transformation month

45 Ways to Transform Your Space in 30 Minutes or (Much, Much) Less

published Sep 7, 2021
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Credit: From Left to Right: Shutterstock, Heather Keeling, Hayley McCormick, Minette Hand

September is Transformation Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about home transformations — from big renovations to tiny tweaks — all month. Head over here to see them all!

If any interior design aficionado could have one wish granted, chances are it would be to have the home of their dreams with the simple wave of a magic wand. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works — even if you have a big enough budget to hire a team of pros to do both design and construction work for you. 

There’s a bit of good news though: With some home design prowess and a little bit of spare time, you can bring your space one step closer to perfection. We’re not talking about weekend warrior-style projects, either. You can still spend the bulk of your Saturday and Sunday relaxing — all you need to transform your space is a few minutes here and there. 

To help you plan, we’ve categorized some of the most impactful home upgrades into extremely digestible increments of time. Here, five-, 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, and 30-minute projects just about anyone can tackle in between commitments to make their home really shine.

If you have 5 minutes… 

1. Upgrade your light switches.

White plastic light switch plates are commonplace and easily overlooked as permanent fixtures, but with a few bucks, a screwdriver, and five minutes, it’s easy to make this small detail much more noticeable — in a good way.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Decant your bathroom products.

To instantly elevate your bathroom, decant everything from shampoo to moisturizer. Decanting is easy to do, plus it minimizes the unsightly clutter of plastic product containers, creating a more cohesive look that’s especially important in small spaces. Amber glass jars look especially nice when used in this way. 

3. Replace your doormat.

An easy way to make your entrance feel fresher: a new doormat. In just five minutes, you can even make your own by using a stencil to spray paint a fun phrase or design on a natural coir doormat. 

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

4. Swap out the hardware on your cabinets.

…Or your vanity… or your dresser… or your media cabinet. It’s easy to upgrade any piece of furniture with drawer pulls — no paint required. Simply unscrew the hardware and replace it with a new pick that has the same dimensions. Or, for a cheaper upgrade, remove the existing knobs and pulls and give them a coat of spray paint in your favorite color. Replace once dry.

5. Make your closet look more orderly.

Take five minutes (or less!) to turn all of the hangers in your closet in the same direction. It not only looks better, but it’s also a great decluttering trick: By turning all your hangers “backwards” at the beginning of the year, as you take hangers out of your closet and put them back in your normal day-to-day use, you’ll be able to clearly see which clothes never came out of your closet. Throw those in the donation bin. 

6. Swap in seasonal decor.

It’s not necessarily ground-breaking, but the easiest way to refresh your space for the changing season? Swap out your throw pillows and blankets. For fall and winter, opt for something with a little more texture or even a holiday-specific motif; for spring and summer, look for airier materials (like linen) in lighter colors. You can even DIY your own pillow covers in five minutes with this no-sew hack.

Credit: Minette Hand

7. Add another layer to your rugs.

Rugs are expensive, but instantly pull a room together. You can save money (and bring designer style) by layering two rugs rather than springing for one larger patterned one. Use a less expensive sisal rug as the base, and add your statement pick — like a sheepskin, an intricately patterned kilim, or a cool vintage hand-loomed piece — on top.

8. Corral clutter on your nightstand, vanity, coffee table, or entry console.

An easy way to make a grouping of disparate items look intentionally curated? Arrange them on a tray, so it looks like more of a design statement than clutter.

9. Hang a wreath.

Don’t forget the front door when it comes to seasonal sprucing up. Hang a favorite wreath in five minutes or less using over-the-door hardware or outdoor-friendly Command hooks.

10. Change out your lampshades.

The quickest way to make a tired lamp look fresh? Give it a new shade. If you find that your dream shade isn’t sitting quite right, this easy hack will help you get there.

If you have 10 minutes…

11. Give your rug a new look.

There’s nothing cozier than a soft sheepskin rug, but a little bit of dye will really make it pop against the rest of your decor. It’s easy: Create a dye bath, soak for 10 minutes, then rinse and wash.

