BY MARY VUONG
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
The kitchen is often the most expensive room in the house to remodel. It’s not unusual to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for custom cabinets, professional-grade appliances and lavish countertops.
Done well, of course, those upgrades can offer great returns when it’s time to put your place on the market. “Kitchens really sell houses,” says interior designer Carla Aston.
You don’t need an astronomical budget to create an appealing space, though. Here’s how to remodel for less.
If your existing cabinets still do the job, upgrade them with moldings, brackets and legs, Aston says. Cut panels out of the doors and install textured, etched or leaded glass to hide clutter for added depth. Even tweaking one pair of doors among many will break up a monochromatic kitchen. Paint the interiors of glass cabinets a contrasting color that coordinates with something else in the room.
To create open shelving, remove the doors and hinges, says Joetta Moulden, a photo stylist and self-described “interior redesigner.” Add molding for a finished look.
If you’re investing in new cabinetry, stock items are cheaper than custom. Add cornices to the top, and embellish corners to customize, suggests Joanne Kellar Bouknight, author of “All New Kitchen Idea Book” (Taunton Press, $19.95, 218 pp.).
Eliminate dead space, says Moulden, who is redoing the kitchen in her 1950s ranch-style house. “I’m concentrating on storage; in an older, small kitchen, that’s what you need.”
She is installing lazy Susans and pull-out shelving, contraptions that are more about function than drama.
Not every surface must go. Aston recently finished a project in which the Corian perimeter countertop remained while the island received a new granite top. Just make sure whatever stays is still in good shape. You can also purchase a custom butcher-block countertop at IKEA and stain it a rich color, Moulden says. Seal the surface before you use it.
Replace dated cabinet pulls and knobs. If you like modern, Moulden recommends the brushed nickel fixtures at IKEA ( www.ikea.com).
For a bigger selection, visit The Great Indoors ( www.thegreatindoors.com).
Find vintage-inspired pieces at Anthropologie ( www.anthropologie.com).
Consult Consumer Reports for the best brands and models, then visit local stores to narrow your choices.
Once you’ve made your selection, spend a few hours online researching the best deal.
Scratch-and-dent outlets are another option for discounted merchandise.
It doesn’t have to be tile.
How about a panel of stainless steel or attractive wallpaper under a sheet of glass?
Ditch the fluorescent box lighting, Aston says. Puck lights (so-called because they’re shaped like hockey pucks) or rope lights from home-improvement stores will brighten counters, cabinets and backsplashes. Pendants and chandeliers will add style.