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By Melissa Birdsong

RISMEDIA, Nov. 17, 2008-As the weather turns cooler, creating a warm and inviting kitchen can make a big difference in a home’s overall appeal. With a few well-chosen finish updates, you can shift tone and mood and purchase interest.

Fifty years ago, the American kitchen was pretty predictable-a sink, a refrigerator and a range, and for a lucky few, a dishwasher-connected by simple cabinets and countertop. As long as basic conveniences and functionality were covered, there was little need-or demand-for more. The house I grew up in was designed by my dad, who integrated new ideas and features into our compact kitchen-a “breakfast bar” for casual dining and a stainless steel cook top and wall oven. The lively yellow, brown and knotty pine scheme was warm and welcoming and it was our favorite hang-out space for cooking and conversation.

Today, the kitchen has migrated to one of the most experiential rooms in the house, where gourmet cooking rides along with bill paying, crafting and homework. And as the social hub for family and friends, it’s more important than ever to buyers and sellers alike that this key room be fresh and inviting. If the kitchen is outdated and tired, the whole house can feel that way, so a few simple updates can make all the difference in getting the green light on the buying decision.

Fit and finish in a room convey quality-or lack of-so it’s important to look around and pay attention to details. Color and light are the easiest, most cost-efficient elements to add warmth to the kitchen, and you need go no further than the vegetable bin or spice cabinet for inspiration. A scheme of natural greens, yellows, mustards and russets washed with dimmable overhead and under-cabinet lighting can add energy as well as create a level of calm-a kitchen for any mood. If the existing cabinets are sturdy but the finish is sending out a distress signal, a well-executed paint job can turn it around. Mismatched appliances and worn flooring are other leading visual cues, so if the budget permits, replace them.

Last but not least, add sparkle and a new point of view to the kitchen by replacing the metals palette-cabinet hardware, faucet, lighting and outlet covers. A few thoughtfully chosen, simple finish updates can seal the deal.

Melissa Birdsong is vice president for Trend, Design & Brand, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

For more information, please visit www.lowes.com.

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