How to Have a New Kitchen On Any Budget. No Really. Here’s How.

budget kitchen remodel

What if you refreshed your kitchen instead of renovated it? That’s what I did. And today, I’m going to tell you all about it.

If you are craving a new kitchen, but can’t afford the time or money it would take to do a complete overhaul, you’re not alone. And you’ll be happy to hear, I’ve got real, doable, practical ideas that can make a big impact in your kitchen — while keeping a tight reign on your budget.

And it’s all thanks to Joanna Gaines. (More on that in a minute.)

budget kitchen remodel

Something you should know before we dive in to this post: I really, really want to enclose our laundry area (which is currently an extension of our kitchen), and transform it into a laundry room & kitchen pantry. In theory it would be a fairly simple thing to do. But in reality, it would require moving the oven/range from it’s current location and redesigning the whole kitchen so that it wraps around a corner.

We’ve wanted to do this basically since we moved in. You may remember we had only been here a few weeks when we pulled out a wall in the kitchen to open it up, and that’s when we first hatched the kitchen redesign plan.

But we haven’t done it yet for three reasons. First, when started working on this house, the kitchen wasn’t the worst spot. It worked well enough, and with a few updates like new floors and a new freestanding kitchen island, it served us well while we worked on the other parts of the house.

The second reason is budget. Construction prices (and real estate prices) in the Bay Area are comical at this point. And the price tags we’ve seen for our kitchen, which is considered on the small end size-wise, are pretty hard to stomach.

Third, kitchen renovations are so disruptive! The kitchen really is the heart of the home, and removing or limiting access to it is rough on a family. So I keep putting off a full kitchen renovation and working on other projects instead. I think it will be the last thing we tackle. 

BUT. When Joanna Gaines asked me if she could send out a crew to photograph my house for Magnolia Magazine, and I said, “YES, of course,” I knew I had to do something with the kitchen.

So I went into problem solving mode and considered what I could do in the kitchen to refresh it in time for the photo shoot — with a tight budget, and with only a few days to complete the work. Those limitations meant my plans couldn’t be too ambitious, because we’d end up with chaos during the photo shoot! Plus, it meant we had to focus on items that were in stock and available right this minute. No special orders or custom options.

Sometimes restrictions like this feel frustrating, but in this case, to me they felt freeing, because it narrowed down the endless choices considerably.

I made a list of options and realized that we could make some big improvements without breaking the bank. I reached out to IKEA to see if they wanted to work with me to make the refresh happen (they said yes!), and the whole thing came together in just a few days. Here’s how you can break it down.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $75 or Less

Don’t have much money to spend, but want to make a big impact? Focus on a really fun new light fixture. We chose this oversized pendant to hang above the sink. It offers tons of light and makes a big statement, and it was only $50. 

Plus, light fixtures are actually pretty easy to install yourself. I know they seem intimidating because: electricity. And for sure there are safety guidelines you need to follow (turn off the breaker!), but watch a few youtube tutorials and you’ll feel like a pro pretty fast.

If you have more to spend, go ahead and switch out all the lights. In addition to the over-sink pendant, we also replaced our obnoxious florescent ceiling lights with these Tidig overhead lights. They’re really good looking, and you can focus the individual lights wherever light is needed — toward the fridge, toward a cutting board, toward a piece of art or pretty display.

They were $40 each and we used two, so the total for new lighting was $130.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $300 or Less

Update the lights, then trade out your old, sad upper cupboards for open shelving. We chose stainless steel Ekby Mossby shelving, with Ekby Bjarnum brackets, and created 2 shelves where we put our pottery collection and some of our pewter and china on display.

budget kitchen remodel

The total price for the new shelves was $152. That’s a small price tag for something that makes such a huge difference in our kitchen. It completely changed the look and feel of the whole space! And it’s the first thing people comment on when they see the kitchen.

