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Seven Steps to a Quick and Affordable Kitchen Makeover

If your kitchen decor is as bland as boiled rice, here are seven affordable ways to update it up without renovating

A woman paints the front of her kitchen cabinets

Start with a hardware update on your cabinets

Switching your hardware is an easy way to change the look and feel of a kitchen. To fill the holes left by the old door and drawer pulls and to install the new ones, you’ll need a measuring tape, pencil, drill and drill bit (the diameter of the new screws) and a screwdriver. “If the cabinet is a stained or painted wood, you need to fill the holes with a stainable or paintable wood filler, sand the spot and touch up with a matching stain or paint,” advises Toronto-based contractor Rawlie Rampaul. “If the cabinet is a vinyl or melamine-type material, you can fill the holes with the matching colour caulking.” When it’s time to choose the look of the new hardware, some people love the playfulness of painted porcelain, while others prefer the simple functionality of Scandinavian design. Black hardware on white cabinets is always a crisp aesthetic, and finger pulls in polished brass bring a hint of decadence to an otherwise utilitarian space.

Get creative with the floor

“If your wooden floors are beaten up, consider painting them,” Rampaul says. White or pale grey always looks good, especially if you’re a fan of the Cape Cod aesthetic. “It can be a big job, but it totally changes the look and feel of a space. But the paint will scuff and fade over time, so you have to be willing to embrace that beach house feel.” 

Or, throw down a rug, says Shirley Meisels, principal of Toronto’s MHouse Inc. “I like to place them in front of the sink and stove,” she says. “Wool is very forgiving of food and water, and rugs are a great way to bring in some personality by way of colour and pattern.”

Freshen up with paint

Tired of those aubergine walls? Make them white! Nothing packs more punch than a fresh coat of paint. Head over to Dulux Paints for a variety of shades where CAA Members save 25% and earn 3% in CAA Dollars® on all regular priced paint. It’s the easiest and most affordable way to spruce up a space. For anyone up for the challenge, painting your own walls can keep the cost down. “Your paint job is only as good as the tools you use,” advises Dulux senior marketing manager Rob McDonald, who suggests prepping diligently—patching cracks and dents—before you start painting. “The better the prep, the better the results.” The most important thing, especially in a kitchen, is to clean the surfaces well, ideally with trisodium phosphate (TSP) or another good detergent. “The most common failure is bad adhesion to improperly cleaned surfaces,” McDonald says. Higher sheen finishes are preferable in kitchens because they’re easier to keep clean, he adds. “If you’ve used a semigloss before, maybe think about a pearl. It’s still high sheen and cleans easily, but it isn’t as glossy.” Colour trends are constantly changing, and McDonald encourages clients to choose what they like, not what’s in vogue. Meisels is a devotee of classic white. “It’s crisp and bright, and it never goes out of style.” 

Add some mood lighting

“There’s nothing worse than a dimly lit kitchen,” says Meisels. “Amping up your lighting can be transformative.” She suggests a dramatic light over the kitchen island, something that will create brightness but also act as a focal point. “It’s a source of light, a pop of colour and a sculptural element all at once.” Meisels also suggests a chic table lamp on a corner of the kitchen counter that doesn’t see much traffic. “Kitchens should be bright, sunny and cheerful,” she says.

Add new decor for an inexpensive update

Feature walls remain one of the quickest and most affordable ways to freshen up the whole room. If you’re painting with white, a pop of colour on one wall is a good idea. Patterned wallpaper—yes, even in a kitchen—also makes a bold statement, and botanical prints are making a comeback. For kitchens, Rampaul recommends a paper with a vinyl finish that has a barrier against moisture. “Look for wallpaper that is ‘washable,’ ‘scrubbable’ or ‘highly scrubbable,’” he adds. If applied properly, it will last for years. Chalkboard walls are fun in a family kitchen, and a wall of decorative plates is a retro option. Meisels also suggests framing vintage scarves or squares of wallpaper to bring texture and colour to the space. Head over to Indigo for frames in a variety of styles and sizes; CAA Members can earn 5% in CAA Dollars® when they shop online.

Try affordable vinyl tiles

If you don’t mind finicky tasks, peel-and-stick vinyl tiles may be the DIY project for you. There are so many options, from geometric patterns to intricate and exotic ones; a simple herringbone always looks chic. “Just be sure to practise on a small surface before you leap into the project,” Rampaul advises. “It may look easy, but it’s fiddly work, and the images we see on Pinterest aren’t always indicative of the reality.” Adhesive papers, such as those available at Home Depot and Rona—Where CAA Members earn 2% in CAA Dollars—can also masquerade as faux concrete, granite and natural wood, and work well to create a dramatic effect on an island. A marble option, with its subtle veins, can bring sophistication to a space at a smidgen of the cost. “Traditional materials are always my preference,” Rampaul says. “But if the vinyl ones are applied well, they can be a nice alternative. It all comes back to your expectations.

Complete your kitchen makeover with accessories

An outfit is only as good as its accessories, and the same applies to decor. Meisels suggests floating or open shelves to showcase colourful finds, art and plants. If you own some handmade ceramic bowls, you may want to display them here. Beautiful cookbooks should be on show, and a vase filled with fresh flowers is always welcome in a kitchen (try Teleflora where CAA Members save 20% and earn 5% in CAA Dollars). Consider keeping your counters uncluttered so that your chic new accessories have room to shine.

“Think of your kitchen as a work-in-progress,” Rampaul says. “You don’t have to do it all at once.” A few carefully chosen items and a fresh lick of paint can make a world of difference. And Meisels agrees, adding, “With $500 you can freshen up your walls, change the knobs on your cabinets and even throw down a new wool rug. The difference will feel huge.” 

Protect Your Home

You’ve updated your space; now make sure it’s protected with the right amount of insurance coverage. To get details and a quote from CAA Home Insurance, visit caasco.com/insurance.

Image credit: Getty Images/Johner Images