During the pandemic, the kitchen has indeed become the heart of the home. At the island, children do schoolwork alongside parents on conference calls. Home cooks now bake bread as a hobby and test healthy recipes.
All the time in one place has given us months to realize that the kitchen has become, well, boring.
If a renovation is not in your 2021 budget, consider greeting the new year with some nifty DIY fixes that are quicker—and more affordable—than a major overhaul.
“With YouTube, TikTok, and other forms of social media nowadays, people realize how easy it is to make home upgrades themselves,” says designer Sarah Robertson on behalf of Elkay Manufacturing, which makes plumbing products.
Don’t use that KitchenAid? Stash it in a pantry. Making space is one of the easiest ways to revitalize the kitchen, says Casey Finn, founder of The DIY Playbook, which chronicles the renovations on her Chicago home. “Many times, people have a lot of stuff on their countertop that they don’t use every day.”
“Paint everything and anything,” says Mike Dodson—aka “MD the Design Doctor.” “It’s super affordable and effective.” The Wilmington, Delaware, resident has painted only cabinet door inserts for a two-tone look, and he’s painted entire cabinets—door, frame, and box. He’s used black paint on white fridges and oven hoods. He’s even painted his sofa upholstery. Finn has painted and stenciled floors in several of her home’s rooms. Stenciling can be time-consuming, she warns, “but it’s worth it in the end.”
OPEN THE DOORS
Put pretty dishes, glasses, or serving ware on display by adding glass cabinet inserts, removing cabinet doors, or installing shelves in place of cabinets. Open shelving allows for creativity, says Robertson, whose company, Studio Dearborn, is in Mamaroneck, New York. Plus, they make the room appear larger.
CHANGE THE HARDWARE
New hardware lends an updated look to the kitchen. (Measure well so you can use the existing holes.) As with clothes, faucet styles go in and out of fashion. Elkay’s matte black and black stainless two-tone fixture is the height of fashion. Newer models also have high-tech bells and whistles, including touch-to-operate functions for easy handwashing.
BEAUTIFY THE BACKSPLASH
A DIY tile job is an “intermediate project” for most homeowners, Finn says. But it’s a good one. Another option is peel-and-stick wallpaper. Dodson took the mosaic-patterned peel-and-stick paper to the next level by randomly gluing matching tiles over the wall. “People see shadows and dimension and think the whole thing is real tile,” he says. You can also use peel-and-stick for cabinet faces. The advantage: The product comes off with a tug, which is a plus for renters. Highly polished stainless steel is another backsplash option. It shines like a mirror, making the room appear more expansive.
CONSIDER THE COUNTERTOPS
Granite and quartz remain trendy and will boost your home’s value. But from the selection to the measuring to the installation, it’s not a quick process—nor is it inexpensive, Dodson points out. He’s had metal fabricators make stainless-steel slipcovers that he’s glued over the laminate. “It’s ‘instant industrial,’” he explains. Butcher block is also more affordable than granite. Feel free to mix materials. “It’s always a good look,” Dodson says of the combo.
SHED SOME LIGHT
According to Finn, lighting is the “jewelry” in any room. Don’t skimp. Good lighting can make an impact, she maintains. Consider wall sconces and pendants over an island. A chandelier will add stylish drama. Dodson is a fan of small tabletop lamps on counters that provide just enough light for you to slip into the kitchen and refill a wine glass.
INTRODUCE AN ISLAND
If you have room, buy a freestanding kitchen island. Today’s models come in a variety of sizes and materials. At the least, these products add storage space. “It is a great place to incorporate other kitchen needs, such as a bread drawer, butler’s tray or wine fridge,” Robertson notes. If you have resale in mind, you may wish to keep any improvement on the neutral side. Finn, however, prefers to let her imagination run wild. “Don’t decorate your home for the next person,” she says. “Decorate it for you, no matter whether you’re living there six years or 60.”