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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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    How To Steal a Paris Apartment

    ….In 8 Easy Steps

    Before we get started on how to steal a Paris Apartment look for your own home, one thing to keep in mind is that most Parisian apartments start with more than we can hope for in a standard American apartment building – quite a bit more. Most American apartments start with a white box, whereas Parisian apartments already have great bones. Herringbone parquet floors and double windows down to the floor – with French doors –  that let in lots of light. Some apartments also have what is know as Trumeau. These are old original mirrors above the fireplace which are found in French châteaux as well as apartments.

    So that means we need to pay attention not only to what you put into your room but also what the frame of your room looks like.

    1) Walls

    ….In a Paris apartment – or home – are never plain. If you are in an apartment where you are allowed to re-paint, go for a layered look with a subtle tonal textured paint on the walls. However, avoid the sponge-painted look of the seventies as that may end up looking inauthentic and not Parisian.  If you are an expert – try rag glazing. On the other hand, if you are like most of my clients who are not – read on.

    For this, you will need:
    • Two 1/2 gallon cans of paint in two colors
    • A one-gallon paint can – empty
    • Paint thinner
    • Roller
    • Brush
    • Painter’s tape
    • Dropcloth
    • Step ladder if needed
    • Latex gloves

    Buy water-based or latex paint – not oil-based – in two very similar – as in next to each other on the paint deck – shades.  Get half a gallon of each – most standard-sized rooms need 1 gallon of paint.  I like the look of a flat finish so I would use flat finish for this.  Open the can of paint that is a slightly darker color – darker than the other. Using a roller – paint your walls covering them well.  Allow to dry.  Next, open the can of paint in a lighter color. Thin this down with paint thinner in a half and half ratio – half paint and half thinner.  Using a brush, paint over the wall using vertical and horizontal strokes. Do not worry about total coverage and do not worry about brush strokes. Let dry. Cover the entire wall with a top coat of clear acrylic – to make the walls somewhat consistent making it more resistant to smudges and fingerprints. Especially if there are young ones around. This particular paint treatment will give you a bold layered look. That is one way to steal a Paris Apartment style for your own home

    Milk Paint or Chalk paint produces a more subtly textured wall. Both paints give amazing rich and complex paint finishes. It comes in powder form and only needs to be mixed in with water so you can monitor how thick or thin you want the mix to be. Thinner coats produce the best results. Chalk paint finishes are thicker and more consistent, whereas milk paint is often less predictable. Milk paint ages beautifully, looking more polished with different levels of sheen.

    I like Milk Paint because there are no fumes during use, and is safe enough to go down the kitchen sink. If you want to learn more about using Milk Paint and all it’s advantages – I am going to do a tutorial on it soon, so stay tuned. For now, just know that mixed milk paint goes bad quickly so use it on the day it is mixed, or leave it overnight in the refrigerator and use it the following day. Milk paint soaks into the surface instead of forming a coat as regular latex wall paint does. If you have trouble with the paint not adhering to your previously painted walls, get a bonding agent like Milk Paint Ultra Bond for non-porous surfaces. 

    Hemp oil is a great top coat for milk paint. The oil gives your walls a darker, rich color and luster.  Top coats are optional but they protect paint from moisture and wear and are best for bathroom and kitchens.

    Chalk paint can also be mixed to create custom colors. You can uses Annie Sloan, or Websters Chalk Paint. Similar to Milk Paint you can apply this paint with a brush or roller. Brush strokes crate interest and add texture. Chalk paint distresses well.

    If you are doing a large room, the price of store-bought chalk paint like Annie Sloan may be prohibitive. However, you can follow my recipe below to create our own home-made substitute for great results.

    Home-made Chalk Paint Recipe:
    • One Cup Latex Paint (flat)
    • A 1/4 Cup Calcium Carbonate
    • An eight of a Cup Water  

    Depending on the size of your room, a gallon of paint could be more than enough. Do not worry about getting every lump out of your mixture, because that is what will give you the streaky look of a Haussman interior – that is my tip number one on how to steal a Paris Apartment style. Annie Sloan has tutorials on Chalk Paint but you do not need them for what we are trying to get done.

    If you’re really in the mood for that one-of-a-kind dreamy finish for the walls in your home (time and budget permitting), opt for a lime wash. That is the real thing, but that is a story for another day.

    If glazing or lime washing your walls like a Parisian is a no-no – you can think about adding statement-making wainscoting. For a modern take on the wainscoting concept, you can paint one wall of the room in a contrasting color from the rest of the room. Then install a grid pattern batten molding from baseboard to ceiling. It should be painted the same color as the wall where it is going. This is a nice way to create a feature wall – and one of my top tips on how to steal a Paris Apartment. Alternately, you can have batten or wainscoting only half-way up the walls from the baseboard to a chair rail going all around the room. Batten must be the color of the wall. Wainscoting looks best painted white.

