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home>>family>>home & decor>>makeover a kitchen on a budget

Beyond Paint -- How to Makeover a Kitchen on a Budget


(ARA) - So you've just spent almost all your savings buying a home, or dropped a few months rent making the move to a new apartment. More space, lots of possibilities, but the kitchen is an eyesore. Sure, you'll paint, but how else can you turn a sad kitchen into a glad kitchen on a very small budget?

According to experts at The Art Institutes, it is possible to stick to a tight budget and make a few simple, yet big impact changes that will turn an ugly duckling kitchen into a swan.

One way to do this, according to Suzann Nordstrom, an instructor with The Illinois Institute of Art--Schaumburg, is to see kitchens as they used to be, when "freestanding furniture was used to house kitchen objects." Though this went out of fashion when built-in cabinetry came along, Nordstrom says it's making a comeback, and it's a perfect design idea for anyone redoing a kitchen on a tight budget.

"Think about using a piece of furniture, which might already exist in the house or find a hutch or case piece at a flea market or antique shop," she says. By using an actual piece of furniture, you have an opportunity to set a specific style for your kitchen. Whether it's French country, Asian-inspired or Italian farmhouse, chances are a great piece can be found on almost any budget.

In addition to furniture, Nordstrom says lighting can make or break the look of your kitchen. "The secret to making a lighting statement in your kitchen is to use task, ambient and accent," she explains. Most people do well with ambient lighting, which is usually a large overhead fixture, but to get task and accent lighting on a budget, Nordstrom recommends placing under-cabinet lighting in the front and bottom of wall cabinets, or over islands or peninsulas by using pendants. Both types of lighting are easily available and affordable at a local home center. Accent lighting can be achieved by using rope lighting above wall cabinets or using small lamps on freestanding furniture, islands or peninsulas.

Yanitza Tavarez, an interior design instructor at The Art Institute of Washington, has learned a trick or two for turning around the look of a drab kitchen. "Consider replacing your knobs and handles. Whether you choose sleek and modern or fun and whimsical, new hardware provides a range of options that will fit into any budget," she says.

Cabinet resurfacing is another option Tavarez recommends. Though it's more expensive than just painting, it's not as pricey as all new cabinetry. She likes inserting glass panels for a fresh new look.

Super easy tricks for updating and improving the look of any kitchen don't have to cost anything. Tavarez says "de-clutter your countertops and you'll be amazed how much cleaner and brighter your kitchen can look." For splashes of color, fill a beautiful bowl with lemons or limes, or display a fresh, brightly-colored tea towel. Take your children's artwork and frame it. With smaller pieces, you can use them across a backsplash. Plastic or laminate frames are easy to wipe off, says Tavarez, and they become "little masterpieces in your kitchen."

With any budget, small or large, it's important to stay realistic. John Franke, a design instructor at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh says, "On a really tight budget, you usually can't move plumbing or necessarily buy new appliances." Instead, he recommends educating yourself by heading to your local home center, and finding out what's possible for the money you have. If you don't have a lot of countertop, maybe you can afford a new laminate one. Laminates have come a long way in terms of mimicking the look of more expensive materials, and their cost is still very affordable.

Last but not least, consider consulting with a professional designer. Though it may seem out of reach on a budget, many designers are willing to work with a client on an hourly basis offering advice on color, lighting or effective use of space. "Designers are professionals, and are trained to find design solutions, even on a small budget," says Franke.

Design help can be found by contacting a local chapter of American Society for Interior Design or a nearby design school. Explain what kind of help you need and your budget.

Here are a few more simple tips from the design pros at The Art Institutes:

* If you can't replace old appliances, think on a smaller scale. Instead, replace your old toaster, blender, and/or microwave with new ones utilizing fashionable stainless steel. Remember to select a satin finish in order to avoid fingerprints.

* Consider coordinated storage containers. For example, use glass jars to store your pasta, rice and/or cereal. It also serves as a colorful display. In a similar manner, you can substitute the bottles of mismatched spices into a streamlined arrangement.

* Taking inspiration from museums, display your favorite kitchen objects. For example on a simple shelf, make an arrangement of the myriad of ice cream scoops and cups that you have gathered throughout the years. Thus, look at the potential for collections when you visit flea markets and yard sales.

* Paint will always remain the least expensive way to make an impact but it is not always an option (particularly in rented spaces). If you can paint, generally, warm colors (oranges, yellows and reds) are better suited for kitchens and dining rooms.

The Art Institutes system of 31 education institutions is located throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. The Art Institutes system of schools has provided career-oriented education programs for 40 years with more than 160,000 graduates. For more information, visit The Art Institutes Web site at www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.

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