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4 Budget Friendly Home Staging, Update Ideas

Posted on June 6, 2023 by KylieMawdsley

Get Your Home Ready for Sale

Whether you’re new to the real estate market or an old hand, it’s vital to understand how Home Staging can affect the value of your biggest investment in the eyes of potential buyers.

As you know, your home is not worth what you think it’s worth – it’s worth what people are willing to pay for THEIR future home. If they won’t pay what you want, then it’s only worth that to you!

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This means the better your home looks, the more you’ll likely get for it. However, hiring a full-service, professional staging company can cost a fortune. Hey, if you’ve got the bucks for it, let ‘er rip, tater chip. However, you can make smart updates without breaking the kid’s piggy banks.

Having staged, built, renovated, and updated over ten thousand homes locally and online, I know what matters to homeowners and potential buyers.

Let’s get this house party started!



Many buyers will find a house on MLS, write down the address, and go for a drive BEFORE they talk to their Realtor. It’s vital that they like what they see outside before they step inside your home.

Spend some time improving your curb appeal – make the first impression count…

Few people want rustic red front doors and prefer more modern colors (unless it’s THE perfect color for your home.)

Aside from tidying up the garden beds, fixing any broken elements, and repainting chipped or faded paint, a great way to add instant curb appeal is to hit that front door with a fresh coat of paint…

The Best Front Door Paint Colors (HOA-FRIENDLY!)

Paint your front door, update your exterior light fixtures, sweep off your driveway and porch, and freshen up your bark mulch or gravel – these are great ways to add value to your home’s exterior – without breaking the bank.

And don’t forget about the inside of your front door! These kinds of projects take an afternoon and cost under $100 – that’s GREAT bang for buck!

How to Add Curb Appeal for Home Staging

BY THE WAY, a huge thank you to my Online Color Consulting clients who send me their photos – my blog wouldn’t run without you. Your photos help me show readers REAL homes with REAL budgets.



1970, 80, and 90’s style brass is not trendy and will not add value to your home. Not only will it not add value, but it could detract from other things your home has going for it, as it DATES your home.

In this next photo, the BONES of the bathroom are generally great…

There’s nothing wrong with a clean bathroom, with travertine tile, shaker-style cabinet, and a neutral countertop. So what’s REALLY throwing it?



  • Change the hardware: $50
  • Mirror: $75
  • New faucets: $200
  • Door handle: $40
  • Towel/tp holder: $75
  • Take down the towel holder over the loo and patch/paint: $25

As for the shower itself, I would take that bad boy out, fill the screw holes with caulking and put up a classy shower curtain with a hotel-style shower rod. Ideal? No, but it’s definitely better than what’s there.

The total for my pretend ‘bathroom remodel’ would be under $600 – that’s smart money.

Getting caught up in the staging process and going too far is easy. Some potential buyers or Real Estate Agents might say, ‘Rip out the travertine tile, put in a new vanity, and start fresh.’ While that’s great if you have the time and the money, staging your home is often just about getting it good enough to get your home’s ‘best value.’

‘Best value’ based on the current market, your TARGET market, and the finishes in the remainder of the home.

What does the above mean?


If the current market is moving fast, and things are selling for list price or over, you just need to tidy up the basics, ensure it’s clean, and get it SOLD.

On the other hand, if you’re in a slow market and have the time, the more updates you do, the better chance your home has of getting the attention it deserves. The key is to make these changes BEFORE you put it on the market, rather than panicking and trying to update it when your home isn’t selling. Those first eyes on your home are the most important!


TBA, I’m currently updating this post!


How much you update a room can depend on the surrounding finishes, in the room itself, and in the adjoining rooms. Putting in a beautiful new quartz countertop in your bathroom doesn’t make sense if the surrounding finishes are super outdated.


There are exceptions – you MIGHT find a countertop that suits your old finishes AND is modern-looking. However, many finishes from previous decades don’t suit more modern quartz countertops – it’s slim pickings. You could end up with a bathroom that looks poorly coordinated (as your countertop is too modern for its surroundings). OR, your new countertop, chosen to coordinate with your old finishes – still looks old.

Again, there are ALWAYS exceptions, but don’t automatically assume your home is one of them. Start with SMALL updates first and work up from there; in other words…

Don’t spend money you don’t have to.

How to Update Older Granite Countertops

While this next bathroom is just BEGGING for some cabinet door hardware (that matches the existing finishes), the overall first impression is awesome and ready for the market…

Paint Color Review of Sherwin Williams Egret White

Did you notice that the faucets and towel holders are kinda brassy?

This is an updated take on an old finish, as the antiqued brass looks great in the right space and has way better street cred than 90s brass.



