My sister lives in an a 1960’s tract home that has never been remodeled.  Although she and her family plan to update and expand their house in the coming years, they aren’t quite ready to start a major renovation at the moment.  So for the last several years she has been working in a Kitchen with older appliances that work most of the time, cabinetry that has seen better days and woefully limited storage.  At her wits end, she asked if I could recommend relatively inexpensive improvements they can make to improve the Kitchen's look and make it work better.  As a Designer, I am usually tasked with complete Kitchen remodels not DIY renovations, so I admit that I had to do a little research on this one. 

After hours of mulling, researching and mentally redesigning my sister’s space, I present here some of the solutions I’ve gathered for her (and you) that are 1) cost effective, 2) attractive and 3) won’t make her family feel like they’ve wasted their money when they tear it all out for a remodel in a few years:

1)  Convert your tired wall cabinets into open shelving.  The ‘open shelf’ look can be achieved by totally removing upper cabinet doors, or by replacing the solid doors with glass panel inserts.  This can work wonders in creating a more visually “open” and spacious look in your Kitchen.  Resist the urge to remove all the doors, though, as it will look make your room look too uniform.  Instead, you should create focal points by selecting only the upper cabinets on either side of a window, or just the run of cabinets above the stove, so the open shelving draws the eye.

Glass Uppers-1     Open Uppers-2

2) Add color to open shelving/wall cabinets.  The easiest way to add color to open shelving is with the selection of dishes you display.  Choose a mixture of clear glassware and a single dish color, or create a colorful display with a single type of dish (i.e. a collection of flowered bowls).  Another option is to add color to the inside of the cabinet itself.  Covering the back of the cabinet with wallpaper or paint in a contrasting color from the outer cabinets will instantly create a dramatic and beautiful backdrop for your dishes.

Painted Wall Cabs-3    Wallpaper-5

Wallpaper-4

3)  Replace wall cabinets with open shelving.  Open shelves achieve the same visual interest as opening existing wall cabinets.  As with wall cabinets, you should be strategic in creating focal points – replace the upper cabinets on a single wall with open shelves, or choose an unused wall in the Kitchen for a whole new storage area.

Open-ShelvingWall-6     Open-ShelvingWall-7

4)  Add open storage that makes cooking easier.  Adding hooks for cooking utensils under existing wall cabinets, or installing a pot rack bar under your range hood are two inexpensive ways to increase the functionality in your Kitchen, as well as adding more visual interest.

Storage Hooks-8   Storage Hooks-9

5)  When in doubt, paint!  Everyone knows that paint is an inexpensive way to dramatically change a room, but did you know it can achieve equally stunning results when applied to your cabinetry?  I submit for your consideration the following examples of fabulous colors that instantly update cabinetry and look terrific:

 

Painted Cabinets-10     Painted Cabinets-11

Painted Cabinets-12

(For Better Homes & Gardens' tips on how-to paint cabinets click here)

6)  Consider replacing outdated, unreliable appliances now.  Although this isn’t an “inexpensive” fix, any appliances that you purchase now can easily be accommodated into your future Kitchen design, as long as you plan for it.  Having remodeled my own house, I know what it’s like put off large purchases because you’re “going to remodel in a few years”.  The problem is that you may not remodel as soon as you think you will, and in the meantime you’re forcing yourself to “get by” with limited abilities (i.e. cooking on a stove with only 1 working burner).

Okay, I’ve covered cabinet upgrades, new appliances and increasing storage but what about the rest of the Kitchen?  Watch for my next post where I’ll discuss ways to update your backsplashes, counters and light fixtures, (oh my!)...