Investing in high-quality bedding can have a huge impact and freshen up a room. Bed Bath & Beyond has luxurious peices at low price points, such as $100 for this comforter set. Picture: Bed Bath & Beyond

Washington - Sometimes you look around your apartment and groan. Most people don't have the luxury of making over a space all at once, much less hiring an interior designer to do so. 

When money is tight, you might have to upgrade your place bit by bit. Luckily, slowly adding pieces helps to create a collected, personalized look. We asked several designers what single item they would add to a living room or bedroom to create the most impact on a tight budget.

R1 000 and under

You can do more with R500 than you think. For a bedroom upgrade, Meghan Hackett Cassidy and Erin Hackett of Hackett Interiors, a sister design duo based in Bronxville, New York, suggest buying small decorative items such as picture frames, boxes or dishes to spruce up bare dressers or bedside tables. 

These items add personality to a space for marginal cost and help tame all the odds and ends that might normally clutter surfaces. 

Switching out boring or oldhardware on dressers, nightstands and cabinets is another low-cost way to make used or inexpensive pieces look more high-end. This easy DIY project involves unscrewing the old knobs and securing the new hardware with nuts, bolts and washers. 

You can find textiles such as soft throws to add comfort and texture to a space at almost any price point. "Cotton and chenille are soft and are good for every season," Hackett Cassidy says. 

This is also a chance to play with textures, colors and patterns and an easy way to switch up the color scheme of a room seasonally. 

Replacing boring hardware on dressers and bedside tables can add personality to a room. Picture: Anthropologie

Many people think a single source of light is enough in a room, but often one lamp isn't sufficient. Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the tone of a room, and using multiple lights with varying levels of brightness creates dimension and flexibility for activities such as reading, cleaning or entertaining. 

Hackett Cassidy suggests spending $100 (about R1 500) on a pair of lamps to create soft, low light in a room. She favours symmetry in her work and likes to station pairs of lamps on bedside tables or dressers to add polish and create a feeling of cohesiveness. 

From an aesthetic standpoint, curtains and shades add warmth and softness, and they help with privacy and light control. "A window treatment can be one of the basic things you do that makes a space feel finished, even if it's far from it," Bean says. 

Custom panels can cost thousands of dollars, but Bean's team has a hack: Buy basic curtains and take them to a local seamstress to be pleated. "You likely can't even buy fabric for that cheap," she says. 

"Take it as high as you can to accentuate the height of the ceiling and hang the rod wide so the drapes stack beside the window," she says. If you have a sewing machine, you could even add trim or embellishments. 

The Washington Post