Winter is coming, and that means it’s time to stop working on my backyard and turn my efforts inside. I’ve been looking for projects, preferably fairly low effort that can be done in a weekend, that can make my house look classier than it actually is. The projects might even increase the value of the house as an added benefit.

  1. Light switch plates

Let’s start off with smaller, fairly simple projects. Many houses, including ours, feature plain white electrical switch plates. Replacing these boring pieces of plastic with decorative or custom plates an easy way to add a bit of flair to any room. Unless you live off the grid, without a generator, you’ll have plates you can replace. It can be anything from a simple plate with a pattern on it to a complex metal covering.

Replacing a plate is fairly easy, and shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes. Undoing screws, removing the old plate, and finally replacing it with a new plate, covering the switches and wires by screwing the plate onto the wall.
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Photo by Flickr user Margaret Almon

  1. Bathroom faucet

Slightly more involved is changing out faucets. Though we were able to choose our faucets, as we built the house, the builder also had a price mark-up. I would love to replace both the kitchen faucet – maybe with one that you just have to touch the faucet to turn it on – and switch out the master bathroom faucets for something more ornate. This probably won’t be the cheapest way to make the house classier, but it’s doable in a weekend. The trick will be choosing faucets that match existing fixtures, unless, unlike me, you intend on changing those out, too. My fixtures are currently a dark brushed nickel, which shouldn’t be hard to match.

  1. Frame the flat screen

My flat screen TV sits perched on an entertainment center. My wife tried to mount it on the wall, but had trouble, and I simply haven’t had the time, with other projects taking my attention. My plan is to finally mount it to the wall, and then put a frame around the TV. A TV just shows moving pictures, after all, and generally large pictures are framed. It’ll make the TV look like a large, classy picture. Be aware of where cords need to stick out, and where controls on the TV are located, and plan the frame accordingly.

My advice, given those needs, is to make the frame slightly bigger than the TV, and not flush with the sides. This should make access to both the controls and any connections easily accessible. For cords, simply carve out divots in the back of the frame. Making the frame removable is as easy as using saw tooth hangers to mount the frame.

  1. Trees in the front yard

There’s a story behind this point. The landscaping company hired by our home builders provided us with two dreary pine trees for our front yard, included in the cost of the house. They drooped, looked sickly, and we had major doubts they would ever grow to provide shade. The homeowners association collaborated with the builders to choose the pines, though there were other acceptable trees for the front yard. We wanted the landscaping company to replace the pines. After multiple calls – never returned – and even a trip down to the landscaper’s office, we couldn’t get the trees replaced.

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Finally, we decided to replace the trees ourselves. We chose maples – a red maple and a Japanese maple. Each one was about $120. The landscapers were still working on houses in the neighborhood, and my wife hunted them down. Though we were on our own for providing a new tree, they were happy to dig the old ones out. That left us with two small holes in our front yard. My next task was to widen the holes, then fix the irrigation, and finally plant the trees. It took about an hour and a half, thanks to the landscaping company doing half the work. The hardest part was reshaping the irrigation hose – which I’m still note satisfied with, but it’ll work for the time being.

Now for the ironic twist: One of the pines was reused in the front yard of a house built behind us, finished about a month ago. We couldn’t mistake the tree’s silhouette – it was one of our droopy pines. At the start November, the pine disappeared.

Your takeaway from the story is that a tree in your front yard can make all the difference. Plant an aesthetically pleasing tree.

  1. Front door

Speaking of the HOA, we wanted a red front door, but rules stated there couldn’t be a repeat for five houses. But, with newer houses in the development, we’ve noticed the rules have been relaxed.

Springing off of the last point, I’m going to do a front yard makeover. Or at least the front porch. The plants are dying (and might not make it through winter), I want to repaint the front door, and I want something other than a potted plant and squash to decorate the porch – maybe some chairs and a table.

The planter between the porch and L-shaped driveway, as mentioned, has plants that could use replacing. Mosquitos are a problem during summer, so I’m hoping to make use of plants that naturally repel insects while still pleasing to the eye. My wife is a fan of lavender, so that’s the frontrunner.

  1. Shower seat

I have a shower big enough to hold a small party in, but no corner seat. To me, it adds a touch of elegance, especially of it’s made of the same tile as the rest of the shower. For newer houses, it’s fairly easy to contact the home builder and ask to buy matching tile. In older homes, the tile may not be in production anymore – though it’s certainly an excuse to update your tile to a more modern look. Part of the reason this adds class is that it’s not strictly needed. I’ve lived in the house for nearly a year and never needed the seat, but I’m eager to add one in.

  1. Ombre stairs

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Photo courtesy of Inline Design

The original plan when my wife and I were looking at houses was to gut the stairs and make each step a mini-bookcase. Unfortunately, due to our pantry beneath the stairs, that plan has been abandoned. But, in wandering around the internet to get ideas for what I could do to my stairs, I stumbled on a cool idea: ombre stairs. I’ll switch out the blue for a deep red – one of the major colors of decor in our house – and gradually go lighter up the stairs.

It’s low-hassle and fairly low-cost to add classy touches to your home. Your home will look better with the added elegance, and it’ll even increase your overall home value.

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