Creative Decorating ShortcutsHappy new week.

You know what goes amazing with a Monday?

A decorating shortcut.

I’m sharing 14 days are full of tips to make your decorating life a little easier.

We’ve discussed the one thing every lamp needs and how to transform a builder-grade door for under $10 and an easy way to makeover furniture and a unique hardware DIY. and budget centerpiece ideas and how to pick paint colors that make your room smile.

And today?

We are taking kitchens and budgets and ways to save money on a renovation.

Here’s an encyclopedia (remember those) of all things budget kitchen remodeling.

Shortcut #7- kitchen remodels

Almost eight years ago my kitchen was nothing but a pipe in the middle of the room and hundreds and hundreds of nails sticking up where we had pulled up layer after layer on the original floor. We were remodeling the house and running out of money.  We started with an original budget and my husband had a detailed spreadsheet, but somewhere along the way, we got derailed.

The train had left the station.

Things that were supposed to cost $2.00, ended up costing $2.50 and all those .50 added up and our budget was limping along and asking for a place where it could lay down and rest.  My kitchen budget got cut in half.  Gone were the marble counter tops.  Gone was the built-in kitchen island.  Gone were the custom cabinets.

It was just me and a stack of laminate counter top samples.

And now?  Years later, looking at my kitchen as I type this post?

I’m so happy.

Because when you remodel a kitchen and the funds are low and you are wondering if your five-gallon bucket can double as a sink, you only really need one thing….

….a little imagination.

Updated kitchen counters and accents

1.  Counter tops

If you can’t afford natural stone, embrace the laminate.

These laminate counter tops are almost eight years old and I still love them.  I tried to get a close-up to show you that they mimic real stone.  They aren’t smooth like older laminate options, instead, they came with a rougher surface with little dents and dings along the lines of the faux stone.

Now there are so many great options for laminate counter tops than when I chose these, including different finishes and counter top edges.  I tried to stay away from a bull nose edging because to me it screamed, I’M LAMINATE.

Some of the best options mimic granite or natural stone or (my favorite) marble.

This is one of my favorites that I pinned years ago from my friend Layla.

Another look at the whole kitchen

2.  Free standing island

I wanted that custom built-in island like I wanted to be Miss America when I was younger.

Neither one worked out.

But what we ended up with is so much better.  Our kitchen island was only $399 from IKEA.

It’s eight years old and still looks like new.  The shelves are covered with a stainless steel liner and the island has a butcher block counter top and a place for stools on the other side.

I also found this great option, too.  It’s a little more stainless and contemporary, but so pretty.

Lots of white makes the space very clean feeling

3.  Add your own glass doors

Here’s a picture from my real life house tour that shows off the top row of cabinets with glass doors.

Cabinets with glass doors like this were super expensive.  So instead?  I simply ordered the shell of the cabinets to match the other cabinets we were installing and then ordered the glass door fronts from a local cabinet maker.

It was literally almost half the cost.

And that little row of glass-paned cabinets makes my inexpensive cabinets look extra custom.

White and steel elements really accent this kitchen

4.  Add in your own architecture

This kitchen has transoms made from old windows.

And painted brick and a recipe wall with a plate rack that we built on a blank wall.

And new decorative door molding.

And faux transom windows in the space.

All you need is paint, caulk, simple molding pieces and a little direction.

You can click on any of the links for the projects.

This hutch is a key element of the kitchen and dining space

5.  Free standing furniture

We wanted to put cabinets on this wall, but it was so expensive.

Like out of our budget kind of expensive.

This kitchen hutch that I found at a yard sale for under $100 accomplished the same purpose for 1/16 of the price.

And I think it looks better and a little more farmhouse.  You can create the same look with bookshelves or hutches or pie safes or even a vintage desk.

All these years later, I’m so happy that we almost ran out of money.  I know that sounds random and Hallmark and rose-colored glasses, but it is so true.  It was a challenge to decorate on a budget, but in the end, our kitchen is unique and wonderful and farmhouse and just like us.

Never underestimate the beauty of a little imperfection. 🙂

PS  And now a word from our 14-day shortcut sponsor.

You can read the reviews of my first book, So Close To Amazing, here.

You can pre-order it here.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Carrie Carrie

    So beautiful. Also love an honest budget story. You are sincere, honest and genuine. Thank you for being So Amazing, Rock Star!!!

