Five affordable ways to update your kitchen

Five ways to affordably refresh your kitchen

Are you hoping to bring your dream kitchen to life, but aren’t quite ready to dive into a major renovation? The cost and time-investment for a kitchen update can be daunting. Never fear—you can get a refreshed look without a total revamp. Trust me, I’ve been there! 

When we moved from Wisconsin to Indiana, we left behind a “dream kitchen” in our “forever” house. It was open concept with white cabinets, chunky dentil crown molding and beautiful granite counters in a soft gray shade. Sadly, we were only able to enjoy it for a year before we were packing up and moving on.

As you can imagine, we weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to have a repeat project (we had just survived 3+ months without a working kitchen). Thankfully, we found a beautiful home in Indiana that—although built in 1912—had a renovated kitchen.  It was very nice, but wasn’t exactly the bright, airy space we favor.

So, we made a few small changes and are now enjoying dream kitchen number two. Hopefully our journey can help you score your perfect space too!

refresh your kitchenaffordable ways to refresh your kitchen

Our 5-step kitchen update

  1. Neutralize your color scheme

Our kitchen had a lot going on when we moved in. The walls were a golden shade, the backsplash was green, and the counters an amalgamation of browns, yellows and gray. Coming from the all-white palette of our previous kitchen, we longed for something softer. The first step was repainting.

If you’re not crazy about the colors in your counter top, study it carefully to see if it has any neutral shades you can “play up” with careful design choices. Our granite had flecks of both ivory and soft gray. I enhanced the ivory by selecting an almost-white, creamy shade of paint, then highlighted the gray with these classic bar stools from Grandin Road. I purchased the Julien in Dove Grey at counter height. It is so comfortable. We end up eating here more often than in our dining room!

If you’re looking for ivory stools, Joss & Main has a duplicate for even less money. This one also has an interesting “mystique gray” option for the wood finish. If I had seen this earlier, I might have gone with these instead. Paint and new bar stools were simple changes, but seemed to instantly brighten the counters and the room overall. Our space now feels much larger and more welcoming.

Affordable updates for your kitchenKitchen counters

2. Change the backsplash & update hardware

If you have patience, time and the right supplies (hint: a wet saw is a lifesaver), you CAN install a backsplash yourself. Talk about a major impact for minimal expense! New hardware and tile can completely transform your space. Best of all, you can pull it off in a weekend. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a detailed how-to post.

When selecting your tile, keep in mind neutral doesn’t mean boring. There are a wealth of kitchen options out there that are subtle in color, but bold in style. Look for something with a unique texture, shape or luster.

We wanted something in the ivory color family with a touch of pizzazz. It had to be interesting, yet traditional enough to mesh with the farmhouse style of our kitchen. These “Arabesque” Moroccan-inspired tiles from Home Depot were the perfect fit. The shape catches your eye, but the color is soothing. It doesn’t fight with the counters or compete with the cabinets.

Ready to get started? Save yourself a headache and craft a careful supply list. There is nothing worse than having to run back to the hardware store multiple times in the middle of a project (been there!).

Tile Project Supply List

Arabesque tiles for kitchen updateAffordable kitchen refresh

3. Update your lighting

I firmly believe that light fixtures make or break a room. Since most of the design choices were made by the previous owner, this was an opportunity to put my personal “stamp” on the room and make it our own. If you have high ceilings, lighting is an especially smart way to make your kitchen stand out. Fixtures are so artistic now. Your pendant options are endless!

After an exhaustive search, I opted for the Carson by Hinkley Lighting and matching pendants. It’s from the company’s outdoor collection, but works great inside too.

The finish offers a touch of rustic flair to complement our farmhouse sink, and the artistic shape provides interest and excitement. In addition, the bulbs are surrounded by bubble glass to cut down on the glare you sometimes get when pendants have visible bulbs.

Update your lighting

More Statement Pendants


4. Invest in cohesive appliances

This is one update that will not only make you happy, it will also pay dividends in resale. If your appliances don’t match, it’s time for a refresh. There are some new options trending (like black stainless, slate or retro white), however stainless is always a safe bet.

Our kitchen had all stainless appliances, except the refrigerator, when we moved in. We went with this french door model from LG and couldn’t be more pleased.

5. Add a pop of vibrant color and some shine

We’re all about neutral, but a kitchen also needs a few “happy” touches. For us, there is nothing more refreshing and joyful than teal or turquoise blue. It makes us think about the color of the ocean on a glorious summer day.

What is your mood-boosting color? Page through magazines to see what you gravitate toward. Inject that shade into your neutral space for a dose of fun, or change it out seasonally.

