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Remodeling on a Tight Budget

Perhaps most of our time at home is spent in the kitchen. It’s the place where we eat our meals, have friends over for coffee, do homework, and even plan our daily lives. Yet in many homes, the kitchen’s décor is not up to standard. It’s old fashioned, it’s gloomy, and you hate it. Much as you’d like to do a total remodel, you just don’t have the funds available right now.

Well, take heart; it is possible to turn a drab kitchen into a fab kitchen — without breaking the bank — by changing just a few key elements and leaving any major structural work for better times.

Like all remodeling projects, a modest budget remodel needs some planning. You must set your budget from the outset, and then stick to it. Make an appraisal of the functionality: how much do you use the kitchen and for what? This will determine what new elements to install. Obviously, a kitchen décor designed for a New York loft is not going to suit a family with kids.

Be realistic. If you are planning to do a part of the work yourself, determine what you are and are not capable of doing. Take your plan and your budget to the contractor, and let him provide the services of electricians or professional carpenters, as well as give advice on materials.

Change the Countertops

Chances are that the countertop has seen better days. Yet it’s one of the most noticeable parts of the kitchen. Just changing the countertop can make an enormous difference in sprucing up the room. And there are many eye-catching options available to suit every budget, from laminates to beautiful polished granites or ceramic tile.

Then there’s the sink and the faucets: a brand new stainless steel sink will cost just a few hundred dollars. Or why not consider cast iron, ceramic, or stone? Faucets also come in a whole range of styles, from ultra-modern to vintage kitchen, in materials such as bronze, copper, brass, or shiny chrome. There’s so much  to choose from out there, that it’s never been easier to put together a killer look for your kitchen.

Remake the Cabinets

Because new cabinets are usually one of the most expensive parts of redoing a kitchen, don’t rip them out for now, if you don’t have to. If their structure is good, you can give them a whole new look to match the rest of your new kitchen by replacing the knobs and handles, and refacing or refinishing the doors.

For example, you can have the center panels replaced with frosted glass, and then paint the surrounding wood a bright, cheerful color to blend in with the rest of the kitchen décor. Or, if you want to keep the wood look, have them refaced with a new, lighter wood veneer.

This is one area where we strongly recommend hiring the services of a professional. Even if you are the handiest DIY’er in the neighborhood, it is very difficult to achieve a professional result — and it can cost more to rescue a botched job than to hire a professional from the outset.

Rethink the Lighting

If your kitchen is old, chances are that the illumination consists of one large fluorescent fixture hanging over the center of the room. Yet lighting can drastically change the look of a drab kitchen. Recessed lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting are all good ways of making a lighting statement.

Install lighting under cabinets to highlight that new countertop — or even behind those new glass doors inside the cabinets — and illuminate the room with strategically-placed pendant lighting. The lights can be controlled by a combination switch.

Color Those Walls

The best value for your money in a budget remodel is a new coat of paint. Draw your color scheme from an item of interest in the kitchen, and take a good, long look at the multitude of finishes available, from faux finishes to high gloss. You can then select new, soft furnishings to coordinate with the new color. Changing the curtains is easy and eye-catching, and you can recover kitchen chairs using the same fabric.

We haven’t covered the subject of appliances or flooring. That’s because they represent a large outlay, which is beyond the scope of a budget remodeling project. But even here, there are solutions. To change the look of old appliances, have them covered with paneling that matches the new look of your cabinets. And flooring can be covered with a throw rug until you have the budget to replace it.