How to update tired cupboards.
Q. We'd like to update our kitchen but can't afford to replace the oak cabinets. Should we paint them — maybe white or off-white? Or distress them? Is that easy to do on our own, or should we hire someone? We are planning to replace the countertops with granite ones. Any other ideas for our kitchen are welcome!
— L.S., via email (To submit your own question, see our Ask A Designer™ page.)
A. A mini reno like this will make a big difference. And your cabinets, if just a little dated, look salvageable, so I think you can do this on your own.
Start by removing the angled bulkheads above the cabinets to open up the space. And I'd remove the light box on the ceiling; it's too visually heavy for the space. (This may entail repainting the ceiling, or having the stucco removed altogether.) Replace the box with a low-profile track system that will inject plenty of light without looking imposing.
Consider using quartz instead of granite for your countertops because it requires a lot less maintenance. I like the warm taupe-grey of 4230 Shitake by CaesarStone; it has a subtle pattern that will stay current longer.
Pull a new wall colour from the quartz, like Tangible (6J2-5) by Beauti-Tone. Then, go with Soho (6J2-3), a warm neutral also by Beauti-Tone, for the cabinets. For a custom look, install a beadboard backsplash and remove a set of cabinet doors to create an open display shelf, as in our inspiration shot. Oil-rubbed bronze hardware that's so dark it's almost black will contrast nicely with the light-painted cabinets. Lee Valley Tools' Cast Utility handles have simple lines for an understated but fresh aesthetic.
I think you have enough space for a small freestanding island. The Home Depot's Savannah cart is less than 21" wide, plus the casters mean it can be easily moved if needed. A metal lamp, like Ikea's Foto pendant, over your table will add a hit of industrial edge.
Lastly, have roman shades made from a beautiful fabric. Spring Mix in Aloe by Robert Allen has a stylized floral design in a rich, earthy palette to complement your new wall colour. And then use the colours in the fabric to choose accessories that finish off the room.