September 18, 2022

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Making a New Home

You’re Making Your Home Look Cheap If You’re Doing Any Of These Things, According To Designers

20 min read


Your home is where you wake up in the morning, relax after a long day, and marathon-watch TV on a rainy afternoon. But if it feels cheap? Then there’s a good chance you won’t be too thrilled at the idea of spending so much time inside. Luckily for both of us, I’ve reached out to a handful of designers who were more than happy to share their favorite tips on how to make your home look so much nicer.

Even if your home is already the definition of gorgeous, you’re bound to find at least a few tips in here that can help you keep it that way (or make it even more stunning). For example, if you’re looking to replace your grimy living room rug, Chanel Padza, the interior designer behind Coco on Fifth, recommends buying one large enough that it can touch whatever furniture is in the room. “For a living room, the rule of thumb is to have the furniture touch the rug,” she tells Bustle. “Depending on the space, you want to at least have the first legs of your pieces be on the rug. You can also have all the pieces of furniture touch the rug, too” — and that’s only one piece of great advice you’ll find in here, all from professionals.

Decorating on a budget doesn’t mean your home has to look cheap. If your home could use a little upgrade, make sure to keep scrolling for more tips.

1

Keeping Your Furniture Outdated With Old Cabinet Handles

Outdated cabinetry can be expensive to replace. That’s why Andra DelMonico, lead interior designer at Trendey, suggests switching out the handles instead. “The simplest way to make cheap furniture look expensive is to upgrade the hardware,” she says. “Replace cabinet handles, drawer pulls, sofa legs, corner accents, or any other hardware on the furniture piece. These small touches elevate the look of the entire piece of furniture. Because they are smaller accents, you can spend more and not bust your budget.”

If you aren’t sure what cabinet handles to pick, these ones are made from rust-resistant stainless steel with a matte black finish for a modern appearance. Or, if black doesn’t suit your kitchen, they’re also available in gold and white finishes.

2

Leaving Unfashionable Dresser Knobs On Your Furniture

DelMonico’s same logic applies to your furniture. Swap your worn out drawer knobs out with these modern ones, and there’ll be no need to buy an entirely new piece of furniture. They’re made from high-quality aluminum that won’t rust over time — and they’re suitable for use on nearly any type of drawer, dresser, or closet.

3

Keeping Scuffed Legs On Your Furniture

If the furniture you’re looking to update don’t have any handles to swap out, these replacement legs are an affordable way to follow DelMonico’s advice to give old pieces of furniture a modern touch. They’re made from eco-friendly rubber wood, with a brown color that’s sure to complement nearly any piece. Plus, they’re available in a variety of heights depending on how tall you like your furniture.

4

Letting Cheap Upholstery Make Furniture Look Subpar

DelMonico also suggests covering up cheap upholstery with higher quality fabrics to make your furniture look nicer. “If the cheap furniture has fabric elements, you can replace this fabric with something more expensive,” she explains. “This will elevate the overall look of the furniture piece. Look for a fabric that has a vibrant or rich hue. Then choose from luxurious fabrics like silk, merino wool, or pure cotton.” Speaking of pure cotton, this roll of 100% cotton fabric is available for just 87 cents per square foot — and it even comes in dozens of colors and patterns to suit just about any space.

5

Allowing Scratches To Show Through On Furniture

While you might be tempted to paint over scuffs and scratches, DelMonico recommends using gold leaf foil to cover them up instead. “Skip the painting and instead opt for other methods of covering the hard surfaces of your furniture. You could mimic the gilded look of expensive baroque pieces with gold foil. It’s affordable but will be a bit of a challenge to apply.”

If you’re willing to take on that challenge, these gold foil sheets are available for less than $10 — and they’re suitable for use on everything from wood to glass to ceramic. They won’t fade or oxidize over time, and the adhesive backing means there’s no glue required in order to stick them into place.

