5 quick and easy, no-demolition required kitchen upgrades

By Jennifer Laing | April 16, 2015 - 11:59AM

A complete kitchen overhaul can transform the sanctuary that is your home into a construction zone for weeks. Fortunately, you can make significant changes to your cooking space without the use of major power tools, or even electricity. We spoke with New York City designer Robin Baron, who shared tips that require little more than a screwdriver and paintbrush, but make a huge impact on your space:

1. Update your hardware: Few kitchen fittings date your space faster than old hardware. Happily, it’s one of the easiest upgrades to manage solo (some handy work with a screwdriver is all it takes). Be sure to measure the distance between the existing holes in your cabinets and choose new hardware accordingly, cautions Baron. The current trend is for longer pulls that stretch almost the entire length or width of the cabinet or drawer. (Bonus: these can double as place to hang dishtowels, oven mitts, pot holders, and the like.)

2. Add a coat of paint: Nothing freshens up a dreary kitchen faster than a paint job. Lighter shades like pale taupe or pale grey reflect light, brighten a room and tend to conceal flaws like scratches, dents and dings better than darker colors. Don't forget the ceiling: "Ceilings are often missed opportunities but painting them adds drama and interest to the room," says Baron who currently  loves the look of a metallic shade—like bronze, silver and pewter—overhead, 

3. Replace cabinet doors—or just remove them entirely: Like window treatments in the living room, cabinet doors pack a punch in the kitchen. Swap out existing ones for an updated or glass-paned version. Or, you can even remove them entirely, says Baron, but beware, dishes and glassware stored in open-shelving tend to gather dust. Cabinets can also be painted but DIY jobs tend to look, well, DIY, so if you want to go in this direction, leave this painting to the pros.

4. Swap out the lighting fixtures: There’s no rule that states all kitchens must feature boring recessed lighting. In fact, a fancy fixture can add personality—especially to the utilitarian spaces found in many NYC rentals. They're like jewelry to a room, says Baron who recommends pendants, chandeliers, even paper lanterns from Ikea. Kitchens should be well lit (lest you slice your thumb instead of those carrots sticks), so make sure your new fixtures throw a sufficient amount of light. Baron likes dimmers so the light can be customized based on the time of day or your current needs.  

5. Add a window treatment: If you're lucky enough to have a window in your kitchen, don't ignore it, says Baron. Instead, play up a view with fabric shade. The current trend is for less fussy styles (think Roman shades) and patterns with cleaner lines. If your vista is less than stellar (hello, brick wall) go for simple wood blinds with slats that can be angled to let in light while blocking the unpleasant view.


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