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More kitchen upgrades you can do yourself

While each home has its quirks and potential projects to tackle, some small kitchen projects are easily within reach and require no skilled labor. (iStock)

When life feels ambiguous and unclear, as it has for the better part of this year, it can be grounding to immerse yourself in a small, manageable project: something tactile with a physical result you can look back on and feel accomplished about. While there are hobbyist endeavors like model building or crafts, choosing a project that improves your home can double the benefits of your effort.

While each home has its quirks and potential projects to tackle, some small kitchen projects are easily within reach — no skilled labor required.

In September, we offered a list of kitchen projects you could tackle. Here are a few more ideas: Upgrading the knobs/pulls, installing soft-close features on the cabinetry doors and drawers and adding a fresh coat of paint are manageable, achievable upgrades you can accomplish by yourself.

The secret workhorse of any kitchen is its hardware. Knobs and pulls are grabbed day in and day out, offering easy grip to the user and finish protection to the cabinetry. Replacing the knobs and pulls in your kitchen can refresh your cabinetry and — depending on how decorative you decide to go — can be a lovely detail that speaks to your personal style.

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Consider changing the finish: Brushed nickel and oil rubbed bronze are steadfast favorites, and brushed gold has been trending for a few years, too. Or you could incorporate a few accent pieces, like thematic grape knobs on your wine cabinet or tree-branch pulls if you love nature themes. (Knobs and pulls are as much tactile as they are visual, though, so be wary that the more decorative the hardware, sometimes the less comfortable it is to grasp.)

Replacing your knobs/pulls can be done with just a tape measure and screwdriver, plus your new hardware. To keep the project simple, be sure to count how many knobs and/or pulls are on your existing cabinets and keep to the existing configuration. (You can switch the configuration if you want, but this will take more work. To switch from knobs to pulls, you will need to drill new holes in the cabinets, and if you go from pulls to knobs, you will need to drill plus buy backplates to conceal the old holes.) Pulls can be tricky because they are available in a variety of sizes, so be sure to carefully measure to match the ones already installed on your cabinets.

Another small change with a big impact is installing soft-closers on your cabinet doors and/or drawers. These little devices are integrated into most new, semi-custom cabinetry — and certainly available as an upgrade, if not a default inclusion — but you can also achieve this high-end effect on existing cabinetry with just a drill and a quick stop at a hardware store or online retailer. While you probably won’t see a difference, you will immediately hear it: no more slamming drawers or banging doors rattling your nerves or interrupting conversations.

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Finally, compared to any other room in the home, kitchens typically have the least amount of paintable wall space. This means changing the color of the walls can require far less effort in a kitchen and offer a new pop of color or accent to the room. Paint with primer mixed in, an angled brush and steady hand (or painter’s tape), and a roller brush with a tray are all that this project requires. Plus old newspaper or drop cloths to protect your floors.

Selecting a new splash of color to improve your space can be based on other colors that you have in the kitchen, such as backsplash accents, countertop hues or small appliances that are out all the time, like your tea kettle or mixer. Or you can consider adding energy to the room with a vibrant wall color that complements the rest of your kitchen’s palette; conversely, choosing a color that is analogous to others in your space will create a calmer palette. If you love the wall color you have, you can still brighten the room by simply refreshing the paint with a new coat if it has been more than five years since it was applied.

As fall and winter start to chill the air and you find yourself spending more time indoors, working on and completing little projects can offer new focus to weary minds and stale spaces. Small upgrades, such as these for your kitchen, offer little-to-no inconvenience while they are underway so you can work at your own pace to improve your space.

Stephanie Brick is the owner of Stephanie Brick Design in Baltimore.

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