Google+ House Revivals: Five Tips for Updating Your Kitchen on a Budget

Friday, December 10, 2010

Five Tips for Updating Your Kitchen on a Budget

What do you do if a major remodel is not in the cards, but your kitchen is in desperate need of an update?  If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and aren't afraid to wield a paintbrush and swing a hammer, there is probably a lot more potential in your kitchen than you realize!

photo Jonny Valiant
Read about this budget kitchen renovation at Country Living

1.  Start by assessing your basic space plan.
  • Is there enough storage?
  • Do you have adequate landing areas?
  • Are you happy with the location of your sink, fridge, and cook top?
  • Every family's needs are different, so ask yourself what you are satisfied with and what you are not satisfied with.  It could be that the basic layout is functional and just needs some tweaking!

2.  Address storage concerns. 
  • Is there a closet in an adjacent hallway or room that can be commandeered for seldom used kitchen items -- the turkey roaster, the giant platters, stuff you need occasionally, but not every day?  It's terrible to have to go out to the garage or down to the basement (or worse yet, the crawl space) for this stuff.  If there is a closet behind a kitchen wall, you might even be able to turn it into a walk-in pantry!  In my last house, we turned some wasted space under a stairwell into a pantry.  It made a huge difference in how the kitchen functioned.
  • Do you have "dead space" in the corners of your lower cabinets?  Lots of older and builder grade kitchens have this dead space.  Some have blind corners.  If you have a corner lazy Susan, count yourself lucky!  If you have a blind corner, your local home improvement outlet has hardware you can retrofit your cabinet with to make it extremely functional.  If you are among the unlucky many who have a big empty dead space, there is some hope.  If you are handy, you may be able retrofit a blind cupboard into the space  (and it's a lot of space -- about ten cubic feet of storage space).  This will be easier if you are planning to replace your counter tops.  If not, a good handyman with a "can do" attitude can help you out.
  • Is there unused space above your existing wall cabinets?  You may be able to build simple shelves above them for additional storage.  Most builder grade cabinets are 30 inches high, but the trend today is to use 42 inch high cabinets.  You may find that you have enough space above your uppers to run a row of 12 inch high upper cabinets.  Another option is to rehang your existing cabinets so they are about twelve inches higher, then add a shelf underneath to store items that are used daily.  Adding "sides" to the shelves and/or corbels underneath them can really give them a custom look!

3. Address landing and work areas.
  • Do you have an adequate area next to your fridge to place your gallon of milk, or your leftover casserole?  If not what can you do to get that landing area?  The answer may be as simple as switching a tall pantry cabinet and the fridge around!  You don't know how many times we see those two items placed incorrectly.  I think it's because it's easier for a builder to place a run of cabinets without breaking for a fridge -- then the fridge gets stuck at the end of the kitchen.  Really, the pantry cabinet should go at the end (in this scenario), so the fridge has a landing area next to it.  
  • Another way to find a landing area for your fridge is to add a small island.  Not everyone has space for an island, but if you do, they can add tremendous function to your kitchen.  Just make sure to leave plenty of clearance for appliance doors to swing fully open, and for people to pass.
  • Don't forget to address landing areas next to the sink, cook top and ovens.  Maybe a pull-out landing surface (similar to a pull-out cutting board) can be built near a set of wall ovens.   A rolling trolley that can move where needed can often address landing area shortages in a small kitchen.  Another solution for people with good carpentry skills is to build a telescoping peninsula.
  • Occasionally, a counter top can be enlarged.  Every kitchen is different, but examine yours to see if a counter can be lengthened or widened somewhere.   Maybe you have a split level bar peninsula?  If you are a messy cook, you may want to keep that bar height counter, but if things are usually pretty tidy, you might consider having the bar lowered, creating a much deeper working surface.  These deep work surfaces are great for rolling out pastries or for doing kid's science projects!