The items on the shelves are beautiful, but they are also objects we use daily, so it’s great to have such easy access.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is Around $700

First lights, then open shelves, then a new sink and faucet! If you have a standard size sink, consider replacing the old one with something fresh. I love the style of this deep, straight-lined simple sink, priced at $260.

budget kitchen remodel

If you can’t replace the sink, consider updating just the faucet. We chose the Vimmern faucet, priced at $169. And it makes the whole kitchen feel better. It has a flexible head, 2 spray options, and just looks really, really cool. In fact, it made such a big difference, that I might put it right next to the lights as far as bang for your buck. (If you’re counting, so far the items add up to $711.)

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is Around $1000

Lights, open shelving, a new sink and faucet. And then, tackle a new countertop! We used Karlby countertops. We bought two 98″ lengths and used them as both countertop and backsplash. The total price for the countertops was $318 (which brings the total price up to $1029 so far).

This was one of the most challenging updates because it meant we had to pull out the tile countertops and backsplash without hurting the cupboards below (which we weren’t ready to replace). But we worked carefully and it was doable. We hired a friend from church to help us with the new countertops, and also with the hood (below).

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $1600 or Less

Lights, open shelving, new sink, faucet and countertop. Then next, add a hood over your range or stove. Yes, a hood looks good, but it’s also really practical and honestly, I hated that we didn’t have one before.

When we used to cook, a layer of grease would land on everything in the kitchen. But with a hood, the fan directs smoke and grease straight outside, which is even more important now that we have open shelves in the kitchen. Plus the built in lights make it easy to see what you’re stirring up. We chose the sleek Kortvarig hood, priced at $549.

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is Around $1800

Lights, open shelving, sink, faucet and countertop, a shiny new hood. And then, revamp your storage with enclosed pantry storage shelves.

We replaced some wirework shelves with a simple Pax closet. It came with 1 shelf and 4 drawers and we added 3 more drawers and another shelf. The base price was $225 (that brings our total price to $1803).

budget kitchen remodel

What a difference! You can see the before images below to see how much this improved and cleaned up the area. Plus it opened up space for a tidy little recycling/compost/trash area.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $2000 or Less

Lights, open shelving, sink, faucet and countertop, a shiny new hood, and a pantry. Now add some fun, practical “accessories” — like fresh barstools, a handsome step ladder, and a knife magnet bar.

The stools we chose are called Skogsta and are priced at $29 each. We bought five of them ($145).

The stepladder was $40 and comes with a special hook so you can hang it on the wall and keep it off the floor and out of the way till you need it. 

The knife magnet bar is only $9! We already had one and kept it in the same place.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $4500 or Less

Lights, open shelving, sink, faucet, countertop, shiny new hood, pantry, barstools, stepladder, knife magnet. The only thing left? Update those appliances. 

We chose the Nutid French-door refrigerator priced at $1295. It has an inside water dispenser and an ice maker — our last fridge had neither, so these are fun additions.

And we chose the Betrodd range, priced at $1195.00. 

budget kitchen remodel

It’s a double oven, and a gas 5 burner range. We haven’t had a gas range since we lived in France, and we’ve missed it like crazy! So this is an especially wonderful part of the update in my mind.

You may have noticed that you can do all the refreshing, except the appliances, for $2000. Adding appliances definitely makes the budget jump. But the nice thing is, you can always add these later. Wait for sale, or a floor model, and you can save lots of dollars.


Okay. That’s the full tour. I hope you found lots of ideas for simple ways you can refresh your own kitchen. And I’d love to hear: Have you ever tackled a kitchen remodel at your house? Did it take longer than you imagined or were you able to whip things into shape quickly? And if you could change one thing about your current kitchen, what would it be? Oh, and would you like to see some “before” photos? Scroll down.


Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom. This post was developed in trade with Ikea.



86 thoughts on “How to Have a New Kitchen On Any Budget. No Really. Here’s How.”

