The 3 Most Worthwhile Real Life Home Upgrades

One of the most frustrating aspects of a redesign is sorting through the throngs of "must haves" and "best splurges." Aside from kitchen and bath remodels— perks for re-sale and function— there is a mind-boggling amount of conflicting advice. All you redesign survivors, which ones have really been worth it?Of course, redesigns are highly subjective, so it's natural that there is no one-size-fits all answer. However, in helping others with their homes and writing for Apartment Therapy for the past several years, I've noticed a few reoccurring areas where investments (be it $10 or $1000+) beyond a fresh coat of paint continually pay off:

• Flooring. Despite the fact that it is one of the most expansive (and most used) surfaces, flooring is often ignored by the average homeowner/renter due to the fact that it's not as DIY-accessible or inexpensive as most other updates. However, believe me, no beautiful floor in one of our house tours has ever, ever gone unnoticed. Flooring sets the tone, adding texture and color, and if not taken into consideration, will completely throw off your design scheme. Given that it's used heavily and a big ordeal to install, this is an area where you want to invest in the best quality that you can. Thankfully, today there are stylish options that suit a variety of budgets from new marmoleum to beautiful reclaimed wood, so look around.

• Lighting. Every designer has their own recipe for the perfect lighting scheme, but no good designer ever ignores it completely and neither should you. Our archives are full of examples where switching out a dated overhead lighting fixture for an inexpensive classic has refreshed the whole room. Likewise, putting lights on dimmer switches is an easy and relatively affordable update that is guaranteed to please a variety of tastes and moods.

• Hardware. Many people associate the word with mere function, but hardware is one of the most inexpensive ways to change the feel of a space. Most of my (admittedly, many) design neuroses stem from my revulsion for flimsy things. I've spent quite a few Apartment Therapy sessions posts ranting about the evils of hollow core doors and their contractor-special cohorts, but the truth is, that the feel of even the flimsiest of doors can be lessened by substantial hardware like glass doorknobs and iron hinges. The same goes for bathroom hardware like towel bars. Switching out a flaking fake metal bar for the real deal does wonders in lending a room a more established feel. Salvage yards are great places to start, as are online sites like ebay, craiglist, and freecycle&mdash places where one renovator's trash really is your treasure. Specialty hardware stores abound online. Two of my favorites are Hardware Hut and Van Dyke's, which carry a variety of reasonably priced vintage-inspired hardware designed for contemporary use. However, even big box hardware stores carry an impressive variety of new but sturdy hardware.

Now it's your turn so chime in!

(Image: Bethany Nauert for Minh & Ted's Lovingly Renovated Home)

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