Update Your Home for Under $1800

How to Update your Home for Under $1800

Flipping is all the rage these days, and I don’t mean Olympic gymnastics style. HGTV is full of house flipping shows, showing you how they buy a run down house and turn it into a stunning master piece.

The reality of finding that diamond-in-the -ruff-house with all the other “must-haves” is really difficult. Once we found this diamond-in-the-ruff houses with all the “must-haves” and fell in love with it….for about 3 hours. Why? Because we learned the house had a cracked foundation and was a 100% cash only purchase. A bank would never finance a house with that much of an issue. The cost to repair the cracked foundation was way more than what we had saved for house updates. So we moved on.

What you are more likely to find is something that costs more, does have most of the “must-haves,” but still needs some updates. The house we bought was not perfect, but it was perfect for us at this time in life. Our “must-haves” included location, size, yard size, heating type and a fire place. This house had all the “must-haves” but still needed some updates to make it more modern.

It is amazing what paint, window fixtures and elbow-grease can do. Even better is doing it all with minimal cost.

So lets get to it! Here are the before and after of each of the rooms. Some of the rooms had updates later that I will share in a future post that are not included in the prices of items. We purchased almost everything from major “big-box” stores.

I would like to note that some of the photos are from the house listing and not ones that I look myself.

Living Room

The living room is the largest space in the house so it offers the most opportunities. One of the issues with the house was consistency, or lack of it. With a small house it is important to have consistency so that there is a visual flow and the spaces don’t feel cut into blocks. Before, almost every room was a different color, all the doors were different and all the window coverings were different, making the house feel smaller and dated. The ceiling is a little lower than standard houses, so it was important to brighten up the room to make it appear bigger. We did this by painting all the ceilings flat white.

I don’t recommend making the entire interior of the house the same color, I do recommend choosing paint colors that are the same tone. We chose some cool grays. For the living room we decided to use two different grays, a darker and a lighter. This adds some visual intrigue. We started it on the wall with the largest window so that the gray would not appear as drastic of a change.

Because this is the only living space in the house, it was important that the room be inviting and offer as much seating as possible. As you can see, the last home owners has a single oversized couch, and a bold red coffee table. You will see in future photos that this then flowed right into another space which actually made the space appear smaller.

By using an area rug and positioning our couch between the spaces we defined the space as more of an individual room. We eventually purchased new couches and made a side table to create an intimate gathering place.

The window coverings were also an issue. They were inexpensive and blocked out light even when they were open. Your eyes were drawn to them, and not in a good way. I have always loved wood-shutters, but those would not work in this house because they would block out too might light. A way to get a similar look is to have wood blinds. We decided to use faux wood for a couple of reasons. 1) cost, it is way more affordable 2) weight, they are lighter and easier to install 3) clean-ability, the dust actually tends to not stick to the plastic as it would to wood. We used these same blinds in all the rooms except for the nook and kitchen.

  • Blinds: $203
  • Front Door Hardware: $45
  • Paint: $100


I consider the fireplace to be apart of the living room, but I felt that it needed its own little section.

It is made of what looks like reclaimed brick and had been abused. Holes drilled into it, side bricks broken off and re-mortared. It needed some help. The first thing we did was to remove the insert. It was U-G-L-Y. It was dated. It was heavy. It needed to go! I am sure that inserts are very useful for people who use the fireplace at a heat source. We enjoy the fireplace for more of the look, so the insert just wasn’t necessary.

My poor husband muscled that thing out. It took strength and a hand-truck to get it our of the house. Funny story; it sat on the hand-truck for a while and weighed so much, the tires on the hand-truck went flat.

Taking out the insert helped so much, but the brick still looked sad. We filled in all the holes that had been drilled into it (tip, don’t make holes in brick. It will never look the same) with a fire safe, mortar sealant. Then my husband surprised me on my birthday and white-washed the brick by watering down flat white paint. Our brick never gets hot enough to react with the paint, so the latex paint works just fine. Awwwwwww, new life, breath of fresh air. The fireplace is now a piece that compliments the room and is not an eye soar.