  1. This is really inspiring. My husband and I are probably going to be selling our home and relocating just a bit closer to our jobs next year, and so we’re staring around our home going, “Oh Nelly, what do we do to spruce the place, when it looks like EVERYTHING needs some sprucing?!” And these ideas help me consider what to do in littler ways that obviously make a BIG impact! I love it! Your kitchen is totally darling! :D

  2. We did a kitchen refresh for under $5000 last year. Some of that was for labor (moving stove & dishwasher to new location including electrical & plumbing, hanging new cabinets and rearranging existing ones) since we have no skills. We used the cabinets we had, added a few more from IKEA, replaced our cracked laminate countertops with butcher block (lumber liquidators) and created a peninsula with seating on the other side. Best find was a faucet from Goodwill (for $15 – worth over $300!). We also added a range hood. While I have been dreaming of a full on renovation for years, it’s not in the budget and I’m beyond happy with my refresh.

  3. This was very timely for us. We are currently debating various options for an “upgrade” of our kitchen. We are good with the general layout but the finishes need updating. I’m super curious how it went removing your tile countertop? We have a very similar countertop (square white tiles) and are not sure what to expect when we go to remove it. We also want to paint our cabinets – they are oak brown now. I think we can do it ourselves knowing it will be a huge amount of work but also a huge cost savings. Lighting is the last thing – we also have fluorescent lights above our island and I can’t wait to replace it with some pendants and recessed lighting. Your kitchen looks beautiful – great job!

    1. It was messy (lots of dust), and loud (hammering), and heavy (the tile was on plywood, and we were removing the plywood slabs which with weighted with tile). But it didn’t really take that long. We did it in an evening.

      The trick was figuring out where the plywood was attached to the cabinets below so we could figure out where to unscrew them.

  4. Your refresh looks great and it’s environmentally friendly too to not to rip out a kitchen that has plenty of life left in it!

    And selling old-but-functional appliances, cabinets, chairs, etc. on Craigslist or the like adds back some $ to the budget. We were surprised when we did our kitchen remodel that things like our very out-of-date microwave and beat up range sold, but were glad someone was going to use them.

    1. So true on being able to sell the the old appliances. I’m also a big fan of using Craiglist to freecycle too! Someone came to pick up our upper cabinets to use in their studio. So glad they’re getting another life.

  5. Oh Gabby! This is so inspiring. We are still a few years away from a whole kitchen reno. Two years ago I decided to paint our laminate faux oak cabinets. The difference was immediate. I’m going to borrow some of your ideas. The budget breakdown is excellent.

  6. The home I moved into 13 years ago had the same cabinets. I too took down the upper cabinets and now have open shelves, but for the lower ones, I took a cabinet door to the paint store, they matched the color of the door to a high quality paint , and I painted the wooden handles. Then we added some sleek and modern door handles and we are totally pleased.

    You did a great job.

  7. I have really considered taking out our upper cabinets but I worry about the lost storage. Was that much of an issue for you?
    It looks great! And I love the budget breakdown!

    1. It really wasn’t an issue for us. Most everything either went onto the new open shelves, or into the new pantry cupboard. And we also used it as a chance to clear out any unnecessary stuff (which always feels good!).

  8. Oh what I wouldn’t do to be able to go to IKEA. The nearest one to me is a 10-hour drive. I just know that a couple of trips would let me finish my bathroom, kitchen, and master bedroom, but the drive (and renting a truck to carry everything home in) just isn’t in the cards. So many amazing things about living in Montana … shopping for the home is NOT one of them.

    1. 10 hours is so far! So frustrating. If it helps, I’ve had luck finding a ton of the Ikea catalog on Amazon — but I know it’s not quite the same. The prices can be drastically different, and sometimes you just need to see things in real life before you buy them.

  9. Beautiful! It’s such a transformation, especially on that budget. We recently took down most of our upper cabinets and replaced them with open shelves–I still can’t get over how much bigger and prettier the kitchen looks now. It’s so satisfying when you can make a big change on a small budget, no?

  10. I love all the updates that you’ve made to the space! We did our living room/dinning room on a budget last year and it made such a big difference in our resale value! We put $3,000 in and painted cabinets, new granite counters, new hardware on the cabinets, and new lighting and wall paint, and it looked like a completely different home! I’m sad we left it so soon, but it gave us some fast equity when we sold after owning for 14 months.


