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Whether you're getting ready to sell or are just craving a decorative change, the kitchen is always a great target for a weekend project. It is, after all, the heart of the home -- a place to cook, entertain, hang out, pay bills and do homework.

Joan McCloskey, editorial marketing director for Better Homes and Gardens, told homebuilders at the 2003 International Builders Show earlier this year that two years later Sept. 11 has bound the family together in the kitchen.

"No room deserves more attention than the kitchen, and the main reason is that that's where we're living ever since September 11," she said. "Forget about his wood working shop, her home office, and the baby's toy room. Yes, all of those individual spaces are important, but not as pivotal to family happiness as the kitchen."

So whether you're aiming for a dramatic change or want to make your kitchen more personal, there are many projects you can do in a weekend to create an impact.

  • Paint your world. If you're looking for the most bang for your buck, think paint. Nothing will change the look of your kitchen more than paint. Sage green and soft yellows are popular kitchen colors, but go with whatever works best with your flooring, countertops, and appliances. Or if you have dinnerware that you love that will be around for a while, choose a complementary color. The Color Marketing Group, a nonprofit group of designers that forecasts color trends, says that by 2004, consumers are expected to break away from a period of fear and satisfy a pent-up demand for home products with brighter, sophisticated colors. Home fashion will focus on innocence, freshness and elegance. Kate Schwartz, editor of Kitchens.com, a consumer-oriented web site, suggests a light color to create an open feeling.
  • Light up. Lighting is another way to dramatically change the look of the kitchen. The American Lighting Association suggests adding lighting over your sink or stove to bring the area to life. A decorative pendant with a dimmer control over the dining table can also accent the area. Schwartz says replacing your fixtures with recessed lights over your work areas is another bright idea.
  • Personalize with tile. Sarah Susanka, in her book Not So Big Solutions for Your Home (Taunton Press, 2002), says embellishing your backsplash with tile is a great way to bring your personality to the kitchen. "For a great look on a budget, you can tile the entire backsplash. You don't need to use expensive tile ... standard six-by-six tiles in two colors make an interesting design without costing a lot."
  • Go window treatment shopping. Go pick out a great fabric and make -- or hire someone to make -- some great curtains or valances for your windows. Or if your budget allows, perhaps go for the shutters you've always dreamed about.
  • Change your hardware. "There are tons of artistic designs available from painted knobs to stainless steel poles that can immediately change the feel of the kitchen," Schwartz said.
  • Replace your faucet. Schwartz said copper adds a warm touch. Pull-out faucets are also popular, adding a touch of convenience to the kitchen. Or you may opt for a more decorative look whether it's a vintage look, satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze.
  • Give your refrigerator a new look. Schwartz says if you're unhappy or bored with the look of your refrigerator you should try adding a chalkboard or decorative magnetic panel.

    Finally, if your cabinets are looking a little dingy, Lowe's suggests removing them and giving them a deep cleaning using something like TSP and following the instructions. If cleaning doesn't do the trick, then you may want to strip and paint them.

    Lowe's also offers up the idea of dressing up your cabinets by adding molding in a contrasting color or finish.

    Meanwhile, Schwartz recommends changing out panel cabinet doors for glass cabinet doors or mix open shelves with cabinets.

    And if you're looking for a finishing touch, there are plenty of options.

    "Incorporate one-of-a-kind pieces such as an antique farm table for an island or an heirloom hutch for cabinets," Schwartz said. "(Or) add a sculpted or decorative hood ... or move your microwave off the counter."

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