Want a new kitchen but don’t want to spend the money or time necessary on a major renovation? Forget the idea of the “right” kitchen and improve your space with some “right now” partial remodeling ideas. In her new e-book Kelly’s Kitchen Savvy: Solutions for Partial Kitchen Remodels (available for Kindle on Amazon.com), certified master kitchen and bath designer and certified interior designer Kelly Morisseau shares her advice for how to tackle what she calls a “20 percent kitchen remodel” for maximum impact and minimum frustration. “Take a hard look at your kitchen with all its pros and cons to decide what can be accomplished first, and what can be accomplished down the road,” Morisseau says. “Lifestyle, time spent in the home, and future resale are all factors that should be considered by any homeowner looking to make changes to his or her kitchen, while keeping budget in mind.”
Check out Morisseau’s tips to transform your kitchen right now.
1. BRIGHTEN UP THE LIGHTING
While giving the walls, ceiling, and trim a fresh coat of paint will combat dinginess, new lighting is an even better way to brighten your kitchen, Morisseau says. “Good lighting has the psychological effect of making your kitchen feel brighter, more cheerful, less cavernous, and easier to work in,” she says.
Switching out small ceiling-mounted lights for larger or brighter, energy-efficient fixtures will make the room’s ambient lighting more luxurious, she says. Task lighting, such as undercabinet lighting, can add brightness to the counters. “While most homeowners don’t pay attention to undercabinet lighting, adding it to your kitchen can make it brighter and easier to work in,” Morisseau says. While some undercabinet lighting is hardwired behind the wall, for a quick fix use models that can be plugged into the nearest receptacle outlet.
2. ADD ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS
“A contractor once said that he could make any home look more expensive simply by adding better-quality—and prettier—trim, such as baseboards, crown molding, and door and window casings,” Morisseau says. “This is true for almost all homes. If you’re a handy DIYer, consider adding these to customize your kitchen.” If you’re a novice, pass on this upgrade until you can hire a pro: your home is likely not perfectly square and it can require some expertise to make sure everything lines up, Morisseau says.
3. SPLURGE ON ONE APPLIANCE
Splurging on a professional range won’t necessarily put lesser-quality appliances in the shade. “Today’s appliances have a sleek appearance in almost any price category,” Morisseau says. “While it’s nice to maintain the same quality throughout—and imperative if your home is in the high six- and seven-figure price range—the same is not necessarily true for low- to mid-range homes. A nice stainless-steel professional range can be paired with a lower-priced stainless-steel refrigerator.” Pro tip: Consider buying last year’s models or buying in the fall for the best deals, Morisseau suggests. “Manufacturers may also offer deals if you buy all their appliances,” she says.
Those easily removed, such as the dishwasher, range, and refrigerator, are the simplest appliances to replace. Make sure the new appliances will fit in the existing cabinet openings and line up with the existing countertop depth before purchasing. “If they won’t, hire a carpenter or cabinetmaker to retrofit the openings, especially for refrigerators, cooktops and wall ovens,” Morisseau says. “Alternatively, if you’re planning on replacing the cabinets soon and your current cabinets aren’t large enough to accommodate the new appliances you want, wait until you’re ready to order the new cabinets.
4. LAYER IN LUXURY
“In luxury design, textured glass in a feature cabinet are popular,” Morisseau says. Insert plain glass into a couple of cabinet door fronts as a focal point and display your decorative servingware. Or, opt for frosted or etched glass inserts to hide shelves full of non-display-worthy dishes while still adding visual interest and a custom touch.
5. REFRESH YOUR FITTINGS
If your cabinets and drawers aren’t functional for your needs, Morisseau suggests considering purchasing after-market items, such as spice or cutlery trays, lazy Susans, roll-out shelving, smooth drawer glides, and pot and pan organizers, from home improvement stores to get custom interior fittings without replacing the cabinetry itself. “Luxury kitchens have great hardware,” she says.
Morisseau adds that the same can be true for appliances: If your appliances are old and you can’t afford to update them, consider replacing old or worn parts, such as burners on an electric range, knobs on a dishwasher, or shelves in a refrigerator.
6. CREATE A BEAUTIFUL BACKSPLASH
“In a luxury kitchen, a tile backsplash usually extends from the counter to the underside of the wall cabinets and may even continue around the sink window and on other walls,” Morisseau says. “Custom kitchens usually have either a monochromatic or custom-designed backsplash made of tile, wood, or glass.”
Add a bit of luxury to your kitchen by using smaller patterned tiles mounted on a 12-inch by 12-inch mesh to make the installation easier. Or, mix tile shapes, such as a tile liner or dot, or add individual decorative pieces to a standard tile backsplash for an element of individuality, Morisseau suggests. “During installation, adjust the height of any border so it isn’t interrupted by switches or outlets, and make sure that all the tile you’re using is the same thickness,” she says. “Watch for very rough or textured surfaces, as they can be a challenge to clean behind a cooking area.”
7. DON’T SKIMP ON KNOBS
Most of us have heard that replacing cabinet hardware is one of the easier and cheaper ways of updating a kitchen, but the knobs you choose are important. “Anything below $3 will have to be replaced in less than two years,” Morrisseau says. “What you’re looking for is heft and weight. How does the handle or knob feel in your hand? is it very light or is it weighty? If you can, select the heavier weight. A lighter knob may be hollow in the middle or it may have been made with cheap metal. There is also a significant weight difference between an acrylic knob and a glass one.”
To make installation easier, choose handles or knobs with slightly bigger screws than your existing knobs, if possible. “The existing screw hole will be worn over time and you’ll need a bigger screw to get a good grip in the wood,” Morisseau explains. If the new handles require new screw holes to be made in the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, use a decorative plate, called a back plate, to cover the existing holes, or fill them in with wood putty if you’re handy, she says.
8. STAGE IT LIKE A PRO
“Staging is what a stylist for a magazine or photo shoot adds to the room: the glasses, stools, artfully arranged plates, decorative items, rugs, and flowers,” Morisseau says. Add items like those you see in a kitchen you covet in a magazine to update your space without lifting a hammer, she suggests.
9. PLAN PURCHASES WISELY
If your flooring, cabinets, countertop, or appliances need to be replaced, or electrical or plumbing lines need professional help, it’s important to plan the order of action on each of these items, Morisseau says. Replacing some items may have a domino effect and require other repairs, leading you down a rabbit hole of renovations, or the money you spend now may be wasted when you have to rip it out to replace something later, she says. Replacing flooring requires removing and reinstalling appliances, for example, and countertops usually don’t survive relocation. “Each decision affects all the others and, if not made carefully, can result in extra costs, delays, and frustration,” Morisseau says. “Stepping back and focusing on the logical order of repairs and improvements will allow you to identify those you can tackle in the short term while saving up for bigger projects that require more investment and can be done later on.”