Living in an old home doesn’t mean you have to live in the dark ages. It’s cheap and easy to add 21st Century-beauty and convenience to your home without breaking the bank.

Our modest “stick house” was due for some changes, yet we’re on a budget, so here’s what we did to modernize safely and inexpensively.


Somewhere in the restoration of our 121-year-old home, we lost some windows on the south side of the house.

Despite that, our downstairs seems adequately lit by natural light from the large windows in every room, except for the kitchen. The kitchen was dark, sad and windowless. And a sad kitchen makes for sad food.

But, in the midst of a pandemic, and in our quest for happy food, did we drive all over town collecting germs and looking for what we needed?

No. We did what many self-respecting Americans are doing these days; we shopped online at Amazon.


As Amazon affiliate partners, we will earn a small commission if you purchase items from links in this article.



First, we replaced the woefully small, round light in the center of the kitchen ceiling with a 4-foot fluorescent fixture like this one from Amazon.That sure brightened things up, but we weren’t finished yet.

With this bigger, brighter light in the center of the kitchen, we were now standing in our own shadows at every counter. That would not do. No. It would not do at all.

ROPE LIGHTS – $18.99

Next, we put rope lights over the top of our cupboards. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And it was! The lights look nice, but don’t add much light to the workspace.

We got our rope lights at the Sono Flea Market that was once located in the Southgate Plaza. Those lights, purchased for a couple of bucks, are still blazing every day and every night as they have for at least the past 10 years. We hope your luck with rope lights is as least as good as ours has been.

These rope lights aren’t the exact brand as those from the flea market, but they are very similar. We recommend outdoor lights for the kitchen, just because of all the grease and humidity that floats in the air there.


Even with the new overhead light, we needed more light on the counter. We started with sets of halogen lights years ago, but they are expensive and hot. So we replaced those with adhesive led lighting strips under all our cupboards.

The new led lights are easy-to-install and now we stand before brightly lit counters when working in the kitchen.

As nice as our lights are, we’d probably choose these lights that are not only dimmable, but have colors, and can be controlled with your phone! How cool is that?


What? How smart can a thermometer be? Our Govee thermometer (Govee Temperature Humidity Monitor, Smart Bluetooth Room Humidity Sensor with APP Alert, 328 Feet Bluetooth Covering Range, 2 Year Data Record and Export), has been awesome to watch temperature and humidity in the window where we keep our plants in the winter.

We can already imagine how nice it would be to be able to control our strip lighting from the same application.


Still, we were without a kitchen window and budget constraints would not allow us to create one. So, after some research, we discovered FAKE windows! Yup. That’s right. They are designed to stick to a clean white wall. Our kitchen has wallpaper, so we removed the paper backing from only the edges of the window and used the sticky edges to adhere the image to the wall.

Yeh, yeh, yeh… we all know it’s fake, but it fills a void inexpensively and finishes the kitchen improvements for now.


After 16 years of locking and unlocking our well-traveled front door, we had to replace the lock. We decided to take a leap into the future and get a smart, programmable electronic lock.

This was a somewhat pricey home improvement, but it was totally worth it. Nobody ever gets locked out anymore, and we can change entry codes and keep track of comings and goings with the phone app. We don’t do that, but we could if we wanted to.

And there you have it: A completely modernized downstairs for less than $200. This is one set of totally affordable and easy home improvement projects to bring your home out of the dark ages.