If a full-blown kitchen renovation isn’t in the budget, try these more manageable ideas to breathe new life into your kitchen.
Refacing cabinet doors might seem like an economical alternative to fully replacing cabinetry, but buyer beware – especially with older kitchens. “Often you have to replace the hinges as well, which can weaken the cabinet structure over time and lead to sagging,” says Robin. Instead, consider having your existing doors spray-painted. “It’s way better than painting with a brush, which can cause blobs and drips in the grooves of the door profile, and they’ll look like new.”
It’s amazing how new door hardware will transform a cabinet. If you are having the doors sprayed anyway, the pros will fill in the old hardware holes, allowing you to choose any style you like as a replacement.
Instead of replacing an ugly kitchen countertop (which has its own set of drawbacks if you are retaining the base, especially if the old countertop is glued on), you can hire specialists who will add a quarter-inch veneer of genuine granite right on top of the old counter, for the look and almost the same durability as solid granite.
Beef up and modernize accent lighting. Pendants or other decorative fixtures add instant elegance.
Ceiling lighting can have a huge effect on the look and feel of your kitchen. Robin loathes halogen pot lighting, which has become almost the norm in many new kitchens and renovations. “Halogen was never really meant for ambient lighting, and it can cause glare and fatigue. They’ve come a long way with LED bulbs nowadays; they cost more initially but they last for years, are very energy-efficient, and are cool to the touch.” Old-fashioned recessed can lighting, especially the kind with black liners, can be retrofitted with updated energy-efficient versions with little or no repairs to the ceiling.
On the subject of lighting, many older kitchens simply don’t have enough, which can be very fatiguing. If you don’t want to hire an electrician to install more built-in lighting, there are lower-cost options such as “rope” lighting, which can be added under overhead cabinets, or even plug-in strip lighting, which you can put in yourself.
Even if you don’t do anything else to update, it’s amazing what a new coat of white paint on the ceiling will do to brighten things up. “Ceilings get dingy over time with smoke, dust, and dirt almost without you noticing it,” says Robin.
If you don’t have an existing kitchen backsplash, this is a great opportunity to add character and elegance for just a few dollars. Because backsplashes don’t require a large number of tiles, you can splurge on fancy ones, add a mix of high-end and plain ones, or create a focal point with mosaics, mirror tiles or other decorative options. Dated ceramic tile can be spray-painted in the same way as cabinets. “I had my bathroom tiles spray-painted, and they still look new 12 years later,” Robin says.
Click flooring can be installed right on top of ugly old floors; providing your existing floor is level, you can also install cork, laminate tile or linoleum. With care, these are all options you can do yourself.
Update, clean and declutter accessories; many of us tend to accumulate china figurines on the windowsill and cute magnets on the fridge, and just stop noticing them after a while. Replace with something new and fresh: pretty vases or bowls, collections of vintage bottles, or simply a spotless, uncluttered expanse of windows.
Image: Donna Griffith / Styling: Morgan Lindsay
Thanks to a designer’s masterful eye, this modest modern kitchen serves as a lesson in making the most of the space you have.
If not precisely planned, a tiny kitchen can lead to chaos of all sorts: appliances dominating countertops, overstuffed cabinets that barely shut, even cookware stashed in the oven. The trouble with this Toronto couple’s 235-square-foot cooking quarters came down to its awkward U-shaped layout, which divided the kitchen into two distinct zones: a prep area and an eating nook.
To maximize the kitchen’s storage capacity, Veronica traded in awkwardly positioned uppers for glossy white and oak-look cabinetry that extends to the ceiling. “The original cupboards left all this untouched space above them, so it was important to reclaim that and take advantage of the 10-foot-high ceiling,” she says. The homeowners now use the extra storage to stow away off-season items and other specialty kitchenware.