  11. I’m laughing at myself a little. When I saw the title of your post, I thought your suggestion was going to be: “Clean it.”

  12. This post is great, especially the budget breakdown. So practical and attainable! I have been considering a refresh for our kitchen as well. We aren’t able to replace the countertops right now, but I’m thinking of replacing the light over the sink and painting the walls to brighten up the space!

      1. That’s exactly what we did – I love my kitchen layout, but the cabinets were orange wood & the lighting was very dated 1990’s. After moving across the country, a big renovation wasn’t in the cards but white paint on the cabinets, new lighting, a new sink & faucet, and a new gas range (already plumbed for gas, just had to hook it up) has made my kitchen pretty perfect. Sure I’d like to get rid of the dark brown granite, but I can live with it.

  13. OK, it looks a million times better! And I love the way you broke down all of the options and pricing. How lucky are we to have IKEA in the Bay area?! Also, if your IKEA in Emeryville is out of stock with something the one in Sacramento usually has it (I have had to do this before). Everything looks fantastic :)

  14. Years ago we updated our kitchen to sell our house. We had those exact cabinets.

    We found a young guy who did cheap (but acceptable) drywall work and when he was at the house he mentioned he could make new fronts for our cabinets.

    He did it for an unbelievable price. Like under $300 for mdf doors with a goofy trim (miscommunication – I thought he was going to attach a wider, more shaker looking piece of trim around the outside.

    Still it was an improvement and we sold our home in less than 2 months in the falling real estate market/ pre economic meltdown of 2008

    All that to say call around, try to find referrals for a person who is skilled but just starting out. That was a great stop gap measure.


  15. Hi Gabby,
    Your kitchen looks great and IKEA is a good choice when it comes to renovation with a budget. I do have a question about the budget though. Your budget seems to include the appliances but not the cost of labor, right? I’m asking because these are inspiring but we’re not the handy types, plumbing is literally my husband’s nightmare.

    1. Right, I didn’t include the cost of labor, because it was mostly DIY. Ben Blair is pretty handy, and youtube really is a game changer. Every possible task is on there in step by step video!

      But we loved having someone to ask for advice in person, and we also needed help with cutting the countertops down (we didn’t have the right tools), and installing the hood (which was complicated). Instead of using a contractor, we hired a retired friend from church who takes on odd jobs like this. If he hadn’t been available, we would probably have tried Taskrabbit.

      We didn’t, but this is definitely an area where you could increase the budget dramatically — it really depends on how comfortable you are with DIY.

  16. This is great! I love the budget step-up. I would love to hear how you feel about your countertops as they age. I remembering loving them in Orlando Soria’s kitchen reno and then he said that he hates them due to water damage, etc.

    1. I’m curious to see how they hold up. In France, we had butcher block countertops and loved the way they aged, so we’re crossing our fingers! But I do remember some water damage. Maybe it just didn’t bug me? I’m trying to remember.

    2. We had butcher block counters in our last kitchen, and I LOVED them. So affordable and so beautiful – the perfect combo! The key is to seal them – they need to be treated with something (food-safe!) that will keep moisture from penetrating the surface. (We used this:–finish-oil-int.1000481115.html – I’m in Canada but I’m sure you could find the same thing, or something similar, in the States). We added a new coat about once a year – just clear the counters, lightly sand, and paint it on. It literally took half an hour to do, plus a few hours of drying time).
      The other major bonus of butcher block was that they can be sanded down to remove stains if need be. I once put a pot down that was too hot and it left a burn mark – we sanded it down, resealed it, and it was good as new. Honestly – I can’t say enough about how much we loved them!

  17. I love how you broke down the refresh step by step. I was actually wandering in IKEA today as I dropped a family member off at the airport nearby. How funny that I was also thinking what little things could I do for a big bang. Loved the changes. What did you end of doing with the microwave?

    1. Still thinking on the microwave. We didn’t have one in France and didn’t miss it, so I’m considering saying goodbye. If we decide to keep it, I’m thinking of putting it on a small shelf next to the range. If I do, I’ll be sure to snap a photo and share it!

