HOM Give kitchen a redux

King Features Syndicate

Dear Debbie: Our renovating budget is shrinking fast, but we can't stop until something is done about the kitchen. We both love modern design, stainless steel, anything funky and out of the ordinary. Your ideas are fun as well as practical, so we're hoping you can save the day. Thanks for all the inspiration and the laughs. -- Joanna and Sal

Dear Joanna and Sal: There are three budget levels for redoing a kitchen. You can gut the whole room and start from scratch -- very expensive. You can repaint the walls, which is your least-expensive alternative. The middle road is to reinvent the cabinet doors, leaving the bases in place and changing the countertops and some of the appliances. For years I have been repainting cabinets, and each transformation is remarkable. You must clean, sand and prime laminate first, and then paint in the color and effect you like best.

But it's also inexpensive to buy new flat-faced laminate doors and recover them with different materials. This sounds like what you are looking for. The modern kitchen update shown here features the newest look in cabinetry. For the lower cabinets I selected sheets of metal veneer with a brushed copper finish, cut to size and adhered to the front of the doors with contact cement. Above the counter, sheets of blue Plexiglas have been bolted in place rather than glued to allow the door to breathe. Also note that glue would show through and ruin the appearance. Stainless-steel tiles line the backsplash area and link up with the oven. These ideas are exciting and new, but the tiles do need constant shining, so there's a few points off for practicality.

Dear Debbie: We would like to brighten our dreary 1960s basement rec room. The walls are dark-brown wood paneling, and we're thinking of painting them cream or pale beige. The carpet will be light-beige Berber. The low ceiling has white tiles. Is there any way to give the illusion of height? What color for the ceiling, moldings, baseboards and windows? We are also planning to finish the new gas fireplace with reclaimed bricks. What color for these? We are open to any of your great ideas. -- Gitta K.


Dear Gitta: Use the divisions in your paneling as a guide for marking off a series of fat vertical stripes in different thicknesses on the walls, but choose a color with more life in it, such as pastel turquoise or lavender. The ceiling should be kept light -- a pale version of one of the wall colors, and paint the trim white. Look for reclaimed bricks in light shades of yellow and gray, and your room will feel peaceful and airy.

Dear Debbie: I live in a new subdivision house that has the very dusty "builders" paint on the walls. As I consider what kind of real painting to do, I want to keep in mind that our four children often leave fingerprints on the walls, and I'm looking for low maintenance. I also want a calm atmosphere and want to avoid any bright colors. Thank you. -- Carla O.

Dear Carla: Choose good-quality paint in a satin sheen for the walls, and semi-gloss for the woodwork and trim. The higher the sheen, the easier to wipe clean. Then think about paint colors that are calm but also have a youthful spirit, as you do have a young family. Lavender, gray/blue, creamy yellows, milk chocolate and nutty almond are shades that evoke a happy, peaceful environment, and blend well together.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. E-mail your questions to

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