Who hasn’t stared at their kitchen and wished HGTV could sweep in and update it? Short a television show’s budget and ability to bring in contractors, the next best thing might be talking to people who have decorated for TV: Orlando Soria, who is launching his own HGTV show in the fall called “Unspouse My House,” and Karin Bennett, who was a lead designer for a season of “Property Brothers.”
But first, take some advice from professional organizer Jeanie Engelbach, founder and owner of apartmentjeanie in New York. “Organization of any space in the home is the foundation,” she says. “The kitchen should be the cleanest room in the home; however, it is often the most highly trafficked, congested, and forgotten space.” Clear out the clutter, put things back purposefully, pick a project or two, and you could have a new kitchen in a weekend. Really!
• Get rid of excess
Go through everything in your kitchen and set aside tools or appliances you don’t use. “If you’re not making fantastic-looking fruit salads all the time, you can let go of the melon baller,” Engelbach says. If you find later that you often use the waffle maker, you can put it back on the counter. Toss that collection of mismatched glassware, too. “Being an adult means letting go of free pint glasses from college,” she adds.
• Put everything in a logical place
When you put things back onto your shelves and into your drawers, organize how you use your kitchen. Put knives near cutting boards close to the sink. Gather coffee supplies together on a tray. Engelbach made a station for the school-age kids to put their lunches together, with drawers for snacks and containers for one of her clients.
• Paint something big
If you can’t stomach the work or have time to paint cabinets, paint some walls. One bold accent wall might require only a half-gallon of paint and an afternoon of work, says Bennett, who lives outside Toronto. Or paint your floor. “If you have a wood floor but hate the wood’s color, you can paint it white,” she adds. You can also paint tile flooring or a backsplash with the right paint – Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams have good options.
• Update hardware
Both Bennett and Soria suggest installing new cabinet hardware. “One of the most common questions clients ask is whether all of the metals have to match,” says Soria, who is based in Los Angeles. “But I think you can mix it up.” He says the black finish looks good with a brass finish or nickel-zinc. Mix up shapes, too. Try knobs on the upper cabinets and pull on the lowers, a strategy Bennett employed for her kitchen. For even less money, you can spray-paint your existing hardware. “I am a spray-paint queen,” Bennett says. “Unscrew those knobs and take them out to your garage.” She suggests matte or brushed gold.
Updating fixtures may seem like a project only for homeowners, but Soria could change out the lights in his rental with his landlord’s approval. When choosing a new fixture, consider how much light you want. In a dark kitchen, Bennett says, the lampshades should be translucent or glass. “Then you’ll get a lot more light and not just directional light” shining downward. She finds inexpensive pendants and more at Target, HomeSense, and HomeGoods.
• Accessorize well
“Even just the type or amount of accessories you have in your kitchen can completely change the look,” Bennett says. With a classic white kitchen and black countertops, she’d add natural wood in cutting boards leaning against a backsplash or wooden bowls on a shelf. “A copper or terra-cotta plant pot looks amazing,” she adds. If you’re looking for more vibrantly colored accessories, Bennett says to use the color in no more than three accessories. Think, too, of how those appliances on your countertop can be accessories in their own right. Engelbach says Smeg’s appliances, in particular, are attractive and adds that even a new kettle and toaster can re-energize a kitchen.
• Put down a washable throw rug
“They’re making some perfect washable rugs for the kitchen now,” Soria says, pointing to Hook & Loom as an example. Try a 2-by-3-foot rug in front of the sink or a 2-by-8-foot runner down a long kitchen. It adds “softness and color,” he says. “And you want a washable rug because, in a kitchen, sauces are flying everywhere.”
• Hang art
“Something you don’t always see is putting up art,” Soria says. “I’ve put up art on my backsplash using self-adhesive foam tape.” He says it can help anchor those organized stations, making them look visually united. Engelbach agrees. “I think it’s nice to have fabulous artwork,” she says. “People who have open floor plans and open kitchens need to be cognizant of the fact that the kitchen is part of the living space.” You’ll want it aesthetically pleasing if you can see a kitchen wall while sitting on your living room sofa.
• Try removable wallpaper and tile
Engelbach says that while many of her New York clients are in rented apartments, even those who aren’t don’t know if they want to commit to the expense of fully adhesive wallpaper. Soria suggests self-adhesive penny tile for renters and non-renters, and Engelbach recommends temporary wallpaper. Many companies make these, including Tempaper Designs and Chasing Paper. For a “very-budget update” for a backsplash, easy to find on Amazon, at Home Depot, or Bed Bath & Beyond. “If you don’t have the time or the money to tile, you can use this wall detail.”
• Change out a window treatment
Soria had just finished his parents’ kitchen remodeled and added a patterned Roman shade. “It’s a small update you can do,” he says. Bennett suggests sewing the shade with remnants or going-out-of-stock fabric to save even more.