Six ways to spruce up an old kitchen

New Kitchen
New Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Whether small or large, old or new, it is where family and friends gather to share dinners, celebrate special occasions and make lasting memories.

After three decades of cooking in the same kitchen in her Etobicoke bungalow, my mother decided the hub of her home needed a “refresh”. Without breaking the bank, she was able to update her dated kitchen in two weeks.

Kitchen Refresh
Kitchen Refresh

Here are six ways to spruce up your old kitchen:

  1. Replace your old and worn kitchen countertop with a new quartz one. Quartz countertops are durable and easy to keep spotless.
  2. Remove dated backsplash with a more contemporary mosaic or glass tile. Check out these tiles from Home Depot.
  3. Install a stainless steel undermount sink. Consider a double sink for multi-tasking.
  4. Choose a functional kitchen faucet, but keep style and finish in mind.
  5. A fresh coat of paint can change the look and feel of the kitchen.
  6. Lastly, accessorize with new tea towels, placemats, oven mitts and artwork from HomeSense.

How would you reinvent your kitchen space?


A room with a new view

This past February, I sat down to dinner in my kitchen with my husband and noticed a small, thin crack in one of the two windows.

The frigid temperatures that had swept across much of southern Ontario this winter had taken a toll on my old window. The tiny crack spread from the bottom window sill up to the top.

So, the decision was made and the window would be replaced. Since we were replacing the back window, we also decided to install a new back door. The old one was drafty.

You first heard about my unexpected home renovation back in early March. I’m happy to report that last week, the new window and door were both installed just in time for the beautiful weekend weather.

New Window & door
New Window & Door
New Window & Door
New Window & Door

My husband spent the better part of the weekend painting the trim and the door white to match. While I wasn’t planning on the added expense associated with replacing my old kitchen window and door, I’m happy with the new ones.

Now, the search is on for new window coverings.

Should I invest in shutters, shades or blinds?

Kitchen makeover underway, hooray!

In February, I shared with you 5 simple steps to choosing the right kitchen contractor. The tips in the post are from Jeff, a long-time friend and colleague, who has started a massive kitchen renovation in his 2-storey, Brampton home. The remodel which is underway includes replacing the floors, cabinets, ceiling and everything else in between.

The demolition has begun. Here are a few photos from what is left of his kitchen:

Kitchen Remodel, Photo by J. LeMoine
Kitchen Remodel, Photo by J. LeMoine
Kitchen Remodel, Photo by J. LeMoine
Kitchen Remodel, Photo by J. LeMoine

While Jeff works on his ‘dream’ kitchen, my mother is planning a kitchen refresh. Her traditional-style kitchen was last renovated in the 80s and is in need of a new countertop, backsplash and a fresh coat of paint. After a morning of tile shopping, a neutral travertine backsplash and matching quartz countertop have been chosen to update the look of the kitchen.

Back Splash

The pink beige walls will be replaced with CIL neutral Sandringham. If all goes according to plan, the kitchen refresh should take 3-5 days.

Have your home renovation projects been on time or have the projects gone over schedule?

What’s in your kitchen junk drawer?

This is my “junk drawer”.

Junk Drawer
Junk Drawer

I actually have four “junk” drawers in my kitchen. These are handy, catch-all drawers for odds and ends. In this one, I have a pack of gum, candle, shoe polish, black shoelaces, batteries, flash light, re-usable bag, tape measure, lint brush, screwdrivers, scissors and tape.

Personal organizing expert, Elizabeth Larkin, has five easy steps to de-clutter your top drawers. Larkin’s tips include:

1. Keep what you need and purge what you don’t.

2. Sort and group similar items together.

3. Determine your storage needs.

4. Arrange your items.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 on a regular basis.

Do you have a junk drawer? What’s in it? How often do you clean out your catch-all drawer?

