LIGHTING UPGRADES ON A BUDGET. The economy may be in the doldrums, but that doesn't mean your decor has to be there too. It's possible to turn dark, dreary and dated decor into light, lively and "now" on just a shoestring budget. What's the secret to sprucing up on a shoestring? Lighten up – literally.

Budget Solutions

Upgrading your home’s lighting can impart a whole new atmosphere, and you don’t need to spend big bucks on pricey new fixtures to do it. Simple, budget-friendly changes can make a big difference in how your home looks and feels, and how much you enjoy living there.

Here are a few tips for creating a big impact on a small budget.

First, consider the first impression guests (or potential buyers) have of your home. Upgrading exterior lighting, or entryway lighting, can improve the curb appeal and first impression of your home. Replacing old, worn-out fixtures, purchasing inexpensive landscape lights to highlight interesting architectural elements or plants-capes can have a dramatic impact.

Once you’ve upgraded the outside, take a look at the first parts of the house guests see – often the entryway or dining room on modern floor plans.

Changing the dining room chandelier and/or the foyer light can make major strides in improving the look and, in some cases, the efficiency of your home. Fixtures in the entryway should set the style for the rest of the house. Even a small flush-mount fixture can add style to an otherwise lacklustre entry.

Next, install dimmers throughout the house, even in rooms where you might not normally think of using them, like the kitchen and bath. An upgrade that’s well within the skills of most do-it-yourselfers, installing a dimmer can completely change the character and quality of a space. For example, dimmers in a bathroom enable you to use the facilities in the middle of the night without the jarring impact of turning on bright, overhead lighting. In a master bedroom, they can create a soothing or even romantic mood.

In other rooms, take a look at your table lamps. One way to make an impact on a small budget is by changing outdated lampshades with newer trend-forward versions that incorporate fashion-friendly colours, fabrics or patterns. The available selection of replacement lamp shades has never been greater and many are available at budget-friendly prices.

Consider how you use table lamps as well. How many do you use in a room? What types? Table lamps can create a more diverse quality of light, and adding a few accent lamps in a room can really change the look, feel and perception of size of a space.

Simple upgrades in kitchens and baths can also deliver big impact and enhance your home’s value on a shoestring budget, the experts agree.

Modern kitchens often hide lighting under cabinets or in the ceiling through recessed lighting. Adding fixtures that can be shown off and enjoyed can make a big impact. If you have a kitchen island or counter return, adding mini pendants is a good place to start. They add aesthetic appeal and build an interesting focal point at a very reasonable price. Or, upgrade from a simple single bulb fixture in the kitchen to a more interesting multi-bulb unit with a dimmer.

In baths and kitchens, consider replacing fixtures with dated finishes with more contemporary choices. Many manufacturers now make light fixtures in finishes that complement some of the more popular choices for plumbing fixtures.

Finally, when you’re lighting a room, keep in mind that you need to use more than one light and more than one kind of light. A balance of overhead lights (on dimmers), floor lamps and/or table lamps will produce the most aesthetically pleasing, liveable atmosphere.