As you spend copious amounts of time in your house, you may find yourself bored and brooding. Instead of looking at social media for the hundredth time, try directing your energy into something productive — like tackling projects around the house that you’ve been putting off forever.

Here are some ideas for easy spruce-ups that you can pull off while social distancing, and a few projects to start planning now to take on in the post-pandemic future.

Projects for now

Yard work: Just in time for spring, do a DIY refresh on the yard. It’s a project you can knock out in a weekend for around $200–$500 — or less depending on your DIY skills. Call your local nursery and see if they’ll do a contact-less pickup. It’s amazing how much nicer the house will look with some fresh mulch and in-season flowers.

How to refresh your outdoor space, and keep your sanity, when you’re stuck at home

Cabinet glam: For a really low-budget refresh, change out the hardware on your cabinets and doors to newer finishes. Matte black and brass are popular now, while brushed silver is classic. The cost will vary depending on the style and finish you choose, but prices start very low — as in $19 for a 20-pack of drawer pulls. “You can get it all on Amazon,” says Diane Lancaster, a real estate broker with Lake & Company in Seattle. “I see it in multimillion-dollar houses all the time.” Order the supplies online and you’ve got a quarantine-friendly mini project.

Paint projects: What will get you the most bang for your buck? “It’s always paint,” Lancaster says. “Putting a fresh coat of paint on things, it’s like night and day. It just changes everything.” Hiring a pro will cost about $400 a room. If you’re patient and have a steady hand, this is a project you could take on yourself.

Light it up: Consider changing outdated or builder-grade lighting fixtures. Lowe’s, Home Depot and local hardware stores are still open and have a good selection of fixtures at reasonable prices. The chains also have online shopping.

Curb appeal: If you’re handy and up for a bigger project, consider replacing your front door to give your home a great first impression. A typical front door starts at $500. You can add glass to let light in or switch up the color. “It’s very inviting,” says Marcus Roberts, a real estate broker with The Cascade Team in Seattle. “It’s an easy way to show people take pride in their home from the outside.”


Projects to plan for

With the tight local housing market, many Seattleites are opting to put extra love into their current space instead of trading up to a more expensive home. If that sounds like you, imagine your fantasy home and plan a project that moves your space a bit closer to that level.

Kitchen makeover: “Kitchens, bathrooms — always the best return on your money,” Lancaster says. In Seattle, a kitchen remodel starts at $50,000 and jumps up exponentially from there. When you blow out walls or add windows, you’re changing the structure of the house, and that ratchets up the price tag fast.

It sounds like a ton of money (it is!), but consider this: In modern homes, the kitchen is the most important room in the house. Picture an open-concept kitchen with a big island in the middle, bar seating all around for your friends and family, and a gas range behind you. It’s perfect for anyone who loves to cook and entertain. “Pretty much whatever you do in the kitchen, you’re going to get your money back out of again,” says Ren Chandler, president and founder of Dyna Contracting in Seattle.

If your budget is tight, instead of doing a full-blown kitchen remodel, sand down and repaint your cabinets. Remember 20 years ago, when cherry cabinets and black granite countertops were all the rage? Well, they’re not the rage anymore. A coat of white or light gray paint will give those dated cabinet fronts new life. There are lots of YouTube videos, as well as a Lowe’s tutorial, that give step-by-step instructions.

Replace countertops with butcher block (always in) or quartz (same look as marble, but not as fussy). Or update your appliances: Stainless steel is still in and will run about $3,000$8,000 per piece for high-end models.


A better bathroom: It’s easy to close the door and try to forget about that ugly bathroom, but an upgrade is a good investment in your house — and your sanity. After all, it’s a place to have at-home spa days and practice relaxing self-care in this stressful time.

The hot look now is a modern twist on classic design — think 5-inch hex tiles and raw-edge cabinets — and everything light and bright. Can you add a skylight? “Anything in the Northwest to bring in light, I swear,” Lancaster says, laughing.

A full bathroom renovation will cost $25,000– $30,000 if you’re just replacing the finishes and not changing the structure. Going big, such as adding a half-bath or an en-suite bathroom to the master bedroom, will raise the cost considerably.

Planning tips: Unless you’re in the biz, you’ll need to hire a contractor for these big jobs. Ask around: Word-of-mouth referrals from your friends and neighbors are your best source of information. Check out the contractor’s references, look at their projects and talk to them about their experience. Ask tough questions: What’s a bad experience you had? What’s your history of sticking to a budget?

But don’t go too far before you pull together a really detailed budget. “I think it’s important to get a real number,” Chandler says. “You’re not going to change the backsplash tile and save $200,000. It’s important to get in the right range so you can make informed decisions.”