Here are my top 10 ways to upgrade your kitchen…without gutting or completely replacing it.
For many, the kitchen is the most important room of the home and the room we spend the most time in. But, what can you do if your kitchen is ho-hum…or dated…and you just don’t have the budget to remodel it? A kitchen remodel can be expensive. In fact, it’s the most expensive room of the house to renovate. And, it often costs at least double what homeowners think it will.
So, many people need to redo their kitchen in phases. Or alternatively, do things on a smaller budget. So, I wanted to share my top 10 ideas that can make a big difference to your kitchen without breaking the bank.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
10 Ways to improve your kitchen on a budget
1. Paint the walls
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to refresh your kitchen is to give it a fresh coat of paint. Changing the color can give you a whole new atmosphere and mood. You may find this article about the Best shades of paint if you’re selling your home comes in handy…because these are also the favorite shade for new home buyers as well as people who plan to live in their homes a while.
And, if you’re looking for a shade of gray, check out this article about The most popular shades of gray paint. It also includes how to coordinate with a darker gray accent wall.
And, if you’re planning to paint yourself, here are some tools I’d recommend as they will make your job easier:. Also, be sure to check out my article on the Top 10 DIY Painting mistakes and how to avoid them. The products below can be found on Amazon and delivered straight to your door.
- Painting brush – this one costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it. It will help you paint faster and more accurately. If you’re going to paint yourself, don’t skimp here. Incidentally, this is Amazon’s Choice as well.
- Painter’s tape – a must have. Use for all the trim as well as ceiling area
- Paint roller kit – this includes a tray. Use the brush for the edges and the roller for main areas of the wall (and ceiling).
- Drop cloths – Yes, you’ll need them for sure. Some people have some on hand, but often not enough if you are doing many rooms.
2. Paint the cabinets
If you have those dated oak cabinets and you want to change them, paint them. It’s a great way to do a kitchen makeover without spending a fortune. It will do wonders for your space and save you a lot of money. And, importantly, it’s a much faster process vs installing new cabinets and counter tops. (Yes, when you replace your cabinets, it becomes a domino effect, and you usually need to replace your counter top, sink and backsplash at the same time, and you need a plumber too…so the costs rapidly increase, and you can be without a usable kitchen for many weeks.)
Most people are choosing white (although gray is the 2nd most popular color). Not only will this update your kitchen, but it will lighten and brighten it, so it looks larger. You will be amazed by the impact. Check out this article on how to paint your cabinets the RIGHT way so you can avoid common mistakes and do it right the first time. This “how to” article goes through the best paints and tools (as well as process to use) if you choose to DIY it or to hire a professional.
3. Replace the appliances
This can really make a big difference, especially if your appliances are dated. In addition to giving your kitchen a fresh look, these will actually save you money in energy costs (especially the refrigerator and dishwasher). Stainless steel is still the most popular, and it really helps if you coordinate the color and style for the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and microwave at the same time.
And, of course you’ll pay less for a plumber and haul away of the old appliances if you switch all of them at the same time.
Here’s a link to Amazon’s current best selling standard size refrigerator.
4. Replace the hardware on the cabinets
This is another inexpensive product that can make a big difference, especially if cabinet handles are dated. And, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, it’s a pretty easy job. Cool colors are in, so that means brushed nickel (or else chrome). Most prefer brushed nickel as it looks nicer and coordinates better with stainless steel appliances. Brushed nickel costs a bit more, but in my opinion, it’s worth it, especially since this is a small investment.
Here are several stylish and reasonably priced brushed nickel cabinet pulls. Just click on the pictures to see the current prices on Amazon.
5. Replace the faucet
This is another easy job, especially if you’re a do-it-yourself. It really doesn’t require plumbing adjustments. Again, stainless steel is most popular.
I absolutely love this this Moen Motionsense touchless faucet (seen on the right). It’s currently a best seller on Amazon. It makes cooking and cleaning so much easier, even if your hands are full of food. And, of course the detachable power cleaner makes cleaning a cinch.
If you really need a bargain priced one, check out this one.
6. Add some flowers
Actually, I suppose this is the simplest and least expensive thing you can do. Get some fresh flowers to add some color and freshness to the room. Dig up your favorite vase and either buy some flower or pick some from your back yard. It’s amazing how this small little touch will brighten up your kitchen and your mood.
