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A fresh solution
5 quick fixes for a stale kitchen



Your kitchen is looking a bit tired and youíd love to wake it up, but you donít want to do a complete overhaul. What are your options? According to the experts, the key to giving your kitchen a brand new look without tearing down walls is to enhance the aesthetic or visual elements. The kitchen is at the top of the home improvement list for most homeowners. "Thereís so much you can do to update your kitchen. The possibilities are unlimited ó wherever your imagination takes you," says Steve Erb, appliance manager for Wisconsin Kitchen Mart in Milwaukee.

1 Reface, donít replace

One affordable alternative to overall remodeling is to reface your kitchen cabinets. Refacing the cabinets literally means putting a new "face" on the cabinets. It involves removing all the old doors and drawer fronts. Then, the exposed cabinet frames are covered with a new layer of wood veneer or laminate. New doors and drawers are added, too. The cabinets will look as good as or better than new, according to Todd Dauss of Finishing Touch in West Bend.

An alternative to refacing your cabinets is refinishing them. "If your cabinets are in good shape, refinishing them may be the best way to go. You can remove the doors and drawers, strip them and give them a whole new look for one-tenth the cost of replacing them," says Dauss. "This works well for customers who have granite countertops and canít remove cabinets without taking out the countertops."

There are myriad ways to approach refinishing your cabinets ó paints and glazes, a mixture of paint and glaze, or you can create an antique or distressed finish. It all depends upon the customer. "Painting is popular with some customers," says Dauss. "One trend weíre seeing is to go lighter in color with a clear coat glaze over the top."

2 Shed some light on the subject

If youíve ever struggled to cook in an inadequately lit kitchen, you know the value of good lighting. That calls for the right recipe and proper ingredients. "Itís a common problem in many homes. Replacing the light fixtures and adding appropriate lighting can make a big difference in a kitchen," says Dauss.

There are many ways to light a kitchen and it helps to have the advice of a professional who can give you some help with the location and style of lights you need. "Illuminating your workspace makes such a difference when you are cooking," says Erb. "If you have an older home or one in which the light fixtures have not been changed in some time, this is something that can really change the look of your room."

Recessed lighting is great for creating a blanket of light, but you may also need specific task lighting or under-cabinet lights. Adding dimmers can help create a certain mood. When you visit a lighting showroom, bring along a layout of your kitchen; this is critical to the placement of the lights.

3 What lies beneath

Whatís underfoot in your kitchen? If you have dingy or aging flooring, there are plenty of ways you can change it, according to Laurie Peirick, owner of JP Kitchen Design Studio in Oconomowoc. "Replacing the flooring with vinyl that looks like ceramic tile or wood is one way to get the look of much more expensive natural flooring. Patterns range from traditional to sophisticated and exotic," she says. "You can put these floors in over a weekend and they will last for five years or more."

4 Switch on with new appliances

Still holding on to your avocado green refrigerator and stove in the hope they will make a comeback? Or, perhaps your stove, refrigerator and dishwasher are mismatched. For a great new look, you might want to consider updating and coordinating your appliances, Erb suggests. "You might have all black appliances or all white and you want to refresh them," he says. "Right now, our biggest sellers are stainless steel and anything that can have a wood panel placed on the front to camouflage it. Thereís so much that is new. We have a dishwasher that has a hidden control panel inside the machine. If you havenít been shopping lately, itís exciting to see what is available."

5 Cover your walls

Changing what is on your walls can completely transform your room, Peirick says. "Nothing beats a new coat of paint for improving the look of a room. Iím seeing a lot of earthy colors right now. They can make a room warmer and cozier," she says. And, donít worry too much about using dark colors in a small room. "If you have a lot of light, you can use a darker color," she adds.

Adding a backsplash to the area between your cabinets and countertops is one more way to completely alter the look of your kitchen. "You can liven up your kitchen with a tile backsplash. There are hundreds of different tile designs. You can even have tiles custom-made for you," Erb says. If you donít want to use ceramic tile, stainless steel and glass are two alternatives. "This kind of work is not very labor-intensive or costly and it can be done quickly," he notes.