Thursday, August 16

Interiors on a Tight Budget

I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but with the updates and upgrades that we've done to our house, I've never really shared any of the reasons why we do what we do.  I have a degree in Interior Design, so I thought I'd share some of my simple tips and suggestions for anyone else in our position (aka, champagne tastes on a beer budget, as Dave Ramsay would say).  Well, in the event of the remote possibility of putting our house up for sale sometime in the not-too-distant future, we are undertaking another project on our house: updating our kitchen.  Last December, we remodeled our one and only bathroom, and we've finally recovered from that debacle.  Now, we don't have $10,000 to spend on antique firearms, so we definitely don't have $10,000 to do a remodel of our kitchen.  Instead, we are going to work with what we do have: less money, and our own elbow grease (and perhaps we'll borrow someone else's elbow grease, too).  Here are a few tips to remodeling/redecorating what you have with what you have:

Tip #1)We took a day a few weeks ago to run over to Menard's and pick out new drawer pulls and hinges for our existing cabinets.  This was the least expensive part of the upgrade, and really, it can cost as much or as little as you would like.  It all depends on what you pick out!  We switched all of our cabinet hardware from the oh-so-fashionable brass of the '80s and early '90s to a brushed-nickel finish, that will soon coordinate with the new faucet that will fill our new sink with water.  It's truly amazing the difference that a small change like the hardware can make in updating a kitchen!  Now, I mentioned that we will also be replacing the sink and faucet, and those will go along with the new laminate countertop that we have on order.  We will be doing those projects in a few weeks, when the counters come in.  Which brings me to the next tip--
Old brass on left, brushed nickel on right
Old brass, tarnished and in bad shape
New brushed nickel hinges
First set finished!
Tip #2) Update your countertops while keeping your existing cabinets.  Countertops are pretty essential in a kitchen--you really can't work without them.  Therefore, update them accordingly!  In our case, we have a ranch house that was built in the 1960s in a neighborhood development (one of millions that went up during the housing boom of the '50s and '60s, as the baby boomer generation aged and were looking to buy their first house for their new families).  These houses were built quickly and cheaply to accommodate the growing population.  The house, while well-kept and at one time not that long ago used as a parsonage, was updated over the years using lesser-quality finishes, which brings us to today.  Because we are keeping the cabinets, we needed to go with something that wouldn't upstage the quality of the stock cabinetry of twenty years ago--and by that I mean, don't put a granite countertop on inexpensive, low-quality stock cabinets, because it just won't look right.  The finishes in your home should all match, not only in color, but also in quality.  Oddly, I've found that building materials of today, even though they may be stock items, seem to have a higher quality than those from fifteen or twenty years ago.  So, all of that to say this: laminate countertop was the only matching material to consider for our countertop replacement.  Even solid surface material would have looked too upscale (can you tell I hate my cabinets?) in an objective viewer's opinion. Currently, we have green counters.  I don't know why green.  They came with the house.  Fortunately, it's not the mildew-green or avocado green of the days of yore, it's much more minty in color, as you might have noticed from any photos that I have posted here or on my food blog.  It has been the bane of my husband's existence ever since we purchased the house, and we are now going to a neutral off-white with other flecks of neutral tones in it.  We repainted the house when we moved in, and the kitchen became blue, which helped tone the green countertops down a bit, but it was never palatable for hubs.  He's really excited to get this done.  Oh-and one other idea: you can paint your existing cabinets if you really want to give them a new look.  It seems to me that this idea only works some of the time, and the rest of the time it doesn't look good at all.  You have to have a solid picture in your head of the end result, or it will just look bad.  We are not going to do that anyway, but I had considered it in the past.  I think that in our case, it would be a "just look bad" situation if we painted the cabinets.  

Tip #3) Update your sink and faucets.  This is also a small change that can add instant appeal to someone looking to purchase a house.  It may seem like a small thing, but when a stainless-steel sink that has been around for years starts to accumulate that dull finish, and maybe some rust or other stains that Soft Scrub just can't remove, it makes everything else look dingy.  We chose to dump our stainless steel and replace it with a solid-surface sink.  I know what you're thinking--"didn't you just say that it was too upscale of a finish for your kitchen??"  I did indeed say that; however, I'm of the opinion that it's okay to upgrade your sink a step.  You use your sink for some heavy-duty stuff, right?  So get something a little heavier-duty to do the job!  What we chose was a plain white solid surface sink that is an inch or two deeper than our current tubs.  I desperately wanted a deeper sink for larger pots and pans, because ours just wasn't cutting it--it seemed like I was constantly splashing soapy water out of the sink when I would wash roasting pans and such.  We chose the solid surface sink to be purposefully plain in appearance, so that it would still fit in with the rest of the kitchen.  So yes, we kind of upgraded our selection there, but it's really not a big upgrade, and I stand by our decision.  And to go with the sink, we will be replacing the very plain chrome-finished faucet/sprayer combo with a slightly more decorative faucet/sprayer combo.  By faucet/sprayer combo, I mean that the faucet actually detaches to become a sprayer--all in one.  This one will be brushed nickel, to match the rest of the metal finishes in the kitchen.
Our new faucet, just waiting to be installed
Plain sink, but made of solid surface material

To sum it up (pardon the pun), here's an idea of the costs:
Kitchen hardware: $100
Sink: $150
Faucet: $120
Countertops: $350 (the biggest expense)
Garbage disposal (because it needs to be replaced, so why not?): $115
Miscellaneous plumbing parts, glues, nails, etc: Yet to be determined
Total so far: $700

This may sound like a lot, but really, to give a kitchen a facelift, it's not bad at all.  We will be saving money because we will be doing the installation ourselves (and with some help from others who actually know what they are doing), and we also were able to get an 11% rebate at Menard's, because it's a promotion that they run occasionally, so we will be getting about $80 in store credit for Menard's.  If you aren't in a hurry to complete your project, you can also save money by waiting until the individual items go on sale, instead of buying them all at once like we did.

The next thing on my list to do is reorganization. Here is a list of spaces in the house that I plan on reorganizing:
*Linen closet--reorganize with tubs and labels
*Closet shelves in bedroom
*Drawers in kitchen
*Pantry reorganization

I will be posting my tips on reorganizing these tight spaces in the posts to come!  I've already started on the linen closet in the bathroom.  Yes, I'm facing my fears.

For those of you who don't care at all about decorating or interior design tips, you can learn something anyway in the Owl corner!

Snowy Owls
Photo from Wikipedia
Snowy owls are known for their white plumage and yellow eyes.  This makes them blend in very well in their habitats of the snowy Arctic regions in the summer and the Canadian and Northern United States regions in the winter. They are the largest owl by weight in North America, and have been known to defend their nests against such predators as wolves.  Their favorite meal is lemmings, but they will also hunt other rodents and small animals like rabbits, other birds, and fish.  The owls hatch with dark spots, but the male snowy owls become mostly white as they mature, while the females retain the black spots, making the sexes easy to distinguish. The amount of eggs laid at one time depends on the availability of food, and they usually lay between 3 and 11 eggs at one time.  So pretty!

Information taken from the National Geographic website and

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