Real Estate

Bring your kitchen to life

Designer Caroline Shillito says that this custom kitchen design on display at Cederberg Kitchens & Additions in Chapel Hill is a good example of what a homeowner can do to remodel a kitchen without changing its footprint. The display shows a custom backsplash wall of handmade ceramic tiles; there is fresh paint and the addition of under-cabinet lighting as well.
staff photos by harry lynch
Designer Caroline Shillito says that this custom kitchen design on display at Cederberg Kitchens & Additions in Chapel Hill is a good example of what a homeowner can do to remodel a kitchen without changing its footprint. The display shows a custom backsplash wall of handmade ceramic tiles; there is fresh paint and the addition of under-cabinet lighting as well. staff photos by harry lynch

Creating a new kitchen doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch.

Designer Caroline Shillito, owner of the design and consultation company emma delon, offers five ways to make your kitchen better without changing the footprint.

Change paint color

“It seems like a really simple answer, but sometimes just changing the paint can make a huge difference,” Shillito says.

For a lighter, brighter kitchen, go with a lighter color, which will reflect the light in the kitchen. If you already have a large, open, bright kitchen, a dark color could help it feel cozier.

Shillito recommends using a higher-quality paint, such as Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams. Higher-quality paints are more expensive, but they apply more quickly and easily with a smoother finish and require fewer coats.

What’s in?

“The industry is kind of saying that blue is coming back in,” Shillito says, noting she’s been seeing blueberry and blue-green colors, particularly in countertops.

Cost: Benjamin Moore paint tends to runs $40 to $50 for a gallon.

Refinish cabinets

“It gives you an entirely new look for a heck of a lot less money than switching out your cabinets,” Shillito says.

Not only that, refinishing your cabinets means less hassle because countertops and sinks do not have to be removed or replaced. It’s a greener option, Shillito notes, since you won’t be sending your home’s existing cabinets to a landfill. Often a home’s cabinets still will be structurally sound even though their fronts show wear.

Shillito advises having cabinets professionally refinished and recommends CKS Kitchens and Design in Durham and Transformation Studio East in Southern Pines.

“There are some amazing things you can do now with refinishing,” she says, noting an oak cabinet can be made to look painted or a new grain, such as mahogany.

“Generally doors and drawer fronts are removed and taken back to the shop, but the cabinets themselves are refinished at the job site,” she said. “The finish is just as durable as a factory finish because it is done by trained professionals who know what products to use and how to use them.”

Cost: Between $6,000 and $10,000, depending on the finish chosen. Compare this to a cost of $20,000 and up to change out cabinets, without considering costs for any changes to countertops or sinks.

Change or add lighting

“Reviewing the lighting situation in the home is a big one as well,” Shillito says.

She notes that kitchens in particular should have a combination of three types of lighting:

Ambient — the main, overall lighting, such as ceiling fixtures or recessed canned lights.

Task — Lighting for specific tasks, such as under-cabinet lighting for a cutting board area.

Decorative — Fixtures, such as pendants or chandeliers, that don’t provide a lot of light but do create color or add interest.

Replacing older fixtures is quick, easy and inexpensive and can really change a kitchen’s look, Shillito says. A possible change would be replacing a ceiling-mounted fixture that may not give off much light with track lighting, which can significantly increase the amount of light.

And Shillito believes every kitchen should have under-cabinet lighting. These are available as plug-ins or the types in which an electrician would need to be called.

“Xenon lighting is the type I generally specify for under-cabinet lighting unless we need something really inexpensive, in which case I go with fluorescent,” she says. “LED is the most energy-efficient and long-lasting, but the upfront costs are still pretty high.”

Change cabinet hardware

“Just changing out the knobs and pulls can make a real difference as well,” Shillito says, noting that changing the hardware is one of the least expensive ways to update a kitchen. “This gives a new updated look to the cabinets, like adding a new piece of jewelry to an old outfit — it can make it new and different all over again.”

What’s in? Shillito’s seeing a lot of brushed and polished nickel. Oil-rubbed bronze is popular, too, especially with cream cabinets.

“It’s very personal,” she noted. “Pick what you like within reason, especially if you’re trying to sell a home — something that speaks to you but isn’t way out there, like starfish.”

She recommends taking a piece of the existing hardware to ensure the size of the new hardware you buy matches.

Cost: $500 to $1,000 for hardware other than $2 standard options. Knobs and pulls run from $2 to $6 a piece at big box stores and $5 to $15 a piece at kitchen and bath stores.

Add tile backsplash

“Tile is pretty inexpensive, and there is usually not a lot of square footage when you’re doing a backsplash, but it can make a huge difference,” Shillito says. “It not only makes the kitchen seem cleaner, it can add a new sparkle and vibrancy to the home — and there are thousands of tile options to choose from.”

The designer notes that most houses have a 4-inch-tall backsplash with drywall above that is generally stained.

“It gets splashed and dirty over time and can look aged,” she says.

She recommends removing the backsplash if it’s not part of the countertop or simply tiling above the backsplash. She also recommends adding a focal point behind the oven range. All the colors of a kitchen — from floors, cabinets and countertops — can be tied into the backsplash. If choosing a neutral tile, consider adding pieces of glass or mosaic tiles, which can add sparkle and tie in those kitchen colors.

What’s in? Glass tile is still very popular, and mosaic mesh tiles now are being done in combinations of natural stone and glass or natural stone and pieces of tile with texture.

Cost: In most cases, the square footage of an area to be tiled is not large. The cost, however, depends largely on what tiles are chosen. Field tile, which would be used for the majority of the project, can cost as little as $2 per square foot with installation to sky’s the limit. Shillito has seen some tiles as high as $400 per square foot.

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