6

Having Unsightly Marks That Make Your Surfaces Look Cheap

“High-quality contact paper is another option,” DelMonico says. “You could buy a roll that mimics the look of marble. Then cover your tabletop for an upgraded look to a plain table.” And since this roll in particular peels off without leaving behind any sticky residues, it’s perfect for renters and homeowners alike — especially if you don’t have the funds to purchase a new table or countertop.

7

Leaving Small Holes Visible On Your Walls & Furniture

Whether there are holes in your furniture or walls, DelMonico suggests filling them in to help make your home look nicer. “Low-cost furniture and cabinetry t
hat you assemble yourself has one telltale feature: holes. They’re quite noticeable on the inside of cabinets, where you can adjust the shelves up and down,” she tells Bustle. “Disguise your budget furniture and make it look like custom pieces by filling the holes in. You could buy plugs or use a paste filler.”

Luckily, this tube of putty is available for less than the price of lunch, and it can fill holes up to 3 inches in diameter. It’s resistant to paint flashing, and won’t shrink, crack, or sag like traditional vinyl spackling paste. Plus, the all-in-one applicator tube makes it easy to use.

8

Using Chevron Patterns, Which Can Make Your Space Feel Dated

Even if your home is on the newer side, certain patterns can make it feel dated. Is you need an example, Grace Baena, Interiors Curator of Kaiyo, recommends avoiding chevron patterns. “The chevron pattern — a sideways, two-color zig-zag — was immensely popular between 2013 and 2017 but has since become extremely played out,” she explains. “The use of this pattern tends to date a home and can quickly become overwhelming and distracting. Instead, opt for simpler, less attention-grabbing designs and patterns.”

9

Using Raggedy Old Towels That Feel Oh-So Cheap

If you’re still using cheap, scratchy towels, interior designer Joe Cangelosi recommends upgrading to a more expensive set, as “a nice set of plush cotton towels will last so much longer than the inexpensive ones.” Not only are these towels made from 100% Turkish cotton, but they also come in 16 different shades to suit any bathroom. New towels are kind of an investment, so if you aren’t sure if they’re worth the money, Cangelosi has a way to check. “For a quality check: towels that have a seam sewn up the long sides are a sure sign of a good product” — and this set passes with flying colors.

10

Making Your Bed With Sheets Made From A Polyester Blend

Cheap linens made from a polyester blend may be appealing to your wallet, but they’re bound to feel scratchy when you finally crawl into bed. “For sheets, get 100% cotton in a good thread count,” Cangelosi advises. This four-piece sheet set is made from 100% cotton, just like he recommends, and the 400 thread count is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, the extra-deep fitted sheet helps keep it from riding up over your mattress while you’re asleep.

11

Setting Your Table With Cheap, Flimsy Plates

Even if your cheap dinnerware looks nicer than most, Cangelosi has a few telltale signs that indicate the quality is less than stellar. “[…] you can always tell because the plates will chip and the flatware is too light and unbalanced in your hand,” he explains. “Again, if you wait for a sale and invest in a set of good plates and cutlery, they will last you a lifetime.”

If you don’t have patience to wait for a sale, however, these ceramic plates are rather afforadble. They’re safe to send through the microwave and dishwasher, and you know they’ll last because they’re scratch-resistant. The ceramic is also completely lead-free — and you even have the choice of three different colors: vanilla, earl gray, or assorted pastels.

12

Decorating With Cheap Fake Flowers

You don’t need to have a green thumb in order to keep plants in your home, but if you’re shopping for artificial ones, Cangelosi recommends purchasing leafy plants, like eucalyptus. “[… ] if you prefer something low maintenance, get an arrangement of dried eucalyptus, thistle, or some other natural leafy stems in a bouquet.” This bundle of preserved eucalyptus branches can be bought in bulk at a very reasonable price. You can grab them in more than 10 colors, ranging from frosted green to washed camel. If you aren’t sure how to display them, Cengelosi says that “they look beautiful in a nice vase. Something natural in your home always serves to elevate your surroundings.”

