Change Up Your Kitchen Stylishly and Affordably

Inexpensive Kitchen Designs

Not every kitchen transformation has to be a total, expensive gut job. The average mid-range redo now hovers near $62,000 nationally and a higher $123,000 for a luxe makeover, according to the latest “Cost vs. Value” Report from Remodeling Magazine; both higher costs than in the prior year.


Cheap Ways to Update Kitchen | Laura Angelini | Inexpensive Kitchen Designs

Laura Angelini of Angelini Designs

But you can transform parts of this room for far less. In fact, by making any of these 13 changes you give your kitchen a fresh look, make it more workable, and even help resale when that time comes. Designer Laura Angelini of Angelini Designs out of Red Hook, N.Y., and Spring Lake, N.J., suggests the following transformations, used together or alone to fit your budget.




  • Cheap Ways to Update Kitchen

    Photo by Rachel Collet

    Paint can work wonders on everything, and kitchen cabinets are no exception. Go out of your comfort zone and go dark with paint. Navy kitchens are incredibly beautiful with copper hardware. Spend time on Pinterest looking at kitchen images. Ask a paint store for an oversized sample and look at colors all times of the day. Getting cabinets professionally sprayed is best. But if you do the work yourself, you can achieve a good result if you take your time and prep well. First remove all the hinges. Label each door with masking tape so you remember which goes where. Prep cabinets well so paint will stick. Scrub them down and use 100-grit sandpaper to make the surfaces very smooth. Then use a satin paint finish, which is best for cleaning. Another tip: Wash your brush every two hours so the paint flows nicely and evenly. Consider painting lower cabinets in one color and upper cabinets in a different hue.

  • Paint can also be used in other ways to make affordable changes on walls. Even adding a splash of color on one wall can brighten it up. Change up color easily also by switching out backsplash tiles or accents with new small kitchen appliances in perky hues.
  • Even just adding beautiful hardware can help transform everything. Schoolhouse Electric & Supply ( offers some inexpensive nice choices, so does Rocky Mountain Hardware (www.rockymountainhardware), and, of course, there are well known national resources such as Home Depot ( and local resources in most communities like Williams Lumber (www.williamslumber) in Dutchess County, N.Y.
  • If you want to change cabinets altogether, don’t think you have to go with expensive custom boxes. Many good, sturdy examples are less costly—think IKEA—and then go all out on countertops and the backsplash. A beautiful stone slab can add a warm natural touch. Quartz and quartzite are the new granite—equally durable–and available in many palettes and patterns. Honed counters instead of polished offer a richer, more expensive look. It does add a bit more expense but can be well worth it. Go for as many drawers in base cabinets as you can. Angelini has been specifying drawers under the sink for easy access. The top drawer needs to be cut out to accommodate the pipe, but is a simple change. “Keeping things easy to access makes your life easy!” she says.
  • Photo by Rachel Collet

    Forget the microwave, and maybe bring in a hip steam oven for healthy cooking. Angelini, for one, rarely uses her microwave anymore. “I think it disturbs the look of the room, or put one in a small adjacent pantry,” she says. Doing a great stainless hood over the stove looks so much better than a big bulky microwave taking up center stage, she says.

  • Change out a light fixture, which isn’t that costly, and it can become an attractive focal point of the room, particularly if it is oversized or has a colorful shade. But avoid the three pendants above an island look, which is now such a design cliché. Schoolhouse Electric has some great inexpensive fixtures that will bring a lot of character to a space.
  • Speaking of lighting, be sure the room includes the three essential layers for best results: recessed for overall lighting through some cans but not too many or too large—4 inch diameter is better than 6 inch; undercabinet to perform tasks; and a decorative fixture for aesthetics and mood. All should be on dimmers for control and all outfitted with LEDs for the greatest energy efficiency. Prices have come way down, and these bulbs last almost forever.
  • Changing a dated appliance or two can make a huge difference in cooking and entertainment pleasure. Pick wisely. If you hate bending and freeze little, buy a refrigerator with freezer on the bottom; if you entertain often and have the space consider two dishwashers or dish drawers from Fisher & Paykel. Ranges with induction rather than gas or electric are the most energy efficient.
  • Modern kitchen with a tile floor and granite island.

    New floor tiles in a larger format size can help transform a room. Go with 16 inch by 22 or 24 inch ones in porcelain to add chicness and durability. Or consider a new wood floor in real engineered boards or faux ones that are a great copy. Both add a warm look many homeowners desire. A bigger budget may permit reclaimed wood boards that are sustainable or even stone, also a green choice if purchased locally.

  • If space permits, you might want to add a nice eating choice such as a banquette for a retro twist on diner style or even a counter extension with seating for one, two or three depending on size.
  • Islands require enough space to navigate around, and today many design pros recommend movable ones on casters that can even roll into a dining or family room for entertaining or become a bar. Be sure you have about 3 feet all around for good clearance.
  • If you want to spend your dollars on one major change and your layout works with this, consider taking down a wall to open the room to a dining room or family room. The open-concept space is desirable for easy livability for family as well as for friends. Just be sure the wall coming down isn’t load bearing.
  • Natural light from new larger panes, doors with glazing or a skylight all will add a feeling of more space, and be good for bright, cheerful working conditions as well as to lift your spirits. Get double or triple-paned for good energy savings. You may even get an energy rebate in your community or state; check first for any requirements to satisfy.

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