The pre-reno space featured a pantry that protruded into the nearby hallway. “It resembled a front hall closet and felt very removed from the kitchen,” says Veronica. So the designer got creative. To better incorporate a new pantry into the room, she had custom floor-to-ceiling cabinetry installed in the same spot and then had matching fake doors added to the bump-out wall directly beside it. The clever addition looks like a large unit that was always part of the kitchen.
Though 24-inch-deep cabinets constitute the majority of this kitchen’s storage, Veronica chose to recess the doors above one countertop to add depth and function, ensuring the prep surface is accessible. Incorporating whitewashed-wood-look doors also lends warmth to the predominately white space. “All-white kitchens can come off as cold,” she says. “Introducing wooden elements is one of the best and easiest ways to increase interest.”
Instead of limiting counter space to the kitchen’s cooking zone, the designer had sleek quartz countertops installed along an entire wall, extending into the eat-in area. “This design choice reinforces the idea that it’s one integrated space,” she says. The shallow countertop underneath the TV also acts as a sideboard thanks to the built-in cupboards below, where the homeowners store everything from formal dishware to electronics.
The kitchen’s eating nook is one of the most well-loved spots in the home. It’s where the couple sips coffee every morning and retreats after a long day. Keeping this in mind, the designer didn’t want to be constrained by choosing only compact furniture. She instead used large cushioned dining chairs that “encourage the homeowners to stay longer,” she says. The round aged-elm dining table balances the look and is easy to navigate around.
The original U-shaped kitchen layout impeded traffic flow and separated the cooking hub from the eat-in area. The new linear layout boasts a modern free-standing island equipped with an undermount sink, which allows the couple to move around and entertain guests with ease while cooking.
While outfitting the small space, Veronica was careful to create cohesion. The existing maple flooring was swapped out for the same stained oak that’s carried throughout the rest of the main floor. The new accent cabinetry mimics the look of the dining table. Even the cabinetry hardware mirrors the chandelier’s black framework. These repeated decorative details ultimately tie the room together.
"I wanted there to be huge visual impact when you entered the kitchen, but I also didn't want to compromise the view to the backyard garden," says the designer of her decision to add the stick-like chandelier to the eat-in area. "It was important for the light fixture to bring something unexpected to the space," she adds. "A drum shade, for instance, would have fallen flat. It would've been too predictable."
The go-to paint colours designers' swear by
Find your perfect paint colour thanks to the expert advice of your favourite designers.
When you flip through the pages of your favourite design magazine or scroll through endless photos of gorgeous homes on Pinterest, chances are you’ll find yourself wondering about the paint colours on the walls. Finding the perfect shade of paint can be hard. There are so many colours to choose from so how do you distinguish a great grey from a dull one? How do you determine which shade of white will make your home look uber-chic and which will look like primer? The answer? Ask the experts! Designers know their way around a paint deck so we checked in with six of them, who each provided us with their top three go-to paint colours. Find out which shades are their favourites and where they use them.
I have been working closely with Cloverdale Paints and have three go-to off-whites that I LOVE. OW159 “Dream Nights” is a soft off white, that is the perfect neutral. It’s light enough to brighten a room, but has enough pigment to also provide depth.
CA187 “Silver” is cooler, with subdued blue tones. It’s clean, crisp, and a deep enough colour to contrast with white baseboards or crown moulding. Love it!
8436 “White Delight” is perfect for creating a warm tone on tone white space, a look that I love. Similar to my other two favourites, White Delight offers contrast, which is key to creating visual interest in all spaces.
For people who love dramatic colours (like me!), I recommend Krimson Lake by CIL. It's a deep, moody marine blue that I love to use in a flat paint finish.
My go-to white is Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore (see on the ceiling). It's a crisp, clean white – not too much yellow – and I love it for trim and walls.
The colour I specify most during my one-hour interior design consultations is Zeppelin by CIL. It's a warm grey-beige and a reliable neutral. It's a perfect colour when one wants to stay neutral and works in modern or traditional aesthetics alike.
