5 Kitchen Decorating Ideas on a Budget

If your kitchen looks like this, we can see why you're hankering for a makeover.
If your kitchen looks like this, we can see why you're hankering for a makeover.

Does your lip curl every time you walk into your kitchen and behold your outdated avocado appliances? Is your tiny cucina perfect for your needs -- except that you can never seem to find a mixing bowl, ladle or measuring cup when you need one? Do you adore your bright, airy kitchen but the little wooden bowl of fruit you placed on the island only makes it seem empty and sad? Or, maybe you've always been happy with the granite counters and stainless range in your apartment, but your girlfriend is jonesing to give the room a homier feel.

It costs around $35,000 on average to fully renovate a mid-sized kitchen, but a simple spruce up can cost as little as $500 [source: Trattner]. With a bit of creativity and a do-it-yourself mentality, you can easily transform your kitchen from outdated or unadorned into contemporary and well-appointed -- even on a budget. Here are five ideas to spruce up your scullery. First, we talk about choosing a theme.



Scullery Stuff: Choosing a Style for your Kitchen

Walk into any big-box home store and you'll be confronted with a dizzying array of choices: ceiling fans shaped like palm leaves, cabinets made of wood, metal or melamine, and placemats in every shape and hue. When you're on a budget, choosing a décor style at the beginning of your project will help you narrow your choices and spend wisely.

Start by considering your personality. Do you prefer bold colors, pastels or neutrals? Light wood, dark wood, metal or stone? Ornamental accents or simple, clean lines? It may help to rifle through a few magazines and tear out photos of kitchens you like.


Next, consider the limitations of your space. Adding chrome and glass knickknacks will not magically make your avocado appliances appear modern, for instance. On the other hand, those outdated eyesores will shine as repurposed, retro centerpieces for a space decorated in period style.

Finally, explore various decorating styles to find one that fits your personality without being at odds with your space. From traditional to Tuscan, the sky is the limit when it comes to decorating. Once you've selected your style, use it to help you inform the molding, color, storage and lighting choices we talk about in the next pages.


Reface, Refinish and Replace: Transforming Your Kitchen Cabinet Doors

DIY glass panes in your kitchen cabinet doors rock! Just ask this guy.
DIY glass panes in your kitchen cabinet doors rock! Just ask this guy.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Thinkstock

New kitchen cabinets can be big-ticket items in a kitchen remodel. Save money by revamping your existing cabinets:

  1. Add molding for a customized look -- Take your existing, plain-front cabinets up a notch by adding custom molding. First, prep your cabinet doors (sanding or priming). Then, cut, prime and attach your molding with construction adhesive or small nails. Don't skip the caulk; this is essential to making your finished product appear seamless and natural. Last but not least, give the entire cabinet one or two coats of paint. You'll be astounded at the difference.
  2. Add glass inserts -- Glass front cabinet doors are a great way to add a sense of space to your kitchen. Refitting plain-front cabinet doors to accept a pane of glass inserts requires a bit more construction expertise than adding molding, but doing it yourself is completely within reason. HGTV.com has a step-by-step guide to do-it-yourself glass inserts.
  3. Replace cabinet doors -- If the do-it-yourself method doesn't appeal to you, you still have the option of purchasing new cabinet doors rather than buying all-new cabinets. Mix and match solid doors with glass ones for flexible form and function.

Another kitchen decorating trick that will give you a lot of bang for your buck is paint. Get tips on changing up your kitchen color next.



Paint It! Budget Kitchen Painting Tips

One of the cheapest, easiest ways to transform a space is to transform its color. This can be accomplished by changing the wall color, the cabinet color or simply by adding rugs, accessories and other color accents.

There's a lot to consider when you're choosing a new color scheme for your kitchen. First, how do you want the space to feel? Welcoming? Posh? Stunning? A lot of research has been done on the effect of color on mood. In general, blues are calming, while reds are more energizing [source: Arango]. Also, the way we feel about color is subjective. If we spent a lot of happy times in our aunt's celery-colored kitchen, we may be drawn to a pallet of soft greens.


