budget kitchen remodel

What if you refreshed your kitchen instead of renovated it? That’s what I did. And today, I’m going to tell you all about it.

If you are craving a new kitchen, but can’t afford the time or money it would take to do a complete overhaul, you’re not alone. And you’ll be happy to hear, I’ve got real, doable, practical ideas that can make a big impact in your kitchen — while keeping a tight reign on your budget.

And it’s all thanks to Joanna Gaines. (More on that in a minute.)

budget kitchen remodel

Something you should know before we dive in to this post: I really, really want to enclose our laundry area (which is currently an extension of our kitchen), and transform it into a laundry room & kitchen pantry. In theory it would be a fairly simple thing to do. But in reality, it would require moving the oven/range from it’s current location and redesigning the whole kitchen so that it wraps around a corner.

We’ve wanted to do this basically since we moved in. You may remember we had only been here a few weeks when we pulled out a wall in the kitchen to open it up, and that’s when we first hatched the kitchen redesign plan.

But we haven’t done it yet for three reasons. First, when started working on this house, the kitchen wasn’t the worst spot. It worked well enough, and with a few updates like new floors and a new freestanding kitchen island, it served us well while we worked on the other parts of the house.

The second reason is budget. Construction prices (and real estate prices) in the Bay Area are comical at this point. And the price tags we’ve seen for our kitchen, which is considered on the small end size-wise, are pretty hard to stomach.

Third, kitchen renovations are so disruptive! The kitchen really is the heart of the home, and removing or limiting access to it is rough on a family. So I keep putting off a full kitchen renovation and working on other projects instead. I think it will be the last thing we tackle. 

BUT. When Joanna Gaines asked me if she could send out a crew to photograph my house for Magnolia Magazine, and I said, “YES, of course,” I knew I had to do something with the kitchen.

So I went into problem solving mode and considered what I could do in the kitchen to refresh it in time for the photo shoot — with a tight budget, and with only a few days to complete the work. Those limitations meant my plans couldn’t be too ambitious, because we’d end up with chaos during the photo shoot! Plus, it meant we had to focus on items that were in stock and available right this minute. No special orders or custom options.

Sometimes restrictions like this feel frustrating, but in this case, to me they felt freeing, because it narrowed down the endless choices considerably.

I made a list of options and realized that we could make some big improvements without breaking the bank. I reached out to IKEA to see if they wanted to work with me to make the refresh happen (they said yes!), and the whole thing came together in just a few days. Here’s how you can break it down.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $75 or Less

Don’t have much money to spend, but want to make a big impact? Focus on a really fun new light fixture. We chose this oversized pendant to hang above the sink. It offers tons of light and makes a big statement, and it was only $50. 

Plus, light fixtures are actually pretty easy to install yourself. I know they seem intimidating because: electricity. And for sure there are safety guidelines you need to follow (turn off the breaker!), but watch a few youtube tutorials and you’ll feel like a pro pretty fast.

If you have more to spend, go ahead and switch out all the lights. In addition to the over-sink pendant, we also replaced our obnoxious florescent ceiling lights with these Tidig overhead lights. They’re really good looking, and you can focus the individual lights wherever light is needed — toward the fridge, toward a cutting board, toward a piece of art or pretty display.

They were $40 each and we used two, so the total for new lighting was $130.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $300 or Less

Update the lights, then trade out your old, sad upper cupboards for open shelving. We chose stainless steel Ekby Mossby shelving, with Ekby Bjarnum brackets, and created 2 shelves where we put our pottery collection and some of our pewter and china on display.

budget kitchen remodel

The total price for the new shelves was $152. That’s a small price tag for something that makes such a huge difference in our kitchen. It completely changed the look and feel of the whole space! And it’s the first thing people comment on when they see the kitchen.

The items on the shelves are beautiful, but they are also objects we use daily, so it’s great to have such easy access.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is Around $700

First lights, then open shelves, then a new sink and faucet! If you have a standard size sink, consider replacing the old one with something fresh. I love the style of this deep, straight-lined simple sink, priced at $260.

budget kitchen remodel

If you can’t replace the sink, consider updating just the faucet. We chose the Vimmern faucet, priced at $169. And it makes the whole kitchen feel better. It has a flexible head, 2 spray options, and just looks really, really cool. In fact, it made such a big difference, that I might put it right next to the lights as far as bang for your buck. (If you’re counting, so far the items add up to $711.)

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is Around $1000

Lights, open shelving, a new sink and faucet. And then, tackle a new countertop! We used Karlby countertops. We bought two 98″ lengths and used them as both countertop and backsplash. The total price for the countertops was $318 (which brings the total price up to $1029 so far).

This was one of the most challenging updates because it meant we had to pull out the tile countertops and backsplash without hurting the cupboards below (which we weren’t ready to replace). But we worked carefully and it was doable. We hired a friend from church to help us with the new countertops, and also with the hood (below).

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $1600 or Less

Lights, open shelving, new sink, faucet and countertop. Then next, add a hood over your range or stove. Yes, a hood looks good, but it’s also really practical and honestly, I hated that we didn’t have one before.

When we used to cook, a layer of grease would land on everything in the kitchen. But with a hood, the fan directs smoke and grease straight outside, which is even more important now that we have open shelves in the kitchen. Plus the built in lights make it easy to see what you’re stirring up. We chose the sleek Kortvarig hood, priced at $549.

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is Around $1800

Lights, open shelving, sink, faucet and countertop, a shiny new hood. And then, revamp your storage with enclosed pantry storage shelves.

We replaced some wirework shelves with a simple Pax closet. It came with 1 shelf and 4 drawers and we added 3 more drawers and another shelf. The base price was $225 (that brings our total price to $1803).

budget kitchen remodel

What a difference! You can see the before images below to see how much this improved and cleaned up the area. Plus it opened up space for a tidy little recycling/compost/trash area.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $2000 or Less

Lights, open shelving, sink, faucet and countertop, a shiny new hood, and a pantry. Now add some fun, practical “accessories” — like fresh barstools, a handsome step ladder, and a knife magnet bar.

The stools we chose are called Skogsta and are priced at $29 each. We bought five of them ($145).

The stepladder was $40 and comes with a special hook so you can hang it on the wall and keep it off the floor and out of the way till you need it. 

The knife magnet bar is only $9! We already had one and kept it in the same place.

budget kitchen remodel

If Your Kitchen Refresh Budget is $4500 or Less

Lights, open shelving, sink, faucet, countertop, shiny new hood, pantry, barstools, stepladder, knife magnet. The only thing left? Update those appliances. 

We chose the Nutid French-door refrigerator priced at $1295. It has an inside water dispenser and an ice maker — our last fridge had neither, so these are fun additions.

And we chose the Betrodd range, priced at $1195.00. 

budget kitchen remodel

It’s a double oven, and a gas 5 burner range. We haven’t had a gas range since we lived in France, and we’ve missed it like crazy! So this is an especially wonderful part of the update in my mind.

You may have noticed that you can do all the refreshing, except the appliances, for $2000. Adding appliances definitely makes the budget jump. But the nice thing is, you can always add these later. Wait for sale, or a floor model, and you can save lots of dollars.


Okay. That’s the full tour. I hope you found lots of ideas for simple ways you can refresh your own kitchen. And I’d love to hear: Have you ever tackled a kitchen remodel at your house? Did it take longer than you imagined or were you able to whip things into shape quickly? And if you could change one thing about your current kitchen, what would it be? Oh, and would you like to see some “before” photos? Scroll down.


Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom. This post was developed in trade with Ikea.