Sunday, January 3, 2016

Best Budget Decor, Part 5

It's been a while since we had one of my budget decor posts, so I thought a new one might be a good way to start off the new year. (You can see my previous posts on budget room redos here: Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. I've also added a new "budget decor" tag so you can see them all on one page.)

Thus far, all my budget decor posts have focused on room makeovers within a specific dollar limit: up to $1,000 for a kitchen, $500 for a bath or basement remodel, and $250 for any other room. Those limits left me unsure about including a redesigned breakfast nook posted on This Old House. If you count it as a kitchen, it's well under the $1,000 limit, but it seems like cheating to call this a kitchen remodel when they didn't touch the appliances or, indeed, any of the actual cooking space. But on the other hand, it doesn't seem quite fair to exclude this under-$350 remodel because it's over the $250 limit for "other" when it's technically part of a kitchen. So I've decided to create a new category called "partial kitchen makeover," with a $500 limit, for any project that involves redoing some part of a kitchen without tackling the entire room.

One thing I find annoying about the way room makeovers are posted on This Old House is that they insist on showing the "after" picture first—leading off with the big reveal rather than showing just how awful the space was to start with, so that you can really appreciate what a transformation the homeowners achieved on a small budget. So I'm going to direct you first to the before picture, which shows the original breakfast nook as a completely dull brown space: dull brown floors, dull brown furniture, and dull brown wallpaper, without a single hint of color anywhere.

Now that you've had a chance to take in the complete absence of character, take a look at the after picture to see how much of a difference the Crinion family made with a bit of paint and one new piece of furniture. The biggest change from a functional standpoint was replacing two of the four chairs with a new corner bench they found on Craigslist, giving them enough seating for the whole family of five. Then they painted both the bench and the table white, added some cheerful red-and-white cushions, and gave the two chairs they kept a completely new look by cutting down their posts and painting them bright red. An ombre paint design on the walls and new artwork complete the transformation from dull and brown to bright and cheery.

You can read more about this project on their blog, House for Five. And while browsing there, I happened to find a post about how they made over the rest of the kitchen for $663—which means if you lump that together with the breakfast nook, they're only just over the $1,000 limit for a kitchen redo. On the other hand, it may be sort of cheating to count this, since Ms. Crinion admits it was actually the "2nd phase" in their kitchen renovation; they had already replaced all the "ancient" appliances with modern stainless-steel ones back in phase 1, and that was almost surely a whopping expense that isn't included in the $663 budget. So if you put all that together with the breakfast nook, it's definitely too pricey to be considered a budget kitchen remodel. But it is a pretty snazzy transformation, nonetheless, and worth taking a look at.

Fortunately, I also found several kitchen remodels that definitely fit the "budget" criterion. First, from the Remodelista site, is yet another dull-brown kitchen that was converted to a sleek, clean, all-white space for just $350—and, more impressively still, over the course of just two weekends. Remodelista, like This Old House, insists on spoiling the surprise by showing all the "after" pictures first, so you'll have to scroll down to the middle of the page to see what a neutral, featureless space the homeowners had to work with, with builder-grade oak cabinets blending seamlessly into the wood of the floors. They spent the first weekend cutting the oak vista in half by ripping out all those upper cabinets so they could replace them with airy open shelving: hand-painted pine boards from Home Depot mounted on IKEA brackets, supplemented with hanging racks also from IKEA. Personally, I wouldn't care for open shelving in my kitchen because I'd find it a hassle to keep it looking presentable all the time—but since one of the homeowners is a potter by trade, it only makes sense for her to keep her own wares on display. They then added flat white paint to the wall and the lower cabinets and splurged on a new $170 faucet—nearly half their total budget—to replace an old, leaky one. Even though the beige laminate counters weren't touched, they look much less blah in their fresh new surroundings.

Next up is a $468 kitchen also covered on This Old House. Unlike the previous ones, which started out as neutral spaces devoid of color, this kitchen originally had far too much, as you can see in this before picture. With bright blue cabinet doors, blue-and-red-checked flooring, and polka-dot wallpaper, the assortment of vivid colors and patterns drew the eye in every direction at once. So rather than punching it up, the homeowners toned it down with an all-white paint job, plus neutral brown paint on the floors and stone-look paint on the counters. Then, to keep the newly neutral space from feeling boring, they added some extra details to give it character: beadboard wallpaper and 1/4-inch plywood trim on the lower cabinets; open shelves in place of some of the upper ones; a striking new kitchen island built from pine planks in a "distressed" dark finish, creating a new focal point for the space; and to add back in a little touch of color, a new pendant lamp made from blue glass mason jars. Ironically, the new white kitchen looks much brighter and cheerier than the brightly colored original, and the new island makes it more functional as well.

Here's another shoestring kitchen makeover featured on Remodelista. This a tiny Brooklyn kitchen started out with decent bones—new appliances, granite counters, wood floors, and sturdy cabinets—but it lacked character. To bring it up to par with the rest of her 1920s-era apartment, homeowner Danielle Arceneaux painted the light wood cabinets white and added beadboard paneling to the island, giving it an instant vintage feel. A new subway-tile backsplash with dark grout, installed right over the old tiles, made the room look more streamlined, and an extra shelf installed above the upper cabinets added much-needed storage. She did all the work herself, turning to YouTube videos for guidance, and spent less than $300 on materials. You can read more details about the new shelf installation at One Kings Lane and the handmade feather-covered lampshades on Design Sponge.

Finally, here's yet another kitchen from This Old House. The before picture shows a dark, cramped space with generic wood cabinets and overpowering rust-orange walls. Instead of going the easy route and painting everything white, the homeowners brightened the space with white paint on the walls and upper cabinets, then added a pop of color with a sage-green paint on the lower ones. They also ditched the upper cabinet doors in favor of the now-ubiquitous open shelving. Beadboard wallpaper makes yet another appearance in this kitchen makeover, serving as an inexpensive backsplash. To set the dining area apart from the kitchen, they painted one accent wall in a light blue, refinished their dining table with a dark top and white legs, and added a new mirror and a pair of vintage cabinets. Finishing touches included new cabinet hardware, molding, and light fixtures. The finished room now looks much lighter and more open, and all for only $564 total.

That's it for this installment of Budget Decor. Watch this space for more exciting room remodels in the future—possibly even some in our very own house, as we're preparing to tackle a new project in the office that could well end up triggering a reexamination of the entire room. Stay tuned for details!
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