13

Putting Down Rugs That Are The Wrong Size For Your Space

You probably aren’t looking at your floors as the thing that’s making your home feel “off” — but Chanel Padza, the interior designer/ lifestyle blogger behind Coco on Fifth, reveals that choosing the right size rug can make a huge impact. “This mistake happens all the time and has happened to me in the past,” she explains. “There are tips to keep in mind when you are shopping for a rug depending on the space it’s going to.”

Tip No. 1 is choosing a rug that’ll fit your space. “For a living room, the rule of thumb is to have the furniture touch the rug. Depending on the space, you want to at least have the first legs of your pieces be on the rug.” And since this vintage-inspired rug comes in dozens of sizes, you’ll have plenty of options when deciding on what’ll look best. Or, if the room in question is on the smaller size, Padza also says that “You can also have all the pieces of furniture touch the rug, too. This will really depend on the size of the room and what your preference is!”

14

Getting Hung Up On Rugs That Don’t Work For The Room

Sometimes you can fall in love with a rug th
at simply doesn’t work with your home. Luckily, Padza also has advice for how to make smaller rugs work in larger spaces. “If you have a rug that you absolutely love and it’s too small for the space, try putting a sisal rug underneath it that is appropriate in size for the space and then place the other rug on top.”

This braided area rug in particular is a great pick, as it comes in gorgeous neutral tones that can be matched with nearly any color scheme — and it’s even water-resistant in the event of spills. Choose from eight colors, multiple shapes, and dozens of sizes and shapes.

15

Hanging Up Too-Short Curtains That Make Your Space Look Cramped

Curtains are an easy way to control how much light your home gets — but in addition to considering how thick they are, it’s also important to choose the correct length. “Almost always, your window treatments should touch the floor and be hung a couple inches above the top frame of your window,” Padza notes. “You can even go higher and that will make your space look bigger.”

That’s why I like to consider these blackout curtains as having the best of both worlds. Not only do they make your room extra-dark when drawn, but they also come in lengths ranging from 63 inches up to 96 inches, allowing them to work in a variety of spaces. Plus, the triple-weave fabric is so thick that they can even help insulate your home, leaving you with a lower energy bill.

16

Buying Inserts That Are Too Small For Your Pillowcases

A saggy pillow can make any couch look sloppy — that’s why Beth Martin, designer and founder of bethrmartin.com, recommends going one size up when buying inserts. “Most people select throw pillow inserts that are the same size as their throw pillow cover, but this usually looks sloppy and unkempt,” she explains. “Instead, choose an insert that is the next size up, and your pillows will look crisp and fluffy. For example, buy a 20×20 insert for an 18×18 throw pillow cover.”

Not only do these inserts come in multiple sizes, but they’re also filled with hypoallergenic polyester that’s soft, yet resilient enough that they’re less likely to fall flat over time. And with over 27,000 five-star reviews, you can rest assured that they’re a hit with Amazon shoppers.

17

Leaving Cracked Caulk That Makes Your Sink Look Old & Tired

Replacing your sink isn’t an option for many people working on a budget, but sprucing up any caulk that’s begun to crack is a DIY project you can complete in an afternoon. “Your house might be flawlessly styled, but if you have old and cracked caulk around your sinks, your kitchen and bathrooms will still feel dingy,” explains Martin. “Fortunately, this is a super easy project that’s very satisfying to complete. Just get a 3-in-1 silicone caulk tool, some caulk, and your sink will look brand new in an hour or two.”

This caulk tool combines an internal angle scraper, flat angle scraper, and silicone smoother all into one — just like Martin recommends. And since the scrapers are made from sharp stainless steel, making sure that your caulk lines come out cleanly shouldn’t be any problem.