4.  The work triangle.
  • I know there are a lot of magazine writers out there saying the work triangle is passe, but as a professional interior designer, I can tell you it is alive and well.   It's just not the only thing we look at.  We also look at work zones, multiple work triangles, secondary work areas, and so on.  
  • Every kitchen is different, and every family's needs are unique.   If you are having to walk way across the kitchen every time you need an egg, you may want to think about tweaking the placement of your fridge, sink and cook top.  Your solution may be as simple as swapping something around.  
  • If you feel really overwhelmed assessing your space, consider hiring an interior designer experienced in kitchen planning, or an qualified kitchen planner to consult with you for an hour or two.  
  • Be up front about your renovation budget, so your designer can take it into consideration when coming up with some solutions.  For instance, if your budget is super tight, you will most likely not be moving your sink.  At all.  Not even a little bit. 

5. Finishes.
  • Maybe all you need is a paint job.  There are some really good products available today for cleaning, prepping, and painting cabinets.  
  • If you decide you want to paint your cabinets, don't skimp on time or products.  Buy the best products, from a good paint store.  Ask for product recommendations.  
  • Prep, prep, prep, and prep.  A poorly prepped paint job will start chipping in a matter of months.  Clean, sand, wipe, prime,  paint. You know the drill.  No shortcuts here.  And it might seem like a pain in the neck to remove all your cabinet doors before painting, but your finished product will be so much better if you do.  
  • Use a good sprayer, or a good paint brush to paint your cabinets.  Skip the roller!  Very high end cabinets are still hand painted with a best quality brush.  How you choose to apply your paint can mean the difference between having a kitchen that looks like a weekend DIY job, or a high end custom built project.
  • Think about adding trim to plain cabinet doors, especially if you plan to use glazing.  And here is something to think about -- very high end cabinet shops use a six to eight step process of sanding, priming, sanding, painting, sanding, painting some more, and glazing.

Finally, I know everybody says this in every kitchen article, but it bears saying again:  consider changing out your knobs and pulls.  Such a simple change, but it packs a big punch!

Love your renovation, love your home.

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  1. Great tips! Cee is in the middle of painting her cabinets and kitchen. You're so right about the prep. It took forever, but it's slowly getting done and the color is fantastic. Think latte. Of course, you know I'm planning on painting my kitchen cabinets. Just not right now. Or tomorrow ;-)

  2. Oh how I'd love to put some of these to good use ... but since we're renting ... maybe not just yet ;) !
    Thanks so much!

  3. oh how you are getting me in the mood for a makeover ... maybe after christmas ...

  4. I wish this post had existed back when we redid our kitchen! Great advice :)

    If you get a chance later today, I'd love for you to stop by to link up to my Not "Baaad" blog hop!

  5. Great kitchen ideas :o) Thanks for sharing! These are also great when planning a new kitchen in a new storage space plans.

    Blessings & Aloha!
    I'm still trying to get to more K posts :o) Hope you get a chance to visit mine :o)

  6. Excellent and comprehensive tips! And you get to use them at the Beach House! Yay!!!! So fun.

  7. Excellent tips!!! I've used them myself one way or another. My kitchen is so teeny, so space is crucial!!

    Thanks for the nice compliments on my blog, btw!!

  8. I think you need your own HGTV show. I would be one of your loyal viewers for sure.

    So much of what you write reminds me of the old farmhouses my ex-husband and I used to remodel or restore in Ohio. Repurposing and paint is an amazing way to get a remodel for very little money.

    Well, that and sneaking and around on open trash day and loading up your truck with discarded cool stuff - ha!

    Thanks for a wonderful link.

    Please consider applying for the next Design Star.

    I bet you would be amazing at it!


  9. So glad I found your site and this post particularly. We live in an old home that the last update had been 1950. It has the the black counters with metal trim and metal cabinets still. Then there is the pink tile! We are needing to do some major updating and changing of appliance positions as the refrigerator is in the breakfast nook. This is a great post and I have pinned it for future reference!


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