  18. We’ve been renting this house for seven years and I always think “we’ll move soon so I don’t want to spend money and now we’ve been here for a long time and I wish at the beginning I had:
    -Painted the walls to a colour that compliments the honey-oak cabinets (which I don’t want to paint but there are some nice colours that would make them less of an eyesore)
    -Changed out the 90s cabinet/drawer pulls/knobs
    -Gotten tile decals (to cover the random ketchup and mustard color backsplash tiles)
    -Used enamel spray paint to paint the rusty bottom drawer of the oven (rust on the stove looks like a permanent spaghetti disaster!)

    On a funny note…for TWO YEARS I didn’t realize the range hood didn’t actually have a vent to the outside. So all it does is direct the smokes/scents/grease/heat into the small cupboard above the stove where I was keeping my oils and spices! How many times did I open that cupboard and not realize there should be a vent tube somewhere in there?!

  19. The double oven is so awesome! But it reminds me, what do you love so much about gas stoves? I’ve never had one until this apartment and based on all the things people say, I was ready to have my mind blown, but it just…really wasn’t. 😂 Am I missing out on some obvious features?

    1. I’ve had both gas and electric multiple times, and what I like about gas is 1) the ability to change temperatures quickly–which is super helpful or even necessary when making more complicated things that can’t burn (think hollandaise sauce, bechemel, deep frying) and 2) Roasting marshmallows! Lol.

      Cons are 1) harder to clean and 2) requires venting. Electric stoves don’t require venting by code, though it is still helpful.

  20. This might be, hands down, one of your most useful posts to date. Great ideas and a simple price breakdown. We want to do something similar – not a full reno but a refresh. Lucky you took out the wall earlier and put in new flooring when you did – that might be hardest part to get through with young kiddos.
    How inspiring!

    1. So true on the flooring. It was incredibly disruptive to have the floors redone. I think that’s why I’m so hesitant on doing a full kitchen remodel — I know how hard it will be on the family.

  21. Thanks for an amazing post! I’m wondering too, what did you do with your microwave? Ours is in a state like your “before” picture 😆

    1. We’re thinking about saying goodbye to our microwave. But if I decide to keep it, there’s a good spot between the range and the sink. I’m thinking it could sit on a little shelf there.

  22. I love your pottery collection too, but have to say I’m not sure about this one. You just don’t get as much storage space when you are displaying things in this manner… the plates and stuff. It looks good in the photo, but I’m not sure how close that is to reality. Plus… grease. It’s not like we fry all the time, but still, things that are open in the kitchen just get dirty. I am washing cabinet fronts all the time, so I’m not sure about having to wash a dish before using it, or cleaning those shelves by taking off all the dishes.

    Also I have a big sink like that shape, and am constantly taking out a dish strainer and tray to do dishes, and let them dry. It’s not a big problem, but I honestly prefer a sink to put things in to drain… like cutting boards, they don’t work well in a dish strainer outside the sink. I cook a lot, so there are a lot of dishes.

    The kitchen to me has to remain highly functional. Maybe I cook more than average.

    1. I’m with you on the open upper shelves. I think they look cool-but there is no way we could have everything we need out (and pristine.)

    2. We removed most of our upper cabinets during a kitchen reno last year and went with open shelving made from Indiana barnwood. We have only the dishes and glasses we use every single day out (I only buy white dishes or working man glasses that can inexpensively be replaced at a restaurant supply store) on the shelves and I wouldn’t ever go back. The shelves are right above the dishwasher and next to the sink which makes unloading the dishwasher a BREEZE. We have a large family and rarely eat out (so lots of cooking) and I tend to be quite OCD about dust/grease in my kitchen and haven’t noticed any problems with either. Its actually way more functional than I ever found cabinets to be.

      1. So good to know, Tina. I re-asked the same question about lost cabinet space below before reading this. Functionality is so important- especially the ease (to my child whose duty it is to unload the dishwasher) the tedium of loading, unloading and putting away.