    However, avoid shiplap – as that will not give you a Parisian or European look.  If you are in a home of your own and time and budget allow a remodel, spring for a wider baseboard. Most spec home builders go for the skinniest stock baseboards to avoid ramping up the cost of your home. So if and when you have a chance to add value to your home – as a Designer, one would suggest, go for it,

    2) Flooring

    ….Of original herringbone Parquet floors found in most Parisian apartments – cannot be found in most American homes and never in American apartments. However, the look can be substituted with wide plank engineered wood floors, to achieve a similar result. Having said that, if you bought a home and have the time and resources for a new floor, that is awesome. If not, most American landlords will perhaps not give permission to re-do their apartment floor. Nevertheless, we have a fix.

    The next thing would be to find out from the landlord if he might allow us to put down stick-on adhesive decorative tiles. Tiles that appropriate the look of French Limestone and slate tiled rooms. Octagon white tiles with smaller corner “cabochon” black tiles in between. That is what all the best Parisian foyers are wearing. Add a black border all around the edge of the room and viola…you’re there….!

    Lowes has a peel and stick parquet-look floor as well as Peel and stick versions of tiled limestone and marble floors. You can either go crazy, or restrained, according to your taste and sale. And that is one more way to steal a Paris Apartment. Peel and stick tiles adhere to most vinyl concrete and wood floors. Check the retailer/manufacturer’s instructions. 

    3) Crown molding

    …is a decorative element used for capping cabinets, columns, and, most often, interior walls at the point where the wall meets the ceiling. Often, crown molding is created of wood, but in recent years, plastic and foam options have become more readily available. MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) versions are popular as well.  The latter are more flexible, they paint nicer and they react better to fluctuations in temperature.

    Usually, apartments and some newer homes come with a standard 2 ¼-inch casing around windows and doors and a 3 ½-inch baseboard which runs along the bottom of walls and no crown molding.

    A modern selection of crown moldings currently available to consumers make it easier than ever to take a room from blah to beautiful. There’s an immediate impact that crown molding brings to a room. For homeowners, it adds value to the home – which is a selling feature. If there are two identical houses next to each other and one has crown molding and the other one doesn’t, the home with the crown molding will be worth more.

    Crown molding in both traditional and modern styles are available. Prices for moldings are reasonable and installation time is minimal. A seasoned DIYer should not have a problem installing their own crown moldings using a miter saw. If not, you can always go to Angie’s List and get a guy. 

    4) Curtains

    ….in Parisian apartments are opulent – both the material and yardage. To get the same look in your home, make sure you measure the windows. When ordering fabric yardage make sure it covers two and a half to three times the width of the window. Also make sure the curtain rod is wider than the window opening. There needs to be space to the left and right of the window opening to stack the curtains when they are open so as to let in light. This is the right way to get that true Parisian feel.

    In a room with regular height ceilings, the curtains must hang close to the ceiling – 2-4 inches from crown molding if you have it. Measure to the floor then deduct 1 inch to make sure your curtains wont drag each time you open and close them. If you want your curtains to puddle on the floor in true Parisian style, add 3 to 4 inches to the length. Make a simple diagram of your window and write down inches right and inches left. Measure the window – with trim – and note this number. Next, measure the inches above the window and inches below your window – skip the latter when measuring for French doors or patio doors. Now you are ready to order a window covering that shows off your sense of style – and establishes you as the new master on the subject of how to steal a Paris Apartment…!

    5) All that glitters

     ….isn’t always gold but it does always spell Parisian glamour ….and a little je ne sais quoi. A touch of gold makes the room glisten in the evening light when entertaining with friends and lifts your spirits on quiet nights while enjoying a glass of Prosecco as you mull your next move on how to steal a Paris Apartment.

    6) Antiques

    …especially one or two carefully chosen ones are a Parisian apartment must haves. Traditional antiques in the form of vintage accessory items or place settings, in a modern interior. Alternately have modern antiques such as a pair of chairs, an iconic sofa or a single case-good item or an accessory piece in an otherwise traditional setting. The trick is to mix in the old with the new or vice versa. A few vintage pieces add another layer to your re-created Paris flat.

    The trick is to make your antiques look as though they were in the family for centuries instead of being staged. The most important lesson on how to steal a Paris Apartment would be to shop for antique items that are functional and then use them everyday.

