We Asked Interior Designers: What Small Changes Make the Biggest Difference?

Give your rooms a fresh look with these designers’ best tips. Image: Catherine Staples Interiors

Sometimes interiors need change. Whether your style feels a little too outdated or your tastes have changed, making over the rooms in your home is a great way to give yourself a fresh start. However, for most of us, taking on the cost of a complete redesign is not always feasible, even if an update is sorely needed.

With that in mind, we called in the pros. We asked top interior designers to share their best tips on which small design changes make a big difference. Keep reading to learn how you can make a huge impact on your home without breaking the bank.

 

Go bold with your accent wall. Image: LMB Interiors

1. Add an accent wall

“To drastically change the look and feel of a room without spending a lot of money, paint an accent wall,” advises Todd W. G. Corder, the founder of Deja vu Decor. “A pop of color will instantly draw the eye and is a great way to liven up a room with no more than the cost of a can of paint.”

Where accent walls are concerned, there are a few details to keep in mind. The first is placement. Technically, any wall can be used as an accent, but it really should highlight your focal point. In living rooms, this can mean placing the accenting color around a mantle or some built-in shelving. In bedrooms, by the headboard is best.

Aesthetics are the other consideration. A bright paint color certainly does the job, but it’s not the only option. Darker neutrals like black or chocolate brown serve the same purpose. Contrasting materials can also be used. Wallpaper is an excellent choice, as is a patterned tile or even wood paneling.

 

Use texture to add visual interest. Image: Thomas Towne Reavey Inc

2. Vary the texture of accessories

“Texturizing a room is a game changer. Accent pillows in varying fabrics and shades can add another layer of depth to a room. Another opportunity to add texture is through the materials that your accessories are made from. Consider using metals, woven baskets and blankets,” says Dawn Stafford, the owner of Gathering Souls, a concierge design service in Fairfax, VA.

Conceptually, texture can be a bit hard to pin down. The best way to think of it is by evaluating how an item looks like it feels. Take the picture above, for example. Consider how you’re easily able to tell that the surface of the coffee table feels rough, while the blanket on the couch is soft.

Successful interior design is all about layering these contrasts. When you’re sprucing up a room on a budget, take stock of the textures in the accessories you already own. Then, look for additional items that would serve as their opposite. If need be, consider moving your existing accessories to different rooms as a way of giving your home an update that’s free of charge.

 

Include various types of lighting. Image: Black and Milk

3. Re-evaluate lighting

“You’ll need lighting in all the corners of the room; try to avoid just one ceiling light,” says Sarah Elsley, the voice behind Dream of Home. “Use wall lights and floor lights together, so the lighting isn’t concentrated to one place and spreads in an even glow around the room.”

There are four distinct types of lighting you can incorporate into a space. They are:

  • Natural: Any light that comes into your home from the outside via doors and windows.
  • Ambient: Light meant to illuminate the entire room, usually from an overhead source.
  • Accent: A light source that’s meant to highlight a particular feature of the room.
  • Task: Lighting used for a specific purpose, such as desk lamps or reading lights.

Ideally, a room involves a combination of these light sources. Take stock of the lighting you have in place and then look for which types are missing. Fill in the gaps where needed and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference you’ll see.

 

Styled surfaces give your home a curated look. Image: Alvhem Mäkleri & Interiör

4. Give surfaces deliberate style

“Coffee tables, side boards and bookshelves scream to be styled. It is amazing what you can pull together from the items in your own home. No need to go shopping for knickknacks; try shopping in your home first,” suggests Ana Cummings, the owner of ANA Interiors.

Pulling off this tip is all about having the arrangement look intentional. In all honesty, the items you put on these surfaces aren’t as important as how you display them. Do your best to lay out your items in groupings, stick to odd numbers and be sure to vary the pieces in terms of their direction, size and color. If need be, you can always look for some design inspiration to help you get started.

 

Sometimes small changes make a big difference. Image: International Custom Designs

No matter what your personal style is, at some point, you’re probably going to want to change things up. When that happens, there’s no need to wait until you’ve saved enough money to redo the whole room. Even the pros say small design changes can make all the difference. Keep their advice on hand for the next time you need to shake up your interiors. Their tips will help you make a huge impact at an affordable price.

Posted by Tara Mastroeni on Freshome

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Best Home Improvements For Every Month Of The Year

The best time of year to buy a refrigerator is right around the corner.

Does it feel as if your home improvement to-do list never ends? Try organizing your projects by month. Then knock these 12 items off your list.

