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Kitchen rehab does not have to be massive

(ran HP)

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 gadgetry, cabinets, fixtures, appliances and hard-surface materials.

What once was chosen must remain in place forever, the feeling goes. That's the main reason that so many older kitchens have a dated _ or downright tired _ look.

Budgetary and technical objections to a limited makeover are frequently raised as well.

"I can't stand those dark wooden cabinets," I'm always hearing it said, "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."

Instead of closely examining these excuses, most people simply try to forget about the kitchen altogether and turn their attention to a less troublesome project, such as reupholstering a living room chair.

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 cabinetry, the hood and some other elements are all originals.

If the cabinets, sink and similar fixtures are fulfilling their intended functions, 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 largest and 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 Armstrong sheet vinyl, along with a patternless border called "Color Passions." Borders, whether on 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 very 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 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 makeover, including the kind of limited rehab undertaken in this model. Some-thing as seemingly minor as changing the hardware on the cabinets can make a major difference.

But the most important facet of a redesign actually precedes the physical work itself.

These projects have to be carefully planned, right down to the smallest consideration, since they are seldom achieved satisfactorily by proceeding in a piecemeal or an ad-libbed fashion.

Bring unity to a long room

Question: I'm stumped. My long, narrow living room has a fireplace close to one of its ends.

At present, a pair of love seats flanks the fireplace, and there are some other chairs at one end of the space and a desk at the other. We always need to rearrange the furniture whenever more than six people are in the room.

How and where can I add an additional seating group?

Answer: A conversation grouping composed of a few chairs and a coffee table can probably be introduced in a corner of one end of your long living room.

Something like the ensemble shown in the photo could be adopted to your situation. Notice that the corner here has been rounded by the addition of the folding screen seen in the background.

The sense of roundness was then enhanced by the use of a curved sofa that's made up of three separate sections. This commodious seating area faces the rest of the room.

Although they're not shown in the photo, you might wish to add a pair of ottomans or lightly scaled chairs to close the circle of the conversation grouping.

Positioned properly, these extra seating pieces will not block the sight lines between the guests on the sofa and those gathered around the fireplace.

If you're able to do some refurnishing as well as redesigning, consider replacing those love seats near the fireplace with a few portable or swivel chairs that can allow the guests seated in them to engage easily in conversation with those in the corner grouping.

This kind of layout has visual as well as functional advantages. The introduction of a focal point such as a decorative folding screen will lend emphasis to one end of the room, thus foreshortening the entire space and giving it a more pleasing proportion.

Your writing desk, if it has some decorative appeal, can remain where it is now.

Accompany it with an eye-catching chair and place a prominent lamp on the desk's surface in order to give that end of the room enough weight to balance the furniture arrangement at the opposite end.

I always try to visualize a long and narrow room as a piece of topography resembling hills sloping down to a valley. That effect can be achieved by placing the tallest and bulkiest pieces at either end and putting the lower and smaller objects in the middle.

Again, the aim is to facilitate conversation and visual communication among people at some distance from one another.

This kind of arrangement also minimizes the awkward configuration of such a space.

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