While you don’t have to do everything, small updates can make a BIG DIFFERENCE. Here are the few brass offenders and the approximate cost to update them…

  • Brass doorknobs: $40 (each)
  • Brass hinges: $5 (per door)
  • Brass cabinet hardware for a kitchen: $150 (total)
  • Front door hardware: $150
  • Faucet: $200

White walls, trims, and doors are still reasonably popular, but trends lean toward off-whites

Going into 2024, black, polished nickel, and chrome are all common, popular metal finishes. Oil-rubbed bronze only suits certain homes and a particular target market – it’s not seen as a ‘modern’ finish (but not every home is a typical ‘modern’ style.) You might think, ‘But I like brass; I think it looks better.’ Well, guess what? When you’re the seller, it doesn’t matter what you think; it matters what the home buyers in your target market think, and most buyers aren’t interested in brass. (I am a bossy lil’ thing sometimes).



  • Black hardware is highly contrasted on white cabinets and doors, so decide whether that suits your home.
  • If you’re keeping some brass in your home, black and oil-rubbed bronze will best transition with a brass finish.
  • Nickel doesn’t usually work well in the same room as brass, so if you are looking at nickel, you’ll want to update all of the brass items in that room (or ideally in your whole home)

The Best BUDGET-FRIENDLY Hardware to Update Wood Cabinets



Lighting is ESSENTIAL to a home’s success, whether you’re living in it or selling it. Clean but poorly lit rooms can look dirty, gloomy, and small. A well-lit room looks brighter, bigger, cleaner, and more appealing to potential buyers. Add in some decluttering, and you’re set!

Check this list to see if any of your rooms have an outdated and ineffective light fixture:

  • Light fixtures that hold only one bulb (other than a pendant over an island)
  • Booby lights (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read here)
  • Light fixtures that have brass detailing

Talk to your local lighting store, or peruse Pinterest to see which light fixtures are trendy. The bit of chandelier you see here is NOT trendy and dates a home to the 90s/2000s…

And while this chandelier is slooooowly going out of style, it’s still a great choice if you’re listing in 2024 and it suits your style of home…

While this next type of chandelier was great for selling this home in 2020 (as with any Edison-style fixture), it’s no longer trendy. If you have one, it’s not BAD; just take out the Edison bulbs and put in chandelier-style bulbs. If you’re shopping for a new light, avoid this style…

Paint Color Review of Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray

Notice the lack of clutter in the above photo. The furniture shows the function and flow of the space without too much fuss.



My inside voice says, ‘ALL OF THEM!’, but it’s only kidding (kind of – wink wink). The lights that matter the most are often based on your 5 KEY ROOMS, which I recommend reading after you finish this blog post.


This bad boy below is the best, most cost-effective light fixture to update any secondary space. (You’ll want something more interesting in the main room, like the master bedroom/living room/kitchen, etc…)

This one is great for secondary spaces such as a spare bedroom, hallway, laundry room, family room, etc. Sure, it’s no screamin’ glory style-wise, but it’s a great place to start for a BUDGET-FRIENDLY update.

If you want to take things up a notch for your important rooms, check out this blog post (once you’re done reading this one): Lighting Update Ideas: Warning – Graphic Content.

Let’s go down a little (or big) rabbit hole with this next kitchen. Along with the light fixtures, there are a few other teaching moments…

First off, this space is GORGEOUS; I’m just being fussy for the sake of teaching! Many people curse their older granite countertops and need to update their wood cabinets – this kitchen is beautiful! However, if the homeowner wanted to stage it, update it, get it ready for sale, AND…spend a BIT MORE money without going over the top, I’ve got some great ideas.

Sure, some professional stagers, Real Estate Agents, and Designers will say these cabinets must be painted and the granite should be replaced. And for some people, this is true – it’s what they want to see. However, for some homes, it’s about spending SMART MONEY, which is also the focus of this blog post.

First, let’s list a few things this kitchen has going for it…

  • the cabinet hardware is updated and SIMPLE
  • WOOD CABINETS that are in great shape to keep, or for a new owner to paint
  • stainless steel appliances
  • furnishings that add to the space
  • the window sill is clear, and the countertops are decluttered
  • the dining room light fixture is PERFECT!
  • minimal clutter on the counters and well-placed accessories

Again, this homeowner isn’t a seller, and their home looks GREAT, but here are a few shifts for Home Staging‘s purposes…



Subway tile is timeless. And while not everyone appreciates this particular granite, surround it with updated finishes, and it will take on a whole new life! For a space like this, that’s a touch more traditional, I’d stick with a 3×6 subway tile in a glossy finish.

4 Ideas to Jazz Up a Simple Subway Tile


The chain, combined with the cage style of these pendant lights, is very graphic and cluttered. Since the countertop and backsplash already have a busy look, I’d take a more subtle approach with the lights.

I might choose something like this…


Ideally, I’d spend WAY LESS than that, but it’s the first one that grabbed my eye (and I’m not really a shopping site).

OOOO, this one is a better price, and I also like it for the style of this kitchen (it wouldn’t suit more modern kitchens)…


If they were to update the backsplash, I’d still change the lights. As for the light above the sink, I’d simplify it or install a ceiling-mount fixture.



