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Is your kitchen tired, dysfunctional or begging for help? If so, read on and discover cost effective ways to modernize and upgrade without breaking the bank.

From changing color schemes to replacing cabinet doors, pulls and sink faucets, you can dramatically transform a kitchen without gutting the entire space. Petaluma based interior designer Rochelle Mella and Galen Butts, manager of Garrett Ace Hardware in Healdsburg, tell us how.

“Do your homework first,” says Mella. “Start your journey by diligently researching DIY websites such as HGTV, Pinterest and Houzz for general design ideas.”

She also recommends YouTube as the place for hands-on tutorials covering every aspect of kitchen remodeling.

Then start with the little things. Moving small appliances to an adjacent pantry is an easy way to reduce countertop clutter. Improve the function of corner cupboards or narrow cabinets by installing a spindle-mounted Lazy Susan with rotating shelves.

Add roll-out shelves to provide easier access to items tucked in the far reaches.

Change colors

Modifying your color scheme can dramatically change the mood. “If your kitchen is dark, with small windows, select light and bright colors and your kitchen will feel more airy,” says Mella.

“Alternately, if your kitchen is bathed in natural light, this is a great opportunity to use darker colors that can establish a sophisticated motif.”

Add a new faucet

Installing a new kitchen faucet can add a quick and inexpensive contemporary touch. Butts recommends selections by Moen, Delta and Pfister ($45 to $250).

“These manufacturers offer a complete line of replacement parts stocked by most plumbing departments, and the installation process is relatively simple,” he said.

“You might find an amazingly elegant fixture at an upscale kitchen shop, but be aware that replacement parts for exotic brands are sometimes hard to find.

“You do not want to pay your plumber a $100 or more just searching for a part.”

New lighting

Replacing dated ceiling light fixtures can dramatically step up your kitchen’s appeal while improving the illumination. A multi-head track light can add a new level of sophistication, and each track head can be directed to illuminate a different task area.

Another way to improve ambiance lighting is to replace old fluorescent lights with recessed mini-cans.

You can install them without having to tear out drywall. Just cut a circular hole using the supplied template and attach the wires that connected the old fluorescent (black to black, white to white and ground to ground).

The new recessed unit slips through the hole in the ceiling, held firmly in place by the prongs projecting from the side of the can.

The wiring can easily be extended to additional can lights (recessed can and trim $50).

Replace doors & drawer fronts

Installing new cabinets in a standard kitchen will cost between $10,000 and $15,000, not including demolition labor and prep. But if your existing cabinets are in relatively good repair, consider replacing outdated door pulls with something jazzier. If the doors are dated too, you can replace the door and drawer panels for a fraction of the cost of a complete redo.

Local cabinet suppliers are plentiful, or you can visit online sources such as barkerdoor.com, which offers raw products from $10 to $75 per panel. Mella suggests ordering a sample during the planning stages to alleviate any pre-order jitters.

Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with your cabinets other than worn out lacquer or paint finish. Repainting or re-staining them is a perfect DIY project, Mella said.

Start by removing the doors’ hinges and knobs, then sand them with 100-grit sandpaper, ideally with the aid of an electric sander. If your cabinets have a clear lacquer finish, sand off the entire clear-coat, including the little nooks and crannies, then repaint or re-stain and add a clear finish coat using a waterborne Polyurethane sealer.

Selecting the proper primer and topcoat paint ensures a smooth, durable finish free of brush strokes. Butts recommends Aqua-Life Hybrid Alkyd paints ($44 gallon) to ensure a firm bond and a tough, durable finish. For a super smooth two coat finish, he says, “I’m very impressed with Valspar’s Optimus ($45 gallon). It goes on like butter, and its extended drying time allows the paint to self-level, eliminating the appearance of brush stokes.”

Mella also recommends Sherwin Williams’ Multipurpose Primer ($28-$33 gallon) and ProClassic Enamel ($65 gallon), Stix Bonding Primer ($46 gallon) and Kelly Moore’s Kel brand.

Tom Wilmer has been a licensed general contractor since 1986. Contact him with your questions or comments at tomwilmer@aol.com