What does a trained architect see when she looks at a kitchen? Possibilities.  

Christine Hanway, the U.K. editor at Remodelista, shares five kitchen updates that don't involve plaster dust -- or removing a wall.

1. Create open shelving by removing upper cabinet fronts


Open shelving Photo: kaewphoto / iStock /Thinkstock

Sally Swift: What are some quick fixes for the kitchen for those of us who aren't ready to take out walls? What are you seeing trend-wise that we can change in our kitchens?

Christine Hanway Christine Hanway Photo: Kristin Perers

Christine Hanway: We're seeing lots of things. One of the easiest things to do is to pull off the cabinet faces on the uppers. There's a big trend right now in open shelving; you don't want to take all your kitchen cabinets off and install new shelving. Very simply, you can just remove the cabinet fronts.

You can do other interesting things like paint the backs of those cabinets, or you can wallpaper them. I think it makes people think about what they want on display, so maybe it's just your favorite glasses, the glasses that get used all the time, the ones that can go in the dishwasher, the ones that the kids can use.

2. Hang fabric instead of a door for a softer look


curtain cabinets Photo: thekitchendesigner.org / Flickr

SS: I'm seeing a lot more fabric in kitchens: doors missing and fabric being hung instead. Is that part of the same trend?

CH: Yes. I guess it's from the farmhouse aesthetic or that French country kitchen. Underneath the sink it's just a curtain, there is no door. But alternatively, you can do it in front of a tall pantry and hang a beautiful piece of fabric or curtain to soften things up. It must help acoustically too.

3. If you don't like your countertops, cover them


Counters Photo: Matthew Williams / Remodelista

SS: What about for those of us who hate our countertops? Is there something that we can do without having to install new ones?

CH: A colleague of mine, she is in a rental, and she didn't like the granite countertops. Basically she just went and got some plywood and had a carpenter build plywood countertops for her.

SS: She just laid them on top of the existing countertops?

CH: She laid them on top, and then she built returns on them. They look really, really good. She's very pleased with them actually.

4. Layer lighting (and try a pendant or 3)


pendants Photo: larkandlarks / Flickr

SS: How do you feel about lighting? Is there an easy way for people to fix lighting in their kitchens?

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CH: I think that lighting is all about layering. Whether it's clothes or you're furnishing, the more layering you can do, the better off you are. You can have your recessed lights, but it's also good to have some task lights or under-counter lighting. If you don't want to install under-counter lighting, a few clip-on lights work really, really well.

SS: Those are really cheap, and you can put them anywhere, right?

CH: Absolutely.

Speaking of lighting, if you're going to do one thing, it would be a pendant. It would be either a big pendant or a series of maybe three pendants over either your dining room table or your kitchen island, wherever it is that you and your friends and family congregate. I think of pendant lights as like creating your own little fireplace, like a hearth in your kitchen.

SS: You get that beautiful pool of light, and everyone is focused in that pool.

5. Invest in a great kitchen sink


Kitchen sink Photo: Martin Poole / Photodisc / Thinkstock

SS: If you were going to invest in one thing in your kitchen, what would it be? Would it be an oven? Would it be a good refrigerator? Where would you go?

CH: I think with big kitchen fixtures, anything is worth it if it helps you enjoy being in the kitchen because we're in the kitchen so much. For me, having a big, beautiful, sculptural sink is what makes my time in the kitchen better. I'm always standing at it, whether I'm washing the dishes or I'm preparing the vegetables.

SS: Do you like a single bowl sink or do you like a divided sink?

CH: I like a single bowl sink. Maybe it's a practical thing, but for me, when you're washing a big pot,  I hate it when it's in a tiny, little sink and it just keeps banging against other things.

SS: People don't think very much about kitchen sinks. I think they're pretty important as well.

Sally Swift
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.