A great pick-me-up from the old house doldrums is a brand new kitchen. You can do it with color and pattern: color in prints, on both walls and cabinets.
Of course, if you need a new appliance, Maytag would be delighted to show you one of its new dishwashers, with a special clip-on decorative front for the door.
Maytag color counselor Nancy Walker not only mentioned the fronts, but also suggested less expensive ways to jazz up the kitchen.
Decorative appliance fronts are not new, but Maytag thinks it has a good thing, and the front is also offered as a conversion kit that will fit old Maytags as well as the new. It is a metal frame with a clear acrylic front that clips onto the door. You can get it in several styles.
The fronts are $30, and the inserts are $10 to $15. You can ignore Maytag's inserts and put in your own.
Or you can ignore Maytag and just redo the kitchen, without new cabinets or appliances.
Nancy Walker notes that the kitchen is a work area and is usually pretty chopped up. There is little wall space, but you can tackle the walls with print or pattern, going easy on the size of the pattern. If your wall covering is a mini-print or non-directional, you can also cover the ceiling. You can repeat the pattern with fabrics, table cloths, place mats and curtains. You can choose colors from the pattern. If the pattern is white, yellow and orange, for example, you can use white or yellow for the counter tops (if you replace them) or the cabinets. Orange is the strongest color, so you should go easy with it, using it for mugs, enameled cookware or even the pulls and handles on the cabinets.
What about painting cabinets? A lot of people shy away from such a chore, but Walker says it is not that difficult. You have to remember, she says, that there's a buildup of grease and dirt on them that must come off. She uses an ammonia solution, half a cup of ammonia to half a pail of water. That's pretty strong, but she finds it works.
After that the wood surface should be sanded, so the paint will have a chance to grip. She also suggests a primer first, or an enamel undercoat, before the finish coats.
If your kitchen has dark cabinets, you can paint them to match the color of the walls.
"You want durability and good looks, especially in preparation and base coats on your cabinets. You have to make a commitment that you invest the time to do it right. "I like latex paints, mainly for the ease in cleanup. You can use a matte or eggshell finish, but semi-gloss is needed in the kitchen because it not only resists dirt but will stand up under constant cleaning."
Another way to change the cabinets is to wallpaper or make "panels" of them. But don't wallpaper them up to their edges; the paper will fray. To prevent this, you can put thin mouldings around the edges.
And you can change the temperature in your kitchen, visually. The temperature won't change, but it will feel warmer or cooler, depending on the color.
Reds, oranges and yellows are warm. Blues and greens are cool. Violet is cool if it is on the blue side, warm if it's on the red side. If your kitchen is sunny, cool colors would be nice. But keep in mind how you use your kitchen. It you use it mostly at night, perhaps warm colors would be better, in spite of the sunny exposure. You have to be aware of your family's lifestyle when you decorate, Walker says.
You can try something relatively new: Have an open kitchen with no doors on the wall cabinets. It will stop all that opening and closing of doors, but then you have to keep things a little neater.