By LuAnn Brandsen
From Home Sweet Solutions
While a major kitchen remodel may exceed your budget, you can enjoy a number of inexpensive updates now by cashing in on design creativity, smart materials and economical decorative touches to dress up your kitchen with comfort, warmth and personal style.
1. Add a touch of glass: A new backsplash can make a big design impact without you needing to spend big bucks. Heat-resistant glass is on trend for a backsplash, and its glossy good looks are especially fresh in subdued violets and seafoam greens. Equally sleek are mosaic glass tiles or the installation of plate glass over wallpaper or painted drywall.
2. Layer in lighting: Cost-efficient lighting can dramatically brighten your kitchen's functionality and mood. A monorail track system provides good overall lighting. Improve task lighting by adding inexpensive plug-in light strips under cabinets and pendants or chandeliers above the island or sink. Use accent lighting to highlight artwork and architectural details, and don't forget the small-but-always-effective dimmer switch to set the mood -- and save on your electric bill.
3. Replace hardware: Update drawer pulls and cabinet handles to give your kitchen a new look for minimal cost. If you fall in love with pricey knobs, use just a few as accent pieces on upper cabinets.
4. Leave a message: Create a handy message center by painting a cabinet door, pantry door, accent wall or the top half of a basement door with chalkboard or magnetic paint.
5. Dress the windows: Fashion simple valances or cafe curtains from lightweight fabrics in cheery colors and stylized patterns. For one-of-a-kind curtains, hang vintage aprons or stitched tea towels in a patchwork design.
6. Clear the clutter: Make your kitchen feel more inviting by using stackable and hanging storage, drawer inserts and baskets to keep clutter under wraps.
7. Make it cozy: Take a cue from your living room to add comfort and style: Repurpose furniture, hang drapes, incorporate artwork and make room for freestanding furniture, such as an armoire to hold cookbooks, a desk for an added workstation or a comfy upholstered chair.
8. Use counter intelligence: A new counter provides instant gratification for your budget kitchen makeover. Laminate offers the look of granite, stone and marble for a fraction of the cost. But even granite can be affordable if you use remnants or thin-cut slabs with a simple edge treatment. Or save by limiting higher-priced countertop materials to just the island.
9. Add pretty storage: Replace a boring standard cabinet or fill an empty wall with open shelving that can display dishes, vases and even small picture frames or figurines. Or remove cabinetry doors and equip shelves with attractive storage baskets.
10. Incorporate inexpensive focal points: Try for at least one unique design feature in your kitchen. A plate rack, glass cabinet doors, single wallpapered or different-color wall, colorful backsplash or a stylish shelf can provide an attractive accent that won't cost a fortune.
11. Update cabinets: There are dozens of ways to update drab cabinets, including paint for wood, veneer and metal styles. White and cream paint always looks fresh, while rich browns, grays and black offer a sleek, sophisticated vibe. For an old-world feel, consider a crackled or slightly worn faux finish. If you have recessed-panel doors, remove the center panel and insert reeded, textured, etched or stained glass to a few doors or to all.
12. Create island magic: You don't need a massive workstation to enjoy having a kitchen island. Repurpose an old dresser, table, butcher block or cart for a freestanding piece.
13. Furnish style on tap: Make a splash with a new focal-point faucet. Today's broad selection of kitchen faucets ranges from minimalist restaurant-style designs to farmhouse rustic to classically cool, with finishes ranging from shiny chrome, brass or copper to matte, brushed nickel or burnished copper.
14. Add architectural accents: Add corbels beneath island countertops, shelves and cabinetry. Enhance an island with carved wood legs and corner posts. Crown a bank of cabinetry with molding for a custom design. Add crown molding to the ceiling.
15. Paint your decor: Wall color is one of the least expensive ways to update a kitchen. Choose an easy-to-clean semigloss finish. Bold greens and light violets are popular modern colors. For a more classic feel, brush on neutrals such as the increasingly popular cool browns and complex grays.
LuAnn Brandsen is the former editor of Renovation Style, Country Home, Country Gardens, BHG Beautiful Kitchens and BHG Beautiful Baths magazines. She currently writes about homes, gardens and food while her brand-new energy-efficient dishwasher does all her dirty dishes.
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