How to Make Your House Look Expensive on a Budget
30 ways for how to make your house look expensive and intentional without costing you the high end designer bucks.
I blame TikTok for this post. (By the way, I feel really old over there, but I digress.)
The other night, the house was feeling all cozy and cute with our lamps turned on and I thought, “Ah. I should take a little video of our foyer and dining room.” (Because they were literally the only two rooms not covered in laundry at the moment, ya know?)
Next thing I knew, TikTokers were commenting on that random video that it looked like “Nancy Meyers core” and “Luxe!” and saying, “It’s giving Pride and Prejudice vibes!”
Who are these people and how do I tell them that basically half of this place is thrifted?
So anyways, that sent me on a tailspin of ideas for this post of ALL the little ways for how to make your house look expensive (and basically fool everyone that you’re a designer worthy of Mr. Darcy, apparently).
How to Make Your House Look Expensive on a Budget
1. Paint Doors a Contrasting Color
Instead of the standard, basic white, paint your doors a different color. Most of ours are painted Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron.
But you could also try a steely gray or a mushroomy taupe. Go bold with a punch of color, if that’s your style. Choosing anything but plain white makes your home feel custom without needing to spend a lot. Here’s how to paint a door.
2. Add Molding, Wall Trim, or Architectural Details
There are so many different ways to DIY molding and wall trim out there. Or you can beef up your existing crown molding with this quick trick.
However you can add millwork or some form of wall treatment to your spaces is a huge plus for adding a layer of luxury.
3. Go Large with Wall Art
It doesn’t have to be expensive at all. We built this large scale art using a shower curtain. Or create this large art with plywood and lattice strips. Visit the thrift store to find large canvases to paint over.
Even though it isn’t actually that expensive to create, large scale art gives the illusion that it cost a couple thousand dollars.
4. Change Out Your Hardware
It’s amazing how taking basic cabinets and adding unique knobs can create major wow factor.
Add some interesting drawer pulls to a plain dresser. Or swap out your doorknobs around the house for ones with a vintage (or ultra modern) vibe. That one small detail makes such a difference.
If you really want to know how to make your house look expensive for totally free, decluttering doesn’t cost a thing.
You don’t necessarily have to be a minimalist, but the goal should be to make a “home” for every item in a room.
6. Streamline Your Gallery Walls
Creating colorful, eclectic, quirky gallery walls is so much fun, but if your goal is to create the illusion of “high end”, scaling back on the variety of colors, shapes, and textures achieves that look.
Choose art or photos that are within a similar color palette. Incorporate frames that are similar (or identical) in size and shape. Arrange them in a geometric layout like a grid or stair step.
The more uniform and symmetrical the art and layout, the more streamlined your gallery wall will look.
7. Add Flowers or Plants
Every room needs at least a couple of plants or flowers for adding some life to a space. Think spa. Greenery just adds that little bit of zen to a room.
These are some of my favorite faux flowers that look realistic to place in a vase.
8. Use White Bed Linens
When you visit a luxury hotel, the sheets are always white. They feel clean and crisp (and bonus points: they can be bleached).
9. Use White Towels
Just like with white bedding, use white towels to create a high end spa feeling in your bathrooms.
These are some of my go-to budget bathroom towels.
10. Hang Your Curtains “High and Wide” and Kiss or Lightly Puddle the Floor
It gives the illusion of a more grand room by making ceilings appear taller and windows appear larger. Make sure they’re long enough to hang floor to ceiling so the hem of your curtains barely touch the floor (or slightly puddle for a more relaxed, romantic look).
I love these luxury for less curtains from Amazon.
11. Customize Your Lighting – When In Doubt, Oversize It
If you don’t know how to make your house look expensive at all, start with the lighting.
It’s better to choose a light fixture or chandelier that is slightly oversized than one that is too small for the room. You can DIY this sunburst light fixture here. Keep an eye out for chandeliers or fixtures from the thrift store that you can spray paint.
12. Add Built-Ins
Built-in shelving, window seats, or closets can be so expensive, but if you know how to make them yourself using IKEA hacks, they’re a great beginner level carpentry project that can customize a room for way less than the real thing.
13. Choose Natural Materials
Whenever possible, incorporate materials that are found in nature. Go with real marble instead of laminate (like this marble coffee table I thrifted) or pick solid wood furnishings rather than veneer (that you can often find secondhand for less).
Leather, antique brass, and crystal feel luxe in comparison to their cheaper alternatives, and you can often score them on Facebook Marketplace or at antique stores. The end result when pulling those materials together creates the feeling that your house is luxurious and expensive too.
14. Use Appropriately Sized Rugs
See this post for more help in choosing the best sized rug for your room. When walking into a space that has a too-small rug, it immediately feels off balance.
If you live in an open concept home, rugs can help define individual living spaces.
Check clearance sections on store websites for rugs (here’s the list where I recommend to buy rugs), or set up notifications on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Many people buy rugs and change their minds but can’t return them, so you can swoop in to get the deal.
15. Layer Your Lighting
Designers often recommend for a room to have 3 types of lighting: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.