Once you become a homeowner, the number of things you need (or want) to improve increases exponentially. There’s always something to be done. But certain times of year are better to tackle specific projects, whether your goal is to save money or sanity. Not sure where to begin? We’ve laid out a schedule below.

January: Clean your carpets and rugs

It may seem counterintuitive to do this when it’s cold out, but according to Jonathan Barnett, founder of Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning in Lakewood, CO, your flooring gets really dirty during the winter. Waiting until spring to remove all that grime can make it harder to get stains out. “Plus, the lack of humidity during the winter months allows moisture to evaporate quickly so wet carpets dry faster,” Barnett says. “And a clean carpet provides a healthier and better-smelling home, which is especially important during the winter, when most people spend the majority of their time indoors.”

February: Paint a room or two

Now is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project that you can enjoy year-round. “Indoor projects aren’t weather-dependent; it’s more of a supply and demand thing,” says Shaun McCarthy, president and owner of Handyman Connection in Colorado Springs, CO. If you’re hiring someone to paint for you, winter is a good time to do it. You’re likely to get a much better price than you’d get during the spring and summer, when many people book exterior painting jobs. But even if you’re planning to do it yourself, there are still benefits. Brisk winter air is good for curing paint, so cracking that window for ventilation serves a double purpose. (Unlike humid summer air, it won’t make your paint take longer to dry.) While you’re at it, if you haven’t weather-stripped or caulked your windows and doors, do it in February before the winds of March set in, says McCarthy.

March: Clean your gutters

“The most common problem I see in my home inspections is a wet basement or crawl space,” says Marc Shanley, a certified master inspector at Trinity Inspection, which services homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. One common culprit? Clogged gutters, which do an ineffective job of directing runoff away from your home’s foundation. All that moisture can cause major foundation problems. Depending on your gutters (and whether you have overhanging trees), you may need to tackle this task more than once a year. Even so, it’s best to do this before the April rains hit.

April: Refinish your hardwood floors

If you’ve discovered hardwoods beneath your new home’s carpeting, wait until spring to complete this labor-intensive but transformative task. “If you wait until it’s really hot out, the finish can cure too quickly and the sheen might not dry properly, which leads to a glossy, uneven finish,” says Arne Johansson, owner of Arne’s Floor Sanding in Minneapolis, MN.

May: Buy a new refrigerator

Although most large appliances go on sale later in the year, refrigerators have their moment in May, in preparation for the summer. To make room for that new inventory, the older versions usually go on sale, which can mean big discounts for consumers. Want even more savings? Consider energy efficiency (look for the Energy Star certification) and ask if you can buy the floor model. Don’t forget to haggle!

June: Freshen up your exterior

Now’s the time to wash your windows (or pay someone to do it), power-wash your siding, and install screens in your windows. Before you power-wash, be sure that all your weatherstripping and caulking is secure (and your windows are closed). Otherwise, you risk shooting the cleaning liquid into your house, says McCarthy. He also advises testing the washer’s power on an inconspicuous area of your exterior beforehand. “You want to clean your house, not take the paint off of it,” he says.

July: Fertilize your lawn

“Your lawn needs a solid four to six fertilization applications throughout the year to keep it healthy and growing,” says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, an app that matches customers with landscapers. “Fertilizing in July will give your lawn the vitamins and nutrients it needs to get through the rest of the hot summer months. Also, this midsummer application helps to prevent weeds from germinating — setting you up for less weed pulling in the fall.”

August: Paint your home’s exterior

The best time to paint your home’s exterior is when temperatures remain consistent from day to day and don’t drastically dip overnight. “The real key,” says McCarthy, is “to work your way around the house so that you’re always painting in the shade.” First, map out what time of day the sun hits each side of your home, then paint accordingly. Of course, you could always hire a pro for this task. You might want to get some estimates, especially for a multistory house. Investing in the equipment (including a tall ladder or two) might not be worth the cost or the hassle.

September: Replace your windows

Caulk adheres better when the temperature is between 40 and 80 degrees, so those glorious days of late summer and early fall are an ideal time to replace your windows. Plus, when the cold weather does hit, new windows will keep the heat where it belongs — inside your house.

October: Buy new appliances

Big-ticket appliances such as stoves, washing machines, and dishwashers debut their newest models around this time of year. That frequently means deep discounts on the old ones. Some retailers will even start their holiday sales early. Double savings!