Change the look of your living room in an afternoon

The fireplace mantel in my living room was feeling a little bland. It was in need of a refresh. So, I now had a project for Saturday afternoon. I hit Moss on the Danforth in search of accent pieces.

I found these two stainless steel lanterns. They’re modern looking, but evoke the feeling you get during of a seaside vacation. Just what I was looking for. I added two white candles to finish the look.

Coastal Lanterns
Coastal Lanterns

I headed home. No need to spend any more money. I have a kitchen shelf full of vases. I pull out three similar glass vases. These will do just fine. Now, I’m on a mission for seashells and rocks to keep with the modern coastal design. I know I have both from a trip down south years ago.


I fill the vases and add them to the mantel. I stumble across more filler in the dining room credenza. (You just never know where you’ll find filler.) I head back to the kitchen where I keep my tea lights and candle holders. I grab two of each.

Tea Lights
Tea Lights


I add each of the items to the mantel, but something is still missing. I make my way up to my home office. A quick scan of the room and I spot a small, silver clock and a white, dove figurine. They’re the finishing touches I was looking for. I think I’m all set.


Small Clock
Small Clock


After rearranging the items a few times, I step back and exam the display. I call up my husband from the basement, where he was watching TV, to give me his opinion. And there you have it. I spent very little money and two hours on a Saturday afternoon to change the look of my fireplace mantel.

Fireplace Mantel Display
Fireplace Mantel Display


What do you think? Any other quick and inexpensive home projects you can do in one afternoon?

Unexpected home renovations

Sometimes home renovations aren’t planned.

Two weeks ago, I sat down to dinner with my husband. I looked up and out the back window. And that’s when I first saw it.

A small, thin crack in one of the two kitchen windows.

The bitterly, cold temperatures that had gripped much of southern Ontario this winter had taken a toll on my old windows. Over the next few frigid days, the tiny crack spread like a snake from the bottom window sill up to the top.

Cracked Kitchen Window
Cracked Kitchen Window

And so it began. Phone calls were made to window installers. appointments booked and quotes received.

Then the question came up. Since we’re replacing the back window, should we also install a new back door and storm door? Our old ones are drafty.

Replacing the back window has now turned into a bigger project. A project that wasn’t on our “To Do” list. But it has to be done.

So, we’re biting the bullet and replacing both the kitchen window and door. Today, we met with the manufacturer. This is the same company that replaced my mother’s windows, two years ago, after one of her bedroom windows cracked.

We’ve decided on an energy-efficient, triple pane glass window for the kitchen and a simple white, back door with an internal grill. No need to replace the storm door because the new door comes with a built-in screen. But both have to be custom made. Now we wait until installation day.

It’s all part of owning a home.

 Have you been in a similar situation? Has a small, minor project turned into a bigger renovation job?


Surviving a kitchen renovation

Last week, I introduced you to Jeff LeMoine. The father of two is about to take on a major kitchen redesign. But before he swings the sledge-hammer, tears down a wall and rips out his outdated cabinets, Jeff needs a survival plan.

The family of four will be without a proper kitchen for over two months. So, how will they survive the renovation without starving and at the same time keep their young children out of harm’s way?

“We’re planning the demolition to begin in the spring to take advantage of the nice weather. (fingers crossed) We have a big backyard and the kids can play outside while the contractors work inside. And we will rely heavily on the BBQ for meals.” Jeff and his wife have put a lot thought in how they will cope as a family without a full kitchen.

“We do have cabinets in the unfinished basement that we will use for storage and we’re moving the old microwave, oven and fridge down there as well,” added Jeff.

They won’t have a dishwasher and will use the laundry room sink to wash pots, pans and cutlery. They also plan to use paper plates to minimize washing dishes by hand.

“Luckily, we have family close by and we will take them up on any offers for meals,” said Jeff.

A massive kitchen remodel will obviously disrupt the natural order of things in the LeMoine household. “I think my wife will have the hardest time. I will be a close second. The mess will be hard to deal with. The kids will think its amazing. They are wide-eyed and curious. But we will have to be on our toes, keep them out of the construction zone and engaged in other ways.”

