When Krista and Michael Salmon bought their Virginia colonial in 2004, they were sold on everything but the kitchen. The bland cupboards and purple-specked granite had to go, but a total redo was out of the question. To stay well within a $20,000 budget, Krista calculated that if she scored rock-bottom deals on fixtures, she could splurge on hiring a contractor to help with cabinetwork, install marble countertops and enlarge the existing island—now the perfect spot for daughters Elizabeth, 7, and Anna, 4, to perch while she makes dinner. "Before, the kitchen was nothing special," says Krista. "But now it's modern, a reflection of me and a favorite place for the family to gather."
To camouflage the awkward gap between the cabinets and the ceiling, Krista had carpenters build a bulkhead topped with crown molding. Glossy beadboard paneling up above adds character and the illusion of height.
Krista went with a black-and-white palette and apple-green accents. Washable satin paint on the cabinetry shows off the wood grain while masking fingerprints. Krista pinched pennies further by not replacing existing appliances—microwave, refrigerator and dishwasher—that were working just fine.
A new gas Thermador cooktop, tucked into the corner to maximize counter space, turns the island into a prep center. Stock molding gives the end panels a custom-made furniture feel, while clear acrylic stools lighten the look.