November: Remodel your bathroom

Contractors are entering their slow season this month, so they’re more willing to jump on a small project and get it done quickly, says McCarthy. “A powder room is a good way to test a contractor out, especially if you’re in the market for a larger renovation like a kitchen,” he says. “If you like the way it turns out, great; if you don’t, it’s low risk.”

December: Build a deck

You’ll probably get a good deal, because deck builders will be winding down for the winter. But adding a deck onto your house when it’s cold out makes sense from a building perspective too. December is less humid, so if you’re using pressure-treated wood, it’ll dry more consistently and evenly. Also, the hot sun won’t beat down on it, which can cause warping and cracking.

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Truila

 

13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

Enjoy that hard-earned tax return money on summer evenings by adding a privacy fence or outdoor kitchen.

Your tax refund feels like found money, doesn’t it? Here’s how to use it to spruce up your living space.

April brings many lovely things: warmer temperatures, flowers beginning to bloom, and hopefully a check from Uncle Sam once you’ve filed your taxes. It’s enough to make you giddy with possibilities — no matter the size of your refund. “While it’s typically not sufficient to fund major home improvement projects such as a new addition or a kitchen renovation, it can often provide enough cash to accomplish a wide range of home up-fits and improvements,” says Leigh McAlpin, principal of Dwelling Interiors & Design in Charleston, SC. Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.

$500 refund: It’s all in the details

Hire a professional organizer. “Since tax refunds often come during the springtime, you can tie this to spring cleaning,” says Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, co-owner of Nestrs, a construction, design, and organizing company in New York, NY. Most organizers charge a day rate, and if you work efficiently, a day or two might be all you need to banish clutter. Before you hire one, be sure to ask if they’re certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, says Roussos-Karakaian. “It’s a good way to gauge how serious they are about their career.”

Recaulk and repaint your baseboards. “The top of the baseboard where the molding meets the wall gets really dirty over time,” says Roussos-Karakaian. “Caulking and giving it a fresh coat of paint can bring your walls back to life.” Contractors and painters typically charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6 per linear foot depending on the size of your baseboards, so if you don’t DIY it, this project may cost closer to $1,000.

Buy a new rug. The right rug finishes a room, and purchasing one is an excellent way to spend a smaller return. “A general rule for area rugs is that the outer edges of the rug should be between 6 and 18 inches off each wall, closer to 6 inches from the walls in smaller rooms, and up to 18 inches from the walls in larger areas,” says McAlpin. While it may be tempting to buy a small rug to save a few dollars, doing so will make your entire room look out of scale, she advises. “If it’s an open-concept floor plan, use area rugs to frame seating and dining areas, which will help to define the different uses of the space.”

Add curb appeal. Adding or updating some of the essentials, like a new mailbox, some flower boxes, new house numbers, outdoor lighting, and shrubs, can give your home a face-lift. Take your exterior upgrades to the next level by painting your front door. Want an even bigger payoff? Repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.

$1,000 refund: Think upgrades

Upgrade your water heater. It’s not a fun or sexy purchase, but swapping a standard water heater for a tankless model will save energy — and money — because it heats the water only as needed, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a network of home improvement professionals.

Give your ceiling a lift. Ceilings are easy to overlook, but revamping yours is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room, says Sassano. “If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a professional to scrape them smooth,” he says. “Then look for DIY projects like installing crown molding or box beams for a fresh look.” A simple coat of fresh paint can do wonders too.

$2,000 refund: Add style

Upgrade your home’s lighting. If your entryway or dining room has flush-mount fixtures, swap them out for chandeliers, suggests Roussos-Karakaian. “It brings the light down, which makes it more purposeful, and aesthetically dresses up the room,” she says. But in any room, like with this semi-flush mount bedroom fixture at 629 Ames Way, Dover, ID 83825, swapping in new lights for those builder-grade finishes will give your home a customized look. And while you’re at it, swap out your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. “LEDs are really affordable right now. They come in warm and cool colors and all sorts of wattages,” says Roussos-Karakaian. Bonus: You’ll save energy too.

Treat yourself to wood flooring. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $12 per square foot for quality hardwood flooring — potentially more if you choose professional installation. But this favorite home upgrade can return 1.5 to two times its cost when you sell, so it’s a worthy investment.

Build a deck or enhance the one you have. Of course, the cost of your deck will vary based on size and details, but a small deck typically costs about $2,000. And it’s a favorite feature for homebuyers — by far the most common amenity mentioned in Trulia listings across the U.S., with 22 states claiming it. It’s not a huge surprise that decks are so popular, though, considering they bring in an 80% to 120% return on your investment.

