Funny thing about houses — they don’t comprehend that the economy is less than stellar. They still need regular maintenance.
January is my time for organizing, cleaning closets, tidying cabinets, and overall rearranging. This creates lots of opportunities to notice all the things I want to fix and update in our home. Unfortunately, with the holidays just finishing and a tight budget, much of our home improvements may need to be put on the back burner for a while.
However, I do have a few options to update your kitchen that are both cost effective and sustainable.
Before you read any further, I want to stress the concept of sustainability. We have lived so long with getting what we want NOW! That includes a kitchen remodel. I have been in this industry for almost 30 years and have seen it all. What has affected me most is when I have seen homeowners try to do a high-end kitchen with a low-end budget.
The results are dismal. Recently I visited a home in Laurelhurst that I bid on to do the kitchen remodel over 10 years ago. The kitchen was done by another contractor and was completed on a budget. The client chose a low-end painted cabinet line, high-end granite countertops, and professional appliances. Those cabinets have begun to fall apart after only nine years. The paint is worn, the doors are cracked, and the drawers don’t open and close smoothly. I am sure that they spent over $50,000 on this kitchen that already needs to be replaced.
Yes, it looked beautiful when it was first installed, and they had a new kitchen far below my original price of $75,000. But where are they now? The existing granite, which is in fine shape, cannot be reused on new cabinets (I have yet to see a successful removal and reinstallation of granite countertops). They could re-face the existing cabinets, but the cabinet boxes were not quality to begin with. The results would be what my grandpa referred to as “putting lipstick on a pig.” (Looks good, but it is still a pig.)
All in all — the project they originally did was neither a good investment nor sustainable. The moral of this story is that if you don’t have the budget to do it right, wait until you can afford to do it right. However, there are options to make it livable in the meantime.
The list of improvements that appear below are both a good short-term investment and sustainable.
- Replace your hardware: Changing existing plain hardware with newer knobs and pulls is like buying new earrings. Notes to remember if replacing pulls: if you are not planning on doing anything else to the cabinets (i.e., repaint or refinish), be sure to measure the distance from the center of each hole. Having that information at hand when you shop will save you many return trips to the decorative hardware store.
Another fun option with cabinet hardware — they don’t all have to match. I enjoy using a few fun pulls on a decorative cabinet or just to bring a smile to my client’s face.
- Open a cabinet: Remove a few doors, and paint the interior of the cabinet with a pop of color. If you are going to paint the inside of your cabinets, be sure to prepare the interior properly and to paint with high-quality paint. The quality of the paint is important to the longevity of the esthetics of the work you do. It will wear longer and look like a professional project. Many designers and painters recommend “Fine Paints of Europe” for painting cabinets and woodwork.
- Replace some cabinet doors: Try inserting glass or another material. I have seen beautiful projects where the center panel was replaced with laminate, metal, laminated plastic, or textured glass. All options can make your kitchen appear more open and bright.
- Paint the cabinets: You don’t have to paint all of the cabinets. You can paint just the uppers, lowers, or just the island. Consider painting the island or wall cabinets a different color from the lower cabinets. I recommend painting the lower cabinets a darker color to camouflage dirt. The lower cabinets sustain more abuse than the upper cabinets. This will minimize wear and tear, thus allowing your painted finish to last longer.
- Install cabinet organizers: Most complaints from clients about their existing kitchens are that the cabinets don’t function well. Installing rollouts, spice organizers, dividers, recycling centers, and more can give you a whole new relationship with your existing kitchen. This is an easy fix for a more useful and functional kitchen, but it requires accurate measuring and the ability to read specifications. Not to worry, there are companies in town who sell these products and can help you through the process. I recommend Rev-a-shelf (www.revashelf.com) — these products are professional, functional and very pretty to look at.
Use the new laminate countertops: Not too long ago, the most common countertop we installed was laminate. Granite, quartz, or marble was not in most people’s reach. Today’s laminates are not the same as our grandmother’s. The colors and finishes are beautiful, and these laminates don’t stain or scratch as easily as they did in the past. The advantage is that they are very cost effective and will last a good 10 to 15 years.
Another option to consider is to use materials for your countertops as you use your kitchen. For example, use a slab remnant next to your cooking surface, laminate around your sink, and wood where you do most of your cutting. These options are not only cost effective, but they add interest, and most of all, they increase the functionality of your kitchen.
There you go — six options that are sustainable, improve the functionality and esthetics of your existing kitchen all with the added bonus of not breaking the bank. Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Robin Rigby-Fisher, CMKBD/CAPS, is a Certified Master of Kitchen and Bath Design in the Portland Metro Area. She has been creating award-winning designs for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in many local and national publications. You may contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-630-3395. Also visit www.robinrigbyfisher.com