2021 Home Makeover Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank

Couple adjusting painting on wall while leaning on sofa at home

Emily Shaw, of TikTok fame, gives us some budget-friendly redecorating tips


When most of us think about TikTok, we think of teens doing viral dance routines and funny videos of dogs. But Emily Shaw, a.k.a. @emilyrayna, has upped the ante on the platform, becoming an overnight sensation after redesigning her parents’ entire home while they were away for a month. With 3.5 million followers, she’s now made a name for herself as the go-to voice for interior design change ups that won’t break the bank. We spoke with Emily about how to upgrade a space on a budget, just in time for you to give your home a facelift for the new year.

Wake-Up Call: You went viral on Tik Tok this year because you create such beautiful spaces for so little money! For those of us without design training, starting projects like that can be so overwhelming. Where do we begin?

Emily Shaw: When it comes to starting a budget design project, the most important step is to get inspired and have concrete goals. For me, this means knowing the style that I am working towards, and getting an idea of what I want to happen in the space I’m working with. It’s important to think of key conceptual words that you want the space to embody (i.e. comfortable, inviting, inspiring), and try to envision those words as physical structures. Once you know what you want, it becomes easy to know which items you need to get rid of, because they don’t fit your aesthetic. With that information, you can sell what you do longer need in local groups (KCM suggests Facebook Marketplace) to get some money that you can then use to buy thrift items, upcycle old pieces, build, and more.

What are three easy ways people can upgrade a space?

One easy way to upgrade a space is to paint the walls a lighter color. If there is a deeper paint color that you have and love, try having it only on one wall as an accent. Having light colors such as white or off-white can help to bounce light around a room and make it feel larger (KCM suggests XYZ paint).

A second quick upgrade is adding an area rug (KCM suggests this print or this neutral). Whether your space has wood, tile or carpeted flooring, an area rug can always be used to help divide a space and make it a thousand times more cozy. I recommend choosing an area rug that pops against the flooring you already have.

A third easy way to upgrade your space would be to take all of those photos you have on strings or taped up, and put them in individual frames to turn into a gallery wall. Gallery walls feel much more elevated while still giving your walls life with the photos you love.

We’ve been home for so much of 2020 (and things won’t be changing soon), what’s the one thing you would tell people to splurge on to make your home feel new and fresh?

Personally I believe that any sort of home decor item can be made or thrifted without needing to splurge. I think an amazing investment would be to actually buy some tools so that you can continually upgrade your home as you grow as a person. Having some basic tools like a power drill, an electric sander, and a jigsaw can allow you to solve quick problems, refinish furniture, and cut wood on your own (KCM suggests this tool kit as a start). Being able to do these things makes the world your oyster when it comes to design and renovation.

When it comes to home renovations or even just small home facelifts, many of us don’t even know where to start looking. Can you give us some must-have product recommendations for every kind of space?

  • For the renter: There aren’t many changes that renters can make to their space, but one easy one is to buy some packs of inexpensive hardware online to replace outdated hardware in a space that may not reflect your personality. You should always keep the original hardware to replace it when you move out, but this is a great way to feel luxurious in your space without doing an entire renovation. These are the closet door knobs I currently have in my apartment, and I love them. The best part is we get to keep them when we leave, so I can choose to sell them or order more to use in our next place.
  • For those with limited space: I love this storage cart for small areas like bathrooms or laundry rooms. I used this particular one in a laundry room design to sandwich between washers and dryers for extra storage, and I added a piece of wood and a cabinet pull to the front to act almost as a fake cabinet drawer. It works amazingly!
  • For the college student: I used these placemats glued to some cardboard to make an affordable headboard for a dorm room, and it has been one of my favorite DIYs! I have seen so many people recreate it and upgrade their dorms to feel much more homey. I used six of them for a twin-sized bed.
  • For the person who keeps everything: Something that I learned very fast when cleaning out my parents’ home in order to start DIYing was that every generation is different, and that it is very common for theirs to collect items that my generation might throw away. This means that they need more storage solutions to be able to keep their spaces tidy. I thrifted a storage ottoman for my dad’s cafe area, and it is one of his favorite parts of the redesign because he can put his favorite books in it for easy access while also having a footrest to help with back pain. Although mine is thrifted, this one is very similar. 
  • For the bedroom: I love this table lamp from IKEA. It’s only $12.99, and it gives off the most amazing shadows and looks great with other decor items on a dresser. With a warm light bulb, it can be such a comforting light at night!
  • For the kitchen: The faucet I got my parents is currently sold out, but this one is very similar! It is super inexpensive compared to other faucets that you can buy from any store but still amazing quality. For the price you can’t beat it!
  • For the home office: Combining this table top and these legs from IKEA can make a super inexpensive desk for around $25. In my apartment, we lined up three of them in a row to have one long desk that we can both work at, and so far we love it for the price!