Following are answers to two common design dilemmas – how to spruce up your space on a budget and how to make the most of a walk-in closet, both aesthetically and space-wise.

Q: Are there ways we can create a cleaner, more modern style in a home we just purchased, while keeping the cost reasonable?

A: After purchasing a home, there often isn’t much available cash left to pay for improvements. This is especially true in our competitive housing market, where securing a property usually means either paying over asking price, making a larger down payment or even paying with all cash.

When funds are limited and the to-do list is large, prioritizing is the best strategy. Start with the items that need the most improvement. This should give the most satisfaction as the changes start to materialize, providing the feeling that you are moving in the right direction and starting to accomplish your goals.

An example of how to do this is to create a list by walking around your home, inside and out, and noting the things you dislike. If there are many items that can’t be resolved initially, there could be three columns: “dislike,” “dislike a lot” and “extremely tough to live with.” It is obvious where we go from here.

Let’s assume the entire list consists of porch and garage sconce lights, living room window coverings, powder room wall covering, master bedroom closet organizers, fireplace remodel, dining room chandelier, backyard landscaping and kitchen remodel. The short list should be the easiest changes that are also “extremely tough to live with.”

One item that can be very impactful and not costly is light fixture swap-outs. Step back and observe the size and scale of the existing light fixture. Is it too large or too small for the space it occupies? (The tendency is too small.) Does the style convey the feeling you’d like when walking into your dining space? Should the metal finish be changed to align with any new finishes you are planning to install? If the new light fixture does not look great with the wall color, sometimes a larger piece of art helps to frame it better – saving the effort of painting the room, with the benefit of bringing art into the composition.

For new homes or remodels that may lack a light fixture, it is worth it to add a junction box over an island to drop a ceiling pendant in a shape that helps define the island while at the same time acting to celebrate it. A simple linear bent wood design helps a modern kitchen feel more special, while keeping aligned with the clean lines of the design. The right fixture can be the difference maker.

Q: How would we get the most improvement in a walk-in master bedroom closet, without modifying the walls or doors?

A: Most walk-in closets are not maximized to their full potential. The height can be divided up for hanging rods, shelves and drawers – all of which hang on the wall or on panels that are hung on the wall. Think about a zone of approximately 12-18 inches from the floor, up to about 7 feet from the floor. This is where it is easy to see everything in front of you and to reach things easily.

Roll-out hamper bags and angled shoe shelves allow for the most comfortable use of a closet. In taller ceiling closets, a high rod on swivel supports can be pulled down with a rod to access another layover of hanging clothes. Corner shelves keep the space from being wasted in a three-sided closet.

There is a good selection of neutral colors for the closet fittings – not only white or dark brown. To add some extra visual interest, try temporary or permanent wallpaper behind open shelves.

Pop a small LED light fixture in the underside of a shelf, shining it down onto the next shelf, which may be holding purses or accessories, and you’ve turned your walk-in closet into a mini boutique.

The door is another area where a quick fix can create a definite modern upgrade. As long as there is an adjacent wall that is as wide as the doorway itself, a swing or a bi-folding door can be swapped out for a barn door. and its sister company have many options for creating customized barn doors and hardware combinations. Or order the hardware and stop by Los Altos Hardware to pick up the wood to make your own door. (Because there is usually a way to keep your community involved.)

Sherry Scott is a Certified Interior Designer in California, professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers and the proprietor of Sherry Scott Design in downtown Los Altos, 169 Main St. To submit a question, email [email protected].