Elegant Kitchen on a budget

I think kitchens with white cabinets and dark wood floors are so elegant. With traditional fittings, they can be the most wonderful combination of elegant and farmhouse cozy. But, as anyone who has done a kitchen remodel knows, they are not cheap. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can create an elegant kitchen like this within your budget, by paying attention to the little details that make the room.

This kitchen, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, is our inspiration room.

Clearly it’s expensive, what with the huge custom island, solid Carrera marble counter tops, the built-in wine fridge, and the expensive pendant lights. The home is in the swank island of Belvedere in California’s Marin County. But let’s step back a bit and look at some of the components and how you can do them for less.

Dark wood floors: The dark wood of the floor grounds the entire kitchen and is an essential part of this rich look. I’ve had hardwood floors in my kitchen for the last 18 years and I love them. They have give, and they age well.

So if it’s within your budget, spring for the hardwood. Otherwise, laminates are also an option. On ifloor.com , I found many brands of laminate that had dark shades. These include several styles from Wet Hollow, Armstrong (mahogany), and Pergo (teak). As a comparison, the most expensive laminate, Pergo, was about 20% less than the least expensive hardwood, and most laminates were about half the price of the mid-range hardwoods.

White cabinets: They look so elegant, don’t they? Getting gleaming white cabinets is much easier than you think. Unless your cabinets are flat front and modern, which wouldn’t be traditional at all, you just need to paint the cabinets to get this look. The lowest cost option is to paint them yourself. This article from This Old House tells you how to do it professionally. You Tube also has a video on painting cabinets which is full of excellent hints.

Another option, which is more expensive, is to reface your cabinets. This is done by professional companies which specialize in refacing. There are many local companies specializing in refacing cabinets. Check in your phone book or on-line for companies. As with all service providers, check references and get referrals.

Vintage hardware: An important part of the look of this kitchen is the vintage-style hardware. There are many budget conscious options available. Target.com lets you pick the decorative hardware you want by finish. I’ve picked Nickel.

They have several styles of knobs and pulls, including this cup pull , which is pricier than some other choices, but most closely matches our inspiration room.

Smaller drawers could use this drawer pull.

But if my budget was more limited, I’d go with a different but still traditional look. I’d pick these drawer pulls in nickel.

Or these knobs which have rope detailing which perks them up and makes them look more expensive. Both are moderately priced and come in packs of eight. I like them so much, I may buy them for my own kitchen.

Marble counter tops: The inspiration room has Carrera marble counter tops. This is the most highly prized marble and was used for statues by Michelangelo. Not many of us have the budget for that, but other types of stone, manufactured stone, and even laminates provide more affordable options. The expanse of unbroken marble is what makes these counter tops expensive and time-consuming to install. You can match this look more easily and quickly by using 12” square marble tiles. Grout them in a matching grout with as narrow spacing as possible. You get the look with out the lengthy installation and large expense. At Marble Warehouse I found Imperial White 12 inch tiles.

Their Carrera Marble tiles are polished and come from Italy.

Pendant Lights: The inspiration room has pendant lights over the island. Lighting can make or break a kitchen. Can lights, which can also be seen in this room, provide unobtrusive directed lighting. But adding pendant lights gives your kitchen a focal point.

There are many choices for lighting from national chains, such as Lamps Plus, to specialty lighting companies, like Rejuvenation Lighting. But one of my favorite places to look for lights is Overstock.com. The selection changes all the time, so I won’t point out specific items. Pendant lights, chandeliers, and ceiling fixtures are grouped together You can search by lighting type, price, or sales status. No matter where you shop, look for lights that are single pendants, not several lights joined by a pole in a line. The pole should be a simple metal tube, not embellished or a chain. Finally the bowl of the pendant should point down to provide directed light, not up, which provides diffused light.

Expanded Island: This kitchen looks more luxurious because of the extra long island. This is not a hard project to do. If you are going to be doing new counter tops and if you have the space for it, why not lengthen your island? Since the cabinets are painted, you could build shelves, a wine bin, a cookbook shelf, or more storage. Make these components from either stock cabinets or wood, and add them to the island before you paint. The paint will unify the different parts of the island. Just be sure that if you will be putting appliances in this area, that you install electrical outlets for them. If you have switches on that edge of the island, be sure to move them.

Tile Back splash: Behind the stove is an elegant backsplash made from tile. This can be done inexpensively with two kinds of tiles. I would hire someone to plan and install this for me, because I’m not sure of my measuring skills. If you want to do it yourself, look at this video which shows you how to install a very similar back splash. This back splash uses 4×4 square tiles.

The inspiration back splash has a center which is diamond-shaped tiles, surrounded by a raised border. The rest of the area is set with square tiles. But in reality the diamond tiles are just the square tiles sitting on their points. That makes them inexpensive. The only slightly more expensive part is the twisted rope border tiles. Tiles come in standard widths and in dozens of colors. At your local home improvement store, they will have tile that could be used for both areas. The border could be done in any tile which has a raised rope pattern. These will have flat backs and rounds fronts. The best way to pick tile is to go to a showroom and look. There are so many choices out there, it’s easy to mix plain tiles with borders and fancy tiles to get a great look without stretching the budget.

Accessories: Notice that the cooking utensils aren’t all in drawers, some of them are in canisters next to the stove and sink. The ones in our model room are white. But here’s a great place to add some touches of color. You can almost always find ceramic canisters in discount shops like TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshall’s. If you need more than one (I have three by my stove), try to have them match in color (most important) and style.

Wall color: This kitchen, where there are walls to be seen, is white. To replicate the look, go to the paint lines that have many subtle kids of white, such as Martha Stewart (from Lowe’s), Ralph Lauren (at Home Depot or independent store) or Laura Ashley (at independent paint retailers). These companies have coordinated palettes of color that make choosing a white easier. They also have paints have more color components in their formulas, which result in richer, more complex colors. You are going to want a white with a slight tint of another color. Pick one that works well with the other colors in your home. This one uses a white with a bit of an apricot tinge. Whites with tints of other warm colors would work as well. Strive for a color that looks white unless it is put next to a strong pure white (like a piece of paper). You will want a semi-gloss paint. This finish is easier to clean and works better for kitchens.

If you want to do more, consider replacing the panels of some or all of your upper cabinets with glass. And, if your ceiling and cabinets permit it, add in crown molding.

Several elements in this kitchen, like the wood-front fridge and the cottage style sink are hard to do unless you are making major changes to your kitchen. But adding the elements outlined above will give you a kitchen that is elegant and sophisticated while still retaining a farmhouse charm.

There, you’ve created a great kitchen on a budget.

Contributed by: Janet M. Perry

xoxo Linda

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