    7) Art

    ….is an important part of the Paris apartment decor. Parisians tend not to shy away from color. Think big bold pops – especially if your walls are neutral tones. Plan out color, size and theme. When it comes to size – here’s where you won’t go wrong with up-sizing.

    As for theme – this is where you get to infuse your own personality. Choose art that aligns with your hobbies, your travels your favorite color.  Trust your gut and trust your taste.  Avoid family portraits or your wedding photos on the walls of your living room or family room – those do have a valuable place in your home – elsewhere.

    Avoid generic prints that are this season’s favorites on Pinterest. When choosing a color – remember to mix but you do not necessarily have to match.  Shop for unique pieces with personality in eye-catching frames.

    8) Chandeliers

    ….are a homeowner’s – or renter’s – best friend. Statement chandeliers are a great idea when you feel you only have the strength to go for a big impact piece and call it a day. Shop for chandeliers that work with your style – whether it’s a traditional French number dripping with crystal,

    …..or a modern chandelier – unique and distinctive. Sometimes a single stylish ceiling pendant can spell the difference between a half- finished room and a well-designed one. If you chose the right one it can say a lot about your style by not saying too much. And that is how to steal a Paris Apartment. You can also check out some of my favorite recipes here. Let me know how they turn out. I love hearing from you guys. As always, if you have any questions about my E-design packages (the basic e-design package is currently 40% OFF during the pandemic) or want to chat about anything else design, you can always contact me at toriblackhomes.com

    Photos courtesy : 

    Walls – Paris apartment living room with sofa and black leather chair – from Curbed.com – photo courtesy https://archive.curbed.com/2017/12/13/16772948/paris-apartment-renovation-diego-delgado-elias Living Room with lime washed grey and white color-blocked walls from dwell.com -– photo courtesy https://www.dwell.com/home/drab-lancaster-city-row-home-gets-a-pear-colored-facelift-b1c4fdab/6511315640289697792 Dining Room with woodland mural from – Architecturaldigest.com – photo courtesy https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/parisian-apartment-french-decorating-ideas Lime washed gray bedroom walls – Photo courtesy Emily Henderson – https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/limewash-paint-mountain-house-ask-the-audience White dining room from Curbed.com – photo courtesy https://archive.curbed.com/2017/12/13/16772948/paris-apartment-renovation-diego-delgado-elias Photo of Board and Batten wall courtesy Pinterest. Living Room with mustard yellow sofa photo courtesy Living Room with mustard yellow sofa from Apartmenttherapy.com – photo Courtesy https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/minimal-and-modern-decor-apartment-photos-266003

    Flooring – Paris Interior with parquet flooring from onekingslane.com – photo courtesy https://www.onekingslane.com/p/4722965-tufa-wall-mirror-gold.do Photo of black and white marble floor at YSL new Headquarters courtesy of wsj.comhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/exclusive-step-inside-ysls-new-parisian-headquarters-11550238900 Peel & Stick tile flooring photo courtesy lowes.comhttps://www.lowes.com/pd/Achim-Retro-20-Piece-12-in-x-12-in-Geometric-Peel-and-stick-Stone-look-Commercial-Residential-Vinyl-Tile/1001824298

    Crown Molding – Courtesy homedit.com  – https://www.homedit.com/paris-themed-room/ Crown Molding – Photo courtesy decoholic.comhttps://decoholic.org/gorgeous-modern-french-interiors-40-pics/?subscribe=success#507 Living room with fuchsia sofas and crown molding from 1stdibs.com – Photo courtesy –https://www.1stdibs.com/blogs/the-study/parisian-apartments/

    Curtains – Blue curtains photo courtesy – houseandhome.comhttps://houseandhome.com/gallery/hilary-swank-paris-apartment/attachment/2-hillary-swank-paris-apartment-living-room-blue-sofa/ Orange curtains from 1stdibs.com – photo courtesy – https://www.1stdibs.com/blogs/the-study/parisian-apartments/

    All that Glitters – Photo courtesy thecuratedinterior.com

    Antiques – Antique copper cookware Photo courtesy https://kasha.paris/architecture/the-collectors-eye/ Tulip chairs and gramophone photo courtesy decordemon.comhttps://decordemon.blogspot.com/2014/01/apartment-in-marais-paris.html

    Art – Living room with oversized art photo courtesy Decordemon – https://decordemon.blogspot.com/2014/07/muriel-reuss-eclectic-apartment-in-paris.html

    Chandelier – Traditional crystal chandelier from homedit.com – photo courtesy https://www.homedit.com/paris-themed-room/ Art Deco chandelier – photo of Jonathan Adler Nixon cocktail table courtesy jonathanadler.com

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