In the end, it will be short-term pain for long-term gain.

Have you ever lived through a major renovation? How did you cope?

How to choose the right kitchen contractor in 5 simple steps

Photo credit Jeff LeMoine
Photo by J. LeMoine

“We’ve known since we moved in that the kitchen had to go,” said Jeff LeMoine.

Jeff, a long-time friend and colleague, is about to embark on a massive kitchen renovation in his 2-storey, Brampton home.

“I would describe my kitchen as square. It doesn’t flow well. It’s impossible for two people to be cooking in the kitchen at the same time without stabbing each other,” joked Jeff.

“It’s pretty tight. We want to open it up, turn it into a central place in the house where everyone can hangout comfortably together,” added Jeff.

Photo credit - Jeff LeMoine
Photo by J. LeMoine

The renovation is a gut job and includes replacing the floors, cabinets, ceiling and everything else in between. When all is said and done the ‘country-style kitchen with a modern twist’ will be double in size.

“This has been a real learning experience for us. We’ve been talking about it for two years now.” The much-anticipated demolition will begin in April and fingers crossed, the kitchen makeover will be completed in two months.

It’s been a long road for Jeff and his family, but he has this advice if you are about to take on a kitchen renovation.

  • Take your time, don’t rush any decisions.
  • Ask a lot of questions, check the contractor’s references and their work.
  • Meet face-to-face with each contractor.
  • Be patient and open with your significant other. (You’re not always going to get what you want, unless you’re Jeff’s wife.)
  • Budget extra time and money for the project.

For more kitchen renovating tips, check out these recommendations from Consumer Reports:

Have I missed any tips? What’s your advice for picking a contractor?

How to get creative with your condo space

When Albert Pasceri moved into his one-bedroom, North York condo, he was faced with a storage issue. The first-time condo owner quickly realized the kitchen cabinets in his 700-square-foot space were not enough.

With little room to store canned goods and everyday dishes, Albert set out in search of a solution.

“A small space encourages you to be more creative. I had to look for other ideas for storage,” said Albert.

So, he decided on four open shelves in the kitchen to store and display mugs and bowls. This easy and inexpensive option also freed up other space in the existing kitchen cabinets.

With only a small nook in the kitchen, Albert would have to get creative to fit a narrow pantry.

“I took two red IKEA medicine cabinets and attached one on top of the other. Then I added legs and just like that I created a custom pantry to fit my space,” added Albert.

Customized Pantry
Customized Pantry, Photo by A. Pasceri

Another challenge he faced was what he described as a “builder’s quirk”. Light switches and an electrical box in the recently built condo were placed in the middle of walls instead of off to the side.

He wanted a place to store his keys and mail, as well as hang a mirror, but a light switch placed in the centre of the entranceway wall forced him to alter his plans. A solid mirror wouldn’t work because of the light switch. The solution was a strip mirror by UMBRA. The seven strips allowed Albert to customize his entranceway mirror and cleverly address the light switch obstacle.

Since the entranceway is narrow, he opted for two floating ‘L-shaped’ shelves to hold his keys, wallet and spare change.

Entranceway Mirror & Shelves
Entranceway Mirror & Shelves, Photo by A. Pasceri

When decorating a small space, Albert recommends the following tips:

  • Use a low tack painter’s tape on your floors to map out your furniture and help visualize what each room will look like before you buy.
  • Measure your space before you go shopping. Don’t forget to also measure the doorways to avoid bringing home furniture that doesn’t fit through the front door.
  • Look up in your condo and use your vertical space to create more storage.
  • Be creative and customize pieces to add your personal style to the room.

For more storage solutions and style ideas check out 11 tricks to add style to your kitchen by

Do you live in a condo? Have you ever had to get creative when it came to storage? What are some of the decorating challenges you’ve faced?