Simple kitchen upgrades: Improve your kitchen without a major renovation

Mount a wall sconce

Bob Payne
Vail Valley HOME
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The home renovation and design platform Houzz predicts sconces will be one of the top 10 design ideas for 2021, suggesting them for task lighting above a sink or range.

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For a permanently mounted model, which requires running a wire inside the wall, you’ll need an electrician. But mounting a plug-in version is no more difficult than hanging a picture frame.

The hardest decision is whether to have the cord blend in with the wall color or stand out as a design element. And if you discover you don’t love your choice, taking it down without leaving a hole in the wall is easy, too.

Replace a faucet

Installing a new kitchen faucet can sound intimidating. But you don’t have to be a Bob Vila to get the job done. (Although it wouldn’t hurt to follow the steps he lays out at

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You will need to resign yourself to working on your back. And you should have a pan ready to catch the occasional spritzes of water that are inevitable. But the only necessary tool you are not likely to have is a basin wrench, which, with a flashlight and a swear word or two, will make it easier to reach hard-to-get-at under-sink areas.

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Not every new faucet will work with every configuration of a sink’s faucet holes, which usually number from one to four (the fourth used for accessories such as a sprayer or soap dispenser). But a look at the manufacturer’s specs, which are almost always online, or a chat with your local hardware dealer, along with a little advice from Bob, will tell you all you need to know.

Update cabinet hardware

Replacing cabinets to give a kitchen a new look can be a huge job. And according to Remodeling Magazine, a leading industry source that tracks remodeling costs, it produces only a so-so return on investment.

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But replacing cabinet hardware is not only the type of minor project that produces a better return on investment, but is something anyone with a screwdriver and perhaps a drill can do in short order.

Although there are no hard and fast rules, knobs are more commonly used on cabinet doors and pulls on drawers. Hardware choice is mainly a matter of what appeals to you, although stainless steel and brushed nickel finishes are considered classics, while recent trends include gold and matte black.

Save yourself some work by going with knobs whose base is the same diameter or larger than the old ones and pulls whose attachment points are the same as what you’re replacing. Otherwise, you will have some minor refinishing, puttying, and drilling to do.

Exchange cover plates

Installing new light switch and electrical outlet cover plates will instantly give any wall a crisper look. While you’re at it, you might add some tiny art to your kitchen by exchanging basic white, beige, or almond models for miniature rectangles of color and design.

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Find thousands online, from companies such as Etsy,, and They carry every kind of design from burnished silver or copper to hand-painted tropical scenes. For safety, shut off the power when you are trading out the old plates for the new, and don’t mess with the switches or sockets themselves.

Add an area rug

An area rug can be a pop of color and style that takes attention away from less-than-gorgeous parts of the kitchen.

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Look for a rug that’s low-pile (avoid rag rugs), durable, machine washable, and in darker colors or patterns that can camouflage stains. To avoid tripping, keep it on the small side. A runner that lies between counter and island is ideal.

Use a rubber-backed mat to help it grip the floor. If you want a rug under the kitchen table, it needs to be low-pile or flat-weave (so chairs can slide easily) and big enough to allow all four legs of each chair to sit on the rug, even when the chairs are pulled out.

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