We scooped up these fantastic rugs from Target. They are thick and feel great underfoot while washing dishes. The hammered metal bowl and tray add a touch of interest in the corner. If you’re looking for something to add sparkle under your cabinets, you’ll love them. I use mine to store onions or fruit.

Add a pop of colorAdd a touch of shine

Cheerful Accents

Wow… that was a long one! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions about our refresh. As always, I’m happy to help.


  1. Victoria Martin | 14th Mar 18

    Your kitchen is gorgeous!! I love the floors in there!

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Aren’t they interesting? I find it fascinating that the floors in the kitchen are completely different from the rest of the house. You can really tell that back in 1912 when it was built they wanted to use cheaper materials in the kitchen because that was the “work” zone. In fact, our home also has a second “workers” staircase. They sure did things differently back then.

  2. Erin | 14th Mar 18

    Gorgeous! We are going to be repainting our kitchen and I am SO lost for color ideas… I need your magic touch!!!

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Let’s go paint-shopping when we see you guys next time! I usually pick my paint colors based on artwork, or whatever direction I need the kitchen to go. This time, I needed it lighter and brighter. Typically, I bring dozens of paint chips back from the hardware store and tape them up to the wall so that I can assess how they look in all different types of light. Throughout the day, I eliminate those that don’t look right. It’s a crazy process of elimination.

  3. Kristy Bullard | 14th Mar 18

    We need to update our kitchen, but we don’t have a big budget. Thanks for all of your great suggestions! Your kitchen needs to be in a magazine. It’s beautiful!

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Wow, you just made my day! Thanks Kristy, so kind of you.

  4. Josie | 14th Mar 18

    What a STUNNING kitchen! As someone who is looking to buy a home in the next year, posts like these get me so much more excited for the process! It’s nice to know that a room can be completely re-vamped without breaking the bank 🙂

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoy your home buying journey. It is such an exciting time and can be so much fun!

  5. Lisa Rios | 15th Mar 18

    This is an important reminder for me. Sometimes I think revamping my living areas would require hundreds of dollars but it is not always so – mostly the little things can make a difference.

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Yes, I used to think so too. Thankfully, my very frugal husband pushes me to think hard about cost-efficient options.

  6. Luci | 15th Mar 18

    I really love the update. A mostly neutral kitchen and a pop of color is great. That ‘s how I have my kitchen.

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Yes! Neutrals make it so easy to change your mind or update for the seasons.

  7. Karla | 15th Mar 18

    I would like to update my kitchen, but we’re saving our money to travel this year. I just want to say that your kitchen is stunning! Great post!

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Thanks so much!

  8. Megan - | 15th Mar 18

    What a timely blog post – We’ve taken on a flat built in the 1900s, and needless to say there is a lot of updating to do. Good to know the kitchen can be updated cheaply!

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Ooh, how cool! I just love the character and detail of old homes. They can’t be duplicated. Enjoy the process.

  9. Pujarini | 15th Mar 18

    Thanks for the tips. Great advice. Will be implementing some of them right away.

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Glad to help!

  10. Czjai Reyes-Ocampo | 15th Mar 18

    Your kitchen looks lovely! Thanks for the tips, these will come in handy when our home improvement project finally pushes through.

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      How exciting! Good luck with your coming project. I sure love a good transformation.

  11. Corina | 15th Mar 18

    Great advice, Love your kitchen! I especially like pendants, made sure I have one in mine!

    • laveremis | 15th Mar 18

      Thanks so much! I think pendants are like a kitchen’s jewelry–the perfect finishing touch.

  12. Tara | 15th Mar 18

    I really loved this. they might seem like small changes but they really do make the biggest difference!

  13. Elizabeth O | 15th Mar 18

    You provided some really great ideas to spruce up a kitchen space on budget. I like the idea of neutralising the colour but adding a pop around!

  14. Gladys Parker | 15th Mar 18

    I love what you have done to your kitchen! My house is very old and was separated into an up and down apartments (the reason I have it – my 34 year old special son lives upstairs.) Anyways I always think there is nothing I can do, although, now I am thinking maybe paint and counter changes.

  15. Preet | 15th Mar 18

    You have a beautiful kitchen. We are planning to update our kitchen and washrooms this year. This is a great way to start with the kitchen, thank you for the tips and ideas. A pop of vibrant color and some shine would really make the finish perfect.

  16. Jennifer | 16th Mar 18

    These are great updates that are modern, yet will last a while. And I love the neutral palette. Pretty! 🙂

    • laveremis | 22nd Mar 18

      Thanks Jennifer– Yes, traditional with a touch of modern. That’s what I go for every time!

  17. Lyosha | 16th Mar 18

    So true. Showing some hardware, changing lights and linens is a great way for opened kitchen. In my case it’s hard because it’s practically empty: all of items are put into special spots all covered and unseen.

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