This has been a go-to colour for us for years. It's the perfect warm, yet bright white for any and all rooms in the house including trims and cabinetry. Often, when we use Simply White, it's on the walls, trims and ceiling to create a clean and modern backdrop.
This off-white/pale gray changes beautifully in the light and is often one we use in bedrooms for a soft glow. It has a creamy undertone however does not feel traditional. This is one of my all-time favourites.
Revere Pewter is a classic grey that pairs perfectly with white trims, providing definition and character in a space. It is excellent for living and dining rooms and can steer more towards a traditional feel.
This colour is our top go-to colour at TFI! It is an extremely versatile colour. Silver Satin is a light grey that almost reads white and works in virtually any space. This colour adds a certain freshness to walls without being too white or too grey. Whether it is used on the walls or for cabinetry, we just can’t enough of this subtle yet beautiful colour!
We love this colour as it works well when pulling together taupes and greys. It reads neutral and allows for a lot of flexibility with the rest of the colours in any room. In this kitchen, the colour sets the tone for the room allowing the cabinetry and furniture to stand out. Benjamin Moore’s Collingwood is a classic colour that never goes out of style.
We love Benjamin Moore’s Oxygen when we want to add some colour to our walls. It is a great powder blue which has a certain softness to it. In this girl’s room, we wanted to create a space that was playful and fun but not overwhelmingly girly. Painting the walls with this subdued blue as opposed to a light pink was the perfect way to achieve the type of look we wanted.
This off-white has a drop of cream, making it the perfect, versatile backdrop for any colour scheme or decorating style for those who like to change things up.
I love white rooms but I also like a vibrant pop of color. This cheerful blue brightens up grey days and complements the elaborate mix of patterns and the bold colours I injected into this living room.
Bedrooms are mainly for the evenings so it makes sense to use a darker hue that is soothing and calm. This warm taupe grey is an exact colour match to the grasscloth wallpaper I installed on the main wall, creating a seamless transition from wallpaper to paint. I also selected a high gloss finish so the paint also echoes the shimmers from the wallpaper.
This is a warm off-white that isn’t too creamy. Soft and sophisticated, it’s calming and has a depth that makes it suited for bedrooms and cozy spaces. It looks great with dark wood tones and bronze or black metals.
This grey-green is cool and modern and works beautifully in bedrooms or bathrooms where you’re craving a hint of subtle colour. It can make whatever it’s paired with feel updated and fresh. I especially love it in rooms that get cool northern light; it reads almost like a mint but without the iciness.
This is my go-to grey. Many greys can veer too brown or too blue but this one doesn’t have any strong undertones. It’s a livable colour that would be equally at home in a living room or bedroom. I love it paired with warm neutrals, creams and natural wood tones to create a tone-on-tone palette.
Give your home decor a spruce up with these easy and budget-friendly decorating tips.
Revamping your home decor needn’t always be a major project and you don’t always have to spend a king’s ransom to do it. Here are 25 ways to give your rooms a fresh look in record time, without breaking a sweat – or your budget.
1 Update lampshades with new ones in more contemporary shapes or simply fresh white shades.
2 Paint is the classic makeover potion. Instead of repainting a whole room, just paint one wall in a focal colour or paint a contrasting rectangle over a sofa to use as a “gallery” space. You can also paint the insides of bookshelves in an unexpected colour or paint your ceiling a lighter version of the wall colour. Update your kitchen with paint or any other space in your home.
3 Update your window dressings. IKEA and other home stores have reams of readymade draperies you can hem to the right size (or leave to puddle on the floor), or you can make your own from sheets or lengths of designer outlet fabric. Hang from an attractive new curtain rod, also available in stock sizes.
4 Pull a room together by choosing two contrast colours – black and white, say, or white and one bright colour – and use them as a repeating theme throughout, such as a row of yellow and white pillows on a sofa, or robin’s egg blue walls and all-white furnishings.
