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5 Easy Holiday Spruce-ups You Can Do Now

This is the time to brighten your home with a coat of paint and new lightbulbs

Last updated: October 09, 2015 11:30 AM

It’s not too early to start sprucing up your home for the holidays. Concentrate on the areas of the house that will be used by your company—the living, dining, and powder rooms. You can always shut the bedroom doors. Here are five easy projects that will wow your guests without hurting your budget.

Make your front door welcoming

Replacing or repainting your entry door is one of the easiest and most effective ways to spruce up your house. To improve your home’s curb appeal, you’ll also want to give overgrown trees and shrubbery a trim and to move any lawn ornaments or furniture to the garage or shed. You can add a wreath just before company arrives.

When choosing a paint, remember that flat and satin paints can hide imperfections, but semi-gloss will add shine and make your door more of a focal point. Our top exterior paint is Behr Premium Plus Ultra, $39, sold at Home Depot. Clark + Kensington Exterior, $35, sold at Ace is also a top exterior paint pick.  

Spiff up the powder room

It doesn’t cost much to upgrade a small bathroom. Start by adding a new mirror and faucet or add a pair of sconces on either side of your existing mirror or medicine cabinet. Replacing cabinet hardware is also an easy fix.

But if you want to make a quick improvement that’ll also save you money in the long run, replace your toilet with a WaterSense model, which uses 1.28 gallons or less per flush instead of the typical 1.6.

Also consider a comfort-height model, which is more than 17-inches tall. Consider two CR Best Buys from our toilet tests that have both those features. The Glacier Bay N2428E sold at Home Depot and the Aquasource AT1203-00 sold at Lowe's both cost $100. For other affordable powder room updates, read, "Bathroom Remodeling Costs and Trends."

Paint a room or a wall

If you don’t have the time or patience to paint an entire room, try painting one or two accent walls. You can finish the job after the holidays if you end up loving the color, says Debbie Zimmer of the Paint Quality Institute. 

For best results, the PQI recommends using a top-of-the-line interior latex wall paint in flat or eggshell finish, which hides irregularities better than paints with a sheen. In our interior paint testsBehr Marquee, $43, from Home Depot, was excellent at hiding and stands up to scrubbing. Valspar Reserve, $43, from Lowe's is another good choice and our two CR Best Buys are Home Depot's Behr Premium Plus Ultra, $34, and Clark + Kensington Enamel, $32, from Ace.

Declutter and deep clean

Can’t see your dining room buffet under that pile of mail? Turn on your favorite TV show and use the time to sort through your papers. You should be able to find the top of the server after two episodes of "The Voice." (And as a bonus, you’ll be ready for tax time.)

It’s also the season to  deep clean your carpets, especially if you have pets. You can do some lighter cleaning later. In our vacuum cleaner tests, we found that upright vacuums did a better job than canisters at getting embedded dirt out of carpeting and found some that were also excellent at removing pet hair. Our top three bagged upright vacuums are the Kenmore Elite 31150, $350, the Miele Dynamic U1 Twist, $450 , and the Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog, $650.  

Dust off light fixtures and replace the bulbs

With the hours of daylight waning, you may find yourself straining to read the newspaper under the dining room chandelier. You can brighten your rooms in no time with just a dust cloth and some soap and water.

And since you’ll need to dismantle the fixtures to clean them, you might as well replace the lightbulbs with some new energy-saving models that cast the right light. In our lightbulb tests, we found many general purpose replacements for 40, 60, 75 and 100-watt lightbulbs. Two of our top-rated 60-watt equivalent LEDS from Samsung and Feit Electric scored 99 out of 100 and three more from 3M, Philips, and Great Value (Walmart) were almost as good. The price of LEDs continues to drop and many homeowners prefer the light quality to that of CFLs.

More tips and tricks

For more tips on what to do before guests arrive and how to clean up after they leave, read "How to Clean Up Common Holiday Messes."  

—Mary H.J. Farrell

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