Find cheap and chic kitchen perk-ups for your home.
Organizing, styling and mini-makeover ideas to transform the hub of your home.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
1 Elevate the everyday – invest in a set of handmade cereal bowls.
2 Granny Smith apples – a stylist's secret weapon – are a pretty countertop accent and a healthy snack all in one.
3 When was the last time your toaster made toast the way you like it? If you can’t remember, it's time for a new one.
4 Use a bench with storage as a kitchen banquette.
5 Treat yourself to a fresh set of dishtowels. Reuse the old ones as rags to polish silver, shine shoes or wipe up paint spills.
6 Display a vintage dishware collection on open shelves.
7 Hot-glue a seldom used vintage kitchen utensil in a shadow box and start a collection to adorn your walls.
8 Overhaul the area under your sink cabinet to make room for garbage, recycling and composting.
9 Bake a pie or layer cake – your kitchen will be transformed in less than an hour.
10 Hide the counter clutter of keys, cellphones and sunglasses inside a Moroccan tajine.
11 Remove everything from the tops of cabinets. Thoroughly clean the area. Do not replace the items!
12 Get rid of any chipped plates or cups – they're getting you down.
13 Dress the windowsill with two or three pots of moss or herbs.
14 If you have glass door cabinets but can't keep what’s inside looking tidy, line the glass panels with wallpaper or fabric, or apply frosted window film.
15 Install energy-efficient under cabinet lighting.
16 Use crystal flutes for your orange juice tomorrow morning. Champagne optional!
17 Create a photo wall of family members with their birthday cakes over the years.
18 Conceal scratches or dents on an old fridge with decorative wall decals.
19 A rough-hewn wooden bowl looks just as great empty as it does filled with rustic breads, artichokes or newspapers.
20 If there isn't a window above your sink, hang a mirror there.
21 Add French flair: opt for a rustic table and chairs in the centre of your kitchen rather than an island.
22 Wallpaper the ceiling.
23 Tall ceilings? Install a large nontypical central light, like a chandelier, lantern or industrial pendant.
24 Cook up some natural air freshener: In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of apple cider to a simmer. Add a few slices of lemon, cinnamon sticks and 1 tsp whole cloves. Simmer for a couple of hours, adding more cider as it evaporates.
25 Hang a fabric blind with an elegant swag for a touch of grandeur.
Photography by Robin Stubbert
26 A potted orchid in a white ceramic pot is a sophisticated living accessory that lasts longer than cut stems.
27 Install a new faucet.
28 Use a shallow baking dish to store cooking essentials by the cooktop or stove. It will keep everything exactly where you need it and save your counter from oil rings and pepper grinder debris. Decant olive oil into an opaque or dark glass bottle to protect it from light.
29 Treat yourself to a new set of canisters.
30 Say no to paper napkins and switch to a colourful fabric set.
31 Switch out your dated kitchen chairs for black Windsor chairs. They're a design classic – great with mod or trad tables.
32 Remove a pair of cupboard doors and style the open shelves with your prettiest things.
33 Install invisible touch-latch hardware for a sleek, modern look.
34 Hang wallpaper as a backsplash. Protect it with acrylic or glass panels custom cut and installed by a glazier.
35 Leave only your chicest small appliances on the counter.
36 Conceal an ugly backsplash behind peel-andstick Smart Tiles.
37 Banish old knobs in favour of sexy new ones.
38 Conquer the junk drawer.
39 Get a handsome mortar and pestle. When you aren't using it to muddle mint for a mojito, press it into service as a bookend for cookbooks.
40 Paint your cabinets nature's neutral – green. It will look great with all your fruits and veg.
41 Display a pineapple when you're expecting guests – it's the universal symbol of welcome.
42 Make a pretty message board by placing fabric or decorative paper behind the glass of a large frame. Then use a dry erase marker to write on the front.
