When I was undertaking a home renovation, I wanted to know, "What improvements are my homeowner friends most proud of?" I listened carefully when getting the requisite "house tours," and certain home amenities kept cropping up.
"I added a deck because I overlook a gorgeous wooded area," said my friend Kathleen in Madison, WI. My sister in San Antonio is most proud of her new kitchen, and crows about everything from her modern appliances to her adorable drawer pulls shaped like lemons and strawberries.
I agree, certain home improvements definitely can improve your family's lifestyle or, if you're so inclined, up your selling price. I found that these six small upgrades can give your biggest investment some legs.
1. Add French Doors
French doors let in light, expand the view to the outdoors and add a handsome architectural element. Ideal for a family room or dining room facing the lawn or terrace, they’re also great between interior spaces, providing both a room-to-room vista and sound barrier.
2. Build a Patio or Deck
Give your family a new outdoor room for the warmer months. Either a deck or patio brings you closer to nature and provides a great space for relaxed entertaining—especially if it’s big enough for a table, some comfy chairs, a grill and container plants. (If you opt for a deck, consider modern composite decking, more enduring than some woods.)
3. Put in Contemporary Lighting
Overhead track and cable lighting systems are both versatile and contemporary. You can aim small lights at artworks or suspend a row of pendant lights over the dining table. “Task” lights illuminate specific work areas, like a kitchen island. And if you ever want to change the fixtures, you can still keep the system.
4. Indulge in Spa Shower Fixtures
Turn your stall shower into a sybaritic mini-spa with soothing or stimulating sprays, such as wide shower heads that deliver both a soft rain and a pulsing massage; a handheld spray that gets the shampoo out fast (also perfect for muddy paws); and vertically placed body sprays at different heights that deliver an all-over wash. Or get all of the above together in a single modern “shower tower.” Most fixtures can be installed with existing pipes.
5. Upgrade Your Refrigerator
Today’s best refrigerators have separate temperature- and humidity-controlled sections for perishables, freezers below or above, pull-out freezer drawers and enough interior space to stock a restaurant’s supply. They’re more expensive than conventional fridges, but most homeowners agree they’re worth it. For food-at-a-glance, choose a glass door. Clad it to match your cabinetry, and it will all but disappear. Refrigerators are major consumers of electricity, so consider an Energy Star model and save.
6. Update Kitchen Hardware
For a quick, relatively inexpensive way to give the kitchen a sleek, chic look, install new faucets and new cabinet and drawer handles. Try modern bar handles on cabinets instead of knobs or pulls, matching the metal finish of your stove or refrigerator.