Published on July 26, 2019

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Photo by Tessa Neustadt; Design by Amber Interiors

Renovating a kitchen for the first time isn’t the most intuitive process. You may know you want dark marble countertops and navy cabinets, but actually bringing those ideas to life is another story, especially when you’re trying to keep costs in check. That’s when the sound advice of knowledgeable pros like Amber Lewis comes in handy. 

The Los Angeles–based designer has renovated more than 30 homes in her career, but her real talent lies in the kitchen. Over the years, she’s created dozens of spaces worthy of five-star chefs—and not one of them looks the same. Choosing a favorite project is like choosing a favorite child, she says, but some of her recent projects, which include greige cabinets, massive islands, and loads of natural light, are definitely up there. Here, she shares her top five tips for getting a space just as gorgeous on a budget.

Think Function First

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Courtesy of Amber Interiors

A kitchen can be beautiful, but if it isn’t practical, it’s pointless. “I always put my clients’ needs first: Do they have a young family? Do they like to sit at the island? Do they prefer banquette seating?” Lewis explains. To the designer, creating spaces that improve her clients’ way of life is the most important, and that means understanding how they’ll actually use the space. 

Upgrade the Hardware

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Courtesy of Amber Interiors

For Lewis, the easiest way to make a kitchen look expensive (without spending a ton) is to swap the pulls and knobs. “I am all about every single detail in the home and I would never look past gorgeous hardware,” she says. “Two finishes I am loving right now are antiqued brass and matte black. They’re both timeless and always work with what you have.” 

Hack Those IKEA Cabinets

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Photo by Tessa Neustadt; Design by Amber Interiors

The designer often uses IKEA cabinets as a base—not that you would know. She finishes them with chic Semihandmade door fronts and hardware, a cost-saving trick that can save you thousands on custom cabinetry. “We used it for our office kitchen, and I love it!”

Banish Clutter With Good Storage

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Photo by Jess Isaac; Design by Amber Interiors

“I am not a fan of clutter, period,” says Lewis. “It’s as simple as this: Leave the pretty things out on shelves and counters and put away the ‘not so pretty but must have it’ items.” What are those pretty new Semihandmade cabinets for if not hiding your appliances?

Have Fun with Paint

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Courtesy of Amber Interiors

“Picking paint colors is never, ever easy,” says Lewis, but she doesn’t believe one hue fits all. “I go in all sorts of directions based on how I’ve designed the rest of a house: dark, light—I’ll do it all. Choose wisely, my friends, and have fun with it.” 

Discover more clever renovating tips:
This Super-Simple Kitchen Cabinet Hack Is a Renter’s Dream
32 Barstools That’ll Take Your Kitchen Island to New Heights
The Simple Trick That’ll Get You Excited About Open Shelving Again


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