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.

Boxwoods

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.

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

 

 

 

Create natural outdoor lighting

Twine balls
I was drawn to the natural texture of these spheres, constructed from grapevines and twigs, and I wanted to incorporate them in my wedding. But these puppies can get pricey. I started buying them one at a time at Michael’s on the 40 percent off coupons they offer, but wedding time was quickly approaching, and I needed several more. I ordered the remaining 16 eight-inch balls and four 10-inch spheres from eGrapevineStore.com, then purchased several bags of small twine, twig and other natural-material balls at TJMaxx and Marshall’s. You can typically find these down the gardening aisle or where they merchandise the potpourri.
Small twine balls
Twine ball chandelier
I wanted to wrap these twine and twig balls with lights, cluster them together and hang the chandeliers from the trees around the perimeter of the park where our reception dinner was held. I created a total of 20 natural light fixtures (with lots of help from Mom!) of varying lengths and sizes. I used simple monofilament line to string my twine balls together, then wound battery-powered lights around the two largest spheres in each chandelier cluster and secured the lights with zip ties.

And now 10 months after the day we said “I do,” I am reusing these twine balls (minus the lights) in another labor of love–the nursery of one of my dear friends (and a bridesmaid) Naomi’s daughter’s future nursery (she’s due in October).

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