Renovated blue kitchen
Photo: Mark Lohman
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Ample Charm: After

Try renovating on a budget and see if you don't trim a bit here and a bit there until the best details are gone. Unless, of course, you're a pro like Melinda Dodson, who would rather sacrifice a couple of big-ticket items than a half-dozen small ones. The interior designer conjured this kitchen for friends Chris and Tela Webb, in El Dorado, Arkansas. "It was the least-expensive project I've ever done," she says, "yet it's one of my favorites." With the couple eager to shave costs while gaining function, style, and a home office, Dodson rejected a pricey apron sink, granite, and stainless steel for a drop-in basin, laminate, and basic white workhorse appliances. Molding gives the room a finished look—and hides signs of a former dropped ceiling. She replaced base cabinets to get needed drawer space but kept the uppers, simply adding new doors and hardware. Then, speaking of details, she painted the exposed hinges. "In old houses you often find the hinges painted," she notes. Splurges included custom built-ins, a storage-packed island, and a vintage-style weighted pendant over the sink, right where everyone can see it. The lesson, says Dodson: "Put your money where it counts."
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