  2. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    I think your kitchen is one of the best out there because it is mismatched and put together creatively. Goes to show you don't need lots of money to get a designer look! Love the brick wall, transoms, recipe name it! :) Happy week, friend! Cecilia

  3. Image for Laura @ The Tiny House Farm Laura @ The Tiny House Farm

    WoW! I LOVE that laminate! We have tile and it is over 30 years old. It is in sad need of repair. I really want something that is easy to clean and isn't too precious. But I want something that has some character too. I never thought of laminate! Thanks for the great article. I now have laminate on my radar!

  4. Image for Teresa Teresa

    Your kitchen makes me sigh, Karianne. It's my favorite room in your house, and that's saying a lot because they are all sigh worthy! I am planning a kitchen refresh myself and would love to have an exposed brick wall. How do you feel about faking it? I've seen realistic looking wallpaper, and also that 3D treatment you can do. Any thoughts on this? Will it look too fake? If any of your readers see this, I would love their feedback, too.

    1. Image for Kris Kris

      For whatever it's worth, we had beadboard sheets installed as a backsplash (almost 4 years ago) and I absolutely love it ... still! It's held up well We painted it but didn't seal it--I cook a LOT and am not particularly neat, but it still looks good. I would be hesitant about wallpaper if it's in an area where it might get a lot of steam or food splashing--not sure it would hold up well. Here's the thing I have noticed about tile backsplashes--they go through trends so whatever is hip and current today may look dated in 10 years. KariAnne, we also have laminate which resembles marble--and I love it. I upgraded to a better edging (sorry, can't remember what it's called) and that was a great way to have it look more high-end but still bring in the total to something we could afford. We had to purchase new cabinetry due to the bad condition of our old--our designer told us exactly what you said--don't order glass in the glass in the glass-front models, instead, go to a glass company and have them cut it to size--it's pretty easy to install from there AND you may be able to afford a more "fun" glass rather than just plain ole glass. Thank you for your suggestions! I get frustrated sometimes when I see ideas presented for upgrades--so much of it isn't affordable to the average person (or doesn't seem like the smartest way to spend our money!). You have great ideas for the rest of us who live on a budget.

  5. Image for Nan, Odessa, DE Nan, Odessa, DE

    Thanks for sharing. Makes me want your mismatched kitchen! I hope to try the transom. How high are your ceilings or the height of the doorway? Now, tell us how to paint all this free standing furniture, please. Is it all semi gloss? The same shade of white paint? What paint, type, and color? DETAILS, girlfriend.

  6. Image for Marti Marti

    I so agree with the free standing furniture idea. We tore out cupboards that despite their pricetag, did not hold up and replaced them with two hutches. I love the look, they have a surprising amount of storage, and they were easy to customize!

  7. Image for Jolene Jolene

    Your kitchen looks amazing and very high end! I agree with you--the hutch is so much better than built in cabinets. It has such character and you did a beautiful job with a hundred dollar yard sale find, Inspirational!

  8. Image for Renee Renee

    I'm struggling with my kitchen too. It's 67 years old, with the original 1950s blue and yellow tile countertops, really charming, but showing it's age. I just got a quote from a contractor to add four matching cabinets, add a plug, butcher block on the new cabinets and make a doorway three feet wider. $12,850. Sigh. Back to the drawing board. I think I would be okay with them not matching, but my guy disagrees with me.

  9. Image for Tammy Tammy

    Ordered your book and looking forward to reading it. Love how you do the house on a budget and keep it real. Most of us can relate to it. Your home is beautiful and really enjoy reading your blog.

  10. Image for Jeanne Jeanne

    So what's wrong with random and Hallmark and Rose-colored glasses...absolutely nothing...I love your unique look and the best part is that it is all you...anyone can walk into a designer-designed space...your heart is in this one and that gives it the sparkle. Can't wait to receive your book. :)

  11. Image for Deb Pelton Deb Pelton

    Karianne. Another awesome post! You're right, not having money to throw around like confetti, as some do, is especially helpful in making your home "yours". I love different, I love non-cookie cutter, I love personal. We bought our home almost 40 years ago while my husband was out if work with a check for closing costs that had no green to back it. Oops! However, our landlord decided he owed us money. How much? Exactly what we needed to back that totally rubber check. So, having no money, but great faith, can work. Love you to death. Thanks for many great ideas and lots and lots of smiles. 😊🐝

  12. Image for Julia Julia

    Love your budget story! We have moved into an older smaller home on 10 acres. We started renovations and yes the budget is getting a re-work. Thank you for being you! I am so looking at laminate :) and using a dresser for a kitchen island!

  13. Image for Julie Briones Julie Briones

    Love this post, KariAnne. Great ideas! Love laminate (have the granite look in My Wee Abode), and free standing furniture... again, I have a Hoosier in my kitchen. Love my little island on wheels, as well!

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