Credit: Jessica Rapp

12. Replace the flusher on your toilet.

It’s a small fix, but one that makes a difference when all of the other fixtures in your bathroom match. 

13. Fix a squeaky door.

You might not be able to see this one, but you can certainly hear it, and this 10-minute fix is worth the time it takes to eliminate that annoying creaking. All it takes is three simple supplies: WD-40 lubricant, a rag, and a small hammer (if you have one).

14. Swap out finials.

Make a curtain rod or lamp feel instantly more sophisticated by swapping a standard ball finial for something more artful and decorative that suits your style of decor, whether it’s mid-century modern or glam boho.

15. Replace the legs on your furniture.

Elevate the legs on your furniture — an IKEA couch or chair, for example — by swapping out the legs. It’s a simple way to make the furniture look totally new and unique without the hefty price of buying something new.

16. Mask unsightly cords.

If you still have messy electrical wires, take 10 minutes to install a raceway with drywall screws to hide your television cord. You can also use zip ties and eye hooks to control cables around a desk or entertainment center. Fewer wires equals less visible clutter — aka the illusion of a more streamlined space.

Credit: Hayley McCormick

17. Switch out your bedding.

If you want to make a small bedroom feel larger and airier without moving walls, the easiest way to do it is to swap out your existing bedding for neutral linens. Worried you’ll lose dimension? Layer sheets, blankets, throws, and pillows and use a variety of textures like silk, wool, or cashmere.

18. Add sheers to your curtains.

A double layer of curtains is a designer trick since sheers let in just enough sunshine for your space to feel softly lit.

19. Re-pot a plant.

Switching out the pot can totally change the look of your same old plant, and won’t take long if you’re using the same size. Here’s how to do it in the healthiest way for your plant. If you’ve kept it in its grower pot inside the decorative planter, this task is even easier — just pull out the inner pot and place it in a new planter.

If you have 15 minutes…

20. Hang new house numbers.

Why settle for that boring plaque that came with the house when you can install more modern, decorative numbers in a flash? All you need is a drill and a few screws that likely came with whatever house numbers you purchased. 

21. Fake a headboard.

If you lack a headboard, make one by simply taping off a square behind the bed and filling it in with paint. Timing on this project may vary slightly based on your painting skills, but it’s undoubtedly a quick one. Can’t paint? Try hanging art or a tapestry behind your bed to get the same look.

22. Upgrade the textiles in your bathroom.

You don’t have to buy all new linens. Instead focus on the things people see when they first walk in the room — your shower curtain and your bath mat, for example. 

23. Give your toilet a new seat.

Another way to give your bathroom a quick upgrade? Replace the toilet seat with a soft-close model, which adds a little touch of luxury.

Credit: Lula Poggi

24. Shine up wood furniture.

Un-painted wood furniture can dull with use, but a soft cloth and a little polish can wake tired wood back up.

25. Install a new door knocker.

Another quick way to upgrade your home’s curb appeal: Scour your favorite home decor stores — or even eBay for something vintage — for a cool door knocker, then grab your drill to install it in 15 minutes flat.

26. Mount a wall shelf.

In the living room, you can use it to display favorite potted plants; in your bedroom, it can double as a nightstand; in an entryway, it can be a space-saving catchall for keys and the like. Here’s how to do it.

If you have 20 minutes…

27. Remove drain rust.

You’ll be surprised how much fresher your bathroom looks after making this one simple fix to porcelain sinks and tubs, and all you need is a handled pumice stick. Here’s how to use it: Soak the pumice stone in warm water for one minute, then scrub gently, avoiding any metal fittings.

28. Rearrange your furniture.

One of the quickest and cheapest ways to refresh any room in your home? Reconfigure the layout. If you don’t have much room to play with, even simply pulling furniture (sofas, bookcases, and chairs) a few inches from the wall can help the whole room feel less cramped and more airy.

Credit: Cat Meshcia

29. Change up your gallery wall.

Give your gallery wall a refresh by painting a few of the frames, or even just their inner rims to give them a hint of color. Or, you could even paint an accent shape behind the art to highlight specific pieces.