$3,000 refund: Add features with ROI in mind

Add a backsplash to your kitchen.Kitchen upgrades often have some of the highest returns on investment when it comes to home improvements. If you have neutral cabinets and floors, opt for tiles with big, bold prints, like the backsplash of the kitchen at 5769 Adair Lane, Plano, TX 75024, says Roussos-Karakaian. Or go super-DIY and buy peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which are inexpensive and removable, but look luxe.

Splurge on French doors. “Consider turning two [adjacent] windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors,” says Sassano. “Full-view glass doors can brighten up any space and help bring the outside in. And modern doors are energy-efficient, which cuts down on heating and cooling costs.”

$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy

Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one. While cost will vary depending on the size of your yard and what materials you use, a sure way to keep costs down is to avoid common mistakes. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, make sure you get the pipes marked beforehand to avoid damaging them. It’s also a good idea to have your property surveyed before you begin. Some fence installers won’t put in your fence without one! The reason? Installing your fence on what turns out to be your neighbor’s land can be an expensive error to fix. The privacy fence pictured above, at 12021 36th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125, connects with the privacy fence of the home next door — another way to save costs.

 Create a simple outdoor kitchen. With warmer weather on the horizon for most of the nation, now’s the time to enhance your barbecue area. Keeping the essentials in one place, an outdoor kitchen gives you party access while you cook — no running back and forth from kitchen to grill. To create one, purchase a premade grill island or structure that has countertops and storage space (you can even get one with a built-in grill). Add a mini refrigerator and some outdoor furniture, and let the party begin.

 

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

Homes Under $200K With Great Curb Appeal

Stylish, affordable, and well-kept. These homes may tempt you to write a down-payment check before even stepping inside!

Whether you seek a craftsman home or your taste is more contemporary, these homes have the style you want at a price you’ll love.

Curb appeal might not be at the tiptop of your home-buying wish list, but maybe it should be. Attractive landscaping and a welcoming exterior can draw in buyers like you — but also increase your resale value when you’re ready to move on. The good news is that great curb appeal is available at every price point. We’ve found homes for sale under $200K across the country, from Pittsburgh, PA, to Sahuarita, AZ. And they all have plenty of presence at an affordable price.

Cute and vintage: $142,900, 2715 N. 68th St., Milwaukee, WI 53210

Boutiques, eclectic coffee shops, restaurants, and yoga studios occupy West North Avenue, a short walk from this adorable ranch home. The sweet two-bedroom, one-bathroom home has a gorgeous front yard. Visitors will be drawn in by the manicured boxwoods that line the sidewalk, archway, and climbing vine. Inside, hardwood floors, French doors, and crown molding add to the home’s cottagelike feel. But the most notable feature is in the backyard. There, you’ll find a private, fenced lawn with a patio that’s made for spring entertaining.

Desert beauty: $163,900, 116 W. Camino Rancho Vecino, Sahuarita, AZ 85629

Sahuarita has it all: great restaurants, an easy commute to Tucson, AZ, mountain views, and tons of golf courses. This home adds to the town’s charm. A stucco exterior complements the desert landscaping. The low-maintenance front yard adds a bit of Zen, with a few pops of color from flowering plants. No mowing needed! The neutral color scheme continues inside, making the 1,780-square-foot floor plan feel bigger. The three-bedroom home includes a large master suite and new appliances in the laundry room.

Peaceful and parklike: $174,900, 142 Jacks Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15214

It’s only a short drive from I-279, which brings you right to the center of Pittsburgh. But this charming three-bedroom brick home feels as if it’s tucked in the woods. The home has a tidy landscape on a parklike lot that exudes country comfort, and it’s close to five gorgeous parks. But don’t overlook the home’s remodeled interior, with crown molding and a designer-inspired paint scheme. The neighborhood offers public transportation within walking distance and easy access to Pittsburgh’s hospitals, shopping, and schools.

Big style, small price: $191,345, 1910 Macondray Drive, Humble, TX 77396

It may have a modest name, but Humble has a lot going on. There’s plenty of shopping and restaurants, and it’s close to Houston, TX, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. In the peaceful Woodland Pines subdivision, this four-bedroom home’s contemporary exterior and landscaped front lawn make a great first impression. The neat grounds underscore the home’s well-cared-for appeal, and with plants in pots and in the shade, there’s no intimidation factor. The backyard offers plenty of recreation space, with a large covered patio. And the neighborhood pool and playground are steps away.

