Kitchen Upgrade: A Town Topics Column

by Lasley Brahaney Architects

QI'm tired of my kitchen even though the layout is fine. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of money to spend on renovation. Any suggestions?

AI guess what you’re saying is that you don’t have to do anything… you just want to. It’s always hard to justify spending money on something that’s not really necessary.

If you’re just feeling the need for a change, a relatively cheap and easy answer to the kitchen blues is to hire a cleaning service to do an industrial strength job on the whole space (including the refrigerator). It’s amazing how sparkling appliances, shining countertops, and streakless windows can completely transform a kitchen. Obviously if there’s no way that you can use the words “sparkling” and “appliances” in the same sentence when referring to yours, you might consider purchasing some new ones.

But if you want to do more than that without going overboard, there are some things you can do to spruce up a kitchen without investing a fortune.

One renovation solution is to replace the doors on your kitchen cabinets. If your old, crooked doors are replaced with doors that have modern styling and hardware and are hung straight, you will see immediate results. A word of caution --- make sure that your cabinet boxes are in reasonably good condition. You wouldn’t want to buy and install all new doors only to have them fall off their hinges because the cabinet structure is substandard.

If you’ve confirmed that your cabinets are in good shape, you could also refurbish or replace your countertops. Refurbishing them could mean cleaning and oiling if they’re butcher block or re-sealing if they’re stone. If you have plastic laminate, you might as well start fresh with a new countertop… especially if the old one is stained or is being held together by duct tape. New plastic laminate tops are relatively inexpensive. But be forewarned… replacing a countertop often means replacing the backsplash and the sink which can also mean replacing the faucet. Suddenly, your costs are rising again.

Another satisfying and relatively cheap solution to a tired kitchen is to repaint your exposed walls or your ceiling. A bare wall can be painted an accent color to enliven the space. Don’t feel shy about adding your own flair. I have a friend who collects covers from home decorating magazines from the 1940’s and 50’s. She had 8 of them framed and hung them up on a newly painted lime green wall in her kitchen. It’s a nice touch.

Take a look at your light fixtures, your ceiling fan, and your backsplash material. One or more of these items can be replaced easily without breaking the bank.

Finally, if you were my client, I’d ask you to consider how long you planned to stay in the house. If the answer is less than two years, I would say don’t bother with a major kitchen renovation just for the sake of “resale”. Chances are the new owners will have different tastes than you do, so save your money for your next kitchen.