43 Add shaped brackets along the toe kick to make your cabinets look like fine furniture.
44 Install decorative casing trim around your pass-through.
45 Banish the smelly dishcloth hanging over the faucet! Organize your sinkside essentials on a rectangular dish or tray. The must-haves: dish soap in a pretty container (or decant some into a translucent white squeeze bottle), an all-natural cellulose sponge for dishwashing, a scrub brush and a plastic scrubber for pots.
46 Install a plate rack. Use it to display a collection of platters or cookbooks.
47 Splurge on a marble-top dining table for your best friend.
48 Keep utensils contained and at the ready in a plain white pitcher – it goes with any kitchen.
49 Perk up a family table with cheerful oilcloth that you can wipe clean in a flash.
50 The next time you buy groceries, bring home a bunch of daisies for the kitchen table.
Whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles.
A DIY-inclined couple turns an 800-square-foot two-bedroom bungalow into the perfect home for their young family.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson transformed the secondhand piano by covering it in grey paint, casually accessorizing it like the rest of the living room and softening its bench with a faux-sheepskin throw.
The whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles. “I brought softness into the space with the upholstered pieces, while keeping a farmhouse vibe with the antique rocking chairs,” says Amanda.
Homeowners Jason and Amanda Robinson hang out in the bright living room with their sons, Ethan (left) and Aidan.
While blue hues rock this farmhouse, Amanda also popped in some pink tones as contrast.
A fun DIY project or easily picked up at a gardening centre, terrariums are a great way to keep your home green in small ways.
Durable slate tiles define the entryway in this open-concept space. Practical items in natural tones like the bench, mirror and coat rack are artfully arranged so everything looks pulled together.
The kitchen epitomizes Amanda’s love of pale backdrops punctuated with colour and natural tones. “I made the shelves out of wooden boards from our barn and left them unpainted to contrast all the white and to complement the butcher block counters,” she says. Mismatched hardware picks up on the hits of blue throughout the home.
With their young sons and pets (Weimaraner Tessie and cat Nimble) in mind, Amanda chose tongue-and-groove pine planks for the floors, ceilings and walls. “I didn’t want new drywall with two little boys and pets running around,” she says. “It was the best design decision I ever made.”
Amanda knew she wanted a light and bright space and conceived the decor with colour in mind. “This is still a really small house, so I stuck to a neutral palette for the base: white and cream with natural wood tones throughout,” she says.
Amanda and Jason knocked down walls to create an eat-in area that features a free-standing stove surrounded by stone-veneered walls and a thrift-store dining table and chairs proudly bearing a mismatched paint job. “I painted everything grey and then decided to paint all the chairs blue but got sidetracked after one,” says Amanda. “It’s fun and quirky as is, and the boys take turns sitting in the blue chair at dinnertime.”
“The walls in Aidan’s bedroom were in good shape, so we painted them and added pine planks to the ceiling,” says Amanda. “I like the masculine look of the unpainted wood.” The new blue dressers share the space with a thrift-store wicker chair, a yellow-painted hand-me-down stool and rope-hung shelves Amanda crafted from barnboard.
“Ethan wanted everything in his room swimming pool turquoise.” They settled on a seafoam blue that’s more soothing for a bedroom and then incorporated coordinating accents in every room – even on the front door. “If you keep the big things neutral and then add accents in a single shade, it makes everything seem effortlessly connected,” says Amanda.
A bright screen door frame hints at the pops of blue to be found inside the house. Amanda refinished a hand-me-down pine table in grey paint and repurposed it as an easy-to-access storage unit for firewood. Antique Canadian Pacific Railway lanterns found in the barn and on Kijiji layer in more colour and reference the surrounding rustic landscape.
After a fresh coat of paint and some carefully placed furniture, the Robinsons are set to make this newly decorated farmhouse their home.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson used blue paint throughout her home to liven up the soothing neutral palette and provide a link from room to room. Here are her three favourite shades.
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Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.