Desert deluxe: $199,000, 138 E. Juniper St., Mesa, AZ 85201

This upgraded home in Arizona’s third-largest city is big on personality. But it’s not just the fabulous palm tree in the front yard that will pull you in. Low-maintenance landscaping, lined with river rocks, makes a charming (and easy-to-care-for) front yard. And the home’s color scheme, drawing inspiration from its desert surroundings, sets off those always-sunny skies. Interior updates include fresh paint, new kitchen countertops and appliances, and new flooring. Mesa’s relaxed, suburban feel pairs well with its year-round festivals, plentiful parks and green space, and thriving cultural district. This three-bedroom home puts you right in the middle of it all.

Southern stunner: $199,900, 3608 High Battery Bluff NW, Acworth, GA 30101

Filled with historic buildings and surrounded by gorgeous natural features, Acworth is the kind of town where visitors flock for weekends. Walking trails, Lake Allatoona, and Lake Acworth are close by. This home in the town’s quaint Charleston Park neighborhood lets you take full advantage. The craftsman-style home’s front door — complete with transom window — hints at the charm and comfort within. A welcoming front porch and colorful landscaping beckon from the sidewalk, and the home’s color scheme is a soothing backdrop to all that greenery. The interior boasts a spacious living room, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms.

Blond brick charmer: $200,000, 11422 Sky Way St., Cypress, TX 77429

Right in the middle of suburban Cypress, this four-bedroom home sits on a quiet cul-de-sac. The two-story home has fresh exterior paint, a new front door, and a large, flat lot with refreshing shade trees. With blond brick, a fresh coat of paint, and well-manicured shrubs, this charmer is ready for buyers. Thoughtful updates continue inside, with a granite backsplash, a huge master suite, new flooring, and new appliances. Best of all, the restaurants, nightlife, and shopping on Jones Road are nearby.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

 

Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Fix Up Your Home Like a Flipper

Flipping homes is a thrill, but don’t forget your own home’s potential. Enjoy that new-home feeling again with these simple tips.

If you’re anything like me, you may find that it’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush of flipping houses. I’ll admit — buying an old house, fixing it up, and flipping it for a profit is pretty exciting. But if you get too distracted by flipping houses, it’s easy to let your own home fall by the wayside.

While profitable remodeling projects can be more tempting to work on, you can still benefit from tackling projects in your own home. Remodeling your home will not only up its value, but also improve the way you feel about it. After all, who wouldn’t love to cook in a newly remodeled kitchen?

Here are five easy, inexpensive projects that will really make a difference in how you feel about your home.

Add a new coat of paint

Whether you decide to paint your kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom (or all three!), a coat of paint can instantly transform the look and feel of a room. The best part about painting your own home is that you don’t have to stick to neutrals, because you aren’t trying to attract any buyers.

If you’ve been dying to paint your kitchen red or your bathroom blue, then do it! This is your chance to paint your home the colors that make you happy.

Refresh your kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a home, so it should be one of the first rooms you remodel. And unless you moved into a brand-new home where you were able to design your kitchen from scratch, chances are there are a few things you’ve been eager to change.

If you’re lucky enough to have nice wood cabinets, don’t worry about replacing them. A splash of paint and some new hardware can work wonders and make your kitchen look brand new, without having to spend hundreds on new cabinets.

The same goes for laminate or wood countertops. There are plenty of DIY kits you can buy to transform your countertops for a fraction of the cost.

A new backsplash is also an inexpensive way to add some life to your kitchen — plus it’s a cinch to install.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Install new doorknobs, faucets, and light fixtures

While they are probably the easiest feature to overlook, new doorknobs and fixtures can make a huge difference in a room. Depending on the type of doorknobs you purchase, and considering that most homes have quite a few knobs, the price can add up pretty quickly.

If you don’t have the time or money to replace all your doorknobs at once, work on replacing just a couple every month, starting with the most obvious ones.

Faucets can get pretty expensive as well, especially if you want to replace them in both your kitchen and bathroom(s). If you want to save some money, I recommend searching online or heading to the clearance section of your local home improvement store.

If you’re lucky, you can find great deals on some beautiful faucets. Replacing all your faucets at once might not be feasible, so don’t be afraid to take your time with this project. Before you know it, you’ll be able to enjoy the luxury of attractive faucets in all your rooms.

