7 Kitchen Updates That Won’t Break the Bank


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It’s January. It’s cold. Really cold. It seems this time of year that the cold will never cease and we will be forever bound indoors, confined within four walls. We don hats, mittens, and boots before bolting from home to the car to the office to the store to home again, all the while bracing ourselves for the shock of weather we experience every time we exit a heated building. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful when it’s below zero for a warm comfortable house and for my cushy desk job while I watch guys installing shingles on a roof outside my office window.

So if we must be confined to the indoors for months at a time, why not take the opportunity to spruce up an indoor space or two? Which room is the most used for entertaining, daily tasks, and spending quality time with family? Which room, when updated, adds the most resale value to your home? Which room would make you smile if you could just change a few things without having to spend thousands of dollars?

The kitchen, of course! Below are a few ideas that can make a big impact without creating a big hole in your bank account.

Dress it up

Add or replace cabinet knobs and pulls. We call knobs and pulls “jewelry” for kitchens and baths.

  • Match the metals—if you have stainless appliances and a stainless faucet, choose a brushed or satin nickel finish on your cabinet hardware. Black hardware on lighter stained or painted white cabinets can make a bold modern statement. Chrome is in right now, but beware of fingerprints.
  • Here we used black pulls on the cabinet and drawer faces to complement the black accents throughout the home. They really make a statement on white cabinets.

    Measure first—If you already have hardware, measure the distance from screw to screw on the inside of the cabinet drawer or door. Be sure to get new pulls with the samedistance spread so you can use the same holes.

  • Get what’s comfortable—When choosing knobs and pulls, make sure to try them in your hand. If they don’t feel right the first time, they’ll bug you over time. Do you like to open cabinet doors with a knob or a handle? Would you prefer to open drawers overhand or underhand?

Add a “splash”

This classic 2″x4″ subway tile laid in a brick pattern adds a subtle texture to the backsplash. The carrara marble countertops are actually a wide format HD laminate.

A backsplash that is. If you’re sick of your kitchen, try adding classic yet inexpensive subway tiles. They come in solid porcelain, glass, and even metallic and can be laid in a variety of styles—herringbone, brick, stacked, or even vertical. Or bring the outdoors in with brick veneer for a twist on traditional tile (see top photo).

Surface switch up

Countertops are typically the first thing people notice in a kitchen. They also take a lot of abuse and tend to wear over time. If yours are outdated, dinged up, scratched or if you just want a fresh look, consider replacing your countertops. Quartz and granite are your most expensive options but are also your most durable and easiest to maintain. If you can afford these stone based surfaces, they will create lasting value and a “wow” factor that you will love for years. If spending thousands isn’t in your budget, opt for a laminate surface. Many high quality laminates by brands such Formica, Pionite, and Wilsonart feature beautiful designs and textures that look and even feel like stone, granite, or concrete. Laminates have come a long way in the last decade, so if spending hundreds vs. thousands is more in your budget, this is a great option.

Reface rather than replace

Oftentimes it is not necessary to replace all your cabinets if you want a new look in your kitchen. Consider refacing or painting existing cabinet doors and drawers. This will cost some money, yes, but not nearly as much as starting from scratch. And, here’s a tip from someone who has painted her own cabinets……don’t do it. It is extremely difficult to maintain the smooth surface of cabinet faces without professional tools and experience. Air bubbles, dust, and dirt can ruin this surface and you could wind up wishing you had spent the money for a professional job in the first place. I know I did!

Beautiful and smart

New appliances are another way to refresh the kitchen without breaking the bank. For under a couple thousand dollars, you can replace old, mismatched, energy-draining appliances with new ones that bring the focal room in your home into this decade while saving you money each month. Most new appliances cost just pennies per day to run, add convenient features like delay wash and measured ice and water, and will add a cohesive look to your most used room.

Light it up

A rope wrapped chandelier and oversized school house pendants are focal points in our model home kitchen and dining rooms.

An easy update that makes a big statement is replacing old lighting with new. There are literally thousands of lighting options out there, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, go to a local lighting store where you can see a few on display. Kitchens need lots of light for prepping food, doing dishes, and cleaning up. Though Edison bulbs are in, they are not the best option for kitchens. Instead, opt for dimmable LEDs that can be adjusted as desired.

Add something new

Photo by Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc. 

If you have a large galley kitchen with cabinets and counter around the perimeter, add a free-standing prep island or an eye-catching rug. Many of your favorite furniture or home stores carry rolling carts or standing islands that cost as little as $150. And a rug creates a soft surface underfoot in a high-traffic area.

With all these options in mind, it can be difficult to know where to start. There’s no reason to tackle the whole thing. Pick something easy or inexpensive and tackle that one first. Maybe all you need is some cabinet hardware and your whole room will feel transformed. If you’re still wanting more, add the next easy improvement. And the next until you’re happy with the space. Start simple and small and you’ll be amazed how easily you can transform your kitchen, and maybe even your attitude toward being stuck inside.

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