1. Take a mattress on a metal frame to the next level with a new faux headboard. Paint and stencils will do the trick. Crafty tip: Pouncing (a dabbing motion used to apply stencil paint) prevents smears under the edges.
2. Create bold artwork worthy of a modern museum: Just wrap a large artist's canvas with a patterned sheet or an eye-catching fabric remnant. Pull it tight and staple to the back of the frame.
3. Keep things versatile by covering major pieces—the couch, an armchair—in a neutral shade or plain white. Then you can add color and verve by changing out pillows and accessories rather than doing a total overhaul.
4. Find chic, unique pieces at flea markets, tag sales or surplus sales. Never been? Pros know to go early; the best pieces are sometimes gone even before the sale officially starts. This is cash and carry, so bring plenty of small bills and a strong back or cart. Have a measuring tape with you so you don't have to pass on a great deal because you weren't quite sure if it would fit in your space.
5. Paint a cabinet door or part of a wall with chalkboard paint to create a family message center.
6. Give old pressboard bookshelves (the kind with that fake wood-grain look that never fooled anyone), a fresh look. Cover them in self-stick paper in funky patterns or a quick coat of bright paint and add mod wall appliqués.
7. Turn a funny-looking lamp base or an odd vase into a conversation piece with a coat of flat black paint or high-gloss white paint. The look is hip, and draws attention to the piece's shape rather than flaws like an atrocious pattern or color. Group several vases for a display with high impact and low cost.
8. Perk up a plain lamp shade with overlapping stencils in notice-me hues. DIY tip: Smaller stencil motifs are easier to hold down on a curved shade.
9. Pep up that tired chair from Grandma's attic with a simple slipcover. Upholstered monstrosities transform into the comfiest seat in the house with large drape-and-tuck slipcovers. Hardback chairs feel dressier with new seat covers trimmed with wide grosgrain ribbons.
10. Don't limit paint to the walls. A few quarts can give your floor a serious color boost and a touch of charm. Use a chalk line and a T-square to get perfect grids. Check a crafts store for thousands of stencils you can snag for a few bucks. Be sure to seal the deal with a protective coat of polyurethane.
11. Two words: throw rugs. Three more words: colorful, easy, cheap.
12. A small ceiling fan adds a pleasing element to a living area or bedroom. If you're handy with a few electrical basics (or know someone who is), you can make this upgrade for under $100.
13. Puny windows are a perennial problem. Solve it with an old decorator's trick: Hang stationary fabric panels on rods wider than the actual window frame to give the illusion of a much larger window.
14. Fill a large glass vessel (punch bowl, tall slender vase or squat pillar-candle chamber) with stones for a spa-inspired accent. Pick up pretty ones at a crafts store for less than $3 a bag, or take a walk by a lake or in the woods and pick some up for nothing.
15. Gather an armload of fallen leafy tree branches and make an instant arrangement in a sturdy vase or pitcher.
BONUS: 10 Things Every Woman Needs At Home