18

Having Sloppy, Scuffed Walls In Your Home

No matter how careful you are, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually wind up with at least a few scuffs on your walls. “Scuff and scratches on your walls are just part of living in a home, but not getting rid of them will make your space feel sloppy,” Martin says. “A magic eraser is your best friend when it comes to light scuffs and blemishes — just make sure you try a sample area first. You will be amazed at how easy removing those blemishes can be!”

Since these magic erasers are extra-thick, they can last for up to two times longer than cheaper alternatives. They also don’t require any additional cleansers, as getting them wet with water is all you need to do in order for them to work.

19

Hanging Up Generic Pieces Of Art That Lack Personality

It can be tempting to grab whatever is popular when selecting art for your walls. Stacy Lewis, one of the interior designers behind Eternity Modern, however, recommends choosing pieces that reflect your personal style. “Don’t just pick up whatever is trending these days,” she explains. “Make sure that the art you’re hanging has a personality that is cohesive with your interior design.”

With five different styles to choose from, these prints nail down personality and style in one fell swoop — especially if you’re going for a dessert hippie vibe. You can use them to create a stunning accent wall, or even fill up that blank space running alongside your stairs. Plus, you even have the option of purchasing them with or without frames.

20

Keeping Around The Same Lamps For Decades

Lewis suggests purchasing new light fixtures to give outdated spaces a much-needed refresh. “This may be a basic accessory but swapping out your old lamps or bulbs for a more inspired one can definitely give any room a new feel.”

If you’re worried about sticking to a budget, don’t be. Lewis notes that “It doesn’t have to be expensive. Good lighting will always make a home look more stylish and expensive.” That’s why I’m a big fan of this table lamp. Giving the base a few light taps will automatically adjust its brightness up to three levels, while its small size is perfect for nightstands, or other cramped spaces. Plus, it even features two USB ports so that you can charge your devices.

21

Relying On Old Lightbulbs To Brighten Your Home

Speaking of lights, these smart bulbs are a brilliant choice if you’re looking to follow Lewis’s advice to upgrade your lights without buying completely new fixtures. Pair them with Google Home or Alexa, and you’ll be able to control them using convenient voice commands — all from the comfort of your couch. Or, if you don’t have either, you can use your smartphone to adjust their brightness, colors, and more.

22

Decorating Rooms With Different Themes

There’s no need to make every room have a them, instead your whole home should feel as one. “Unless you’re decorating a specific room for a specific member of your family, you don’t have to make your home look too themed,” Lewis explains. “Opt for more cohesive design for your home that will look timeless.”

23

Choosing Linens That Match A Little Too Well

Believe it or not, choosing linens that are too similar can be just as much of a mistake as picking ones that clash. That’s why Kristin Patrician, owner and principal designer of Dwelling Envy Interiors, suggests adding a little contrast. “Using matching bedding sets without adding a break in-between them is a huge faux pas. To give your bedding a more luxurious look, break up your bed set by adding additional colors, patterns, and textures with the use of accent pillows, throw blankets, and sheets.”

With 14 different colors to choose from, these throw pillow covers are a solid choice if your bedding needs a little change-up. They’re made from soft polyester velvet, with a zipper on the side to prevent your insert from slipping out. However, Patrician also notes that “The key is to play with pieces that pull together a cohesive statement without being too matchy-matchy” — so don’t go too overboard when choosing contrasting pieces.

24

Picking Throw Blankets That Match Your Bedding Little *Too* Well

Since Patrician says that contrast is key, selecting a throw blanket that doesn’t necessarily match your bedding can be a good choice. This one in particular comes in seven colors, ranging from cozy yellow to deep black — so you’ve got options when it comes to choosing one that’ll make your bedding pop. Plus, the faux fur material adds new textures into the mix and is perfect for getting cozy when temperatures dip low.

