8 Kitchen Design Ideas for a Small Budget

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The beginning of a kitchen remodel can be overwhelming. Especially when working with a small budget! Earlier this week I sat my computer ready to create renderings of concepts for our upcoming kitchen remodel: but I got writer’s block. Maybe I should call it designer’s block? So I am taking a step back to share some favorite kitchen designs AND how they can be implemented on a small budget. 

The great thing about doing a kitchen on a budget is you can do the space in stages! You aren’t completely demo-ing the kitchen so the space will still be functional. Lighting can be added independently from backsplash + countertops. A plan is important, but you can save money by shopping for the upgrades slowly (think sales!).

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1. Paint the Cabinets  

Painting existing cabinets will go such a long way. The challenging part is deciding on a color! I love how clean, fresh, and modern white cabinets can be, BUT we aren’t changing our tile floor (a light color) so dark cabinets may be a better solution. Which do you prefer, dark or light cabinets? Image Source: I Spy DIY

2. Add a Fun Backsplash 

A backsplash can range tremendously in price depending on the size of the kitchen and material. Subway tiles are a classic choice and are affordable, too. And you can make the subway tiles more modern by adding a dark grey grout. 

If a traditional backsplash is over budget or if you need a temporary solution, try a removable wallpaper! I really want to put this Magnolia Home Watercolor Check Wallpaper up in my home! Image Source: Style Me Pretty Living 

3. Modify an Island 

You can modify an existing island inexpensively by painting it, adding trim work, changing the countertop, and/or adding new barstools. Our island is two-tiered, which we don’t love and plan to make it 1 level. It will require a little electrical work, but by keeping the plumbing and island in the same spot it should be a relatively inexpensive change. Image Source: Lonny

4. Add Trim to Basic Cabinets 

You can add instant character and a custom look to contractor-basic cabinets by adding material over the top of existing cabinets with trim. It will completely change the look of the cabinets! And it doesn’t require any wiring, plumbing, or expensive material–a cost effective solution especially if you can DIY the install. Image Source: Inspiration for Moms

5. Glam Up the Hardware 

Hardware goes such a long way in a space. If you need an affordable hardware, try a euro style bar. But if you can, save up and splurge a little on high-end pulls. We installed Restoration Hardware pulls in our previous kitchen (the total kitchen remodel was less than $5,000) and as a touch point the pulls really do make a physical and visual impact in the space. Image Source: House Beautiful

6. Upgrade the Faucets 

Shop around online and read the reviews to find good deals are quality faucets. Faucets are another touchpoint in the space, and a kitchen faucet will be used daily–so make sure you love it! You are looking for a piece that has good form and function. I like the look of traditional 2-handle faucets, but one-handle faucets are nice too–they will give the space a more modern look. Image Source: Emily Henderson

7. Think Affordable Countertops

If you already have good quality countertops–yay!! That will be a huge cost-saver not having to replace them. For us we have laminate and it is deteriorating around the edges. We have discussed butcher block (we installed IKEA butcher block countertops in our previous home and loved them) as it is really affordable and nice looking. But we feel the neighborhood we live in now requires a more traditional upgrade. I found 8 countertop options for under $3,000 here.

So we plan to shop for remnant pieces at a discount. We may end up with a different material on our island than our countertops–which should work as long as the patterns compliment each other. Image Source: Carley Summers

8. Install New Light Fixtures  

Last but not least–light fixtures!! Lighting is relatively easy to install, but it isn’t something you will want to swap out yearly. So pick a design you will be happy with for at least 5 years! If you have an eat-in kitchen or an open floorplan into the living room try to get lighting that will compliment those rooms too. If you are looking for a flush-mount fixture check out these for under $50. Image Source: Bigger Than the Three of Us

Over the past year we updated our hardware, painted the walls, changed our island from a 2-tier to a 1-tier, and installed new leathered granite countertops. 

Follow along as we update our 1990s kitchen on a budget!


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  1. 1) I prefer lighter cabinets, but mostly that’s because our kitchen doesn’t get quite enough natural light…so make sure if you go the darker route, that it won’t darken the kitchen too much.

    2) Having a different top to the island is becoming more and more than norm…you could even look at butcher block on just the island!

    1. Thanks! I agree, will have to be careful if we do darker cabinets. My biggest concern with light cabinets is that they won’t pop with the beige/white floor tiles.

      I love the idea of a butcher block island! Or maybe we could do granite for the island bc of sink/water and do butcher block for the countertops?

  2. I love the ability to completely remodel a room on a budget! Some people say it’s impossible, but I completely disagree. I love the grey cabinets!

  3. Ahh this is a great article! Honestly this is really quite perfect for me at the minute as I’m having an absolute nightmare trying to decorate while keeping my kitchen in budget! The problem is I pretty much want something straight off of Pinterest and with the amount of money I actually have available – this seems exceedingly unlikely! I do like some of these ideas/suggestions though so I’ll be definitely using some of these! Also leading on from this, I know this is a long shot but does anyone here happen to know anything about second hand kitchens? I know it sounds bizarre but my friend mentioned it to me and I googled it and it does actually sound like a really good idea! Basically from what I can tell you just buy showroom kitchen units for your own home, for literally a massively discounted price! And you don’t even have to worry about it being in poor condition as it’s literally never been used! It sounds great and all but I just wanted to see if anyone had done this before? I’m also not sure which companies exactly do this kind of thing? When myself and my husband have been looking – we keep coming across one called The Used Kitchen Company (this is them: http://www.theusedkitchencompany.com/). They seem to be sort of like the industry leaders? Has anyone used/heard of them before? I’d love to hear any insight anyone could offer if you have!! I’m quite at sea here so any advice and reviews etc would be fantastic! Thank you everyone!

    1. I haven’t heard of them, but sounds interesting! I would also consider looking locally on Craigslist, neighborhood facebook groups, ect. And Restore sells some cabinetry and countertops.

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