  • Removing Insert: FREE

The Nook

The nook might be one of my favorite places. It might have a better name, but nook is what I have took to calling it. It actually used to be the dining room until the last owners renovated the kitchen area. It is not big enough to be a living area, so nook is what I landed on.

I felt that putting the TV waaaaaay over there was not pleasing to the space. And it blocked half the window. The window covering was installed too low and created kind of a shaggy dog look around the window, am I right? The funniest thing was tiny ceiling fan. It did not move air around, and thought of having a fan spinning dust and who knows what above your food totally grosses me out.

The desk is perfect for when my husband and I work from home, but need to be (or want to be) present in the main living area. We added the book case full of ALLL the books to create a mini library. The ladder shelving unit is a great, but small space to display our personal photos and style.

The window coverings are the only different one in the house. The long, dark curtains add height to the room and dramatic framing of the center focal point of the space.

  • Paint: $32
  • Curtains: $27
  • Light Fixture: $48

You can also just ignore the collapsed basketball hoop for my son :).


The kitchen was actually completely moved and redone by the last home owner. They made a great decision in this. They moved the entire kitchen from what was a galley style, with a door into the now nook, into what must have been a VERY small sitting area? Family room? I never actually saw it, so I can only lean on my imagination.

The cabinets are from IKEA, and if I every get to remodel a kitchen myself, I would still choose IKEA. This kitchen is not exactly what I would want, but it is close. It has toooooons of storage. I do wish it had a pantry, but I always pantry. Once you have lived in a place with one, you will forever want one. They turned the former kitchen space into the dinning area and added a buffet. More storage!!! Yippy!

The kitchen had a red theme that I was not a fan of. Especially in a small space. We decided to paint the whole space a cool green. In fact the paint color is called Cool Cucumber. How fitting is that for a kitchen?

While a continuation in cabinets is usually the standard, the cabinet above the sink needed to go. 1) It had zero use. There is no way I was going to put something up there 2) It closed in the sink and window and make it feel claustrophobic. By removing it, visually it opened up the space.

I have never been one for an open shelving system or glass doors in a kitchen, but I actually appreciate the few that this kitchen has. I love our dishware and love that it can be displayed. The dishware is white, so I added an adhesive backed shelf liner with a gray geographic print to the back of the cabinets to make the white dishware pop.

  • Paint: $32
  • Shelf Liner: $18
  • Cabinet Removal: FREE

Master Bedroom

Oh Mama, the master bedroom. First of all, it took three coats of flat white paint to cover the green on the ceiling. I will say that green will probably jolt anyone awake in the morning so you wouldn’t have to worry about over sleeping. We chose another gray and used it in all three bedrooms. This helps the house feel cohesive.

I am not sure what use the curtains in the room were. The window is east facing, so it gets the first of the sunrise. We changed them to the faux wood blinds as we did with all of the bedrooms and bathrooms.

I want you to notice the closet door knobs. The position of them told us that the bi-fold doors are were installed backwards. The knobs should be on the center panels, not the outer panel.

  • Blinds: $137
  • Paint: $64
  • Ceiling Fan: $75
  • Door Hardware: $30
  • Closet Knobs: $2

Master Bathroom

I am not going to spend a lot of time on the master bathroom because I will later post about the remodel we did. But is was tiny. I am not sure why anyone ever thought it was a good idea to make a master bathroom, a powder room. I guess it is better than no bathroom, but it still had very little function.

The use of the shower storage I thought was, um, creative? You can see that in the reflection of the mirror. You can tell that they tried to update the bathroom by installing new flooring and a new vanity. The wall next to the vanity shows where the previous one sat up against it.

Another thing the builder did was to have you open the door and see the toilet, Yuck!

