They say change is good—but designers know that some changes are better than others. While there’s a time and a place for a whole gut renovation, sometimes you just want to make a small change that will have a big impact on your space. That could mean you’re DIYing or calling in an expert, working toward a more organized kitchen, or picking a paint color that will change the mood of your living room.
Before you break out the sander, paintbrush, or checkbook, think about what it is that would make your home that much happier. And if you need inspiration, here it is. We asked some of our favorite interior designers which unexpected little upgrades make a huge difference in home renovations. Their answers prove that, sometimes, change isn’t just good, it’s amazing—and easier to accomplish than you might have thought.
“For a recent reno, we installed three skylights in the kitchen. The results are incredible— it expanded the entire space, poured in natural light, and brought in the outside.” —Hollie Velten, @spacesbyhollievelten
“Unifying moldings and enhancing the scale of baseboards might seem like a small detail, but these architectural elements offer a cohesive, nuanced look throughout your space, elevating the alchemy of any design.” —Morgan Madison Design, @morganmadison__
“One small-but-mighty thing that will, for sure, have an impact on the look and feel of your home is faucets. This is something that you use every day, so let it have its moment. Upgrading your faucet can make a huge difference in the fluidity of a space.” —Zoey B., @gracynraehome
“Wallpaper can be a big impact in a small space, like a powder room. Adding wallpaper behind a standard sink will make it POP, and fun wallpaper can pull the sink and floor tile together is a way that avoids a gut reno. Then, spruce the space up with a new light and mirror and you’re good to go!” —Michelle Gage, @michellecgage
“My house was built in 1915, with magnificent architectural details, but all that mahogany made it moody and dark. So I painted the mahogany woodwork off-white, using Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White. It immediately opened up the entire home.” —Kendall Wilkinson, @kendallwilkinsondesign
“Diminish the number of recessed lights per room as much as possible. Try to modernize any 6-to-8-inch-diameter recessed lighting by replacing them with smaller ones and, perhaps, even a different shape.” —Penny Drue Baird, @pennydessins
“I always try to nudge the kitchen windows larger. Enlarging kitchen windows, even six inches wider or taller, can make a huge difference in the overall light. Whenever possible, I put a window on every exterior wall in the kitchen, even if the view isn’t great. Having the extra light transforms the room, and we can always make up for lost wall storage somewhere!” —Sarah Robertson, @studiodearborn
“The right outlets can change your daily life. Installing floor outlets in a living room means you won’t have cords everywhere, and hidden outlets in the kitchen allow you to plug in appliances right where you need them.” —Brian Paquette, @brian.paquette_
“You can never go wrong with a well-placed sconce. I love them in kitchens (I often prefer them to pendants), in bedrooms (over a nightstand in lieu of a lamp), and up a staircase.” —Jenny Marrs, Author of House + Love = Home, @jennymarrs
“One often-overlooked aspect of home design is switch and outlet covers. Replacing cheap switch and outlet covers with screwless plates can give your walls a sleek and modern appearance. These offer a seamless, clean look that eliminates visible screws, creating a polished and sophisticated finish.” —Kati Curtis, @katicurtisdesign
“Things that you touch and interact with multiple times a day should be the best quality they can be. Interior doors are one of these things—solid wood interior doors feel so much better when you open and close them, and they’re also better for sound control.” —Colleen Simonds, @colleensimondsdesign
“Spruce up your trim. Making sure casements are aligned, removing fur downs, consistent ceiling heights – all of these details make a house look and feel as if it was amended correctly and give it more formality.” —Meg Lonergan, @meglonerganinteriors
“For my own renovation, adding the warming drawer was a major improvement. It is so much better than heating up things in a microwave, especially when we are entertaining. The food stays hot, and the guests are happy.” —Gail Davis, @gaildavisdesigns
“Replacing hardware on doors and cabinets can make an outsized impact on improving a room’s aesthetic, even if that’s the only change you’re able to make. People overlook hardware and think of it as purely functional, but changing it out for a more interesting shape or a different finish can elevate your space quickly and efficiently.” —Avery Cox, @averycoxdesign
“For a focused renovation that plays chess and not checkers, the biggest bang for your buck—hands down—is an updated paint palette. Changing the hue, sheen and range of a paint job has the power to instantly transform the feel of a room with just a steady hand and a couple brushes. It’s perhaps the most accessible design upgrade on the market.” —Kaelyn Guerin, @hausguerin
“Upgrading HVAC grilles makes a room look so much better. Get rid of the old builders’ HVAC grilles that may have been installed crookedly, have been overpainted, or just look generally crummy. I love flangeless grilles for a seamless look or brass decorative ones that bring an element of classicism to a home.” —Young Huh, @younghuh
A version of this article appeared in the November/December 2023 Renovations Issue of House Beautiful.