As for light fixtures, you may already have fixtures that you like, but they just need a color update. Instead of buying new fixtures, grab a can of spray paint and go to town. It’s amazing what a difference a $3 can of spray paint can make!

Revive your bathroom

A coat of paint, wainscoting, and a fresh shower curtain and linens are all super easy ways to instantly transform your old and tired bathroom.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you could even replace the flooring or change up the vanity. Getting ready in the mornings will be that much more enjoyable if you can do so in a beautiful bathroom.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Boost your curb appeal

While it’s always satisfying to remodel the interior of your home, you don’t want to forget about the exterior. Fortunately, there are a couple of simple changes you can make to really boost your home’s curb appeal.

If you can’t afford to replace the front door, try painting it instead. A new porch light fixture, house numbers, and a mailbox can also make a huge difference for your home’s exterior.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to stop coming up with excuses. Go fix up those kitchen cabinets that you’ve hated since you moved in!

 

Posted by Christina El Moussa on Zillow

How To Keep Your Home Warm, According To People Who Live In America’s Coldest Cities

There’ll be no Jack Frost nipping at your nose when you follow these tips to stay toasty indoors.

Does the mere mention of winter bring to mind drafty days and chilly nights? Follow this advice.

The struggle to keep warm is real, especially when temperatures start to dip below freezing. No one knows this better than the citizens of cold climates. But what’s the best way to deal with the chill? Is having a programmable thermostat worth it? Do heavy-duty curtains really curtail the cold? We asked our frigid-weather friends for their best tips on staying toasty indoors when winter is in full force. And no, moving to Miami, FL, wasn’t one of them — though that’s not a bad idea.

1. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed

If your windows and doors are super old, and it’s in your budget to do so, replace them. Jeana Kraft, a resident of Wausau, WI, says her family opted for a brand of windows that are manufactured in northern Minnesota, one of the coldest places in the country. “I think they have an edge on designing windows that can withstand long, very frigid winters,” she explains. Otherwise, try placing clear plastic over especially drafty windows or add a threshold seal to your sliding doors, suggests Brian Hugins, who resides in the suburbs of Chicago, IL.

2. Invest in insulating curtains

“This is particularly useful for sliding glass doors, older windows, or if you have a couch in front of your windows,” says Karen McConnell of Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. “When you’re reading or watching TV, it’s pretty hard to get comfortable with an icy breeze trickling through, and curtains can mean the difference between coziness and cranking up the heat (and the corresponding utilities bill) yet again.”

3. Keep the doors between rooms open

“Because of our house’s wonky heating system, some rooms get really cold, whereas others are overheated,” says McConnell. “We’ve found that if we keep the doors open to the overheated ones, it helps to keep everything a little more balanced and comfortable.”

4. Stock up on flannel sheets and down comforters

“We still keep a lot of blankets on hand in sitting rooms, and we place flannel sheets on the beds,” says Kraft. For McConnell, pairing flannel sheets with a down comforter makes a “huge difference on cold nights.” Never underestimate electricity-free means of keeping warm.

5. Install a programmable thermostat

“But make sure you re-evaluate your settings every few months, particularly if you have different heating/cooling zones in your home or your lifestyle has undergone any changes,” advises McConnell. “I realized I needed to do this when I wandered into our family room and was surprised by how toasty warm it was. We still had the heat settings tailored to when my daughter was younger and we spent almost all our time there.”

6. Splurge on floors with heated coils

“We have them in our master bath, and I thank God each time I wake up on a cold, dark morning and step onto my heated bathroom floor,” says Kraft. “If someone told me that I had to take 1,000 square feet off the design of my home in order to meet the budget for a heated bathroom floor, I would take the heated floor.”

7. Light a fire

“We had a wood-burning fireplace in both our previous and current homes, and on cold nights, it could heat the whole house,” says Kraft. If you do light a fire, be sure to close the chimney flue once you put it out. Otherwise, you’ll let in a lot of cold air.

8. Insulate your attic

“That was the first thing we did when we moved into our house,” says Heather Wiese, of Dexter, MI, outside Ann Arbor. It’s a weekend project that the U.S. Department of Energy estimates can save you 10 to 50% on your energy bill. You can use either loose fill insulation (and “blow it in” with a machine you can rent from a home improvement store) or batts, which are sold in large rolls. Pro tip: Be sure to fix any air leaks with foam sealant or caulk, or the extra insulation will be for naught!

 

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia