11 November 2009

Sensible Style - Small Makeovers, Big Impact

Sensible Style launched in July to answer your questions about how to get the most out of your kitchen.

Since this is Makeover Month on Kitchens.com, we'll focus on kitchen makeovers. Not the kind that take months to plan and execute and thousands of dollars to cover. This posting will show you small, reasonably quick and affordable ways to make over your kitchen.

Get a handle on it

If your cabinets don't have knobs or handles on them, adding hardware will liven them up enormously. I recommend handles for drawers and knobs for doors, but you can do all one or the other. Think of cabinet hardware as jewelry for your kitchen and dress it up! You can choose a brushed nickel, chrome or pewter finish to coordinate with stainless appliances. Bronze will look beautiful on painted white or black cabinets. Glass can give you a lovely retro look. Black is a nice choice, too, especially if you have black appliances and want a rustic look.

Rustic knobs on these American Woodmark Townsend Oak cabinets enhance the kitchen's arts and crafts style.

Crowning achievements

I love the look of crown molding on cabinets, even contemporary ones. To me, they look more finished that way. Of course, you have to have space between your ceiling or soffit and cabinet tops to accommodate crown. You also have to choose a style that works with your cabinetry. If your door style is contemporary slab, a bullnose or square molding will accentuate, not muddy, its contemporary aesthetic. If your doors are traditional raised panel, a classic crown will look elegant. Transitional, Shaker door styles coordinate beautifully with cove or angle moldings.

If your cabinets extend all the way up to a soffit, you can paint or faux stain the soffit to match the cabinets and put your crown at the ceiling. This will make your cabinets look taller, your kitchen ceiling look higher, and really pull an upscale look together.

Traditional door styles, like the Richmond Cherry by American Woodmark shown here, look pretty, but naked, without crown molding.

Island fever, bar shopping

Upgrading your countertops can cost thousands of dollars for an entire kitchen, and often also involves changing out your sink, faucet and drain, as well as dealing with backsplash damages. Get an easy, affordable update by just changing the top on your island or raised bar.

The new top should coordinate visually with the surrounding ones to give the space a pulled-together look. If, for example, your surrounding laminate tops have flecks of gray, you could opt for a solid gray quartz top for the island or bar. If they're solid white Corian, a recycled glass top with bright colors on a white background can look great. Maybe you've got wonderful oak floors, but less-than-wonderful, old, chipped white tile tops. A dark wood top on your island or bar in the same color family as the floors will become a rich focal point.

An island or bar can get topped in a different material, like the Vetrazzo recycled glass shown here, adding a dramatic, yet well-coordinated, focal point to a kitchen.

Light the way

Many of the older kitchens I've redesigned have big ugly, cracked plastic light boxes or one dated fixture in the middle of the ceiling. Removing that light box or replacing that fixture is a quick, relatively easy way to update the look (and functionality) of your kitchen. There are numerous lighting options for kitchens, including pendants, chandeliers, pot rack lights, island fixtures, track systems and recessed cans. (This Gold Notes guest post by lighting designer Vicky Lodge could be useful for you in considering new kitchen lighting.)

Enhance the style and functionality of your kitchen by replacing outdated light fixtures with new versions, like this monorail system from Tech Lighting.

Fabulous faucets

Don't underestimate the aesthetic power of a good-lucking faucet to give your kitchen a style boost. There are hundreds of looks and price ranges to choose from, both contemporary and traditional. There are also water-saving opportunities with some new models. While you're faucet shopping, look for one that works with the overall style of your kitchen. Also consider getting a companion soap dispenser if you have an extra faucet hole to cover. (Getting the soap bottle off your countertop is an added aesthetic upgrade!)

This Kohler Simplice faucet in its new Matte Black finish can give your kitchen a mini makeover. The coordinating soap dispenser gives you added convenience with more style than a bottle of dish soap on your countertop.

Backsplash bling

A pretty backsplash can really jazz up your kitchen, and doesn't have to cost a fortune either. There are myriad options, from ceramic to bead board to stainless steel to tin ceiling tiles. Choose one that amplifies the style in your kitchen, rather than introducing a new one.

A gorgeous backsplash, like this one designed using Crossville Tiles, can become a fabulous focal point for your kitchen.

Small appliances, big impact

Can't afford to replace your major appliances with stylish stainless ones? Change your countertop appliances instead. Blenders, toaster ovens, coffee makers, toasters and other small appliances come in stainless, too. Another option is to bring in a kicky color, like red or turquoise. You won't have as many choices, but you will have a cheerful kitchen to put them in!

Stainless steel or colorful countertop appliances, like this Cook for the Cure Kitchen Aid pink stand mixer, can up the style quotient in your kitchen.

Softer side

Don't forget about your kitchen fabrics either. New window valances, pot holders, aprons and dish towels can style up your space in a low-cost jiffy. Coordinate all the fabrics in patterns and colors that work together well, and that work with your kitchen's style, too.

These shades by Smith + Noble coordinate beautifully with the styles and colors in the kitchen.

Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.


  1. Terrific ideas. I love "backsplash bling" the idea and the phrase!

  2. the blue kettle and the triangular lamps are very nice accents!

  3. I really like this article, please keep them coming....


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