Right now, having an up-to-date kitchen is one of the most desirable features in a home. But getting an open floor plan and all the modern conveniences doesn’t come cheap – to say nothing of some of the high end, luxury items you’ve probably seen on TV. But just because you’re on a strict budget doesn’t mean you can’t improve the way your kitchen looks. In fact, focusing the money you have on a few key features can make an impressive difference in the overall look and feel of your space, without any major construction or a big bottom line.
Sink And Counters
One of the most significant ways to enhance the value and appearance of your kitchen is to replace outdated laminate counter tops with a more luxury material like granite, wood, or stainless steel. Now, this is probably the biggest investment on this list, but it also has an excellent rate of return, assuming you choose a popular material and not one that’s too personalized (like a brightly colored recycled glass). Adding a high end kitchen sink – either as part of a counter replacement or on its own – is a great way to set the tone for a renovation, like a farmhouse sink for a cottage style kitchen or a zero radius stainless steel sink for a more modern one.
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Cabinets And Storage
Your cabinets are the single most prominent feature in your kitchen, so if they’re out of date, chances are, the rest of your kitchen looks it, too. Now, if you’re on a budget, replacing your cabinets is probably way, way out of the question – it’s one of the single biggest investments you can make in your home. Refacing your cabinets – that is, keeping the cabinets themselves, but replacing all the door sand drawers – is much more affordable, and gives you the same look as entirely new cabinets. If your budget is really limited, focus instead on improving storage in your existing cabinets, like adding pull out drawers or shelves. It may not do much for the outward appearance, but it’ll make a big difference in the usability of your kitchen, which is sometimes even more important.
Knobs and Pulls
No budget-friendly-kitchen-update list would be complete without this one tried-and-true entry: knobs and pulls. But this oldie-but-goodie is oft-repeated for a reason; while it might seem like a small swap, changing out the hardware on your kitchen cabinets can go a very long way towards making them look more up to date. If you can’t afford to replace or resurface your cabinets and don’t want to paint, swapping out your knobs and pulls is your best option to change up the style. Look for pulls that have a very different appearance, but that have installation holes the same distance apart as your current pulls, so you won’t have any unsightly extra holes on the front of your cabinet.
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Similarly, installing a new mosaic tile backsplash is one of the great, inexpensive ways to dress up your kitchen. Mosaic tile sheets are common, cheap, and amazingly easy to install, and even a basic model creates a lovely, colorful accent that can freshen up the area around your kitchen sink. Right now, backsplashes are trending a little taller than the conventional 4″ – really, the taller the better – and ones that go all the way up to your cabinets lend texture to your whole kitchen for just a few dollars per square foot if you do the job yourself.
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This is a point I harp on all the time, but having the right lighting really makes a huge difference. A dark kitchen will feel small and – worse – dirty, while obviously old lighting fixtures can make your space look dated. New fixtures – over your island, kitchen table, or in the center of the kitchen – are easy and relatively inexpensive to install, and can give new life to your space solely by brightening it up. Under cabinet lighting is great, too, as it can help eliminate shadowy counter tops and draw attention to a decorative backsplash. Glass fronted cabinets with in-cabinet lights can even turn your regular dishes into a beautiful display.
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Kitchen islands are one of the hottest features in luxury kitchen design, but while the ones you see on TV are often huge, sprawling, and custom made, adding even a petite, pre-fab kitchen island can freshen up the look and feel of your kitchen. Of course you don’t want to opt for an island that’s too big (or too small) for your space, but strategically placing an island in the center of your work triangle can improve the way you use your kitchen, offering you more usable counter space and storage without disrupting your workflow.
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Now, appliances don’t come cheap, and the nicer the appliance, the more expensive it’s going to be. But if your appliances are obviously outdated, they can bring down the whole look and feel of your kitchen. Plus, all together your appliances take up a good chunk of your kitchen – meaning if they’re in outwardly bad condition (or done in a very dated color) swapping to a neutral black or white or a more modern stainless steel can instantly overhaul the whole space. And chances are, if you’re replacing very old appliances, new EnergyStar and WaterSense rated appliances will be dramatically more efficient, and can help lower your utilities and even boost your resale value.
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What part of your kitchen is the most in need of updating? Do you have a favorite way to dress up your space without putting in a huge investment? Let me know in the comments!