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I spent thousands renovating a 2,000-square-foot home — but these 5 cheap upgrades actually made the biggest difference

Stone fireplace with wood leather couch and gray chair next to it and white walls
Renovating our rental home cost thousands, but some of the cheapest upgrades were the most effective.
  • I renovated a secluded chalet near Lake George, New York, and turned it into an Airbnb.
  • Peel-and-stick wallpaper was easy to apply, and white paint gave the house an instant glow-up.
  • Painting kitchen cabinets and changing their hardware updated the room for less than $100.

For the first few summers of our relationship, my husband and I took an annual camping trip to Hearthstone Point.

Situated right on the shores of upstate New York's stunning Lake George, we'd spend a few (dirty and slightly smelly) days enjoying morning swims and evening campfires.

We loved it and would fall asleep dreaming about what it would be like to own a house there one day.

Ten years later, I was scrolling Zillow and saw the most idyllic chalet for sale in our favorite part of Lake George — Bolton Landing. Even though the listing photos were bad, I saw its potential right away. Within a few days, the house was ours.

After closing, we got straight to work. Peeling back the distracting patterns, ornate fabrics, and dowdy furniture let the house sing.

Three months of backbreaking work revealed what is now known as Trout Landing, a four-bed, three-bath chalet situated on 6+ acres less than a mile from the lake, which we rent via Airbnb and VRBO.

We spent thousands and flexed our HGTV muscles in every corner of that house, but looking back, I'd say these five cheap upgrades made the biggest difference.

Peel-and-stick wallpaper adds personality to any space

Gingham wallpaper in bedroom with two beds
By far, peel-and-stick wallpaper is my favorite discovery of the renovation experience.

Peel-and-stick wallpapers couldn't be easier to install, and the busy patterns are extremely forgiving of uneven walls.

Wallpaper helped us create the perfect accent wall in two of the house's four bedrooms, which would've been boring white boxes otherwise.

Bedroom with gray wallpaper and large bed with white linens and green accent blanket
Hotel-quality linens were essential to deliver an exceptional experience for my guests.

The diverse range of patterns available ensures there is something to suit every taste, every room, and every home.

NuWallpaper's Farmhouse Plaid and RoomMates' Twig Hygge Herringbone were both less than $30 a roll and drastically changed the vibe in the house.

When a full kitchen reno isn't in the budget, paint your cabinets and change the hardware

Green kitchen cabinets and white marble table in home
Painting our kitchen cabinets made them look much nicer.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a kitchen remodel in 2023 was $26,930, which just wasn't in our budget.

Knowing how important a nice kitchen is when selecting an Airbnb, we made the cost-effective decision to paint the cabinets and change the hardware.

Although it was a lot of work, the kitchen really felt like a new room when we were done.

Playing off the house's wooded location, we chose Behr Dynasty's aptly named North Woods (less than $55 per gallon), and matte-black metal handles from Gliderite, which modernized the space for less than $2.50 each.

A fresh coat of white paint is an instant facelift for an old house

Brown leather sectional with mirror above it
A coat of paint can make a world of difference in a home.

I'm all for a good painted accent wall, and throughout the house, we used moody greens and blues to do just that. But most of the walls were still a dingy off-white, which made the whole place feel dirty.

So, we painted over them with Behr Dynasty's Statement White. It cost us less than $55 per gallon, and we used about one per room.

A fresh coat of paint gave the house an instant glow-up.

Installing cool light fixtures is a great way to distract from popcorn ceilings

We didn't have the budget to smooth the dated popcorn ceilings — HomeAdvisor notes this can cost upwards of $3,000 and is a difficult and messy process.

But truthfully, once our vintage ceilings were adorned with modern fixtures, the popcorn almost seemed to disappear.

My favorite change was replacing the outdated ceiling fan in the living room with a wooden "chandelier"(Amazon Moujoe Wood Chandelier, $130).

We also replaced the house's dated stained-glass light fixture with a boring recessed light that immediately brought the space into modern times.

Feel like you're sleeping at a five-star hotel with crisp white linens

Ceiling fan in wood-paneled room
The linens throughout the home feel nice but didn't cost me thousands per bed.

I worked in the hotel industry for many years, so I know how important a good bed is.

Luxury linens can be pricey — for example, the beloved Italian brand Frette has sheet sets starting at $1,500. I wanted to bring that hotel-level quality of sleep to my guests, but needed to do so in a way I could afford.

I spent a lot of time researching and testing bedsheets, duvets, and pillows for quality, durability, and price.

My picks? Costco's Kirkland sheet set ($80 for queen), Ikea's Fjällarnika duvet insert ($60 for queen), Amazon's ATsense duvet cover ($55 for queen), and the Sealy Elite Down Alternative Pillow from Kohl's ($16 each).

Read the original article on Business Insider

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