30. Frost up a window.

Window film with a faux etched look offers privacy without sacrificing natural light. Try it in a bathroom instead of shades for a new look that’s totally removable.

Credit: Minette Hand

31. Install a dimmer in your main living space.

Create more ambiance in your main living space by installing a dimmer. It’s a basic electrical swap that even amateur DIYers can pull off by reading the instructions carefully (and always always cutting power to the room before beginning).

If you have 25 minutes…

32. Freshen up an old ceiling fan.

Because ceiling fans are so bulky and typically in the center of the room, there’s nothing that can make a room feel dingy and dated faster than an old one. Twenty-five minutes isn’t long enough to swap yours out entirely, but it is long enough to try one of these quick DIY spruce-ups.

Credit: Minette Hand

33. Hang string lights on your patio.

You can add ambiance to any outdoor space — a backyard, patio, porch, or balcony — almost instantly by hanging cafe-style string lights. The added functionality does so much more than simply add light — it’ll also make the space feel like another room, extending your usable living space. 

34. Install under-cabinet lighting.

You don’t have to mess around with drill holes and wiring to install task lighting in the kitchen. Today there are a couple of inexpensive, easy-to-install options, including puck lights and light bars — some even have dimmers and motion sensors.

Credit: Anna Spaller

35. Re-mount your curtain rods.

An easy way to make your space feel grander? Shift your window treatments. The higher the curtain rod, the taller the window will appear. If possible, install your curtain rod closer to the ceiling than the top of your window — ideally about four to six inches above the window frame.

Credit: Cathy Pyle

36. Install a new shower head.

Make your bathroom more like the spa you wish you could regularly frequent by swapping out a weak old shower head for a more attractive version with better (or better yet, variable) water pressure settings. 

37. Replace your interior doorknobs.

Though often an afterthought, once you replace your sub-par doorknobs, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. That said, quality doorknobs can be very expensive. If brand new ones aren’t in the budget, spray painting existing hardware or polishing old glass ones can be equally as effective.

If you have 30 minutes…

38. Re-caulk the tub.

There’s nothing like yellowing, cracking caulk to make a bathroom look like it needs a complete overhaul. Not to mention, compromised caulk can lead to water damage over time. So get ahead of any real issue — superficial or functional — by scraping out the old stuff and adding a fresh coat of caulk.

39. Paint a window frame.

Have a room — say, a small bathroom — with just one window? Try painting the trim around the window to complement the other tones in the room, or give it a contrasting color to help it really stand out. For one window, you should only need a small pot of paint to pull it off — possibly even just a sample can

40. Cover a plain door with peel-and-stick wallpaper.

Covering a full wall with peel-and-stick will take you an hour (or more, depending on size), but with 30 minutes you can recover a single closet door for a fresh look.

41. Upgrade your bathroom fixtures.

If new fixtures aren’t in the budget, you can also give dated ones a little TLC with a fresh coast of spray paint. Opt for bronze, matte black, or whatever else complements your bathroom’s aesthetic.

42. Paint around your front door.

Painting the whole door, front and back, will take more time, but just painting the frame is a project you can do in 30 minutes. For a dramatic touch, choose a bold color that puts your door in the spotlight.

43. Install a ceiling medallion.

A ceiling medallion can add an unexpected touch of character to your place and take your lighting to the next level. You’ll have to install it under your pendant light’s canopy, so remember to cut power to the room before beginning.

44. Upgrade your cabinets to soft-close hinges.

Cabinet doors that close without a bang are the height of luxury. If your cabinets didn’t come outfitted with soft-close hinges, an inexpensive add-on (under $5) will help. All you need to do is screw it into the top of the cabinet frame to give the door a bit of a buffer as it closes. You can do a whole kitchen in about half an hour, and even though this transformation is invisible it still makes a huge impact.

45. Mount a TV.

If you’ve been meaning to get your TV up off your table and onto the wall, you can do this space-saving project in about 30 minutes with a couple extra hands, a stud finder, and a drill.