Do home renovation shows have you drooling over exposed brick wallscement tile backsplashes, and marble countertops, but you find yourself without the budget to make it happen? Don’t fret, these costly design and décor projects are easy to hack, allowing you to replicate expensive-looking designs with a few “fake it till you make it” ideas!

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your rental space, redecorate your home, or are a REALTOR® helping a client improve their home for resale, these easy design ideas will deliver impact without breaking the bank.

Image via HandyAndy.NYC on Instagram


Design hack: There’s no denying how much impact a tiled backsplash can have in a kitchen or bathroom. It completes the space and makes it feel finished. Tiling a backsplash yourself takes skill and patience, and hiring a contractor takes time and budget. If you don’t have either of those, consider faking it with peel-and-stick tiles. From funky to classic, peel-and-stick tiles have come a long way in terms of design. Available in large squares or single tiles, this budget décor project is perfect for renters or those looking for a quick, temporary, but stunning solution.

Estimated cost: $75 to $300+ depending on the size of the backsplash area.

Tip: When installing peel-and-stick tile, it’s important to make sure the area is clean and dry. This will ensure a strong hold, preventing the corners of the tiles from lifting, which is a common problem.

Image via NatalieSurdivalHome on Instagram

Feature walls

Design hack: Loving the look of shiplap, exposed brick, and barn board, but don’t have the resources? Fake it ‘til you make it! Forget about spending hours installing shiplap or the mess of exposing old brick, these eye-catching features can be brought to life with wallpaper or printed murals, and they look just as good as the real thing!

Estimated cost: $100 to $750+ depending on the size of the wall and type of covering selected.

Tip: If you are renting or sprucing up a space in order to sell, opt for the removable kind. This will prevent damage to the walls if it needs to be taken down.

Image via My City Apartment on Instagram

Marble countertops

Design hack: There’s nothing quite like the timeless look and durability of stone countertops, so if marble or granite is a must-have for you, start saving! In the meantime, you can hack those builder-basic laminate countertops into something just as beautiful using marble paint-based and epoxy resin kits or stone-like countertop film. While these products might not last as long as the real thing, you should be able to get a few years out of them.

Estimated cost: $300 to $700+ depending on the size of the countertop area.

Tip: Ensure these products look as real as possible by cleaning the surface thoroughly to remove any debris. This will allow you to apply the product smoothly, without air bubbles or streaks. Also, always follow the application instructions. Always!

Image via Desert_Hydrangea on Instagram


Design hack: What homeowner hasn’t dreamed of cozying up next to their fireplace with a glass of wine and a good book? In addition to their functional benefits, fireplaces have become a must-have design element and focal point. However, installing a real fireplace in your home isn’t without expense and caution, which is why more and more budget design enthusiasts are opting for electric. But how do you make those free-standing fireplaces and electric inserts look like they truly belong? Hack it! Build an insert surround from a real mantel, frame out your wall from floor to ceiling, or add built-ins to either side of a free-standing unit.

Estimated cost: $350 to $2,500+ depending on how elaborate you go.

Tip: Do your research when selecting an electric unit—not all are equal. Know how much clearance and airflow is required for your selected unit before building any type of structure and be sure to engage a certified electrician if needing to conduct any electrical work.

Image via Annavynguyen on Instagram

Black window frames

Design hack: Black window frames have quickly become part of the standard options when building a new home, but what about older homes with wooden panes, basic white vinyl, or dated coloured frames? If a $20,000+ window replacement project is out of reach, try bringing new life to the interior of your window frames using black paint. Want the industrial look? That might be as simple as applying some black electrical tape.

Estimated cost: $80 to $200+ depending on how many windows you are updating.

Tip: Success is in the prep work. Make certain your frames are clean and free from debris, then prime the frames with the appropriate primer and wait the recommended amount of time before applying any paint. This will ensure a good paint adhesion and prevent you from having to constantly touch up the windows due to flaking or peeling.

No matter the type of home project you are tackling, there are so many design ideas and easy hacks that can make your home look high-end and beautiful without breaking the bank!



From the classic Brooklyn brownstone to the exposed brick wall in what seems like every start-up’s office space, bricks offer both a classic and enduring design feature. While traditional brick laying is a time-consuming and expensive procedure for the average homeowner, installing interlocking bricks is a popular way to improve the appeal of any paved surface, be it a driveway, walkway, pool surround, or even walls. 

