1. Kitchen Makeovers with Paint
Painting kitchen cabinets, walls, seating, and even floors is the easiest, least expensive way to transform your kitchen with color and pattern. For walls and furniture, use satin or semigloss latex paint -- it stands up to scrubbing better than a flat finish.
To duplicate the checkerboard wainscot in this kitchen, paint the walls the light base-coat color, then mark off a grid of 4-inch squares to the desired height from the floor. Using a mixture of 1 part paint to 4 parts glaze medium, outline every other square with a second color of paint, then fill in by sponging with a sea sponge.
To paint cabinets, first prime them with a deglossing primer to help the paint adhere and eliminate the need for messy sanding. Painting cabinets is time-consuming -- you need to remove doors, drawers, and hardware to do a thorough job -- but the results give you a fresh look for minimal cost.
For more ideas on sprucing up your kitchen with paint, see:
2. Reface Kitchen Cabinet Doors
Perk up your kitchen by replacing the doors on some or all of the cabinets. If you have recessed-panel doors like these, remove the center panel and insert reeded, textured, etched, or stained glass.
Or give the panels a facelift by painting them with chalkboard paint or covering them with a textured wallcovering.
If you have flat-panel cabinet doors, take them from contemporary to Shaker style by adding lattice molding around the edges and painting the doors.
For more ways to give your old cabinets new life, see
3. Update Kitchen Countertops
You can get the high-style look of granite, marble, or soapstone with the low-cost alternative of laminate. Available in a wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns, laminate is easy to clean and maintain, although it can be damaged by sharp knives and hot pans. It can cost as little as $15 per linear foot installed.
Ceramic tile is another affordable option for countertops. It's a less forgiving surface than laminate, and keeping the grout clean can be a challenge, but the range of colors and finishes gives you lots of options for creativity. And at $10 to $15 per linear foot installed, tile is easy on the kitchen makeover budget.
For more on laminate countertops, see:
4. Replace Cabinet Hardware
A simple change in drawer pulls and cabinet handles can give your kitchen a new look. If you plan to use the existing holes, take some of the old hardware with you when you shop to make sure the placement and size of the screws will match.
If you're refinishing the cabinet fronts, you can fill the existing holes and have a wider range of hardware choices. In addition to home improvement centers and specialty retailers, shop flea markets and antiques stores for interesting hardware. If you find distinctive knobs that exceed your budget, use them only on the upper cabinets or the drawers.
For more kitchen cabinet hardware ideas, see:
5. Replace Cabinets with Open Shelving
Update your kitchen by removing some cabinet doors. Open shelving is a hot design trend for kitchens, although it does require that you display the cabinet contents attractively and keep them organized.
Open shelving can expand a room's sense of space because your eye travels past the cabinet face, giving you the impression that the room has greater depth.
Try a combination of open shelving and glass doors on one set of cabinets to create a focal point for the kitchen.
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6. Make Your Own Kitchen Window Treatments
Window treatments for kitchens can be blissfully simple. Choose a washable fabric and a simple style that keeps the fabric clear of heat and water sources. Tab-top curtains that hang from tension rods and barely skim the windowsill are one affordable option.
If privacy isn't a concern, valances, window toppers, and stationary shades offer ways to bring color, pattern, and softness into the kitchen. Instead of purchasing fabric, try adapting tablecloths, tea towels, or cloth napkins to serve the purpose.
For lots of creative window treatment ideas, see:
7. Refresh the Kitchen Flooring
Vinyl floor tiles offer an affordable way to renew the kitchen floor. Available in dozens of colors, vinyl tiles lend themselves to custom designs, classic checkerboards, or a simple sheet of uniform color.
Laminate offers another affordable flooring option. Experienced do-it-yourselfers can install a laminate floor, although moving appliances out of the way and working around cabinets will add time to the job.
If you have wood floors, consider painting them with durable floor paint to give the kitchen a new look.
For more ideas and how-to on replacing your kitchen floor, see:
8. Add a Creative Backsplash
Creating your own backsplash gives your kitchen personality and style. Express yourself with paint, tile, mirrors, or framed prints or photos. If you use framed items, frame them identically and hang them close together to give the impression that they are part of the wall.
For more low-cost kitchen backsplash ideas, see:
9. Add an Unconventional Kitchen Island
While it's true that kitchen islands can be massive multipurpose work centers, you can enjoy the functionality of an island on a more limited scale, too.
Consider converting an old table or dresser. Add a tile top, new hardware, and cup hooks for hanging storage, and you have a handy new multipurpose piece of freestanding storage.
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10. Get Organized with Kitchen Storage
Keep your cabinets and pantry organized with the help of smart kitchen storage ideas. Baskets, tins, and plastic bins offer affordable options for collecting like items into tidy containers that you can stash on a shelf.
If the shelves are open, choose one kind of container for a clean, unified look.
For more budget-friendly kitchen storage ideas, see:
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