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Cook up a creative kitchen redo

Keep it simple, keep it functional and keep it comfortable -- that’s the design philosophy of Charlotte interior decorator Penny Law of PCL Interiors. Law recently redesigned her UCity home’s kitchen, and has a number of tips from her own renovation as well as more suggestions for creating your own simple and affordable DIY kitchen makeover.

Using a console table purchased at a salvage store topped with a granite remnant, Law fashioned her own unique free-standing island. On the walls and backsplash, she added a textured paint for an aged plaster effect, then embedded real Japanese maple leaves for a distinctive, eye-catching accent. That process she learned online, she says, and it involved soaking the leaves in a glycerin and water mixture, then brushing the back and front of each leaf with a clear glaze, like a decoupage project.

Law isn’t a professional painter and says she used her own version of the "knockdown" technique on the walls -- basically, applying a thick coat of paint and then "knocking down" some of it using a trowel.

On the two arches leading into the kitchen, she created faux bricks using paint mixed with sand and plaster. This, she admits, was painstaking work -- it took a few rainy days to finish. But it’s an inexpensive way to add a huge amount of texture and warmth to a room.

She removed doors on some of her cabinets, painted their interior walls and now uses them to house glasses, plates and decorative objects. Taking off the doors adds a sense of lightness and brightness to the room -- with the added benefit that you’ll always know where the teacups are! Another way she added a sense of space and sophistication was installing a pot rack over the kitchen island and embellishing recessed lights with decorative faux iron trim.

In her business, Law strives to create not only beautiful but comfortable spaces, and injects her clients’ personality in all of her projects. Because of the economy, she says she is doing a lot of smaller projects now, more color and space planning consultations.

Penny Law’s DIY tipsSome ideas for a kitchen project of your own:Switch out hardware. This is a simple and economical way to really change the look of your cabinetry. Law recommends using drawer pulls to elongate shorter cabinets (instead of knobs). She likes Blackhawk Hardware ( and Target for the best selection.

Replace your sink’s faucet. Law updated hers with a brushed nickel model that adds elegance and sleek style.

Change the paint on outlets and light switches. If you want these to disappear into the wall color, sand them, prime them, then use two coats of paint and two coats of varnish, Law says.

Put everything on dimmers. Not only will you save money, Law says, but you can instantly create a specific mood.

Group in fives or threes. One mistake Law often sees in homes is a tendency to overstuff a certain area. She suggests grouping your accessories, no matter where they are, and staggering their heights to draw more focus. Typically the area over the range is where you want the eye to go.

Paint refrigerator panels with a chalkboard paint. Law is considering this in her own kitchen; she says drawing on them with colored chalk will give a fun and youthful edge to the room.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to use non-traditional kitchen items to personalize your space. Law uses small accent lamps on her kitchen counters, for example, and the base of a fake olive tree makes an unexpected place to store citrus fruit.

Save money, have fun and make it your own!