It’s important to understand the differences between interlocking and traditional bricks, as well as interlocking advantages and disadvantages, project ideas, and installation tips.

A bicycle sitting in front of a wooden garage with an interlocking drivewayImage via Unsplash

Interlocking bricks vs. ‘traditional’ bricks

Interlocking bricks are made by compressing a mixture of sand, soil and cement in an interlocking brick-making machine and curing them with water for seven days. They’re made to fit together, avoiding the use of mortar, using a self-locking shear-key and lock system. This allows for more aesthetically pleasing and functional designs when you’re using bricks for your driveway, patio, front walk, or other projects. 

Traditional cement bricks, like the ones used to build your home or buildings, are cut into their uniformly rectangular shape with a wire and bound together with mortar. Since they’re plastered, traditional bricks hold up longer to wear and tear, extreme weather, and insect infestation. That’s why they’re used for residential and commercial buildings, unlike interlocking bricks which are generally reserved for vanity projects.

If you’re using interlocking bricks for the exterior of your home, remember they can only be used for the first three stories of a building. It’s not safe to use interlocking bricks for tall commercial buildings. 

a home with stone facade and stone pathwayImage via Pixabay

The interlock advantage

Think of the savings

Depending on your project, interlocking bricks can be less expensive than traditional brick! They also require less labour for construction and maintenance, and a significantly shorter curing period—standard brick mortar can take up to 28 days to fully cure.

Reduce your emissions footprint

Since interlocking bricks are compressed and have more mass than standard ones, their internal temperatures provide a more environmentally friendly way to help keep building interiors cool in the summer heat

Earthquake safety

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, take note. Interlocking bricks used in retaining walls can be more resilient against earthquakes than traditional cement bricks. If the mortar that supports cement bricks fails, then so too does the entire structure, whereas interlocking bricks support each other. As a result, some governments have recommended building durable interlocking brick structures in earthquake-prone areas, like Nepal, California, and British Columbia.

How you can use them

The versatility and variety of interlocking bricks makes them ideal for improvements to your exterior landscape design. They’re also increasingly used for some interior features, like the much sought-after exposed brick wall in trendy loft spaces. 

A winding interlocking brick driveway


Driveways and walkways are among the most common uses, and for good reason. Interlock systems are more flexible and have a longer lifespan than poured concrete and asphalt. Plus, with a variety of shapes, colours and custom designs, interlocking driveways and walkways could boost your curb appeal and overall property value.

a set of patio furniture on an interlocking brick patio

Patios and garden features

Interlock brick features can also really tie your backyard together. An interlock patio can add texture, depth, and solid ground for al fresco dinner parties while reducing time spent on lawn care. Gardens encased in an interlock retaining wall help organize and protect your blooming flower beds

If you’re choosing an interlocking brick patio, keep in mind pesky weeds or anthills can eventually start to sprout through the cracks. Keep an eye on these and try some of our methods for keeping weeds and pests out.

an interlocking brick pool deck around an in ground pool

Pool decks

swimming pool surrounded by interlocking blocks or stones enhances appearance and improves pool safety by helping to reduce slippery surfaces. Plus, similar to how interlocking brick can help keep buildings cooler when it’s used for walls, it’s also cooler on your feet so you don’t have to worry about the heat while you sit poolside!

gray interlocking bricks being assembled on gravel

Adding interlocking brick to your home

You’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided an interlock feature is right for your building project. What’s next? It’s important to consider several factors that will affect your final product, such as: 

  • The size of the project (i.e., a long driveway or a small retaining garden wall?);
  • any borders or features that will affect the pattern and size or space;
  • the colours, patterns, textures, and mixture composition that work best for you; and 
  • maintenance and repair (i.e., do you want to seal your interlock for that extra layer protection from the elements?)

Once you’ve settled on the details, it’s time to start bricklaying. While in theory you could do this yourself, unless you’re a seasoned DIYer it may not be the best choice. More likely, you’ll want to seek out the help of a professional. Contact a landscaping contractor or ask a your REALTOR® if they have any contractors they tend to use. Your REALTOR® will also know the trends in your neighbourhood to see if interlocking brick features are the best option for your resale value. 

Interlocking brick is a great way to add personality and curb appeal to your home, and it comes with its advantages! Whether it’s your driveway, patio, and pool deck, you’re sure to end up with a design you love.

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