My husband and I are currently planning a cheap kitchen refresh this next month. In this post, I take you through how to update a kitchen without remodeling when your dreams are big but your budget is small.
How do you refresh an outdated kitchen?
Determine your budget
Determine up-front how much money you have to spend on your kitchen refresh. This will help you know how much you can get done in the space. We also always put a contingency amount of around 5% in our project budgets, because something inevitably happens you didn’t anticipate.
If we stay in our home long-term, we’d like to do a full renovation of this kitchen, but for the next few years, a cosmetic refresh will do just fine. We’re aiming to stay under $1000 and do all of the work ourselves.
Make your list
After determining your budget, you can start looking at what you’d like to get done in your kitchen. If you’re looking at how to update a kitchen without remodeling, go for minimal demo impact, but big visual impact. Below is our list of what we plan to do to update our kitchen without remodeling.
Update Cabinet Doors and Drawers
How can I update kitchen cabinets without replacing them?
Two words: paint and hardware. In addition, you can purchase trim boards from a home improvement store and use them to trim out the cabinet and drawer faces, creating sleek shaker fronts on outdated cabinets for a minimal cost.
Our cabinets and drawers are those ugly 1970’s particle board flat-front cabinets, so they’re the perfect clean slate on which to create a shaker front.
We also used to have an ugly accordian door on our kitchen pantry (which I wanted to replace anyway, but it was destroyed by our toddler before I could do the honors), so we’ll be replacing that with a flat front bi-fold door that we’ll trim out in the same shaker style as the cabinets and paint to match.
We’re planning to paint it all using a high-quality primer like Kilz or Zinsser, and a high-quality alkyd paint, likely either Behr or Sherwin Williams. Even though this is a cheap kitchen refresh, we want to make sure the paint will hold up well to the inevitable abuse from our kids, plus being frequently wiped down and cleaned, so we will be spending money here. This article from the Flooring Girl is incredibly helpful on giving advice for painting cabinetry, from supplies to process.
Finally, we’ll be adding hardware. We picked up these brushed nickel cabinet pulls several months ago from Amazon with a view towards this project.
The update for the cabinets was originally inspired by this video from Neesie Does It on YouTube. She did an incredible job transforming her mom’s 1970’s kitchen. So awesome!
After the cabinets, this is the most exciting update in my book. We’re planning to put in a subway tile backsplash. We found a beautiful 3×12 subway tile called Arteko Antique White at Home Depot. We knew we wanted to go with subway tile, but we didn’t want to do stark white alongside the white cabinets, so we opted to go with something that would tie our cabinets in with our existing neutral countertops.
To save costs, you can go with a basic laminate, or even paint your existing countertops (yes! It is possible to paint them!). Our home currently has laminate countertops, still in good condition, and they fit the neighborhood in which we live, so it doesn’t really make sense to upgrade right now. Plus, ours are a nice neutral color, so we didn’t feel limited by them.
Again, it’s possible to go with a basic vinyl floor, peel and stick tile, or even to paint your existing floor (it’s true you can literally paint almost anything). We are planning to eventually re-do the flooring in our kitchen, dining area, living room and hallway, which all kind of flow together, so we’ll wait and save flooring for a future project. 🙂
If you have appliances that are outdated, don’t always assume you have to replace them in order to refresh your kitchen (unless, of course, they’re no longer functional). Our range hood and the front of our dishwasher are both off-white and I know they’ll look awful next to the white cabinets. My solution? You guessed it. Paint. However, you can also grab a kitchen range hood on Amazon for as little as $50, or cover the front of your dishwasher with wood planks and give it a custom look, like Pine and Prospect Home did here.
Our Budget Breakdown
As I mentioned above, we are planning to stay under $1000 on this refresh, and we’re doing this by planning out in advance what we’ll need, pricing out our materials list, and planning for contingencies.
In looking at how to update a kitchen without remodeling, it can be easy to get discouraged thinking of all the things you’d like to do to your kitchen but can’t because of budget constraints. Instead, consider it a challenge and start getting creative with how you can achieve the look you love for less. It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention, and I look forward to reporting back to you in the months ahead on our refresh to let you know how it’s going.