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5 Quick DIY Projects to Start the New Year

Simple, budget-friendly ideas for home improvements you can get done in a weekend or less.

January 26, 2021

Let’s be honest: mid-winter is a weird time. For some, it’s the recovery period following a hectic holiday season. For others, the weeks of January and February are for trying to reach a level of hibernation typically only achieved by bears. 

And then there are the people who get a little antsy, craving a new project or fresh challenge to kick off the year. This list is for those folks. Below are 5 easy-to-tackle home upgrades you can do this weekend, and even have time left over for a nap or Netflix binge.

1. Accentuate a wall.

You probably knew “painting” was going to be on the list (it’s truly one of the easiest ways to translate small cost into big impact). But for this project, let’s make things even easier and not paint the whole room.

Accent walls are great for adding fun or flourish, or even making some bolder strokes, without overpowering your space. They also take less effort and expense. So, go for it. Add a bright hue along a side of the entry way, offering a warm welcome to everyone who walks in. Consider chalkboard or dry erase paint for an area of the playroom or office. Design a sophisticated statement wall by coordinating designer switches and outlets and sconce-style light fixtures against a complementary shade. Or, skip the paint altogether. Love patterns and texture but have always been intimidated by wallpaper? Try it as an accent around the bathroom vanity. Have design commitment issues? Consider a gallery wall with embellished frames for a visual statement that only takes minutes to refresh. The potential is endless, start brainstorming!

2. Give your bathroom the spa treatment.

Sometimes the reward for hard work around the house is simply crossing a task off the old to-do list. But that’s not the case with this project suggestion. This time, you get to enjoy a relaxing oasis on the other side.

To start, maybe swap out the showerhead. It’s a quick change that you’ll feel the benefits of daily. Opt for one that features multiple pressure levels and patterns. Or maybe upgrade from a simple fixed or handheld showerhead to a model that includes both. Retailers like Amazon, Menards and Home Depot all have an extensive selection at a wide range of price points, and the latter even has a project guide to show you how install the new head.

Then, address the illumination situation. Just like a luxurious spa day, natural light is good for the soul. So, if you’re using blinds or curtains in your bathroom to maintain privacy, consider replacing them with easy-to apply privacy films. They are a quick and affordable way to let the sunshine in, without risking accidental exposure.

And on the electrical lighting side, bathrooms are a great place to upgrade to a dimmer. When cleaning yourself up is strictly obligatory, standard brightness from an overhead light will do. But when you’ve had a long, hard day and your bath or shower provides a respite from the world? Dimmable lighting can help you soften the space and create that needed sense of calm.

Lastly, plush up the details with a lush new bath rug, soft-as-a-cloud towels and a well-lit mirror.

3. Add or update a stair runner.

Flooring-related ventures don’t often qualify as “quick” or “easy,” but dealing with the condensed area of just a stairway makes this project faster and doable. And, it is also means your personal taste or creativity can really take center stage.

For something classic and straightforward, a dark neutral-toned runner with just a bit of texture will always look sharp.

Or, make the most of a stairway’s transitory purpose, and select a runner that is less expected – something colorful and abstract, or a rug in a subdued animal print.

There are numerous YouTube and blogger tutorials on how to put down a stair runner yourself, but even if you are too intimidated to tackle the full-runner version, super-easy-to-install stair treads are available in a ton of patterns, to give you the benefits of safety (no slipping!) and style without having to measure or cut any carpeting yourself.

4. Change out your hardware.

Yet again, a project with a lot of personalized flexibility. Hardware details pop up in a variety of rooms, letting you tailor this suggestion to your home’s needs and/or your level of ambition.

Looking around a bedroom, maybe you notice scratched or discolored knobs on the dresser. Browsing sites like Etsy, you can find a ton of gorgeous, distinct, even hand-painted pulls and knobs. Want something light but vintage? Check out these art deco pulls. Want something more eclectic and bohemian? These multi-colored ceramic knobs could do the trick.

Then, step into the kitchen and maybe it’s the faucet that looks a little outdated. Believe it or not, this is something you can definitely change out yourself with a little help from the Internet, like this tutorial from Lowe’s. The hardest part will likely be selecting the finish and style. Do you want to splurge a bit on something dark and refined, like this option from Kohler, or maybe something sleek and modern and stainless? Once you’ve got that figured out, then you can start adding other details, like new handles for the drawers and cabinets, and even designer wall plates in the same metal or material. There’s a perfect match for any hardware.

5. Get smarter devices.

​​​​​​​And lastly, when it comes to fast projects that will upgrade your home, and your lifestyle, smart technology offers a lot of bang for very minimal effort.

For example, a smart thermostat. Always, but maybe most especially in winter, the ability to adjust your home’s temperature via an app on your phone is one of the best things about living in the 21st century. But whether you want to schedule the furnace to start heating things up before you climb out of bed in the morning, or give the A/C a head start on cooling things down before you get home from a long outdoor run in August, the convenience is almost life-changing.

Similarly, the enhanced control and flexibility offered through smart lighting devices is a great addition for any home. Using the app for in-the-moment control as well automated schedules, you can easily get the exact lighting you need for any time of day or task at hand:  wake up to gradual brightening for a better morning; save a lighting scene just for movie nights so that there’s no glare on the screen, but you can still see the popcorn bowl; make sure you turned off the light in the garage while sitting in your office on the other side of town; never have to come home to a totally dark house. And while smart switches and dimmers were made to easily replace the not-so-smart versions on your walls, there are also plug-in options that require no installation and give you the same kind of control over lamps and small appliances.

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