7. Get a new backsplash
If your backsplash has dated tile…or if there isn’t tile, you may want to consider replacing or adding a backsplash. You can just do a simple white subway tile, or some sort of marble or tumbled stone or a glass backsplash. Many of these tiles are mosaics that are on meshed sheets, so they are rather easy to install.
Just click on below pictures to get more info on dimensions and prices.
8. Replace counter top + sink
One of my favorite ways to do a kitchen make over is to upgrade the counter top to granite or quartz. It really makes a big difference and improves the value of your home. You’ll probably need to update the sink at the same time. Nowadays, people are either doing undermount sinks or farmhouse sinks. Both look nicer and are much cleaner.
Farmhouse sinks provide many ergonomic benefits and you can read more here: How to choose a farmhouse sink.
If you like the one in the picture, you can find it here (as well as a slew of other choices).
9. Get some new lighting, especially pendant lighting
Lighting can really brighten your space and add some design flair. And, good lighting can also make your space look larger. Soon, I’m going to do a whole article on pendant lighting. In the meantime, you can find some amazing pendant light selections here on Wayfair.com.
They have all sorts of styles from contemporary/modern to traditional to farmhouse/rustic. The world is your oyster, and it’s a great way to define your unique style. Again, you can click on any of the pictures in this section to get more info on the products shown.
10. Change the color of the floors (or type of flooring)
Of course I’d have to include something about flooring in this article. If you are lucky enough to already have hardwood flooring, you do have the option to sand and refinish the wood floors to change the color. I’ve also had a number of customers who found they had hardwood or douglas fir flooring underneath their vinyl, and these can be sanded as well (it’s best to hire a professional for this, especially if there is adhesive from the vinyl.
Another option is to add tile flooring. The most popular style of tile are wood looking planks, and you can check out some great options here: Tile floors that look like hardwood. And, if you’re debating between hardwood and tile planks for the kitchen floors, this article may help: Tiles that look like wood vs real hardwood floors – pros and cons.
If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative that’s waterproof check out this new product called Coretec Plus. It looks like wood, and it’s waterproof. Also, it can be installed directly on top of tile (or vinyl). And, if you’re handy, you can even install it yourself (ciick on above link to see how to install it).
So those are my top 10 ideas to improve and upgrade your kitchen without doing a full remodel. Everyone’s kitchen is different, and so is everyone’s budget. But, hopefully, you can find 2-3 good ideas that will make a big difference without breaking the bank.
If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here.
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
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6 thoughts on “10 Ways to improve your kitchen WITHOUT remodeling”
The problem with #6 is that it’s still fairly expensive. When I priced the countertops for Mom’s house, I was around $6,000 (lots of countertop space). We did the flooring and painting for the entire house, and that on its own can to $12K. I didn’t want to spend more money on something I didn’t think we could recover in the sale.
Mitch – Yes, I never said that these items were cheap…but they are ones that you should be able to get your money back on for resale. That generally happens with granite or quartz countertops. If you have a large space, obviously the price can be higher. You may look into a less expensive granite (e.g. Ubatuba) as it might save you money. Every situation is different and sometimes not all of these suggestions work for every kitchen or every neighborhood. Also, sometimes when you’re selling you also need to factor in the value of time and selling it faster. I recently did an analysis for a client on Long Island where it turns out it costs nearly $20,000 for every 6 months a house sits on the market. This will obviously vary by market (here in the NY metro area real estate taxes are a big expense). There is also the convenience factor of selling faster.
When it comes to kitchens and selling a house, there are many ways to go. Sometimes cosmetic fixes such as painting the cabinets, make sense. Other times, the kitchen is so dated that it makes more sense to leave everything and let the new buyer gut and remodel it. In my area, I’ve seen examples of both, and you need to make a judgment call in terms of return and time to sell.
I can totally second the need for hardwood floors when you have little kids. We had a few months where it seemed like we were always calling the carpet cleaners to handle huge spills on our carpets. Since we moved to a house with hardwood floors, it”s so much easier to clean up spills!
So glad to hear that. Yes, hardwood lasts so much longer and is much easier to clean.
Which shade of white to choose for kitchen cabinets.
Typically for white, we use Sherwin Williams Extra white for clean, crisp white. For off white, we would use white duck. Benjamin Moore chantilly lace and white dove also work.