The first thing that I usually suggest in decorating is to attack the largest areas first. In the kitchen, this usually means the cabinets. Now, if you have gorgeous wood cabinets, I suggest you leave them alone. Light them up, make them a focal point, enjoy them for their natural beauty. I love wood! However, most of us are not that lucky. Most of us have cheap pressboard oak "look" cabinets, or white laminate, or just old paint. Painting is a number one option and can totally transform the look of your kitchen. Use tsp on your cabinets to remove grime (and every kitchen has some!), lightly sand, prime and paint with a semi gloss enamel for best wear. You have a lot of options with your paint techniques. A favorite these days is to paint the cabinets creamy white, and then after they're dry, rub them with stain for an aged look. This is not just a country look, but very old world or traditional. Another is to leave the bottom cabinets stained, but to paint the top cabinets. Stencil the doors, hand-paint vines, and use your imagination to put your own creative stamp on one of the most creative rooms in the house! It is only paint after all.
Other options for cabinet facelifts are available for us budget-impaired decorators. Remove the center panel of the top cabinet doors, and then staple shirred fabric panels to the inside of the doors. Or buy plexi-glass panels to fit the opening, attach them to the back, and then use glass paints and faux leading to create "stained glass" cabinet doors. Use a dollar store battery stick on light to light from within. Other options outside painting include adding small wood appliques to the doors (can be picked up at craft stores) or molding to the tops of the cabinets. Consider painting or staining a different color. Hand-paint or stencil a central design in the center of each cabinet door, such as a cluster of roses over white cabinets in a country kitchen, or a fleur de lis in a classic kitchen.
The floor is the next major issue in most kitchens. I have mentioned in my ebooks, books, and articles that painting a vinyl floor is an option, provided you prime first with a primer like BIN or KILZ and then seal with several layers of polyurethane to protect. Use painter's tape to create tiles or custom designs. Try faux stone or wood or even terra cotta. Remember to let dry at least 24 hours after the final coat before walking on it. You can use this method with countertops too, but remember, don't cut on them! An even cheaper and more creative option? I have a very natural home with a very unnatural vinyl floor. Not having the cash to lay the slate floor I wanted, I took an idea from a faux leather lamp I had made, and made a faux leather floor! This is simply torn brown paper applied to a clean floor with polyurethane, and then sealed with several more layers of poly. Crumple the paper before you lay it down for an authentic look. This looks just like a leather floor, wears well, and even if you do get a stain, because of the variable finish, you are unlikely to notice! Another option is to create individual tiles from plywood, paint or faux finish as desired, seal with polyurethane, and then lay with tile adhesive and grout just like any tile floor. This idea will give you a one of a kind floor and could save you hundreds in the cost of tile.
Don't neglect your wall color just because the cabinets take up so much wall space. Since it is such a small area, try a really rich version of your chosen color scheme on the cabinet wall. I suggest solid colored walls in a kitchen versus a wallpaper or pattern because there is already so much going on in that room, it can tend to make it look cluttered to add more pattern.
Finally, accessorize your kitchen! It isn't just a utilitarian space. Try the old favorites like hanging plates, bringing in the cookbooks, or filling glass jars with beautiful foodstuffs. But how about some new ideas such as small framed mirrors grouped on a wall for depth, or framed antique postcards (they are really cheap at antique stores!). Try framing your Grandmother's apple pie recipe, or decoupage a whole wall with recipes sent from family or created by you. Show off your talents and give them the importance they deserve. (Email and a printer helps move this idea along, and you'll never have to search for a recipe again!) Put magnet strips on the back of some simple dollar shop picture frames, stick on the fridge, and display with style your children's artwork from school or home. It can be changed as often as you like, and what better way to display the heart of your home than with your heart?
Always remember to bring that heart into the home, and no matter how tight your budget is, you will find ways to make your home a joyful, memorable place for you and your loved ones.
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