These days, most of us don't have the $20,000 to $40,000 needed for a complete kitchen remodel. But it doesn't take that much to get a new look. You can make small changes that can make a big style difference in what for many is the most-used room in the house.
"Even if they have money set aside for a large project, people are holding on to that money until they see what is happening with the economy," said designer Patrice Munden of Patrice Munden Interiors of Ellisville. "But they still want to make changes."
Munden says clients are coming to her with a number of requests: Help me add lighting to my kitchen; help me update my dark cabinets; help me add new color; give my kitchen some personality.
"People are spending more time in their kitchens," she said. "They are not just a place for cooking, preparing food and eating, people are using them for gathering, studying and socializing, so we really want to design them so they are functional but have the family's personality."
We talked to three designers — Munden, Barbara Slavkin of Barbara Slavkin Interiors in Chesterfield and Alison Victoria, designer and host of "Kitchen Crashers," which debuts Oct. 10 on DIY Network — about some inexpensive ways to update your kitchen style.
1. Add a pop of color on your countertops: Try a bright, colorful appliance on your countertops to instantly add that wow factor. DeLonghi makes a line of stunning kMix products that are almost statements of art, from canary yellow toasters to hot pink coffee makers.
2. Add art to your appliance: Cover up your nicked, scratched or mismatched appliances with giant magnets that give them an artful disguise. Appliance Art magnets attach to the front of refrigerators and dishwashers to update the look. Choose from designs including paintings, patterns, stainless steel, holiday décor, wood and even chalkboard. We tried one and loved the easy and instant update.
3. Lighting: Create instant ambience in the kitchen by adding dimmer switches to the overhead lighting that also help to save on electricity bills. Victoria suggests adding directional can lights or simply installing under-cabinet lighting to quickly transform a kitchen space and take the focus away from problem areas.
4. Paint your cabinets: Cabinet refacing, in which the cabinet doors are replaced and the surrounding wood is painted, is a cheaper alternative to new cabinets, but if you really want to save money, paint them yourself. Bring an outdated kitchen up to date quickly and inexpensively by painting existing cabinets a matte or glossy black and adding pewter knobs for a cosmopolitan look, suggests Munden. Last spring, we wrote about Rustoleum's new product, Cabinet Transformations. It's a simple, affordable and easy-to-use kit that requires no sanding or staining, and it really stands up to everyday wear.
5. Update your walls: Everyone knows that paint is an inexpensive way to transform a room, but paint in a kitchen can do wonders. The trick is to make sure it contrasts with your cabinets. For instance, if your cabinets are a light pine color, try a darker color such as deep sage. If your cabinets are cherry, go lighter, maybe a lime green or ivory color. For an even bigger pop, try a fun wallpaper, maybe on just one wall or in the breakfast nook.
6. Backsplash: Depending on the materials you use, a backsplash can be fairly affordable. And if you install it yourself, even more so. A new product, called the SimpleMat, makes it easy for even a novice to get a backsplash right. The mat bonds instantly to allow grouting right away, so you don't have to wait (and wait for your tiles to fall and shift). Even better, there is no mixing, no mortar and no mess.
7. Create interest in your cabinets: Remove the doors of an existing upper cabinet and replace with a door with a clear pane or install a plate rack for easy-to-get-to dishes. You can paint the area behind the plate rack or the interior cabinets a bold color, so that the dishes inside stand out.
8. Set your island apart: Paint your center island a different color than the rest of your cabinets (if you have light wood cabinets, paint it an espresso color), or try wainscotting around it or even tiling the sides to match your flooring. To make a big splash without breaking your budget, when selecting countertops, choose an exotic, colorful remnant for the island only.
9. Don't forget the windows: Dress your kitchen up by forgoing the casual look and instead updating your kitchen windows with silk or faux-silk valances. Add trim and tassels for extra pizazz.
10. New hardware: New handles and knobs on your cabinet doors can make a huge impact, especially if you have none now. They are easy to install, and you can find them for less than a dollar, though many run higher. If you are trying to take your traditional kitchen to a more modern look, consider installing streamlined handles on drawers as well as doors.
11. Countertops: Countertop overlays, in which you install a new countertop over your existing one, are an easy, cost-effective and stress-free way of updating any kitchen. Victoria, of "Kitchen Crashers," suggests concrete, which is durable and cost-effective. "You also get a sleek, modern look with earthy, neutral tones that can agree with almost any kitchen décor." Castletech Inc. of St. Louis uses a product called CastleCrete to transform existing kitchen countertops. It's less expensive, lighter and easier to install than pre-cast polished concrete countertops.
12. Accents: With all of the time that is spent in today's "living kitchens," update your room by using items that you love — favorite art, family heirlooms, bold colors, fabrics, etc., suggests Munden.
Every week, we feature a St. Louis-area home to showcase, usually because of its great style; but sometimes, just being quirky earns it the distinction.