Update your kitchen with minimal time, money and skill

Shortly before coming to Oregon to train people to use her refinishing products, DIY maven Amy Howard consulted with a man lamenting that his two kitchens wouldn’t help sell his home.

“This could be for a Jewish family,” Amy told him. “This is something a lot of people would look for or custom build.”

When she returns to Memphis, she plans to show him how to use her Amy Howard at Home One Step Paint and other products to update the kitchens to attract buyers when he puts the home on the market later this year.

Kitchens are just part of Amy’s story – she also has a fix for old furniture. In 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency reported that furniture is the number one least-recycled item in a household and accounted for 9.8 million tons of household waste. “As we are increasingly persuaded by TV shows to remodel our homes and to replace old furniture, we are also adding more to the landfill in record numbers,” according to a planetsave.com story on the EPA report.

Amy says the staggering amount of discarded furniture inspired her to help people rescue their furniture and cabinets instead of taking them to the landfill.

“I was an interior designer,” says Amy. “I took the processes I developed in designing and manufacturing furniture and packaged it to rescue furniture.”

Last year Amy Howard at Home products went national, and her products are now sold in nearly 2,500 retail locations including all Ace Hardware stores. Now Amy travels the country leading do-it-yourself workshops and training retailers to teach their customers how to use those products to update the look of their home on a budget.

Her September workshop at the Ace Hardware in Newberg sold out quickly. But thanks to the regional training class offered the next day, other Oregonian DIYers will be able to learn how to update their kitchen for less than $250.

Amy walked me through the kitchen remodel shown in the pictures accompanying this article. This project cost a bit more because she purchased the cabinets – from Habitat for Humanity, which she says provides great value for old kitchen cabinets like these.

The cabinets were very utilitarian, dark wood and not desirable, she says, noting that many people no longer want dark cabinets in their kitchen – “They want bright colors.”

Amy’s One Step Paint makes that transition easy. All you have to do is clean grease and dirt off the surface, shake the can and paint with a nylon brush or sprayer.

“You don’t have to prime, sand or strip the old finish or go into shut-down mode in your kitchen,” says Amy. “So a lot of people who never thought of do-it-yourself think, ‘I might try this.’ ”

In addition to refinishing the wood on the old cabinets, Amy also removed a couple of the doors to give the space a more open feel and then painted the inside with an accent color.

Since cabinets purchased at restoration stores or Habitat generally don’t include countertops, Amy offers tips for an inexpensive, trendy topper.

“I put plywood on the counter and had a sheet metal top made rolling the edge on top of the plywood,” she explains. Then she cleans the metal and applies her zinc antiquing solution and varnish. “It’s very much on trend. You get updated looks for very little cost.”

She also has a low-cost option for a backsplash behind a sink, noting many people don’t want the time or expense involved in tile or granite but still want to protect the wall.

Amy had her local Ace Hardware cut a piece of glass to fit the space between the countertop and the cabinets. “I use a stencil and my lacquer then glue that side of the glass to the wall. It took 15 minutes to do. I used one aerosol can of white and one of silver.” Her lacquering technique (as well as other tips) can be viewed on her blog at amyhowardhome.com.

She also created an inexpensive throw rug to add more color to the kitchen using a piece of canvas floor cloth painted with her One Step Paint. “You can use One Step Paint on concrete, canvas, wood and even fabric instead of reupholstering – you just thin it down for fabric,” she explains.

For people who don’t want to redo their whole kitchen but who still want to change things up, Amy has an easy idea. Simply painting the kitchen island a contrasting color can make a major difference in the whole kitchen, she says.

Amy is pleased she is helping save the planet from swimming in a sea of discarded furniture while helping non-handy homeowners on a budget update a kitchen or bathroom they love and are proud of.

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