Let’s face it – in a lot of ways, the kitchen is becoming the new living room. With an emphasis on open floor plans and big beautiful kitchen islands that lend to entertaining, the hearth – or at least your beautiful gas range – is probably making a comeback as the social center of your home. But increased traffic in your cooking space might have you taking a second look at some of your decor. Especially if your kitchen is a little out of date, the thought of doing a big kitchen remodel might be haunting around in the back of your head. But never fear – you don’t have to do a big remodel to get huge results. If your budget is limited or especially if you’re planning on selling any time soon, these seven quick redesigns you can do yourself and won’t cost you much, but will make a huge difference in the appearance and even the value of your home.
This is the gimmie, but I know from personal, recent experience that it’s something that can be all too easy to overlook. If you’ve been living in your kitchen for a lot of years without changing the walls, the color starts to become invisible. To fresh eyes – like guests or potential buyers – the color you never notice probably looks at best a little blah, and at worst dated or dingy. A new coat of paint is a quick, easy, and relatively painless overhaul that will make a much, much bigger difference than you think, even if you opt for a neutral color. Just make sure your walls are clean (watch for greasy spots!) and dry, and apply 1-2 coats of paint with a long paint roller. Make sure to adequately tape off your cabinets and cover your appliances – either with blue tape and drop cloths or with my personal favorite, a Quick Mask Dropcloth that combines the two for a faster and easier setup. Depending on the size of your kitchen and the quality of your paint (most high end paints will give full coverage in one coat, but if yours needs 2 or more you’re going to need more paint), this is a project that shouldn’t cost you more than $200 start to finish, and shouldn’t take more than a day to complete.
I scoffed at this idea until I tried it: if your kitchen cabinets, doors, and drawers are in decent shape but are aging or lack a “wow” factor, simply change out or add in new hardware. It might seem silly or unnecessary, but adding eye-catching drawer pulls can go a long, long way toward freshening up your kitchen’s look and feel. Depending on the style of your kitchen, you might want something more modern or more old fashioned. Some kitchens can look great with mixed and matched pulls, but make sure not to use more than three different styles or it might look crowded or busy. Whatever style you decide on, this can make a BIG difference if you’re on a budget. Just measure, drill, and screw into place. Again depending on the size of your kitchen and the number of your cabinets, this shouldn’t cost more than $150.
3) Love Your Cabinets
Installing new cabinets is one of the biggest expenses in any kitchen remodel, but unlike replacing your appliances or countertop, it’s one that’s relatively avoidable. Depending on the condition of your existing cabinets, refinishing might be all you need to do. If your cabinets are finished but not painted, a quick coat of paint is the easiest way to drastically change the appearance of your cabinets. But, painted or not, if your cabinets are in bad-but-not-awful shape, going the whole nine yards can get you the look and feel of natural wood in a completely different finish. Remove one of the cabinet drawers and haul it with you to a hardware store and find someone who knows what they’re talking about. You’ll need an expert to help you find the right kind of paint or Varnish Remover and sandpaper for the finish on your cabinets (there are a lot of different kinds that look very similar but are NOT interchangeable, so don’t just guess!). Then, wash and thoroughly dry all of the areas you’re resurfacing. Make sure the rest of your kitchen is covered (yes, all of it!), then apply the stripper and remove the paint or sealer. Allow the cabinets to dry, then gently sand with an electric sander or hand sander until the surface is smooth and even. Fill any noticeable dents or nicks with wood putty (if you’re painting) and sand smooth. Finally, apply a varnish, stain, or paint of your choice and then seal. For the price of a weekend and about 200 bucks, you can breathe new life into your kitchen cabinets.
4) Forget The Kitchen Sink – Replace The Faucet
Like replacing your cabinet hardware, replacing your kitchen sink is another way that thinking small can really have a big payoff. Old faucets get water stained and corroded, and while the basic premise of a faucet – turn on, get water – hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years, if you have a faucet that’s even ten years old there’s a good chance you can find something like this Delta Touch Faucet that’s not only more stylish but also much, much more efficient and functional. Swapping out your faucet is more DIY friendly, less expensive, and much more visible than replacing your whole kitchen sink unit, so if you’re on a budget, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of this little upgrade.
5) Dazzle With A New Lighting Fixture
How much this project will cost depends a lot on your existing lighting. If you have an old chandelier or pendant light that’s starting to look outdated or a little shabby, this is a must. If you don’t have any hanging lights at all, and have rows upon rows of florescents rather than recessed lighting, skip to #6 because hiring electrician would put this project off the list. But if you do have an existing setup, many hanging lights like this Tiffany Apple Branch Pendant Light mount directly into existing sockets (and cover them). For about a hundred bucks (depending on the light, of course) you can add a really stunning statement piece, plus lots of light to your kitchen area in about 15 minutes.
6) Window Treatments
It’s a phrase with the power to strike fear into the hearts of homeowners, and don’t I know it. But like paint color, it’s easy to let your window treatments fade into the background – even build up dirt and grease over time. So take a look at your window dressings with fresh eyes. A new color or style will probably fit with your existing hardware, and they cost less than you might think to replace. Even if you don’t have existing curtains or drapes, it’s relatively inexpensive to install some, and they can really add a cozy touch to your space. Especially if you have older windows that you aren’t ready to replace, a good set of shutters or blinds or a stylish shade can help hide them and easily update the look of your kitchen.
7) The Dreaded New Appliance
New appliances!, you might be thinking, I can’t afford new appliances! Why would you even put that on this list? All fair points, gentle reader – but bear with me for a moment. If you’re looking to sell your house immediately, don’t buy new appliances. You won’t get a return on your investment. But if you’re going to live in the house a while yet, buying new appliances, though easily and far and away the most expensive remodel on this list, is one of the best long and short term investments you can make in your kitchen. EnergyStar appliances – whether refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges, or even a new oven – work better than older appliances and use less energy while they’re doing it. Buyers will immediately notice the difference, but more importantly you will, too, every time you get your energy bill.
The idea of remodeling can be a little daunting – both in price and in scope of the project. Most major remodeling is not only expensive but also invasive, and can take weeks or more to complete. But not all home improvement is equal, and there isn’t a project on this list that should take you more than a weekend to complete. Even on a tight schedule and a tight budget, you can easily have your kitchen looking like new in about a month. What part of your kitchen needs the most updating? Do you have any favorite little projects to spruce up your space?