25

Hanging Up Generic Signs Instead Of Personal Photos

There’s nothing wrong with living, laughing, or loving — but Patrician says that hanging up generic signage can leave your home looking like it was decorated for less. “Whether they are hung on the walls or placed on a shelf, signage of any kind can instantly cheapen a home’s appeal,” she explains. “We suggest removing any and all of these signs, and focus more on adding items that provide a more personal and sentimental value instead.”

If you need an example, Patrician says “you don’t need a sign that says ‘Gather’ when you add a gallery wall featuring photos of those special to you. These ideas add more character and value to your home than a sign ever will.” And since this set of picture frames is available for less than $45, there’s no reason not to fill them with your favorite photos. They’re also made from real wood — not plastic — and the mat border even makes them look more expensive than they are.

26

Having All Matching Furniture Sets Instead Of New Textures & Materials

While it’s tempting to buy all-in-one furniture sets, Patrician recommends putting a little more effort into the selection process. “Purchasing matching dining and/or bedroom sets has increasingly become an outdated concept,” she says. “Having all items in matching finishes gives off an uninspiring and uninteresting, showroom vibe. To create a more inspiring look to your bedroom or dining room, mix up the colors, textures, and finishes of your pieces.

“For instance, if you choose a darker wood table or nightstand, opt for chairs or a bed in a lighter finish or try incorporating a new texture such as upholstery or metal instead. By mixing up the elements and textures you use, you create a more eye catching and interesting design.”

27

Using Plastic Shelves When Looking For Storage Solutions

It doesn’t matter whether you’re creating an accent wall or looking for kitchen storage solutions — either way, Amanda Oninski, interior designer for FLOOR360, recommends opting for shelves that aren’t made from plastic. “Plastic shelving doesn’t belong in main living spaces like kitchens or living rooms. Avoid plastic storage shelves that only belong in garages and basement storage areas. Display shelves should match the style of the room they are in.”

Not only are these floating shelves made from real wood, but the industrial metal brackets on either side are an easy way to
incorporate different textures into your design scheme. You can arrange them with the brackets facing up or down depending on the look you’re going for — and they even come in five different finishes to match any style.

28

Adding Shelves To Spaces Where They Don’t Fit

If those floating shelves don’t suit your space, might I suggest this set of shelves for an empty corner in your home? They’re made from tough MDF laminate — not plastic — and each shelf can hold up to 11 pounds with ease. They’re great for spice bottles in the kitchen, or holding mementos and succulents in your bedroom.

29

Putting Posters On Walls Without Framing Them First

Even if your poster cost a pretty penny, hanging it up without a frame can make it look cheap. “Frames and coverings come in all shapes, sizes, and material,” Oninski says. And this frame in particular comes in just about every size you could need. Hinges on the back allow you to hang it vertically or horizontally. Plus, the plastic face means there’s very little to no risk of it shattering should it ever fall.

30

Using Frames That Don’t Suit Your Space

If your poster is a truly unique size or you want a more polished look but a free-hanging feel, this magnetic poster frame is a great compromise. Available in widths that range from 8 to 55 inches, you can simply clip in your favorite concert, movie, or event poster and hang it up in less than one minute.

31

Hanging Up Curtains When Shades Will Look Better

Devin Shaffer, the lead interior designer at Decorilla Online Interior Design, recommends against using curtains when shades will look better. “Believe it or not, draperies and curtains are now looked upon as dated and cheaper options for window treatments,” he explains. “Clients are embracing shades and wooden blinds to elevate the look of their homes and fortunately both options can work in nearly any style of room.”

Since this fabric shade comes in a variety of widths, you can easily use it on nearly any window in your home. Or, if it’s still too wide, you can even trim it to fit smaller spaces. Plus, the adhesive strip on the top allows for easy installation, as you can easily stick it into place — no drilling required.

32

Keeping Outdated Curtains On Your Windows

If that fabric shade didn’t strike your fancy, these faux wood blinds might be more in tune with your style. They’re made from moisture-resistant PVC to help keep them looking good from season to season, and can be mounted inside or outside of your window frame. Choose from three finishes: dark oak, driftwood gray, or white.