  • Blinds: $34
  • Paint: $32
  • Door Hardware: $30

Guest Bathroom

Originally I wanted to start ripping into this bathroom as soon as we got the keys to the house. I was convinced we could remodel it and move into the house in about 3 weeks. I think I had been watching a little but too much HGTV. My husband talked me off the ledge. He suggested that we first remodel the master bathroom, since we planned on adding a shower to that one. And then we would remodel the guest bathroom. This was so smart, since the guest bathroom was the only shower we had. That would have been so rough if we had gone through with my plan.

This was the room that probably came to us with the most decorations. They had done a small update at some point, but I don’t think that was the best use of their time and money.

First of all, only put a pedestal sink in a powder room. As you can see they had to have a cabinet in there, and we temporarily added a small plastic storage container because there is no counter space with a pedestal sink. Where is a girl supposed to put on her make-up?

The wainscoting is not my favorite. I think it goes too high, but it would have meant replacing the entire bathrooms drywall. So instead we painted it white with an oil paint. Oil paint is not cheap, but so worth it, especially in a bathroom, on wood. We also painted the ceiling, back to white, and the walls a slightly grayer blue.

I would never recommend using laminate flooring in a bathroom. Bathrooms have the most moisture of any room in the house. Laminate and moisture do not mix. This would be fixed when we renovate the entire bathroom later on.

Small things like updating the shower curtain and light bulbs temporarily helped the bathroom until more could be done. I told my husband I would not feel clean taking a shower in there with the existing fixtures, so we agreed to change them out. That turned into a much larger job than I ever thought. Did you know that you can’t always just switch out the handle? There are different valves connected to the piping for different handle types. More on that later.

  • Paint: $75
  • Blinds: $34
  • Door: $35
  • Door Hardware: $30
  • Light Bulbs: $32
  • Shower Curtain: $20

Bedroom One

Oh, the orange room. No, just no. The whole thing was orange, including the ceiling. This room also took more than two coats of paint. Plus there was the chipping off of the temporary-tattoo-like decal that was in the center of the wall.

This room had what some might call “character.” Like the art-deco light switch cover. I don’t know why they didn’t want to take that with them?

The door in this room was interesting too because it had no varnish, it was just plain wood. This was one of the 3 doors we replaced so all the doors matched. I will always wonder why they did not do that before putting the house on the market, along with updating the light fixtures to something more modern.

One thing that we did that is hard to notice, is we changed out the style of closet door from a bi-fold to a 2-panel. With the room door backing up to the closet, you had to close the door before opening the closet. You still have to close the door half way, but at least now you can leave the closet door open if you need to make several trips to and from.

  • Paint: $64
  • Blinds: 137
  • Door: $35
  • Closet Doors: $62
  • Closet Door Hardware: $20
  • Light Fixture: $10

Bedroom Two

This room was the most neutral of all the rooms. We did decide to paint it so it would be consistent with all the bedrooms. The closet was interesting. The storage unit they had in the closet just ended about 2/3rds of the way across. It was about 3 1/2 feet deep, which is why we decided to make it a small walk in closet and use some of the space to relocate the linen closet. This was done a few months after we moved in, so that project is not included in this post.

Once again, the door did not match any of the others, and closet door was inconsistent with with closet doors. The small corner shelves and shelves along that wall were a pain to remove as you can tell from the patching that had to happen.

One of the most surprising things about this room came when we went to change the light fixture and discovered the dark, dark blue that the room and ceiling used to be. I can’t imagine spending much time in that room.

  • Paint: $32
  • Blinds: 137
  • Door: $35
  • Door Hardware: $30
  • Lighting: $10


One thing I have not talked about much is the floors. These were also strange. But what else is new. Every bedroom and both bathrooms had a different flooring. That equals eight different floorings in a 1200 square foot house. The main goal was to make the house consistent. We did eventually pull out all the different laminates in the bedrooms and had carpet installed. Personally I like carpet in bedrooms. I think it add warms and comfort. And we chose a light gray.

Whew, I know that was a lot. If you are still reading, thank you. Hopefully this has encouraged you to know that a big change can be made without a huge investment.

Thanks for reading!