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  • Improve Your Home on a Budget

    Ready for some changes in your living space, but don't want to spend big bucks? Relatively low-cost, and fairly easy projects can give your home a face lift. Smaller projects are great, because you can choose to do a little at a time, or you can choose to do it all at once, depending on your budget and your available free-time. And, a small project can make a big impact in the overall effect of the comfort and beauty of your home. Here's a list of ideas that can transform your home in an afternoon or over a weekend.

    Enhance or upgrade your front door. Your front door makes the first statement about your home, let it say good things. A metal door will look new with a coat of paint in an eye-catching color. Or, a sturdy old wooden door can be handsome again with a light sanding and refinishing. Maybe you're wondering if it's time for a new front door. Before you decide to change your door, look at the hardware. If the doorknob is wiggly or dented, and the door is in fairly good shape, you'll typically see just as much improvement by replacing the hardware and refinishing or repainting the door.

    A fresh coat of paint can do wonders. Changing the color of interior paint can set a completely different mood from what you're used to. Or, if you love the color it already is, a light coat is all you need to enhance the depth and richness of that hue. Repainting the baseboards and trim will cover up dings, scuffs and scratches and give the whole room a crisp, clean look. A fresh coat on exterior trim makes the home look new on the outside, too.

    Give kitchen cabinets a face lift. A kitchen may be in otherwise good order, with modern appliances, counter tops in good shape, and nice flooring. A relatively small change may be all that is needed to get your kitchen up to your standards, and a little change in the cabinets can go a long way. A kitchen can go from country to contemporary with a change of hardware. Or, if you've used your cabinets without door pulls, adding them can give your kitchen a new look. Painting or re-staining the faces of older cabinet doors makes a big difference, and can save big over replacing them.

    Change bathroom hardware. You don't have to install a claw-foot tub to make your bathroom luxurious. If all the fixtures are in good order, a standard bathroom gets a decorator look with a simple change of hardware at a cost of several hundred dollars. It's amazing what a difference can be made by changing out the faucets and handles on the sink, toilet, and tub and shower. Add the matching shower rod, towel bars and toilet paper holder, too. Replace the flimsy plastic toilet seat with one made of wood, or a comfortable cushioned seat. If you have a basic light fixture, choose a new one to enhance the room's style. Mirror-edging kits give a frame-finished look to a plain mirror, and put the final touch on your bathroom project.

    Organize your closets. A closet should make efficient use of all the space to store your entire wardrobe. It may also hold items such as golf clubs, skis, tennis rackets, sewing machines, ironing boards, file cabinets, motorcycle helmets, you get the idea. The closet is usually where we put things when we just don't have anywhere else to put that stuff. Maximize your storage space with shelving and hanger rods to suit your needs. Custom-designed closets are a fashion-lover's dream come true, but can become a bit pricey. Though not as glamorous as a closet with wood shelving and built-in drawers, you can get the same storage solution, on a budget, with wire shelving and some wicker baskets or clear plastic storage bins.

    Add or build storage for the garage. A garage is meant to park cars, but at least a few of us can't even put all of our extra stuff in there, let alone a car. Check out the home improvement store and see what storage solutions they have available. Or, build your own solutions. Mount those bikes on the wall or hoist them up from the ceiling studs, install shelving, hang up your garden tools. If that's still not enough to organize your garage, you may consider putting up additional storage, which leads us to the next project...

    Put up a storage shed. Lack of storage space is often the reason we can't maintain an organized home. Solve the problem by getting seasonal items and that stuff you rarely use out of your closets and garage, and into it's own storage space. Pre-cut kits can be purchased for about $500 for an 8'x8' shed. Or, if you're pretty handy with the saw, you can build one from scratch for a little less.

    Make your outdoor space private. Privacy in your own yard gives you more freedom to do what you like. A privacy fence may be the answer, but you don't have to be completely closed off if you don't want to. Lattice panels with vines growing over them, just a couple of fence panels where you need them, or strategically planted evergreens can give privacy while maintaining an open yard. It can also give you a place to hide your outdoor clutter.

    Trim up the lawn and landscaping. A green lawn with clean edges frames a home much better than an over-grown, weedy lawn with sod escaping over the pavement. Trees and shrubs show their shape and provide more interest when they are properly pruned. Be careful about over-trimming big evergreen shrubs, or you may be left with ugly bushes with a bunch of big sticks poking out from under the foliage. Sometimes it's better to rip out overgrown shrubs and start new than to over-prune. Or, completely cut off some of the lower branches, giving old shrubs a bonsai look.

    Beautify your garden. Flowers are always a welcome addition to any garden; plant them together for more impact, rather than scattering a few flowers here and there. Annuals typically flower over very long periods, and may provide color during your entire growing season, but they die each winter and must be replanted. Perennials will come back more beautiful every year with little care, but their flowering periods are short, typically only over a few weeks. Use a combination of perennials and annuals for the most color with the least amount of work.
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