appeal with the most welcoming facades. Ornate knockers and bright front doors summon you up the steps. And these Londoners have stepped out of the safe zone–very few red, cobalt blue or black doors in this mix. Take a cue from our neighbors across the pond, and bathe your front entrance in a hue that’s bold and inviting. And check out these knockers too.

Orange front door

Draw guests in with a happy deep tangerine.

Orange door brass knocker
One to try: Benjamin Moore’s Orange Rumba and this modern brass knocker (available in several finishes)

Periwinkle front door

Let them come and knock on your pretty periwinkle door.

Periwinkle front door
One to try: Sherwin Williams’ Dazzle and this vintage iron door knocker

Green front door

You’ll be the envy of all your neighbors with a kelly green door.

Green front door
One to try: Sherwin Williams’ Derbyshire and a monogram door knocker (also available in silver)

Pink front door

Visitors will be tickled pink when they arrive at this daring front door.

Pink front door
One to try: Sherwin Williams’ Hibiscus and a cast iron black lion head knocker

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