Small changes transform old kitchens

February 27, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

When we think of redoing a room, most of us realize that a fresh new look can be achieved without undertaking a top-to-bottom overhaul. But that common-sense approach often fails to be applied in the case of the kitchen.

It's widely assumed that modest face lifts just won't suffice in this part of the home, on account of all the gadgets, cabinets, fixtures, appliances and hard-surface materials.

Budgetary and technical objections to a limited make-over are frequently raised as well. "I can't stand those dark wooden cabinets," I often hear, "but I can't afford to replace them." There's also the chorus that runs something like: "Yes, I know the vinyl floor tile around the dishwasher is coming up, but I can't find anything to match it."

There is an alternative to despair and defeatism. Consider, for example, the valuable (though not terribly expensive) suggestions offered by Florence Perchuk, a New York-based kitchen designer. She's responsible for the striking transformation, shown in the photo, of a formerly drab and

old-fashioned kitchen.

This is not a total redo. The furniture and appliances are not 1920s vintage, but the cabinets, the hood and other elements are all originals.

If the cabinets, sink and similar fixtures are fulfilling their intended functions, Ms. Perchuk believes, there's no reason to rip the kitchen apart. Major aesthetic improvements can be wrought on a cost-effective basis by focusing on a few elements.

The floor, one of the room's most prominent surfaces, is a good place to start. Here, the entire setting was enlivened by the installation of a colorful tile-like pattern of sheet vinyl, along with an unpatterned border called "Color Passions." Borders, whether floors or on walls, are instrumental in unifying a room.

Don't overlook the lighting. Those old fluorescent ceiling fixtures may still be working, but you may not have noticed how dim their light has gotten over the years. At the least, the tubes need to be changed. But why not just install a higher-tech array? A halogen fixture will cast a more soothing and effective light.

Among the touch-ups applied in Ms. Perchuk's redesign are the addition of moldings and stenciled patterns to door and drawer fronts. Other surfaces were repainted, and tile work was refurbished.

Attention to detail is the key to any successful make-over.

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