33

Leaving Your Couch Looking Barren & Empty

Your sofa is likely the cornerstone of your living room — and as such, Shaffer recommends using throw pillows to make it pop. “Sofas are a big investment and no matter the price, if they aren’t paired with stylish throw pillows, they won’t have the visual interest they require,” he explains. “Tossing a mix of pillows will make all the difference and make your space feel more sophisticated.”

Dark blue, rose red, mint green — since these throw pillow covers come in over 35 colors, you can easily mix and match to make your living room (and couch) pop. The zipper is hidden to help keep it from snagging on your hair or clothes, and the smooth polyester-velvet material is perfect for taking naps, or even just relaxing.

34

Letting A Crowded Entryway Make A Poor First Impression

“Your entryway is the first impression of your home,” explains Nishtha Sadana, interior designer and writer at Decorated Life. “So, if it’s too crowded with laying around shoes, a disorganized bench, and other necessities — it’s a given that your home looks cheap!”

Thankfully, this shoe rack is available for less than $25, and it’s even made from eco-friendly bamboo. Both tiers can handle up to 40 pounds, making it suitable for heavier boots and other odds and ends. Plus, the stackable design means that you can double the amount of storage space they provide by simply placing multiple units on top of each other.

35

Putting Up With A Crowded Entryway

Keep Sadana’s advice in mind and really clear up your entryway with this exceedingly useful mail holder, which also doubles as a key rack, hat holder, and general catch-all. This sturdy wall-mounted wooden mail holder has four double hooks, which gives you ample space for all the odds and ends you need before walking out the door.

36

Choosing The Wrong Wallpaper For Your Space

Your walls are one of the first things guests see when they enter your home — but if they’re an unappealing color or design, Sadana says they can be contributing to what’s cheapening your home. “Remember to choose ones that complement and not stick out of space and look awkward or cheap! Some gaudy ones either have a lot of gold in them or feel too loud or disproportionate.”

If you don’t have the patience to paint, this peel-and-stick wallpaper is a renter-friendly option when it comes to redoing your walls. It comes in more than 20 colors, from solid black to rose pink and it easily peels off if you ever decide you want to change things up.

37

Having Messy Wires Which Make Your Home Look Unkempt

Marissa Pellegrini, interior designer/ TikTok content creator, tells Bustle that “cords from electronics” can make a house look cheap. Luckily, these cable management boxes are large enough to fit nearly any type of cable as well as bulky power strips. Each order also includes cable clips and strips for any wires that refuse to behave.

38

Having Small Art On Your Walls

Even if you aren’t working with a ton of space, using a large piece of art might be just what you need to make your home look nicer. “I will always go for a large and impactful piece of art – even if the wall is smaller,” explains Michael Helwig, interior designer and blogger. “I like the drama of a large piece of art. Something that fills wall space and commands attention will make the room look expensive.”

39

Leaving Clutter Out For The World To See

“I often tell my clients to edit their spaces ruthlessly,” explains Helwig. “Find creative ways to conceal the clutter. Use decorative boxes on shelves and tables. Get closet organizers in bedrooms, entry hall closets, and basements to organize all the stuff that you need but don’t want out.”

A solid option when it comes to hiding clutter? These foldable boxes that are just as functional as they are fashionable. They come in 10 different colors, from light green to bright orange — and the handles on either end give you somewhere to grip when you need to shuffle them around the house. Plus, they fold down for easy storage once you’re done using them.

40

Lacking Storage Space Because Of Messy Closets

Unsightly clutter like Helwig describes extends to your closet — and if it’s running low on space, this hanging organizer might be able to help. The sturdy frame keeps the shelves from warping under heavy loads, and there are even pockets on the sides where you can stash smaller items, like underwear, accessories, wallets, and more.



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