In the past few decades the role of the kitchen in a home has transformed from a secluded place where food is prepared to the center of activity, conversation and social gatherings.
The way people make over their kitchens has changed over the years as well. Kitchens are the most popular – and most expensive – place to renovate in the home, according to the 2019 Houzz & Home study, which looks at trends in U.S. home renovations in 2018 and 2019.
The median investment in a kitchen renovation reached $14,000 in 2018, according to the Houzz study, which is a 27% increase from spending in 2017.
But not everyone has that kind of money to spend updating their kitchen, let alone other parts of their house. But there is good news. If you’re part of the 19% of U.S. homeowners spending less than $5,000 on a home renovation, according to the report, and you’re hoping to spend the majority of it on your kitchen, you can still make a difference.
How you feel about the best use of your kitchen matters outside your simple budget as well. Mischa Fisher, chief economist for ANGI Homeservices, explains that compared to other projects like replacing a garage door or roof, renovating your kitchen has a lower return on investment when it comes time to sell your home. In deciding how you’ll update your kitchen, be concerned with how you’ll use it, “not just what you might sell your home for in the future,” he says.
Here are seven ideas for remodeling your kitchen on a budget:
- Change the paint color.
- Update appliances.
- Paint or reface the cabinets.
- Bring in more light.
- Upgrade or remove doors.
- Focus on organizing.
- Keep an eye on the accents.
Change the Paint Color
One of the simplest projects to transform any room is to change the paint color on the walls. If your kitchen is still rocking its 1990s look, or even has the all-white palette popular in recent years, pick a new color that can help update the space. Warm neutrals are always a safe option, but if you’re looking to break up a kitchen that’s all one color, provide some contrast with the paint.
Anticipated cost: HomeAdvisor reports that the average cost to paint a room that’s 10 feet by 12 feet ranges from $380 to $790.
“If your appliances are white – or they used to be white but now they’re taupe – you might want to think about spending your money there,” says Leneiva Head, owner of Welcome Home Realty, a real estate management company in Nashville, Tennessee.
Appliances can get pricey, but Head recommends visiting big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, which offer kitchen appliances at a bundled price. Plus, if you visit on a holiday weekend, like Labor Day or Columbus Day, you may see those bundled appliances discounted even more.
Rather than having to shell out the larger share of cash for new appliances right before selling your home, take care of this upgrade when you know you plan to live in the house for a few more years. Updating these bigger-ticket items is best done “when you’re still living there, and you’re still enjoying it,” Fisher says.
Anticipated cost: Appliance packages including a refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave can save you a couple hundred dollars per appliance, but you should still expect to pay between $2,400 and $3,500 for all four pieces outside of a sale.
Paint or Reface the Cabinets
New custom cabinetry in your kitchen is often one of the biggest costs of a kitchen renovation. But when you’re working with a smaller budget, you can still achieve a whole new look with a much smaller project. “Spruce up and refresh what you already have,” Head says.
In lieu of new cabinets, many homeowners opt to either reface their existing cabinets or paint them. When it comes to a tight budget, Head says having the cabinets professionally painted can make the space look completely different, and you won’t have to shell out more money for customized carpentry work.
Anticipated cost: Angie’s List reports refacing laminate cabinets can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, and refacing wood cabinets is much higher at $7,000 to $9,000. HomeAdvisor reports that the typical range to paint kitchen cabinets is between $382 and $1,064, though the price rises if you need to remove existing stain.
Bring in More Light
An old kitchen will look even more dated if you don’t have the additional lighting to help make the kitchen feel usable at all hours of the day. Under-cabinet lighting can make a big difference for preparing a meal when there’s not a lot of natural light, and lighting along the top of cabinets can make the empty space feel more intentional.
Anticipated cost: There are a variety of under-cabinet lighting options available starting at $21 at Home Depot, though you should expect to need more than one light strip or set of lights to brighten up all your cabinets. Most of these options can easily be linked and plugged into a nearby outlet as an easy DIY project, or they can be wired directly to a switch.
Upgrade or Remove Doors
A kitchen that opens up to the living room or dining space is considered standard in many homes today, but the cost to remove walls – especially if they’re load-bearing – may be beyond your budget. You can still take a step in the right direction by getting rid of any outdated doors that stand between the kitchen and the rest of the house.
You can also make the kitchen feel a bit lighter by removing the doors from a few cabinets. Open shelving is popular in current kitchen designs, but isn’t necessarily feasible for homeowners with lots of mismatched dishes or overloaded glassware. By opening up just one or two cabinets, you can get a similar look without showing off a disorganized cabinet to everyone.
Free up additional space by replacing a traditional pantry or kitchen closet door with a sliding barn door. The door doesn’t need to swing out, and the fresh design can make a big visual impact on the space.
Anticipated cost: Removing doors is an easy DIY project, especially if you already have plans to sand and paint or stain the cabinets or doorways. The expected cost to purchase and install an interior barn door costs between $500 and $1,500, depending on the type of door you choose, according to HomeAdvisor.
Focus on Organizing
If your kitchen doesn’t require as much cosmetic updating, increase the utility of the space by focusing your small budget on organization. In-cabinet racks can keep pots and pans in order, separators can conquer the ever-messy junk drawer and attractive, matching containers can make items on the counter look more purposeful.
Anticipated cost: How much you spend on organization depends on what you have in your kitchen and where you want to purchase items, but glass and plastic containers are often less than $10 each, and sliding cabinet organizers range from $35 for a single piece at Walmart to $193 for an organization kit at The Container Store.
Keep an Eye on the Accents
A new granite countertop or floor can eat your budget up quickly, but you can make your kitchen feel new without having to change out those big-ticket items.
If you have multicolored counters or tile floor that you’ve previously tied in with the wall color or bar stool seat cushions, Head recommends picking a different color in that marbling to focus on. The new accent color will make the surface stand out in a different way. “That keeps you from having to spend money to change out your floor,” she says.
Take a look at your cabinet pulls as well, and consider switching them out for something new and trendy. Brushed nickel cabinet hardware – especially on freshly painted cabinets – can make the entire kitchen look like a new design.
Anticipated cost: Sets of brushed nickel cabinet hardware sell on Amazon for as little as $18.99 for 15 handles, or you can buy single pulls for as little as $1 in stores like Lowe’s and Ace Hardware.