  23. Your kitchen is lovely! Oh man, we’re currently planning a BIG kitchen reno (bye, money), but this is so inspiring. I just truly, truly hate the layout of the kitchen, which is why we’re doing it, and I couldn’t justify putting any money into it when I knew it wasn’t what I wanted in the long run. Our cabinets are in decent shape (and you can tell they’re high quality wood, just old), but it doesn’t look like they’ll be salvageable and it breaks my heart. Sorry, earth. On the bright side, I did find a barely used Wolf 6 burner double oven on Craigslist that saved us over $10k. :D

  24. Oh my goodness, I love this! We live in the Bay Area, are contemplating taking the plunge into real estate, and I’ve been bracing myself for a fixer upper kitchen I don’t have any money left (after the home purchase) to update. We put an Ikea kitchen in our previous home, and loved the quality. It’s so inspiring to see what a difference can be made without going all in. I actually love the wood tone on your original cabinets and how it contrasts with the lighter tone of the butcher block. So many new ideas now…

  25. Great post! I can’t believe you only had that small refrigerator with a family of 8. But I guess after living in Europe, it wasn’t a big deal.

    Also, where’s the microwave?

    1. It’s true. A smaller fridge is fine with us. I didn’t actually find it hard at all — but it does mean grocery shopping more often, just in smaller batches.

      We’re thinking about saying goodbye to the microwave — it’s another thing we easily lived without in France. But if we decide to keep it, I think I’ll put it on a little shelf by the range.

  26. Love this kind of project! I think your list of priorities is spot on. I would add that if you have cabinets that can be painted, this makes a huge difference. Our cabinets were hand built in 1965. Sanding, painting with really good paint (both inside and out), and adding good hardware made a huge difference. Taking the uppers down was phase two and that made our kitchen look much more modern, so I recommend this as well. Thanks for your tips! Am going to look into the shelves now…..

  27. Such a great post. I’ve been dreading our kitchen reno (tentatively scheduled for winter 2019, after bathroom and yard) because it seems so daunting and expensive. We may not be able to stick to the <$2000 budget, but I have so much more hope that it will be doable!

    We also have to rip out tile counters….I feel better about it now!

  28. I have an Ikea kitchen with lots of the same ideas – open shelves, great tap, good countertops. The other great thing is to replace the cupboard doors. I haven’t done this, but apparently it’s pretty easy and makes a huge difference. When we renovated our kitchen, Ikea was the only real option in our budget – and I love it. Funnily, I have the exact same clock as you (but in turquoise). Had it for 20 years and it still works perfectly!

  29. What a great post with practical ideas. The breakdown of each investment was so helpful, doable . Love the open shelves and their styling. Looking forward to seeing your home in Magnolia Journal.

  30. Where is your microwave now? It had been on a shelf by the corner where the new closet/pantry is located. But I don’t see it in any after shots.

    1. Right. It’s not in these pictures because we’re still deciding on whether to keep it or not. If we do, I’m picturing it on a little shelf (that matches the other stainless steel shelves), next to the range.

  31. Oh my gosh- this post is so perfectly timed (for me)! I love that you put this together- it makes kitchen updating possible and less daunting than a renovation for those of us with reno dreams and a refresh budget! I still can’t get my mind into open shelving. I feel that it’s very trendy and not very practical- not that I’ve done it myself. Have you noticed any drawbacks? It appears that you lost a great deal of shelving with this move. I absolutely love how it looks.

  32. Not only great design ideas, but this blog post was so well written and organized! I wish all renos were broken down this way! Well done!

  33. love the open shelves you put in. It might be a little too much dusting work for me though. But it looks awesome!

  34. I can’t believe I’m only discovering your blog now! Where have I been? I love this post! I am a stay at home mom. I’ve been blogging for a decade now, but am only now discovering WordPress. Long story. But this post is everything! Your kitchen is so similar to what ours looks like and I have been dying to update it. $5000 is totally doable for me to update it. Thank you for being so amazing and sharing your talent with all of us that don’t have access to you personally! I’m such a fan!

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