Sunday, January 31, 2010

You’ve Got Questions? We’ve Got Your Answers.

Yep, my familia has the stomach flu. It’s almost 4 am & I haven’t been to bed yet. Poor Sassypants. I thought she was feeling better, but she got sick again tonight. So I’m washing all the bed linens, and while I’m waiting, I thought I’d catch up on blogging duties.

During my giveaway, I took design questions that you wanted help with or further discussed. Hopefully, I’ll be able to cover one or two of those topics every week until I get through them. I’ll work in the order that they were received and may possibly cover several topics together if they’re related.

It’s exciting to use my non-Mommy brain again for design (at least occasionally). I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Just remember design/decorating is a very subjective topic and process. My answers won’t be the Gospel and it may not be right, so if you disagree or need further discussion—let’s talk. I’m sure I can learn a little from all of you as well!

Today’s question comes from Insight, Insanity, Imagination. She asks, I would love to hear(read) your tips on how to dress up a kitchen that needs some loving without much $$ to spend!”

First off, that’s an excellent question! As you all know, the kitchen is where we spend about 70-80% of our time when we’re home. Our kitchen serves as our command center. We prepare meals, eat, pay bills, visit with family and friends, and complete loads of other tasks in this workhorse of the house.

Unfortunately, when it comes to remodeling or freshening up the look of your kitchen, it’s the most expensive update you can do. Just think about it, it’s comprised of major appliances, plumbing, and cabinetry and countertops. Even individually, these items are not cheap to replace.

According to “Remodel” magazine, the national average for a mid-grade kitchen renovation is $56,000, and an upgrade renovation will set you back approximately $110,000. Outrageous, huh? But when you start adding up $2,000 for a refrigerator, $2,000 for a range, $5,000 for granite countertops, $1,000 for a dishwasher, it all adds up.

SOOOO, how can you “freshen” up your kitchen on a minimum budget? You may be thinking some minor updates before a party at your house, or you may be thinking of doing the whole sha-bang.

So to answer your question, I’ll be answering it in 2 parts. I don’t want to say things like “Paint your cabinets.” when you need to ask yourself some questions and do research before you start. First, I’ll help you figure out what you need to change, make a plan on how to change those things, then give you some ideas to later implement.

Go get a pen and paper, and ask yourself these things-

  • What bothers me? Is it the cabinets? The inefficient layout? Outdated appliances? The color? The countertops? The floor? The overall look? Don’t think about what “you want to do or update”. Think about what really bothers you.
  • Make a list of what you can “live with”. If the cabinet construction is good, but you’re not digging the oak finish and brass handles, think about painting them & changing out the hardware.
  • Realistically what can I spend? Add at least 15% cushion to your budget. Trust me, things will come up, and those things cost money.
  • Can I break up the projects into stages? For example, one month you may want to replace the flooring with a tile, and the next month, paint the walls. It doesn’t make sense paint first, then have to pull up the freshly painted baseboards to install the tile.
  • How much can I do myself? If you’re pretty handy or willing to research and learn, you can save yourself a great deal of money by doing some or all of the updates yourself. Can’t install a dishwasher? Then call a plumber. But maybe you can paint or rip up tile. These are things that could be easily done in a weekend and put your budget to better use in other areas.
  • Will I be living here more than 5 years? If you’re renting or only planning on living in your house for a year or two, it wouldn’t be wise to sink thousands and thousands of dollars into remodeling your kitchen. At that point you may want to make minimal updates for livability and resale purposes. If you’re living in your “forever” house, then go for the Viking range. If you know you’ll be moving soon, find a more affordable option.
  • Consider organization and functionality as part of the solution. A little over a year ago, I hired 2 professional organizers to come into my house to get things under control after 7 multi-state moves in 11 years. Yes, I the interior designer, space-planner person called in the troops. It’s one of the best things I ever did for myself and my family. Together we came up with great storage solutions for the kitchen. They didn’t just come in, throw away things, stick labels on every non-moving object, and then leave. We thought about my family’s day-to-day activities in the kitchen and referred to #1 above-“What bothered us?” Once we figured that out and fixed it, I found that we didn’t really need a bigger kitchen and more storage.
  • Once you’ve answered all the above questions, make a “Renovation Notebook”. It can be a file folder, a 3-ring binder or a spiral notebook with pockets. Whatever you can easily carry around. I like to get really bright (neon) file folders or notebooks for my ongoing priority project. That way it’s easy to spot if it’s in your car or mixed in the stack of mail. In your notebook, have the following:

~An ongoing “to-do” list.

~Names and numbers of your contractors, etc.

~A copy of your budget

~A list showing the order of your projects.

~Pictures from magazines or websites that show ideas that you like.

~A list of paint colors, materials, etc. you will be using.

You may be saying, “Phew, that’s all too much. I’m newly married/just had a baby/a college student, etc. and I don’t even have $1,000 to fix up my kitchen.” My answer is… still should ask yourself the same questions. Planning is crucial at an step or stage of renovation. It keeps you closer to your budget, keeps your family all on the same page, and really does save you time.

Stayed tuned---I’ll have some money-saving tips, examples with pictures, and more info to update your kitchen on a budget.


  1. thank you for taking the time for these questions! I look forward to more of your decorating ideas and advice! :)

  2. Awww--I hope you all feel better soon!!!
    Love reading all of your design tips & can't wait for more! :)

  3. I'm amazed at how organized and thorough your blog was. I couldn't put together one complete sentence at that time of morning after being up with sick kids! I'm hoping you'll cover some cleaning tips. I really need to know how to clean my off-white baseboards in the busy kitchen without a toothbrush! The corners and crevices are killing me with the gunk that cements itself there.