Next, the décor style you've chosen will have a big impact on the type of color you select. Country décor features soft, muted colors in milk-paint finishes. Mediterranean styles are inspired by the sea and sky, as well as by the terra cottas, lavenders and yellows found in nature. Modern style, on the other hand, uses a neutral, often white color palette with sleek, polished finishes.

Kitchen cabinet and paint upgrades provide the more dramatic foundations for a kitchen decorating project. Next, we look at how decluttering your space can immediately elevate it from amateur to awesome.


Declutter It! Budget Kitchen Storage Solutions

Pot racks not only maximize your kitchen space, but they look cool, too.
Pot racks not only maximize your kitchen space, but they look cool, too.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock

If you can hardly see your kitchen counters for the toasters, coffee pots, jars of wooden spoons, racks of spices and stacks of cookbooks, it's time to de-clutter. You'll be amazed at how much larger and more inviting your kitchen will be once the counters are clear.

Start by pulling everything out of your drawers and cabinets. Discard or donate any items that you don't regularly use. Next, map out the most efficient location for each group of items. Then, maximize space with these storage solutions:


  • Roll-out drawers and baskets -- There can be a lot of wasted space in the backs of cabinets. Maximize it by installing drawers and baskets that roll or pull out, making items you've tucked out of the way easily accessible.
  • Tiered cabinet shelving -- Organize your pantry with tiered shelving that puts condiments and cans at your fingertips.
  • Wall- or ceiling-mounted pot racks -- Pots and pans take up a ton of space. Pulling them out of the cabinets and hanging them from walls or ceilings will not only free up space, it will also give your kitchen the look of a true chef's space.

Now that you've selected a style, spiffed up your cabinets, painted your walls and uncluttered your counters, it's time to light your kitchen up. We explore budget kitchen lighting solutions next.


Light It Up! Budget Kitchen Lighting Solutions

Experts agree that when it comes to kitchens, the best type of lighting for the job is "all of the above." Combine task, ambient, accent and decorative lighting to create a space that is both beautiful and functional. Accent lights above the stove show off your backsplash. Task lights below the counters help you keep your eye on the chopping block while also washing the room with soft, ambient light. Finally, decorative lights above the island or eat-in counter will provide an eye-catching centerpiece that will pop against your new paint color and refurbished cabinet doors.

Lighting can be expensive, but you need not sacrifice brilliance just because you're on a budget. Look for single pieces that can perform multiple functions. IKEA, for instance, has some interesting track lighting options that are stylish enough to serve as decorative lighting but flexible enough to allow certain individual lights on the track to be aimed at artwork or other points of focus.


Selecting a décor style, sprucing up your kitchen cabinets, experimenting with paint, streamlining your storage and looking into lighting are just a few of the many things you can do to transform your kitchen from blah to bloom. You can also think about swapping out your drawer pulls and knobs, adding artwork and installing carefully selected accents and rugs.

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More Great Links


  • Better Homes and Gardens. "Update a Cabinet with Molding." (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/walls/trim/update-a-cabinet-with-molding/
  • Flynn, Brian Patrick. "Streamlined Kitchen Cabinet Makeover." HGTV.com. (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/streamlined-kitchen-cabinet-makeover/index.html
  • Haupt, Jennifer. "Kitchen Lighting Design Tips." HGTV.com. (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/kitchen-lighting-design-tips/pictures/index.html
  • HGTV.com. "Style Glossary." (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/decorating/style-glossary/index.html
  • Trattner, Douglas. "Dramatic Kitchen Makeover for $2,500 or Less." HGTV.com. (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/dramatic-kitchen-makeover-for-2500-or-less/index.html
  • Trattner, Douglas. "Make Your Kitchen Look Fab For $500." HGTV.com. (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/make-your-kitchen-look-fab-for-500/index.html
  • White, Ana. "Update Kitchen Cabinets with Glass Inserts." HGTV.com. (Oct. 21, 2011) http://www.hgtv.com/kitchens/update-kitchen-cabinets-with-glass-inserts/index.html