- Ambient or “general” lighting – canned lights, chandeliers, ceiling-mounted fixtures, buffet lamps, etc.
- Task lighting – lights to help you see tasks better such as under-cabinet lights, desk lamps, reading lamps, etc.
- Accent lighting – lights used to create a feeling of “atmosphere” such as picture lights, candlelight, wall-mounted sconces, etc.
In the living room below, the chandelier is the ambient lighting, the floor lamp and table lamp are the task lighting for reading, and the wall-mounted sconces beside the TV are the accent lighting.
Layering those 3 types of lighting adds depth to a room and helps set the mood.
Bonus points: put them on dimmer switches!
16. Go for Down or Down Alternative Throw Pillows One Size Larger
Ditch the floppy poly-fill throw pillow inserts for down or down alternative ones to make your beds and sofas feel a little more upscale. If possible, choose inserts one size larger than your throw pillow covers.
(Tip: Hit the clearance aisle of TJ Maxx or HomeGoods to find super marked down or damaged down pillows. Toss or donate the cover and use the insert to replace a poly-fill one in a cover you already own. I’ve found down inserts for around $5-8 that way.)
17. Paint Walls and Trim the Same Color
If you’re feeling extra brave, paint the ceiling too! The end result is the illusion of a room with more square footage.
18. Incorporate Heirloom Quality Pieces
You can find high quality furniture pieces at estate sales for a total bargain! And now that grandmillennial style is “in”, that creates even more opportunity to grant vintage furniture a new lease on life.
See how to clean wood furniture here and make it look brand new.
19. Update Your Lamp Shades
Lamps can date a room instantly, but by simply swapping out an old lamp shade for one that’s more modern on the existing base, it creates a whole new look without the need of purchasing an entirely new lamp.
See more inexpensive designer dupe lamps here.
20. Use Neutrals Wisely
When budget is tight, stick to neutrals as your “base” for a level of sophistication- like curtains, furniture, area rug, paint colors. Then, allow pops of color and trends to shine through your home decor accents.
It’s much easier to change those smaller accents later versus changing an entire room of large bold, patterned pieces.
21. Don’t Hold Back on Bold, Rich Hues
On the flipside of #20, don’t be afraid to punch a room with a hit of bold, rich color if your heart says to go for it!
I love using navy blue paint because it’s dramatic and sophisticated but can still act as a neutral when you want it to. If you’re going to go all in, go all in.
The best guideline for creating a luxe looking home in case choosing paint colors scares you: pick the paint colors at the very top or very bottom of the paint color sample strip. There’s a feeling of sophistication when it comes to high contrast spaces.
22. Mat Your Photos
There’s something about adding that thick, white paper mount around a photo that makes it feel special and important.
You can find all kinds of picture frames out there already matted at Target or Walmart, or pick up a mat at the craft store for around $5-10 to fit any frames you already own.
23. Make an Impact with Wallpaper
Nothing says custom in a house quite like wallpaper. If you’re afraid of commitment, go with peel and stick instead of the pasted type.
24. Add a Backsplash
If you want to make your kitchen look more expensive for not a lot of money, add a backsplash to the drywall under your cabinets.
If tile is too pricey or you don’t feel quite skilled enough, this DIY pressed tin backsplash is a fast, tool-free, inexpensive alternative.
One day, we plan to fully remodel this kitchen, but that backsplash helped refresh it a lot.
25. Be Mindful of Your Home’s Scent
Run a diffuser with some of your favorite essential oils, warm wax melts, light a candle, get a plug-in fragrance diffuser. These charcoal bags are great for absorbing old house smells and cooking smells.
Whatever you choose, the smell in our homes creates a sensory experience unlike any other. That one change can do so much.
26. Mismatch Your Furniture
Resist the urge to buy all of your living room furniture or bedroom furniture as one set from the furniture store.
Instead, swap out one of the matching dressers with a dresser in another bedroom to allow variation.
27. Reflect Light in Dark Spaces with Mirrors
One of the best interior design tricks to make a house look expensive is by reflecting light on dark walls opposite from windows with a mirror to help rooms feel bigger and brighter.
I love these antique gold mirrors especially that add a luxe quality.
28. Put Toys In Cabinets and Bins When Not In Use
Utilize bins, closets, and cabinets for keeping toys out of sight after play time. (Bonus: It teaches kiddos the responsibility of clean=up time too.)
29. Thrift for Vintage Items
Use this post for a list of the best items to look out for at the thrift store. By mixing old and new decor, your home feels a bit more steeped in history and adds a layer of sophistication.
30. Be Intentional with Household Items
Decant hand soap into glass soap dispensers, keep cooking utensils in a displayable container, store Q-tips in an apothecary jar, pick a “pretty” toilet brush… it’s the little things you use all the time that add up to a better daily experience.
But it also reduces visual clutter by eliminating plastic packaging. The reduction of clutter makes your space feel more inviting to you and others.
Got any others you’d add in about how to make your house look expensive?
Whew! 30 ways is a long list, but I’m sure there are more out there.
- 14 Big Impact Ways to Redecorate a Room Inexpensively
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