7 Ways to Update Your Kitchen on a Budget

I write for Homes.com and earlier this month, I discussed how to easily update the look of your kitchen with paint or removable contact paper. Today, I’m taking things a step further by showing how to update the look of your kitchen with lighting, architectural elements, hardware, paint, accessories, and furniture. If your budget doesn’t allow for all of these changes, pick one or two ideas that interest you and make gradual improvements. Remember that decorating should be viewed as a process and not a race!

kitchen mood board

1. Kitchen Lighting Lighting can indeed be pricey; however, with a bit of creativity you can update your lighting on-the-cheap! Below are examples of second hand lights given new life with just a can of spray paint and some ingenious tweaking. Places to search for affordable lighting are thrift stores, Habitat Re-stores, and on Craigslist.

lighting before after

1. My Blessed Life 2. Beneath My Heart 3. 320 Sycamore

2. Open Shelving & Architectural Elements Updating your builder grade cabinets with architectural elements is a fantastic way to achieve a new look for less. In the first two pictures below, you can see that the homeowner replaced her top cabinets with open shelving and installed a beadboard ceiling. If ripping out your existing cabinets isn’t an option, consider removing some cabinet doors to create an “open shelf” appearance.

In the bottom two pictures, the homeowner upgraded her island by installing beadboard paneling and some newel half posts. Before completely gutting your kitchen, consider adding on to your existing cabinetry with beadboard paneling, molding, and corbels. Tip: If you are a DIY beginner, paintable beadboard wallpaper can be used on the ends of cabinets to create a more custom and finished look.

1. Beneath My Heart 2. Sand & Sisal

3. Backsplash Installing a kitchen backsplash is probably easier than you think and can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of your kitchen. I recently updated my kitchen backsplash using garden stones! The entire project cost me less than $100, and I am thrilled with the end results.

Home Stories A to Z

4. Hardware Your faucet, knobs, and pulls are the jewelry of your kitchen. Changing them out for something fresher will change the look and feel of your space. Tip: Spray paint can be used to change the color of your knobs and pulls, but faucets don’t fair as well when spray painted.

kitchen hardware

5. Paint A fresh coat of paint on the walls will give your kitchen a complete facelift. Choose a color that compliments your cabinetry and blends with the surrounding rooms. If you like to play it safe with color, consider choosing a neutral color for the walls and a fun bold accent color for your pantry door!

paint swatch


6. Accessorize Never underestimate what a bowl of pears, a vase of flowers, or beautifully displayed plates can do for your kitchen! Consider displaying your prettier dishes. Place seasonal fruit in bowls as an accessory and healthy snack, or grow garden herbs in your kitchen windowsill. Every space feels fresher when you include something alive and something personal!


7. Furniture Changing the look of your kitchen stools might be the easiest solution to a quick and affordable update. Spray painting your existing furniture is always an option! However, if you’re looking to purchase new stools, a contemporary update to consider would be metal stools. They are typically affordable and offer a modern contrast to a traditional kitchen.

Tatertots & Jello

Whether your budget is large or small, there is an affordable kitchen update waiting for you! I’d love to hear if you are planning on using some of these ideas to update your own kitchen. Please let me know in the comments which updates look doable to you!

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  1. says

    We are in the midst of a kitchen facelift and have done a lot of the things you suggested! We had out 80s orange oak cabinets painted BM’s Decorator’s White–what an amazing difference that made! We hope to eventually add some molding to the top of the cabinets to make them look even less builder grade. We put a new color on the walls and added beadboard to the walls of the eat in kitchen area as well as around the kitchen island. We kept our wood kitchen table but added new parsons chairs. Now I am in the decorating and accessorizing mode! I have the crates you featured. I also have a good sized milk glass collection that I plan to display more prominently. And I can’t wait to hit up Home Goods, Goodwill, etc.

    One other great bit of advice is the ORGANIZE! Clear our the clutter, rearrange your cabinets, drawers and pantry to better fit your needs, etc. I cleared out a ton of stuff and it has made a huge difference.

  2. says

    Great post! I updated my builders grade kitchen slowly. First we added and updated lighting. Then, painted cabinets, removed some of the doors and added hardware. Was already looking SO much better. Last weekend we installed a beadboard wallpaper backsplash. It made such a HUGE difference. Slowly but surely we are turning ‘blah’ into a lovely country kitchen!

  3. says

    Good idea with the garden stones on the backsplash. I must have missed that part when I read the post a few weeks ago! One thing we did that was short money and added a custom look was some adding some crown molding and base molding for a new toe kick. Good post :)

  4. says

    Love these ideas! I want to do all of these things on our kitchen. The first thing we’ll tackle is painting our delightful honey oak cabinets. Then I’d love to remove the very attractive, very large florescent lighting fixture. Who would put florescent lighting in their home, especially in 2002?

  5. says

    Great ideas all around! Thanks for sharing and inspiring today! I will be sharing this on my fb page, wonderful advice for all budgets.

  6. says

    I simply adore the lighting fixtures you have posted, every time I walk into a thrift store I look at the lighting to bring home for a transformation, but I have yet to find anything.
    I would appreciate it if you would drop by my ‘brand new blog’ and give me any ideas or comments on how to improve it I would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you & Many Blessings


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