19 Ideas to Help You Stay on Budget

Find out how to save money while adding style and function to your kitchen with these expert tips.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionIn this appealing kitchen, the designer limited the use of the most expensive materials and employed simple bilateral symmetry to create a fresh and workable room. By putting glass fronts on two of the upper cabinets, he maximizes both light and space. (Design by Andre Rothblatt)

All About

Author and HGTV host Joan Kohn provides 19 budget-friendly ideas for improving your kitchen from her book, It's Your Kitchen.

Save money on cabinets.
Cabinets are generally the single most expensive element in any kitchen design. Fortunately, there are many ways to save money:

  • Refinishing or replacing cabinet doors can make a huge improvement at a fraction of the cost of new cabinets.
  • Noting that fine finishes cause cabinetry prices to soar, one shrewd home enthusiast I know recommends selecting less-expensive cabinets and then painting over the finish. (When it comes to appliances, he shops for last year’s models and doesn’t mind a few scratches or dents.)
  • Resist the temptation to fill all available wall space with cabinets. Buy only the cabinets you need. Don’t build so many that you are forced to shop to fill them when the kitchen is complete. The corollary is to streamline your kitchen supplies and equipment. I like the "one-of-each" rule: If you find one bowl that can be used for prep, storage, and serving, buy just that one. The less stuff you have, the fewer cabinets you need.
  • In lieu of a wall of costly cabinetry, use the space for something other than storage. Create a seating area, office space or a place for the kids to play.
  • Flush-overlay cabinet doors generally are less costly than inset doors. Open shelves are decorative, provide easy access, and also save money.

Add life.
Real life makes any kitchen more beautiful, often at little or no extra cost. Plants and fresh flowers enrich any kitchen design. Books are also wonderful signs of life, with their vivid implications about the people who enjoy them. Add color and texture to your kitchen by making foods a living part of your decor. A bowl of fruit or a garland of dried chilies enliven a space for next to nothing.

Do it yourself.
Lots of money can be saved by doing some of the work, such as demolition or painting, yourself.

Avoid construction changes.
Nothing can drive up the cost of a new kitchen like making last-minute changes in the design plans. They can really throw a "money wrench" into the best-laid blueprints!

Shop at home...literally.
Bring in accessories and furniture from other rooms or the attic. And shop less by eliminating items you really don’t need, such as window treatments (your kitchen can actually be enhanced by the extra light).

Create a single focal point.
Focus your investment where it will have the biggest impact. Then balance your design and your budget with more modest selections. A professional-style cooktop can add functional power and great presence to a kitchen, carrying the "weight" of the entire design. Make your design statement once, with one truly beautiful focal point; then allow the rest of the design to do its work with modest simplicity.

Once you satisfy the eye’s need for beauty, your mission is accomplished and you can let the other elements recede and take a secondary position. All it takes is a few special tiles on a field of standard tile to make your own personal statement on a backsplash. Use unadorned field tiles in your favorite color. A painted wall also works, and is the least-costly option.

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