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    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades

    Of the 6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades, by far the most popular one is to……

    #1 – Paint The Cabinets

    If you’re looking to refresh your boring kitchen without the commitment of a major remodel or you’re living in a rental or recently bought a house with dated 90s cabinets, don’t rush out to replace them. Painting your cabinets will add instant drama and designer style to your kitchen. Be careful and when picking a color. Brightly colored kitchen cabinets look great in a magazine but when it comes to living every day with a particular shade – it is better to err on the side of caution. Just be sure the color is exactly what you want. Make sure the tone works with your existing flooring – because unless you plan to do some remodeling in the near future – choose something that will work with what you got – rather than try to match it what you might get in future. Trust me when I say, you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole.

    No matter what your style and design affiliation, when thinking about sprucing up your kitchen, refinishing your traditional OR modern cabinets with a touch of paint never fails to hit the mark – in one easy step. Well, technically 5 easy steps. Nevertheless, these steps are easy to remember as the 5 Ps.

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades
    First Step – Plan 

    First, empty the cabinets. You’ll be sanding later, which might get dusty. Then, remove all drawer pulls and cabinet hardware. Remove the doors, drawers if possible. Use the labels to make sure the doors and drawers go back in the right spots. Next, clean the wood surfaces. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is the best cleaner for the job, and you can pick up a bottle at most hardware and paint stores. Soak a sponge in the TSP solution and start wiping down your cabinets. Also, focus on corners and any other areas where grease can build up.

    Second Step – Plug

    Fill up any holes or cracks with wood putty. Use a putty knife to press it in and smooth it out. Follow directions and let it dry. If you’re replacing your hardware, you might need to use wood filler for holes that don’t line up with the new hardware. Needless to say, If you’re using the same hardware, do not fill the hardware holes. 

    Third Step – Prep 

    Sand them down with a fine grit sandpaper or use a rotary sander for plane surfaces. This is especially important if you are painting cabinets that have a natural wood finish. The sanding must be done thoroughly and evenly. Clean all surfaces with a hand held vacuum and a tack cloth. Everything should be dust-free before painting. 

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades
    Fourth Step – Prime 

    This ensures that the paint will adhere to the surface without looking lumpy or irregular. Placing painter’s tape on the wall along the cabinet edges is helpful. 

    Fifth Step – Paint 

    Use a roller for flat surfaces. Alternately, use a brush to get into corners and detailed areas. Paint with light strokes. Try not to pile on the paint or make it gloppy. You may use an angled brush for angled corners.

    As a designer when I’m working on a client’s kitchen, I  like to suggest doing a chalk paint base coat. Thereafter, apply an enamel as a topcoat. You can just as well do a one-step paint job and have perfectly good results. There’s no one way to do it. As I always tell my DIY friends, do your research if need be, but don’t get bogged down by niggling details. Plan, paint then be ready to stand back and be amazed. 

    Extra step (optional) – 

    Apply a clear top coat if you want. Finally, reassemble the cabinets and hardware. 

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades
    Types of paint – 

    Most paint comes as oil-based paint or water-based latex paint. Cheaper paint will require more coats, but it is less durable and will show brush strokes more readily. 

    Types of finishes –

    The glossier the finish the easier it is to clean. However glossy paint shows up imperfections in the wood very easily. Satin -​ Provides a low level of shine while retaining some ability to hide flaws and is washable.  Semi-gloss: – With a higher sheen, this finish is ideal for kitchen cabinets as well as for millwork, trim, and doors. Eggshell – This paint finish is durable — which explains its popularity among professionals — besides it has a low sheen. It is this designer’s go-to finish for walls but not kitchen cabinets. Flat -​ Flat paint is forgiving and hides flaws due to its low sheen, but it does not stand up to finger marks and spots. Also, cannot take scrubbing and hence not suitable for cabinets. 

    Painting cabinets will take a few days to complete, so plan accordingly.

    Things you’ll need – 

    All of these are readily available from a local hardware or paint store.

    • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) or any other Grease cleaner
    • Wood filler
    • Fine grit sandpaper
    • Sanding block or rotary sander
    • Steel wool
    • Vacuum
    • Tack cloth
    • Painter’s tape 
    • Paint – the two most popular paint brands are Sherwin Williams and Behr. My favorite happens to Benjamin Moore because of their subtle color tones as well as ease of use.
    • Paint tray
    • 2″ brush
    • Mini foam roller
    • Primer sealer
    • Brown builder’s paper
    • 2″ – 3″ angled brush
    • 3′ – 4″ square brush
    #2 – Add a Glamour Rug

    The next super easy kitchen upgrade is to add a rug or runner. The general consensus is that the ideal material for a rug in the kitchen is a flat-weave as they are easier to clean than rugs with a higher pile. 

    Having said that, the single most overlooked way to upgrade a kitchen is to add a vintage or designer rug underfoot and marvel at the results. It is a quick and easy fix that never fails to impress.

