Upgrades that scream ‘luxury’ with cheaper-than-you-think price tags

(BPT) – Hand-planed, reclaimed hardwood floors? Beautiful but pricey. Custom drapery? The cost can be blinding. When it comes to home decorating, it’s easy to blow your budget on one or two upgrades – and maybe that would be OK if those improvements also amped up the drama in your decor. Too often, however, costly decorating ploys disappoint, wearing out or becoming dated before you’ve paid off the financing.

Fortunately, a handful of upgrades just scream “luxury” – while the price tags quietly snicker “this look didn’t cost an arm and a leg.” They may not be as cheaply priced as fresh paint or some new throw pillows, but these surprisingly affordable improvements deliver high impact at a manageable cost.

Adding skylights

Luxury, drama and energy efficiency are the trifecta of home decorating and improvement – and few upgrades deliver all three qualities as well as skylights. Because they admit abundant natural light into a room, skylights have a powerful impact.  Install Energy Star-qualified, no-leak, solar-powered fresh-air skylights like those from Velux America, and they can help reduce electric bills by providing natural light and passive ventilation. They draw no power and operate by a remote control that can be programmed for multiple functions.

Add solar-powered blinds and the cost of the skylights and blinds, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. What’s more, professional installation costs range from a low of around $900 to a high of about $2,100, with $1,475 being the average, according to HomeAdvisor.com.  

If you’re only interested in more natural light from above, or if a traditional skylight won’t fit in your space, VELUX Sun Tunnel tubular skylights, which are less expensive to both purchase and install, are ideal for closets, hallways, interior baths and other special spaces. To download a free app that can help you visualize how skylights will look in your home, visit www.veluxusa.com.

Gas fireplaces

Few improvements create ambience as effectively as a fireplace. While adding a wood-burning fireplace to an existing home may be difficult or impossible in many scenarios, modern gas fireplaces can go virtually anywhere – including interior walls. Advancements in the technology to make, operate and insulate gas fireplaces have made adding one a relatively easy process. Direct-vent fireplaces go on exterior walls and eliminate the need for a chimney. Vent-free models are also available for interior locations in a house.

The cost of installing a gas fireplace will vary, depending on many factors, including whether you have existing natural gas service to your home and a line in or near the room where you’ll be installing the fireplace. Although not a do-it-yourself job for most homeowners, installing a gas fireplace can cost as little as $3,000.

Wall murals

Humans have been painting scenes on the walls of our abodes since the days of cavemen. A wall mural can create virtually any effect you desire in any room of the house – drama in a living room, elegance in a dining room, relaxation in a master bath, cozy comfort in a kitchen or whimsy in a child’s bedroom. While a professional, hand-painted wall mural may cost more than your entire redecorating budget, modern wallpaper murals can allow you to completely alter the look of a room for less than $500.

Requiring no paste or trimming, wallpaper murals can easily be installed by the average homeowner. Repositionable varieties can even be taken down and moved from room to room.

Granite bathroom vanities

Granite remains the gold standard of luxury, beauty and function when you’re talking about countertops. Installing granite in a kitchen can be costly, especially if you have a lot of counter space to cover. With smaller vanities and less counter space, however, bathrooms cost much less to outfit in granite.

Professionally installed granite bathroom vanities can cost just a few thousand dollars. To get an idea of costs for your bathroom, use an online calculator like those found at remodelingexpense.com.