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3 budget-friendly kitchen makeovers

Expert tips from a leading restaurant industry architect and designer.

Today, your kitchen looks great. Glorious, even. After spending months churning out pumpkin pies, Christmas cookies and comfy casseroles, it’s your favorite room in the house, your go-to for all things cheesy and good.

Spring, however, is right around the corner, and with it comes some harsh truths: Those cabinets are dated. The counters are cluttered. According to sunlight, your backsplash has seen better days.

There’s no need to overreact, however (let’s be honest—your kitchen isn’t the only one who let things go a bit over the holidays). Before you call a contractor and start knocking down walls, we checked in with architect and designer Glen Coben — whose firm’s restaurant projects include NYC hot-spots Del Posto, Gabriel Kreuther and Empellon Al Pastor — for some budget-friendly, DIY makeover advice.

Do a thorough edit
Before purchasing a single thing, go through your kitchen and get rid of what you don’t use — chances are, you don’t actually need to invest in a fancy new storage system. “Part of a great kitchen is design, but part of it is editing,” says Coben. “It’s almost like when you’re redoing your closets. When you do an analysis of what you actually use, you might be surprised. For an average home cook, that’s probably two or three pans.” Rest in peace, pasta maker—we hardly knew ye.

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Update your cabinets
Replacing cabinets is an expensive, time-consuming project. Sprucing them up, however, is another story. “A really effective way to change the look is to simply take the doors off and have open shelving,” says Coben. “Invest in some new dinnerware, and the look is modern.”[tab]Just want to switch up the color? Coben recommends taking your cabinets to an autobody shop and having them spray-painted for a cheap, professional upgrade.

Rethink your color scheme
When he’s designing restaurants, Coben opts for the traditional rich reds, warm yellows and cozy greens. At home, however, it can pay to take a risk. “Blue is a really unexpected color because, with the exception of the blueberry, you don’t find it in the food world,” he says. “You don’t usually see it in a restaurant, but for a residential kitchen, it’s a lovely choice.”

3 More Quick Upgrades

Cabinet hardware
Those dingy white knobs that plague rentals far and wide? Fun fact: They come off.

Mirrors
When installed as a backsplash, mirrors can open up a tiny galley kitchen

Wallpaper
A little goes a long way. Think accent walls, or in the back of open-shelving cabinets for an unexpected pop of pattern.

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