Kitchen Makeovers

Create a beautiful space to congregate and cook

Story by Robyn Passante

A kitchen should be, above all, functional. But it is also the center of family life, the place where togetherness is fostered, plans are made, and both celebrations and sorrows are met with decadent dishes and comfort foods.

So a kitchen should not just have function, but form. If yours is lacking the kind of style that makes you look forward to your next meal prep session, it’s time to consult the experts on how to update your space and make it the kind of beautiful room in which people will truly love to congregate and cook.

Start Here

Kim Olson, project manager at Distinctive Granite and Marble at River Walk, says to start with the most eye-catching feature of a kitchen.

“I always think an important step is to pick the countertop first, because that’s your impact,” she says. “Then you can figure out your cabinet color and floor.” Olson brings clients to the slab warehouse at AGM Imports to peruse the many kinds of stone and color hues. “People can bring cabinet colors or paint colors that they like, and it’s just a matter of working with them like a designer to help them find just the right fit.”

Counter Points

While marble and granite have had their heydays, right now quartz, particularly manmade quartz, is all the rage. “Man-made quartz is very popular. It has the durability of quartz, but the look of marble,” Olson says. “Marble itself is not practical because it can scratch, and it stains like crazy.”

Bruce Zaidman, owner of American Wood Reface in the Carolinas and Georgia, says a kitchen countertop has to handle a lot while looking great, and quartz fits the bill. “There’s no maintenance on quartz, it doesn’t ever need sealers, polishers, special cleaners,” he says. “It has a lifetime warranty. It’s stronger than granite. It doesn’t harbor bacteria. It’s scratch-resistant and heat-resistant.”

But rest assured there’s always a material for those who don’t want to get what everyone else is getting. “The other trend,” Olson says, “is a product that’s a quartzite, a natural stone similar to granite. It holds up very well.”

About (Re)face

Beyond new countertops, redoing your cabinets is the easiest way to give your kitchen a makeover. But the experts say homeowners often end up regretting their decision to DIY the project by merely painting the cabinets they have.

“Painting is tedious, and it’s difficult to get it to look right. They just look like old, painted cabinets,” Zaidman says. “The kitchen is the most important room in the house for resale, and if they want to do it on the cheap, they wind up hurting themselves and decreasing the value of the property rather than increasing it.”

Zaidman’s staff can reface a kitchen’s cabinetry with solid quarter-inch hardwood professionally painted in any custom color in one to three days.

Upgrade + Update

While cabinets are being refaced, kitchens are being reimagined. “The biggest trends for us is a lot of remodeling and refacing, taking an existing kitchen and making improvements to it – converting lower doors to large drawers, that’s a huge trend in kitchens today, because as we get older it’s easier to access your things,” Zaidman says. “And we take a lot of kitchens with shorter cabinets – 30- to 36-inch-tall cabinets, and we can stack cabinets on top of them, add doors or stack glass on top to add more storage and height to the cabinetry. That’s real popular as well.”

Island Spotlight

One way to make the kitchen really pop is to set the island apart, either with a different countertop treatment or shade of paint. “A lot of people do the perimeter of the kitchen with a polished countertop and then they leather their island,” Olson says. “A polished slab leathered gives it depth, it’s the coolest thing.”

Opting for a different countertop material entirely or merely different edging style is another way to go. And choosing a different cabinet color for the island is also popular, “so that the island doesn’t match, but it complements” the kitchen, Zaidman says.

Automatic for the People

With so much focus on cabinets and countertops, it’s easy to make the window treatments an afterthought. But today’s options can assist with both form and function, says Bob Engler of Budget Blinds of the Lowcountry. “The biggest trend is with automation, mainly for convenience,” he says. “With automated shades they can control an endless number of windows, big and small, with the touch of a button or voice control with Siri or Alexa. They can also set timers to not think about it.”

Make a ‘Splash

The space between countertop and cabinet is a tricky one for style. While many people opt for the ever-popular tile backsplash, Olson suggests something a bit more dramatic. “If they do whatever their countertop would be, a full height backsplash is awesome, up the wall under the cabinets about 18 inches up, that is an amazing look – very clean, no maintenance,” she says. “The look of a full height backsplash adds the ‘Wow’ factor.”

Roll Out

When making over your kitchen windows, Engler says to consider an older window treatment style that’s already been given a makeover.

“I think the most overlooked category is Roller Shades,” he says. “This product line has seen the largest revamp in the last couple of years with so many different, colors, textures and patterns to choose from.”

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