    #3 – Switch Out The Hardware

    Of the 6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades, replacing your tired old kitchen cabinet hardware is the quickest and least expensive ways to immediately upgrade your kitchen’s face value.

    Remove door handles and drawer pulls, replacing with fresh new ones, if this is the only thing you do to upgrade.

    #4 – Lower The Lighting

    To counteract the builder grade can lights up in the ceiling, add some designer touches. A ‘designer’ kitchen needs a unique chandelier or ceiling pendant. When it comes to chandeliers, there is no rule that says these beautiful – ornate or simple – fixtures need to be restricted to grand parlors or sweeping entryways. 

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades

    Depending on the style of your home – bling out your kitchen either by adding a chandelier with a rich dark metal finish, or one with sparkling crystals, or add modern drama with three identical ceiling pendants above the breakfast bar. Then, add shades that cast interesting patterns on the ceiling or walls such as, Moroccan style pierced metal shades complemented with updated modern eclectic style accessories and signature artwork, or textured woven bamboo shades coupled with classic beach chic décor.

    #5 – Create a Feature Wall with Wallpaper

    Another super easy kitchen upgrade – as a designer one often suggests creating a vertical feature wall to dress up a  kitchen. For example, it could be a marble or limestone or slate backsplash. Or one created with tiles set in a herringbone pattern or black and white ceramic tiles behind the cooktop or above the kitchen sink. Needless to say, a marble backsplash is a big commitment. However, there is another option that nevertheless looks just as great and is super quick and easy.

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades

    The quick and easy equivalent to this designer feature wall would be to install a wallpaper with a unique but subtle pattern on one wall to make it stand out, adding instant style and character to your kitchen. This is one more small and simple trick in my list of 6 super easy kitchen upgrades that always has a huge impact

    #6 – Add Butcher Block Countertops

    Butcher block countertops are an affordable choice that has character, adds warmth to your kitchen, making it look curated and chic. They can be the heart of a Classic kitchen a la Laura Ashley or add interesting texture to a Modern European kitchen a la Habitat. However, butcher block countertops do have their fair share of pros ad cons. 

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades

    Pros – If you show these countertops some love, your butcher block countertops will in return, reward you by aging gracefully. Keep them clean and scrubbed. Oil them regularly. All it takes is one to two coats of food-safe mineral oil or walnut oil applied with a soft cloth. Every 10 years, or as needed, sand it down first using a 80- to 100-grit, then with 220-grit sandpaper as the surface smoothens. Then, re-oil the sanded surface and it will look like new.

    Cons – If you do not keep up proper upkeep, these countertops can dull and crack and end up looking just cheap. Moreover, wood can gather germs, grow mold, stain, or even warp in shape when exposed to moisture. You will need to seal your butcher block countertops immediately following installation and on a monthly basis afterward.

    6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades

    Hope you enjoy my list of 6 Super Easy Kitchen Upgrades. Happy decorating and please send your comments and feedback as I enjoy receiving them.  

    Photo Credits

    Tangerine Orange cabinets – courtesy HGTV. Modern White Kitchen with Black Painted Cabinets – photo courtesy of Elledecor. Photo of Modern Industrial Farmhouse style Kitchen with White and Avocado green Cabinets and Multi Colored Metal Counter Stools – photo courtesy of Goodhousekeeping. Canary Yellow Colored Kitchen Cabinets – photo courtesy of homedesigning. Grey Persian style rug courtesy in front of cooker courtesy Ruggable. Blue kitchen cabinets with hardware courtesy Forbes. Pic of Grey Kitchen with Crystal Chandeliers – courtesy of decorpad. White and Gold Modern Kitchen with Obsidian Phillip Jeffries Wallpaper – pic courtesy Verandah. Butcher block countertop – photo courtesy Bobvila

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    3 Most Popular European Styles

    The 3 most popular European styles by far are Haussmann, Modern Neo-Classical and Scandinavian, not necessarily in that order. Modern European interior design is a mix of traditional and contemporary design. Contemporary European interiors are understated, with a focus on tactile and natural materials such as wicker, wood, metal, and natural stone.

    The Haussmann Style

    One of the 3 Most Popular European Styles is Haussmann. Between 1853 and 1870, the private Paris townhouses, the last remains of the 18th century, were starting to make way for rental investment properties, giving rise to a more diverse Paris. To redesign the 175 kilometres of roads that run through the heart of Paris, Baron Haussmann was called in for a project which established an architectural style that is distinctively Parisian. 

    3 most popular European styles - Haussmann, Modern Neo-Classical and Scandinavian

    By the time Haussmann completed his project, narrow, dark residences were a thing of the past. Haussmannian buildings had courtyards or small yards, and they often had bright, dual-aspect apartments with large windows.

