Thinking of remodeling your kitchen — and thinking the better of it when you hear the horror stories about how hard a project like that is these days? Between supply chain issues, wild cost increases, and the near impossibility of finding skilled tradesmen available to perform the work, it’s enough to make anyone leave well enough alone. I’m in the final weeks of a nearly two-year-long whole-house renovation project so I can tell you firsthand, that it’s tough out there.
But what’s a person to do if their kitchen is feeling tired and in need of a pick-me-up?
Well, a lot, actually!
To get some ideas for a more minor kitchen refresh that doesn’t call for a single hammer or power tool, I chatted with local designer T.K. Wismer of Department of the Interiors. From $5 and five minutes up to a few hundred dollars (OK maybe more for appliances) and a few hours, her kitchen refresh suggestions are totally doable ― and several would work just as well for renters as for homeowners.
So here are her tips for how to upgrade your kitchen on a budget.
How to add peel-and-stick wallpaper to your kitchen
If you think wallpaper is making a comeback, Wismer wants you to know it never left. What’s new though, is an abundance of temporary wall coverings.
“We’re seeing expressive designs coming into the kitchen space,” Wismer says, and “people are getting more comfortable with using color and then kind of personalizing those spaces.”
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In the world of peel and stick wallpaper, there are “just so many cool designs,” she says. And thanks to social media, our kitchens are being shown off not just when we host dinners, but in our feeds.
“We all are kind of gravitating to the scroll-stopping looks,” she says. “As we turn more to our digital identities, we’re really transforming our spaces to be more expressive, and wallpaper is a great way to get pattern and color.”
It also lets us play with very of-the-moment looks because it’s such an easy thing to swap out.
Where can it go? A backsplash area is a great place to start, Wismer says. I recently put a zebra pattern from Tempaper in a studio kitchen I renovated and it was the biggest-impact five minutes of the whole project. On the back wall of glass-front cabinets is a favorite of Wismer’s. Lining drawers is a fun little pop, she says, and if you’re really ambitious, go for the ceiling for a real statement.
How a painted ceiling can help renovate any room
Speaking of ceilings, nobody says they can only be plain white. Paint is always the easy and obvious answer to an update, but often we default to leaving ceilings white. A fun color above can give a kitchen a whole new look.
Do carefully consider your color choice, Wismer says, and lean into your personal palette, rather than whatever is trending at the moment. Also, think about the lighting in the room and how that will interact with the color. At the end of the day, it’s just paint. I painted the ceiling a cheerful yellow in another tiny kitchen I recently designed, knowing that if I hated it, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to redo it (but it turned out great!).
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How to create a coffee station in your kitchen
Pandemic life provided the chance to think about using our home spaces in new ways, Wismer says. Since so many of us lost our commute stops like coffee shops during COVID, bringing some of those rituals home provided a new way to use the kitchen. Leveling up the basic countertop coffeemaker can be a really fun way to re-energize any space.
Start with carving out a dedicated space, maybe with a bar cart, or adding some floating shelves, Wismer says. Consider upgrading your coffee mugs and splurging on a higher-end coffee maker. (A Nespresso machine is the single best purchase I’ve ever made for my kitchen!) Throw in some fancy syrups and cute new kitchen towels, and suddenly you’ve got a lovely morning ritual to help you face the day.
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How to add accent lighting to a kitchen renovation
While lots of us have started incorporating smart features like thermostats and Amazon Alexa devices into our homes, it’s been a slower adoption in the kitchen, Wismer says, but smart bulbs are a great entry point, she says. Swapping out bulbs for those you can control with your phone gives you the chance to change the mood with just a tap. While we video chatted she changed the colors in her lights and I hung up thinking my Christmas lights strung year-round (at the coffee station!) feel a little … old fashioned.
Why you should shop for color appliances for the kitchen
It’s been all stainless all the time for years, but appliances in new colors, even metallics, or elegant finishes like the matte white I chose for the Bertazzoni range in the Victorian I’m renovating, can bring a modern, elevated look to a kitchen, and the GE Cafe line can certainly stop a scroll. Colorful Smeg appliances are drool-worthy, and I have my eye on the more affordable, vintage-inspired Galanz refrigerators for my next studio kitchen reno.
Will any of these be the avocado green of the 2020s? Honestly, so what if they are? If we’ve learned anything from the world we’re in now, it’s to savor the moment, and find ways to delight in the things large and small around us. If a cherry red or mint green fridge makes you happy? It’s your kitchen — do what you want.
Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.