5 A simple but effective tip: Edit your accessories. Too much of a good thing is too much. Try taking all your home decor accessories and putting them in a box, then putting them back one by one where they’ll have the most impact.
6 Take down all your paintings and other art and move them around to different walls or different rooms. It’ll be like seeing them for the first time.
7 A classic display scheme ever since Victorian times: Create a gallery wall of family photos and other small pictures in matching (or contrasting) frames, arranged in a collage on a large wall such as a stairwell or hallway. (For best results, first create a plan by arranging them on the floor till you find the right composition and “balance.”) The art of arrangement is always stylish.
8 Inexpensive frame mouldings from the box store can transform a plain wall or hallway into an instant paneled look. Paint the mouldings in a contrasting shade or white.
9 Replace overhead lighting with thrift-store (or box store) chandeliers. (Note: it’s recommended to hire a professional electrician to install them.) A dated-looking chandelier can be painted white. You can also add extra crystal drops, available at lighting stores.
10 Peruse Craigslist, eBay or freecycle.org regularly for finds. It’s amazing what shows up at a bargain or even free – but like any good flea market shopper, be sure to check regularly, as good things go fast.
11 Carpet stores often have remnants of high-end carpet at rock-bottom prices that make a great area rug. The store may bind the edges for you, or you can do it yourself with carpet binding tape and some tidy hand-sewing.
12 Some paint stores sell mixed paint for much less than custom-mixed paint because the colour was off or it was returned to the store. Great if you’re willing to experiment on the colour.
13 Re-tile kitchen backsplashes. Most backsplashes require only a few square feet of tile, so you can treat yourself to a fancy style or use plain porcelain tile for most of the surface. Then intersperse a few hand-painted or high-end tiles as accents.
14 Small details make all the difference: Beautiful coasters, interesting desk frames, a small but exquisite crystal vase filled with fresh flowers.
15 Buy a half-dozen four-inch terra cotta pots and paint in a trio of coordinating colours. Plant with herbs and line the pots up on a kitchen windowsill.
16 Big box stores have come a long way in terms of cheap and chic bathroom accessories and stylish storage options. For a fraction of what you’d pay in a high-end bath boutique, you can often get pretty designs in wood or china, or sleek modern accents.
17 A trick made famous by Woody Allen in Annie Hall: Change the lightbulb in your bedroom lamp with a pink one for a rosy, romantic glow. Or opt for a pink lampshade, which can produce something of the same effect.
18 Replace the drawer and cabinet pulls in your kitchen, bath, bedroom, or on a furniture piece. Inexpensive stylish options can be found at Lee Valley, Summerhill Hardware, IKEA or other big box stores, or you can scour a thrift shop or antique store for vintage ones.
19 Replace your bathroom shower curtain and curtain hooks, for an instant freshener for even the most dingy bathroom. Create a sparkling bathroom makeover.
20 You can now buy ready-made slipcovers that with a few judicious tucks, fit much better than the wrinkly versions of yore. Or, for a little more investment, have loose-fitting slipcovers made.
21 Replacing an ugly old faucet with a new one is a relatively simple DIY project. Many big box store styles are designed for home installers and include all the fittings and instructions in the box.
22 Purchase an inexpensive but attractive frame, or rescue an old one from an antique store or your parents’ attic. Paint flat white and attach small rings to the upper corners. Place hooks on the wall to correspond and hang. Hang a couple of vintage plates or smaller framed pictures artfully inside, or leave the framed space as-is, for an artful and simple focal point.
23 Maximize light in a darker room by hanging a framed mirror directly opposite the window.
24 Take a walk in the park, woods or beach and pick up interesting (and free) seasonal accents for your home. A tray filled with pinecones, a tall vase of dried pampas grass stalks, or a bowl of colourful pebbles, beach glass or shells all make eye-catching home decor accessories.
25 Spruce up your entrance by painting your front door a cheerful colour. Pair it with a new lighting fixture, mailbox and house numbers - all available at the box store.