    Haussmann Buildings

    The buildings contained independent apartments spread out over five to six floors. Each floor represented a different social class. The ground floor was occupied by shops. On the first floor — often referred to as the mezzanine, lived the merchants who owned the shops below. 

    The second (“piano nobile”) floor was reserved for the wealthy at the time. The prestigiousness decreases from bottom to top. The third and fourth floors are identical, and were usually reserved for the middle classes. The fifth floors were set back, usually housing the more modest social classes. A little balcony running along the length of the apartment makes up for having to climb to the top of the stairs, besides embellishing the façade. The sixth or top floor is where the “chambres de bonnes” were, for the servants. With lower ceilings and built under the eaves, the only access was by the back stairs.

    Paris Atelier Haussmann style

    When lifts were introduced in the early 20th century however, the hierarchy of the floors was reversed. Now, the 5th and 6th floors are the most sought-after as they have an unobstructed view of the rooftops of Paris and a clear view of the horizon that doesn’t have a price.

    Haussmann Characteristics

    Bright rooms, wooden floors, fireplaces and fine mouldings are just some of the attractive features of Haussmann apartments. With the exception of the kitchen and WCs, the flooring is almost always wood. The patterns most favored are herringbone, the brick pattern or “parquet de Versailles” motifs. 

    Parisian Haussmann Style

    These gorgeous wooden floors have been the defining characteristic of Parisian interior design through the ages. Additionally these are sometimes complemented by moldings, cornices, and simple or elaborate ceiling medallions. Wider baseboards, wainscoting or chair rail, and/or paneling on the walls adds a distinctive touch.  

    Decorating the Hausmann Home

    The typical Haussmannian style Parisian apartment is decorated in a blend of bold modern accompanied by an old-world refinement nevertheless with an easy flow between the two. Even while maintaining balance, the interior spaces follow the golden rule of – contrast and juxtapose styles, but do not erase them or blur the lines. 

    Modern Neo-Classical Style

    Another one of our 3 Most Popular European Styles is Modern Neo-Classical. The color scheme for Modern Neoclassical interiors is mostly white, cream, gray, pale yellow, blue, green, and other muted hues. However, Black, red, silver and gold are often used as accent colors. Most patterns feature low-contrast palettes. 

    3 most popular European styles - Haussmann, Modern Neo-Classical and Scandinavian
    Decorating the Modern Neoclassical home

    Modern Neoclassical Furniture has clean lines and simple symmetry. The style is marked by elegance and timelessness. Having said that, it is more modest compared to Traditional Neoclassical style. Nonetheless, there is an element of luxury in the elegant moldings, metal staircases, carved wood, antiques, and statues – both old and new.  Modern Neoclassical homes inspire visions of gathering and family in a more casual, unfussy way while still drawing on the understated opulence of its forbears. A mix of the old and new creates modern zen luxury with traditional roots. 

     Modern Neo-Classical style
    Scandinavian Style

    Last but not least of our 3 Most Popular European Styles is the Scandinavian Style. The primary characteristic – whether inspired by an Ikea catalog, or more high-end interiors, is that the style feels clean, crisp, yet calming.

    • The not-so-secret ingredient is Minimalism.
    • Scandinavian design emphasizes bright, light, and open spaces, with room to breathe within the space.
    • Choosing quality over quantity is a major trait of this style.
    • The other important trait is bringing nature inside.
    • The color scheme is usually neutral – often white with a pop or two of color that draws from nature – mostly soft blues and greens
    • Last but not least – clever use of contrast.
    Popular European styles - Haussmann, Modern Neo-Classical and Scandinavian style
    What is Hygge?

    Some people go for a version of Scandinavian style that is minimal almost to the point of monastic. But keep in mind this is not an invitation to live a Spartan life by any means. The success of this style is in being able to juxtapose the coolness of the white and what may be seen as uninviting clean lines need to be softened to a degree by introducing warmer textures and colors, and what may be defined as hygge. Hygge is a Danish word that roughly translates to cozy togetherness. How do you do Hygge?

    Popular European styles - Scandinavian

    Because Scandinavian design doesn’t involve a whole lot of color, a quick way to soften up a space is to introduce plants. One big plant with ample foliage in a minimalist concrete or wood container will do the trick. Another way to introduce coziness is to install a white area rug with a plush pile and add just a couple of pillows in a textured fabric. Add a set of minimalist Roman Shades at the window and you’re all set to hygge away in style.

    Photo Credits –

    Haussmann Style – Home Office photo courtesy Booking.com | Living Room with Black Velvet Club Chairs and leopard print rug photo courtesy Architectural Digest | Haussmann style Atelier photo Courtesy Financial Times |  Modern Neo Classical Style – Living Room with pair of tangerine velvet armchairs photo courtesy designbooks.com | Living Room with pair of white chairs and powder blue coffee table photo courtesy Elle Decor | Scandinavian style – Living Room photo courtesy departures.com | Scandinavian Dining Room photo courtesy – YLighting.com

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