Back in the ’80s, there was a hit song called “You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties.” About a decade ago, IKEA used it to advertise new kitchen concepts. And today, the theme still rings true: Kitchens are the new multi-purpose hub.
When newer homes hit the market, they rarely have a formal living area or dining room. Our more casual lifestyle demands a big, open-kitchen layout. And even if your kitchen’s older or smaller, friends and family will still want to hang out there.
Optimize your home with these low-cost kitchen hacks
Low-cost kitchen upgrades can make the kitchen in your new house or condo ready for anything — cooking, entertaining, or both. Some of these hacks will make your kitchen more unique, some will save you money, and some add real value to your home.
Claim the chef space
Stand in front of the stove and imagine yourself cooking. This will inform you how far away you can place the knife rack, spices, mixing bowls, and potholders. Reserve the nearby cabinets for plug-in appliances. And because grease splatters while cooking, plan to keep flammable items away. Once you have a layout in mind, jot it down so you can follow through as you unpack.
Color it up
Fresh paint is an inexpensive and fast way to transform a kitchen. If your kitchen is small, opt for bright whites or soft greys, and consider an accent wall in a complementary color. Go for what makes you happy if you’re just moving in. If you’re moving out in the not too distant future, remember that prospective home buyers might find bright colors too personal, so lean towards something more neutral.
Say no to drab cabs
Replacing dated kitchen cabinets may not be in your budget, so consider repainting them if they’re still functional — they could be the accent wall you’ve been looking for. Another idea is to remove a cabinet door here or there. The gap in cabinetry makes for a perfect easy-access cookbook library or a place to showcase heirloom dishes or glassware.
Get a grip
While we’re on the topic of cabinets, think about their handles and drawer pulls. Switch them up with classics like stainless steel or brushed nickel. Or go with funky ceramics or kitschy antique pulls. New hardware gives a lot of look for little cost.
If your new place has a microwave over the range, here’s a trick to keep it clean and new looking: steam-clean it by heating a bowl of water and vinegar. Remove the dish just before boiling and then wipe the insides clean. See more cleaning tips.
Maximize storage #1
If you’re like us, cleaning products go under the sink. But that’s a hassle when everything comes in mega-sizes. A box of trash bags can easily take up way too much room under the sink. Our hack? Mount a paper towel holder to the inside of one cabinet and use it to hang a roll of garbage bags. We also set up a spring-tension curtain rod down there going from side to side to hang pump spray cleaners right over the rod.
Maximize storage #2
Place some adhesive hooks inside upper cabinet doors. Use them to hang oven mitts, measuring spoons, odd-sized spatulas, small cutting boards, trivets or spare charging cords for mobile devices and other electronics. Hang a plastic sleeve on one to store random coupons, recipes and shopping lists.
Dishwasher soap typically comes in big, eco-unfriendly, plastic jugs — and they’re expensive. We make our own for less than a penny per load, as opposed to 10-30 cents for well-known brands. Fill 2/3 of the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser with baking soda and add a few drops of regular dish soap (more than that and you get suds overload). Pour in enough salt so that the dispenser is full. Not only will this save you $$, but it also saves room in your cabinets.
Stick it to the backsplash
If your backsplash has seen better days and you don’t have the budget to replace it, no worries! Do-it-yourself peel and stick tiles are simple and affordable, and unlike early versions, today’s choices are made of thicker, more durable material designed for tough kitchen clean-ups.
Lighting makes a mood, especially in a kitchen where you want bright light during meal prep, but have it be less harsh while entertaining. Our suggestion? Install a dimmer. Also, outdated fixtures can be given a modern makeover with a simple can of spray paint, but watch some online videos to make sure you follow electrical safety standards before tackling.
Our last hack is for parents only. Store your kid’s kitchen playset in one cabinet so they can play “chef” while you prepare for mealtime! For eat-in kitchens, a small table and chair set will give them their own space to eat and pretend. Place a fun throw rug underneath to define their space.
The heart of your new home
Your kitchen is the center of your family life, so you want it to be fun but also functional. Don’t worry about getting it all perfect on day one. You’ll discover new flourishes and tight budget furnishing tips as you settle in.
And when it’s time to move on, remember that kitchens are a big part of a homebuyer’s decision. No other part of your home will look as dated as quickly, so keep that in mind if you ever get around to replacing cabinets, appliances, lighting, and countertops. Until then, we hope you enjoy freshening up your space with our low-cost kitchen hacks. And don’t forget about hacks for the rest of the house!