Honestly, I’m OBSESSED with this medium-toned greige on the walls – it’s wicked pretty with the wood cabinets and trim. HOWEVER, getting a home ready for sale is about appealing to the masses…

The 6 Best Warm Off-White Paint Colors

Fewer people will like this depth in the kitchen, and MORE people will want to see something lighter and warmer, that contrasts less with the wood. If you’re like me, you’ll wince doing it, but in the end, it’s about selling your home and finding your next one!

Nothing I’ve suggested is over the top, especially if you’re asking a decent price. It can pay to spend SMART MONEY!

As usual, I got a bit off track there (SQUIRREL!); let’s finish this section with a few tips!


  • The metal finishes that are the most trendy for light fixtures (going into 2024) are black and polished nickel
  • If your room/space is larger than 8×10, consider a fixture that takes three – 60w bulbs instead of two
  • Don’t forget to consider your light bulb’s KELVINS!



Bedding and linens with busy patterns can make a space look smaller and more cluttered than it is. Not only that, patterned bedding focuses on the bedding, not the room itself. It doesn’t matter how pretty your floral is or how striking your graphic stripe is, unless it’s been well-decorated (it takes a lot) – MANY rooms need solid linens to look their best!

Let’s explore a few examples and how they could be improved…

This first room is WAY over the top –  it’s downright stunning. Buyers aren’t expecting this look, or this level of updates (a HUGE bonus if your home does look like this). Buyers are looking for a clean, DEPERSONALIZED space, with a good traffic pattern from the doorway to the bed, bathroom, and closet.

In this next bedroom, the small bit you can see of this bedding says all you need to know – it’s too busy…

A simple off-white/beige duvet cover and a navy blue throw pillow (or two) would show the room much better. And sure, we could jazz up the side tables with some accessories and a new lamp, but these ideas are about keeping it SIMPLE and budget-friendly.

Now, compare it to this next room…

The only thing that needs to be fixed is the personal photo on the dresser – everything else is great – tasteful, modern throw pillows, simple linens, and minimal decor.

This next example is of a well-dressed, well-decorated room that handles patterned linens very well. This bedroom works because the patterns are passive rather than a strong focal point, and the entire palette is super muted…

FULL Paint Color Review of Sherwin Williams Egret White

While the next room is well-decorated, the striped duvet cover distracts and takes away from the bones of the room – which are STUNNING…

Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray and Sherwin Williams High Reflective White

Let’s consider what would be included with this home (if it were for sale, which it’s not): the chandelier, large window, board-and-batten walls, vaulted ceiling, and wood floors. The striped duvet cover interferes with and distracts from these features. I would rather see a white, textured duvet cover, with a soft gray throw/quilt on the end of the bed. If this home were being listed, I might kill the shag rug, too…people aren’t diggin’ shag these days.)



As for bathroom towels, with FEW exceptions, bathrooms should have white towels. Don’t get creative with a navy blue accent towel or a splash of sage green – save those colors for your decor.

What are the exceptions?

Some bathrooms with warmer beige tones, suit off-white towels, rather than crisp white ones. You won’t catch many professional home stagers putting COLORED TOWELS in their clients’ homes.

Paint Color Review of Sherwin Williams Alabaster

The towels in this next bathroom are great for the homeowner‘s style, but they should be white for resale…

Paint Color Review of Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist

Sure, they’re pretty, but THEY AIN’T COMIN’ WITH THE HOUSE and distract from what really matters. They also make the space look smaller and more cluttered.

The color in the artwork is the only thing that should be doing any heavy color-lifting in this space.



Painting your entire home might be out of the question, but focusing on a few of your 5 Key Rooms is a great way to refresh your space.


Pick the spaces that matter the most in your home and start with these. Choose a modern shade of neutral that suits the hard finishes in your home – the ones that stay with the home when it’s sold.

Regardless of your personal preferences, bright colors don’t sell.

The early 2000s tile looks more updated with a well-chosen wall color! 


  • Get rid of any home odors, especially from pets or stinky teenagers/kids. This might involve getting your carpet and rugs cleaned to remove any stains.
  • Don’t use smelly candles or plug-in air freshens  – they’re toxic and extremely off-putting. Do your research on a more natural approach, such as boiling particular spices on the stove, or making some COOKIES
  • Open blinds and drapes to maximize your home’s natural light. If you have a less-than-desirable view, tilt the blinds or use sheers to camouflage it.
  • Fix ANYTHING that’s broken – cracks, dents, the fewer flaws, the better.
  • Don’t leave anything around your tub, kitchen, bathroom counter, or window sills – simple and clean is best, along with a few thoughtful accessories on your counters.
  • Turn on table lamps in rooms that have inadequate natural lighting. Make sure they have updated shades that offer a clean, bright light.
  • Put kid’s toys away in drawers, or, even better, in packed boxes in a storage unit.

The Best Light Neutral Paint Colors for Home Staging


Home Staging Tips and Ideas: The 5 Key Rooms

Home Staging: 5 Affordable and Fun Ideas

The Top 8 Light Neutral Paint Colours for Home Staging

Home Staging Ideas: How to Decorate for Mass Appeal

Home Staging Tips and Ideas: 4 Rules to Follow


Check out my Online Paint Color Consulting

Chat soon,



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