I recently spent a night in at a friend's family home: a custom, high-end luxury home on a lake. In addition to the amazing lake views, three car garage and amazing outdoor living room, this place had a kitchen with all the luxury elements. The giant exotic granite island was double thick, with a huge 6 burner commercial cook top, two refrigerators, two wine fridges, a built in ice maker that is actual appliance, a huge commercial fridge, a coffee station with two machines, a second bar sink and bar, and the list goes on.
My friend explained that her dad's company held corporate events there for 50 people and often hired a chef to cook there. All those bells and whistles are things you would likely find in a dream home, which was what this home was built for, for retirement and for family to visit for years to come.
Most of us ordinary suburbanites get by just fine with the basic appliance set, a boring 4, maybe 5 burner stove, one sink, one dishwasher, and maybe a blender or two. Most of our dream kitchens have a large island and maybe a Vitamix.
So I thought I'd talk about how to upgrade or update a kitchens on a slightly smaller scale. Whether you have a big boring builder grade, a small vintage home, or just need a refresh, here are some tips:
- Paint your cabinets.
- Reconfigure your existing cabinets.
- Use stock cabinetry.
If you can create a kitchen design using stock cabinets, you can save a fair amount of money. You can buy unfinished ones to be painted or stained, or use a prefabricated system like IKEA has. If you design it well it can look great. If you don't it can look cheap. If working with a contractor make sure they are familiar with the IKEA cabinets, you may want IKEA to do the assembly and install and have the contractor oversee it.
- Add open shelving.
If you are able to keep your stuff neat, this could be a good option for you. If you like to display cute plates or dishes, or even cookbooks, this can make great use of wall space that doesn't have cabinets, or need a cabinet alternative. It can make it feel more open and add some character. In a more modern home it can look great if you keep it uncluttered.
- Replace hardware.
Even a standard knob or pull in brushed nickel tone can be an upgrade in some spaces if that's all you can afford. I love pulls, but they tend to cost more, so if you have a lot of doors, consider using a pull for your drawers and knobs for your cabinets to keep costs down. You can often find cheaper brand name hardware on certain e-bay sites on the internet if you buy in bulk.
- Upgrade lighting.
Good lighting goes a long way. Recessed lighting is always ideal in a kitchen, but if you can't do can lights, consider changing out the overhead fixtures you do have. Consider semi-flush mount fixtures instead of flush mount that can fit at least three bulbs instead of one or two. Add under cabinet lighting for more task light along counters. I personally love to have a dimmer in the kitchen if possible for the evening to soften things a bit after a long day.
- Paint your appliances.
Say what? If you have older appliances that are dingy and yellowed, consider painting them. There are appliance spray paints out there that can really help. I had white appliances in my former home and used the white on the refrigerator, stove handle and vent hood. People couldn't believe the transformation. I do not recommend painting a white or black fridge with stainless paint-it won't be the right texture and will look fake.
- Upgrade flooring. This really makes a difference in the way your kitchen looks. If your flooring is old and dingy, some new tile can really make things look cleaner and fresher. Especially in smaller kitchens, this can be very affordable if you know what your are doing. If you need help, you can save some money by picking up the materials yourself and working with an installer who just does flooring or tile installation. If you have to keep the floor tile, consider cleaning and staining the grout a lighter color. It is kind of tedious, but can really freshen it up.
For major renovations, the kitchen is one place you don't want to mess around, but you'd be surprised what you can do to jazz it up a bit for a lot less!