Mega Kitchen Style on a Mini Budget

A keen eye and creative planning helped this Seattle homeowner keep reno costs way down. HGTV Magazine takes you inside.

Photo by: DAVID TSAY


Even though she’d spent years working as an architect and a designer, Tori Thames had never taken on a project in her own home. “I was always in big cities and stuck in apartments,” she says. “It was hard to be a renter all the time and never get to customize my space.” So when Tori took a new gig in Seattle, WA, and found a charming but in-need-of-work 1921 Craftsman bungalow, she jumped at the chance to buy.

High ceilings, custom molding, and tons of natural light were all selling points — but much of the house, including the kitchen, needed an overhaul. To keep the kitchen from swallowing up her entire reno budget, Tori got creative, swapping in thrifty materials for their spendy counterparts and adding unique touches to help off-the-shelf purchases feel high-end. The result is a deceptively budget-friendly kitchen packed with style. “Designing is so much about knowing where to spend money and where to be economical,” Tori says. “The ultimate goal is to make it hard to tell which is which.”

Photo by: DAVID TSAY


Sink and Faucet

The kitchen’s original enameled-cast-iron sink couldn’t be saved, but Tori wanted to replace it with something that had a similar old-fashioned feel. This 10-inch-deep apron-front ceramic sink from IKEA fit the bill and the budget (it was $250). To keep the setup from feeling too quaint, she picked an industrial-style pull-down faucet for $250, also from IKEA. “It has the look of a commercial kitchen faucet, which could cost $700,” says Tori.

Banquette and Table

Photo by: DAVID TSAY


Eager to take advantage of the huge windows — “The kitchen’s best feature,” says Tori — she had a contractor create a built-in bench full of hidden storage. The custom cushion is made from gray-and-white cabana-stripe Sunbrella fabric. It was a splurge that’s paid off, thanks to its imperviousness to coffee dribbles and wine splashes. Pricey vintage finds, like the Hans Wegner wishbone chair, are mixed with more affordable picks, like the West Elm globe pendant and the mid-century-style table from Dot & Bo.


When Tori pulled up the kitchen’s old vinyl flooring, she’d hoped to find the same beautiful hardwood that’s in the rest of the home. She did, but the boards were damaged beyond repair. Rather than replacing them, she installed matte-finish ceramic tiles by Merola from The Home Depot to impart the look of expensive stamped concrete at a fraction of the cost — just $4 per square foot.


Since the floor is pretty busy, Tori kept the walls simple with white paint (All White by Farrow & Ball) and white subway tiles. To help the tiny space feel bigger, she decided on a smaller-than-standard size for the tiles from Anchor Bay Tile — they’re just 1 ¾ inches by 3 ¾ inches, compared with the usual 3-inch-by-6-inch kind. Behind the sink the tiles extend only partway up the wall — another money saver.

Cabinets and Counters

Ready-to-assemble cabinets from IKEA look not-too-basic thanks to custom touches — Tori ordered glass fronts instead of wood for the uppers and had her contractor customize a soffit that makes them look built in. To the left of the range (another IKEA buy), 5-inch-deep recessed shelves squeeze extra storage out of the space. As for the counters: “My heart was set on marble, but I couldn’t justify the cost,” she says. So Tori chose a 1¼-inch-thick solid surface (Bleached White by Formica) that’s flecked with iridescent specks.

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