Ever since I moved in to my place about 2 months ago HGTV has become like CRACK to me. "Small Space, Big Style," "My First Place," "Curb Appeal," "Divine Design," "Design Star," and now "Making of a Design Star" (DAVID COME MAKEOVER MY BEDROOM), all the incarnations of "I Want That," TiVo records them ALL. One of the things they repeat over and over and over is how important the kitchen is to the overall feel and resale value of one's home. Kitchens and baths are pretty much all they talk about on HGTV anymore. My kitchen is part of a larger room that includes a space where a dining table could go and then my living room. So if a kitchen off by itself in someone's home is IMPORTANT to the average homeowner imagine how an HGTV addict could obsess about the kitchen in his main room!
For my first real home improvement project I decided to do a little tweaking in my kitchen. First I switched out all the white sockets and switches and plastic surrounds with black sockets and stainless surrounds. It's a small touch but I think it really improves the look of the room AND it was pretty cheap! I think the whole project cost just under $50. It was a good education too, I learned a lot about wiring and how things like switches and plugs work. It's pretty simple to swap out the old hardware, you need a flat head and a phillips head screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters. I bought my replacement hardware at Lowes. Make sure the power is turned off to the socket or switch you are working on (I turned off ALL the power in my entire kitchen for my first couple of sockets, then figured out which breakers control what). I only shocked myself once! You also need to make sure you buy the right replacements, there are 15 and 20 amp switches and sockets and they are not interchangeable... look in your breaker box to determine which kind you need before you go to the store. Here's what the old one's looked like:
And here is the new look:
MUCH COOLER if I do say so myself. The one pictured is a GFI socket... I had two of those in my kitchen and they require a little more attention to detail than the plain ol two plug sockets. Really glad I had some touch-up paint around because the metal surrounds were just a little smaller than the plastic ones, so I had to do a little cleanup around sockets where the paint stuck to the old faceplates when I removed them. Hopefully my wiring work won't result in some horrible fire or electrical outage... but if or until that happens my sockets and switches are gonna look HOT!
The other thing I did was inspired by HGTV and a trip to Ikea. Next time you spend the day at your local Ikea take a look through the lighting section when you are on your way out... it's usually just after the textile area and just before the mirrors, art and outdoor area. They sell some pretty cool lighting for under your counters, or inside cabinets. Kind of a pain in the ass to install because you have to actually work UNDER your cabinets to install them, like a mechanic under a car. They will also probably require you to drill at least one hole in your cabinets to make room for the cords (I drilled two but ended up only using one of them, dusty affair by the way, drilling holes in cabinets). If you are a cord nazi like me, you will also want to consider buying some kind of management tools to hide the power wires. Luckily the builder took the possibility of under counter lighting into consideration when they built my place and I have an outlet INSIDE a cabinet, so that helped a little with the cord hiding, but you'll still need a way to conceal the lines underneath.
The effect is pretty dramatic. Here's before:
Pretty cool, yeah? Between the lights and the sockets and switches the whole project cost about $110. The most expensive part being the lights from Ikea (but I used a housewarming gift card from my mortgage broker to buy those). A couple of notes: the lights tend to get quite warm... I doubt they'd get hot enough to do any damage, I mean, they are DESIGNED to be screwed into the bottoms of cabinets, but after they have been on for a while they are definitely too hot to touch. Ikea sells a different lighting product which is a strip of LED's which I considered before buying the ones I bought that would probably be much more energy efficient, cooler and easier to install, but I doubt they would put out as much light.
Only thing I'd like to do is run a stainless steel backsplash along the wall under the cabinets, but that's a project that can wait till I can afford to pay someone who knows what they are doing to do that!
The question now is what do I do with all the OLD sockets and switches and faceplates?
Seems like such a waste.
Tomorrow THIS NEW CONDO takes the train.