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Decorating and Updating a Kitchen With As Little Money As Possible

Updated on June 17, 2009

How Can I Update My Kitchen Without Enormous Expense

" HELP! My Kitchen is so dated - but I can't afford to completely redo it and spend a lot of money on a new one." I have heard this many times; asking for help out of sheer desperation and frustration. Since one of my specialties is kitchen layouts and planning; I'm aware of the fact that the kitchen can be one of the biggest expenses in a home when you're renovating and sometimes your budget just won't allow for a complete makeover; but there are some solutions which have an amazing impact. We will look at what can be done to present the right impression, improve the impact and doesn't empty your pocketbook.

During the present economic situation we all are very conscious of the fact that "we" need to do as much as we can ourselves and save money where we can. Thus, I'll recommend some ideas and solutions to help change the whole kitchen from a drab dreary workplace to a pleasant, functional preparing and eating environment.

Let's say your kitchen is outdated and showing extreme signs of wear and tear. The first decision we will have to make is the color scheme. In this case lets suppose the majority of the house is in a neutral tan shade with accents of red. We decide that because there is lots of cabinets in the kitchen and very little wall space that we need to paint the walls in our accent color "red" with the trim and ceiling in a fresh off white color and the cabinets in something other than the wood tone they're presently in - in this case the same color as the trim and ceiling. This choice is made because painting the cabinets in a fresh neutral off white will eliminate the necessity of painting them again at a future date and contribute to a better resale value of your home.

Probably the most recognized element, contributing to the drabness in the kitchen, will be the cabinetry. If your kitchen is small; has only one window as its' light source and your cabinets are 60's stained wood; we need to update them into a more current trend - which is a painted cabinets with perhaps an antiqued finish and pewter hardware. Cabinets painted in a soft tone of warm white will make the room seem less dismal and also make the kitchen appear larger. Perhaps you are concerned about the cabinet paint chipping but with today's paint technology the paints are fairly durable and tend to stand up fairly well even with a little rough handling. Also, you can put a clear topcoat over your finished cabinet for extra protection if you desire - but it really isn't necessary. I always suggest a paint in an eggshell or pearl finish as the higher the sheen - the more imperfections will show. If your cabinets are plain to begin with, a small moulding applied to the doors will change the appearance significantly.

To paint the doors, I would recommend you remove them for easier painting application but please mark each door clearly when removing so there is no error when putting it back after painting. A chronological numbering system works great starting systematically around the perimeter of the room. If you feel you'll have difficulty in remembering just indicate your starting point on a piece of sticky paper and attach it to the inside of the first cabinet. A small piece of painter's tape attached to the top edge of the upper cabinets; and the lower edge of the bottom cabinets works well for 2 reasons. The placement on the edge of the cabinets will indicated immediately if they are top or bottom cabinets and because you will be painting the edges also, the painter's tape will not take the paint off the door when it is removed. Besides, if you do have a mishap and paint does come off - it won't be noticeable because of the placement of the tape.

Now that we have the most tedious chore (the cabinets) painted and out of the way; lets talk about the other elements in the room and what we can do to "spruce" them up a little.

First of all, if your back splash is tiled in a tile that won't work with your new color scheme, it can either be replaced with a plain inexpensive 4" x 4" tiles which could be in a similar tone of your cabinets to keep it neutral and fresh looking. You can easily install this yourself if you're handy and can rent a tile cutter to make the job easier. Placing the tile on a 45 degree angle will add visual impact while making the space between the counter and the cabinets appear more expansive. Another alternative is to use mosaic tiles, in the cabinet color range. These add a little more pattern and look amazing and are easy to install since they come in 12" x 12" sheets for easy installation. In any case, I'm suggesting a neutral off white tile in the same color range as your cabinets since wall color is easier to change than tiles. If redoing the tile is too difficult and is not an option, the alternative would be to paint the ceramic tile in the same off white color as your cabinets. This is not difficult to do. As long as you sand them to rough up the service, paint a proper primer over the tile first and allow the correct drying time, you can paint the tiles with an oil base eggshell or satin finish (or if you prefer a shiner finish - oil base semi gloss) paint with no problem at all. This has been done in numerous particular situations over the years and has been effective and stood up remarkably well.

Although a laminate counter is relatively inexpensive an effective alternative is either placing tiles right over the existing laminate - just making sure you use a water resistant grout sealer upon completion. Another quick fix is to paint the counter with a melamine paint which is self leveling and hardens to a very strong durable finish. In the existing scenario, the counter should be in the same color or if anything only slightly darker than the off white cabinets.

Since we have dealt with the color scheme, cabinets, back splash and counter, the only surface left is the flooring. If it is linoleum and torn and in really bad condition, it would be best to remove it before you can put anything else down. Since the glue would be left - your best alternative would be to tile the floor and there are many inexpensive off white shaded tiles to choose from. If your kitchen is small, look at using a larger tile; perhaps a 16" x 16" to a 20" x 20". This will expand the space and have less grout lines. If the floor is really uneven you will have to consider a smaller 8" x 8" to 12" x 12" tile since the larger tile runs the risk of cracking on a very uneven surface - that is unless you are willing to spend the time leveling the surface first.

The last element we could update without getting into a lot of additional expense is simply changing the light fixtures in the room to ones that are more current in style and will give you perhaps more light. A centre fixture with white or off white glass gives you more light than colored glass - especially if the fixture has 3 bulbs, not one. You can chose from many inexpensive fixtures at your local hardware or lighting store.

I hope this will help any of you thinking it's going to cost a lot of money in order to update your existing kitchen and perhaps give you incentive to think about alternative choices.

Kitchen Designs


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    • profile image

      Leo Bonds 

      8 years ago

      Nice affordable paintings by very talented artists! Great decoration for kitchens too!

    • Design Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Cox 

      9 years ago from Canada

      I'm glad you found it useful.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks for all the useful information

    • Design Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenda Cox 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Thanks. I'm glad you found it useful and hopefully others do also.

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 

      9 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      great informative hub with lots of useful information.


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