Published on April 12, 2019

When it comes to decorating and upgrading your home, the kitchen is a particular beast. While a living room can easily be refreshed with the help of a few new pieces of furniture or a paint color update, the expenses that come along with redoing a kitchen make this a space that many feel inclined to put off. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Fully renovating a kitchen, according to a recent study by Houzz, costs $11,000, according to the national medium, but that number increases when you consider total remodels of kitchens over 200 square feet, which clock in at $33,000. It makes sense, after all: When you’re replacing countertops (like 93 percent of renovators), backsplashes (like 87 percent of renovators), cabinets (78 percent), flooring (69 percent), and appliances (54 percent), things really do add up.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll have to be a bit more selective about what you switch out in your kitchen and what you keep. Luckily, interior designers have plenty of advice for picking and choosing the room features that, when changed, can make your kitchen feel like a totally different room—even if you didn’t shell out to get those cabinets replaced. Follow their advice below.

Change your backsplash

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courtesy of ashley petrone

As the number two kitchen feature people most want to change, a new backsplash can dramatically revitalize a room. “I am a sucker for a backsplash—it’s like the jazzy shoes to an outfit,” says interior designer Neffi Walker. “My go-to backsplash is mirrored one-inch subway tile. Changing the backsplash gives a kitchen new life without major funds being allocated to do so.”

If that’s not in the budget, consider a DIY route. “If you’re feeling really bold, leave your existing tile backsplash up and stencil it,” suggests blogger Ashley Petrone of Arrows and Bow. “It takes a little time, but it’s a very inexpensive way to update your kitchen.”

Fine-tune your floors

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photography by aaron bengochea

With a helpful cover-up, even the saddest floor can get a new life. “Depending on the floor’s condition, if wood or tile is dated and it’s not in the budget to replace it, paint it or add a beautiful runner,” suggests interior stylist Elizabeth Bear.  

If you’re dealing with a rental or want to find a temporary solution that won’t require you to shell out for a pricey floor replacement, there’s a solution too. “To cover hideous, outdated flooring, I suggest adding some pizzazz underfoot with decorative peel-and-stick vinyl floor tiles,” says interior designer Keita Turner. “You don’t need any grout or special tools, and the results will be an elevated pop of style.”

Update your cabinets halfway

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design by andria fromm

If your cabinets are admittedly worse for wear, you have options that don’t involve totally replacing them. “We kept the same footprint of the space and used the existing cabinet boxes but had new door fronts made and painted the boxes to finish the new doors,” interior designer Andria Fromm says of a recent project.

For an even faster (and cheaper) route, you can also forgo the doors entirely. “I love removing cabinet doors to make a kitchen feel more open,” says interior designer Katrina Blair. “It helps mimic the feel of the open shelves.” Just be sure to keep everything nice and neat, and it will look great.

Go bold with lighting

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design by sarah wittenbraker

We’re big believers that a change in lighting can easily transform a room. When it comes to the kitchen, interior designers advise to go big or go home. “Don’t be shy with pendant lights,” says interior designer Sarah Wittenbraker. “You can usually go bigger than you think.”

Wallpaper your space

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courtesy of liliane hart interiors

A bit of pattern can also revive a tired-looking room—and not just on your walls. “A great way to remodel without demolition is to add visual interest with wallpaper,” suggests interior designer Liliane Hart of Liliane Hart Interiors. “In this beach house kitchen, we used faux-wood wallpaper on the ceiling and wipeable Scandinavian hand-blocked paper as a backsplash.”

Paint everything (even the backsplash)

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design by katie hackworth

When in doubt, grab a can of paint and get going. “A great way to update your kitchen without breaking the bank or going through a major renovation is by changing up the color,” says interior designer Natalie Kraiem. “Painting your island or cabinets in a new bold color can make a huge difference and reflect your personality. If you have a glass insert on the face of your upper cabinets, I would bring the color to the interior of the cabinets to tie them in with your bold new island.”

Don’t limit your surfaces, either—with some DIY skills you can give your kitchen a whole new feeling with the help of some new colors. “Paint your walls, paint your trim, heck, you can even paint your backsplash with the right materials these days,” adds interior designer Jacquelyn Clark. “A fresh new coat in a fresh new hue instantly reinvigorates even the most tired of spaces.”

See more kitchen ideas:
This Designer Isn’t a Fan of Upper Kitchen Cabinets—Here’s Why

Yes, These Tiny Bowls Have a Purpose (and They’re Totally Worth It)
Before and After: Tour a Kitchen That Hadn’t Been Updated Since the ’60s

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