Low-Cost Kitchen/Bath Upgrades
TOH hits the kitchen and bath industry's annual show and makes a major money-saving discovery: high-quality, reasonably priced items that can upgrade the look and feel of an entire room in one shot
Form and function have always been the two most important f-words in home-product design. Well, we'd like to add a third: frugality. A single appliance, fixture, or finish can lend a fresh feel to any room without unduly depleting your savings. This year's kitchen and bath industry show—the unveiling of all that is new and, in many cases, extremely expensive—seemed an unlikely place to find such one-hit wonders. But we cased the aisles and came up with a long list of items that add the same convenience, comfort, and style you'd expect to find in products with much heftier price tags. The five-star-hotel bathroom fixture that drenches you with luxurious streams of water but goes for a luxurious $3,000 when you finally find it online? We discovered one that does the trick for just $225. So if you're not ready for a major renovation, don't sweat. Just check out these great deals and give yourself—and your bank account—a break.
Installing knobs and switch plates that match your countertop quartz is an economical way to unify your kitchen's look. Cambria's quartz accents come in a natural look or solid colors. Available in fall 2008. About $15 to $50 each; Cambria
Accessorizing your kitchen can be costly. Multi-use products save the day! This sharp-looking stainless-steel accessory converts the kitchen sink into a drainboard or trivet, and it's easy to rinse and roll out of sight. About $120; Franke
"For my money, this dual showerhead offers the same therapy as fancy jets that make you feel like you're going through a car wash. The 6½-inch showerhead doubles as the mount for the handheld, so it looks streamlined. It doesn't exactly surround me with a wall of water, but it's relaxing to know I can enjoy it—and still pay my mortgage!"
—Kelly Beamon, Senior Editor
About $225; Alsons
With the look, feel, and functionality of similar items costing hundreds more, this hinged swivel shelf adds a convenient surface for getting everything from makeup to shaving kits off the sink's deck. Valsan shelf, About $279; 888-825-7266 for dealers
Solid-wood slab cabinet doors can be a major investment. Armstrong's Calibra line offers the look—and throws in the cabinet box—for much less. The sustainable rubberwood solid doors are available in Bordeaux, Chestnut, Espresso, Honey, and Mocha finishes. Base cabinet, $138; wall cabinet, About $114; Armstrong
Vessel sinks are all the rage and can be riotously expensive. This one has a pricey, handcrafted look, but the simple construction—a screened floral print pressed between layers of tempered glass—makes it affordable. About $398; Wells Sinkware
"I want this open shelving for my own kitchen! Unlike years ago, a few retail outlets now carry commercial-looking units for hanging pots, pans, and utensils. But this is the best deal I've seen—custom, wall-mounted configurations for half the price of pro setups. The secret: a satin nickel finish subs for pricier stainless steel."
—Colette Scanlon, Design Editor
About $661 as shown; dealers at pegRail
A pullout faucet for the lav might be just as indispensible as one for the kitchen sink. It not only makes cleaning easier, it offers a water-conserving alternative to the shower for a quick shampoo. American Standard's Green Tea faucet converts from standard to extension mode with a pull of its spout. About $419; American Standard
Costly, commercial-grade appliances are finally trickling down to a more reasonable price. This stainless-steel, built-in microwave from Electrolux's new collection offers 2-cubic-foot capacity, 11 power settings, and on-screen prompts to help you customize cooking settings. About $399; Lowe's
Sensor-activated faucets have gone from merely being available to homeowners to—get this—actually being affordable. This handsome pull-down version features a spout you tap to turn the water on and off. Available in fall 2008. Pilar faucet, about $500; Delta Faucet
Now you can get a low-flow commode sans the cost of replacing the perfectly good one you already have. Brondell's Ecoflow adds a half-flush option to any standard toilet. The flush button rests atop the tank, connecting via a thin wire to a hose-and-valve mechanism inside. Press the right-hand button to use 40 percent less water. Available starting in August. About $150; Brondell
"I'd love to have a teak floor and bench in my shower. Because this bench folds up and the floor mat comes in 37 sizes,
I could install them—and get the feel of a spa—without the crazy-high cost of redoing the rest of the bathroom."
—Jennifer Brite, Associate Online Editor
Floors from about $354, benches from about $424; MTI Whirlpools
Leather floor tiles are a definite splurge. Now you can get the same rich effect for a fraction of the cost—and have the look last a whole lot longer—with durable glazed porcelain tiles shaped with a square "rectified" edge just like the real thing. Metro Leather, about $7.50 to $10 per square foot; Daltile
Oil-rubbed bronze hardware once commanded a premium price as a door accent. Then it settled nicely into the kitchen and is finally at home in the bath—right down to the last detail. Sutton Place toilet-tissue holder in Venetian bronze, about $49; Atlas Homewares