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For Your Home: Refresh kitchen with a few smart updates

Vicki Payne
The Charlotte Observer

I’ve always been motivated by deadlines. Nothing drives me to do a little redecorating like the approach of Thanksgiving, especially when I will be the hostess.

This time of the year, the most important room in the house is the kitchen. That’s where the action will be. With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, a new kitchen is clearly not a possibility. But you still have time to refresh yours with a good cleanup, new cabinet hardware and possibly some new glass cabinet door inserts.

Let’s start with cleanup. If your wall cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling and you’ve been using this space for display, I urge you to reconsider. Nothing says out of date like dusty fake ivy draped across the cluttered tops of your cabinets. You really don’t need to put anything up there. But if you can’t resist, less is more. Whatever you choose, it has to be clean. And as for the fake ivy, pitch it.

Replacing cabinets every time trends change is not an option for most of us. Embracing parts of a new look is doable. A good example: glass inserts. The trend today is cabinet doors with clear textured glass — not smooth and not stained glass. Most glass shops offer a selection that can be cut and installed in a few days.

Cabinet hardware can transform the appearance of your kitchen. Start by selecting a style. There are basically three categories:

■ Traditional, also known as Old World, features classic designs often inspired by historical architectural and accent features.

■ Contemporary designs have sleek lines, sharp angles, minimalist features and modern finishes such as brushed satin nickel, polished chrome and stainless steel.

■ Transitional is a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. These can be traditional designs with contemporary finishes or contemporary designs with traditional finishes.

Modernize your cabinet doors by replacing knobs with longer pull bars for a more contemporary look. It requires just one new hole to be drilled.

Love the new industrial look? Consider replacing a single knob or 3-inch pull bar with a cup pull in a rubbed bronze finish. A polished chrome cup pull reads transitional. Add panache to a white kitchen with Atlas Hardware’s new Dream Glass Collection in the Cheetah pattern.

If your cabinets have visible hinges, those will have to be changed if you decide to switch out the drawer pulls or other hardware. Hinges are available at most hardware stores. Stick with the same size pull bar as you had before. Measure the distance between the center of one screw hole to the next to determine the size. Standard is 3 inches.

The best way to select new hardware is to see it in person. Don’t forget to take one of your cabinet doors and a drawer with you. Trying to buy hardware without your door is like buying a hat without trying it on. It just doesn’t work out well. Many manufacturers, including Top Knobs, will send a free sample to online shoppers.

Double check the clearance and the spacing on all hardware. Make sure the knobs don’t touch when you close the doors and that you have plenty of room to reach inside the handle or grasp the knob when opening and closing doors and drawers. Dainty knobs and pulls can be frustrating for someone with larger hands.

Buy quality. Just like everything else, you get what you pay for. Lower quality kitchen knobs and pulls in the $2 to $5 range often have open backs that make them less sturdy. These also tend to have less clearance space, sharper edges, thinner metal and a less-than-stable finish. You can often recognize these by their lack of heft. If they are light in weight in your hand, then they probably will perform as lightweights in your kitchen. A more expensive $8 knob is generally more solid, not hollow, and should feel smoother, have more detail and a more consistent finish.

You still have time to wow your Thanksgiving crowd with a lasting decorator update that you’ll enjoy long after the leftovers are gone.

Designer and home improvement expert Vicki Payne is host and producer of “For Your Home,” available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. Reach her at