Did you know that not all kitchen decorating needs to be expensive? Here are some simple tips and ideas on how to update a kitchen on a budget.

Kitchens can be a little overwhelming. You want to have a kitchen you love, but you don’t know where to start. We updated this kitchen on a budget with these simple projects and ideas.

how to update a kitchen on a budget

Can I ask you a question?

Are you friends with your kitchen?

You know.

Do you hang out and share kitchen secrets and drink coffee together and watch the dishwashing soap bubble?

I want you to try something today. Go into your kitchen and look around. Yes. Walk into the kitchen and look at it closely. Walk it once. Walk it twice and make mental notes.

And then?

Make a list of five things that you LOVE about your kitchen and five things that you wish you could change. You have just discovered the secret to kitchen decorating. To have the kitchen that you love…

…not everything needs to be changed.

So many times we look at our kitchen and throw up our hands and sigh and wish we could go all Dorothy and click our heels and everything would be different.


Except—just between you and me—if you aren’t happy with your kitchen you probably don’t need to change the entire thing. There are probably parts of it that you love. Why not keep those and change the rest?

Here are some simple projects (some take a weekend and some take an afternoon) but all of them are inexpensive alternatives to the expensive changes you see in so many magazine kitchens.

These are my best tips for how to update a kitchen on a budget.

how to update a kitchen on a budget molding


Tip number one: add molding

Here’s a simple example of this in our kitchen. See the end of the kitchen island? It has molding in three places:

  1. It has crown molding underneath the countertop.
  2. It has quarter-round molding next to the floor.
  3. It has picture frame molding on the end.

Truth? This kitchen island was built on a wing and a prayer. It wasn’t custom. Just standard build with drawers. And then we made it look custom with custom molding.

Here are some other kitchen molding projects you might want to try:

how to update a kitchen on a budget plate rack

how to update a kitchen on a budget plattters

how to update a kitchen on a budget molding

tip number two: build a plate rack

I cannot stress this enough–if you want to fall in love with your kitchen again, just build a plate rack.

It takes up a lot of space.

It’s decorative and useful.

It’s an easy beginner DIY (especially because you use the back of the wall for most of it).

And the best part? You can build it in an afternoon.

Here’s how to build a plate rack.

And if you are feeling sassy? Here’s how to add a recipe to it.

how to update a kitchen on a budget ideas

how to update a kitchen on a budget tip number three: update the cabinets

This is one of my very favorite tips EVER.

These were just standard kitchen cabinets until we extended them all the way to the ceiling. Here’s what it looks like when we added the molding (it’s not painted in this pic).

Do you know the awkward space that’s on top of kitchen cabinets that no one really knows what to do with except for adding random greenery and stacks of cookbooks? Why not make it go all the way to the ceiling.

And in cabinet news:

how to update a kitchen on a budget cabinets

tip number four: change out the hardware

I know this seems so simple, but sometimes this can make such a big difference.

You can find all kinds of reasonably priced hardware online. Amazon is my GO-TO for kitchen hardware. Just like the crystal drawer pulls for this kitchen. You can see them here. And these amazing crystal knobs.

If you are wondering how to update your kitchen on a budget and you don’t have the budget for hardware?

Why not spray paint them?

Here are some of my best tips for spray painting.

You could also make your own hardware from spoons.

Here’s how I made my cabinet handles from spoons.

how to update a kitchen on a budget hutch

how to update a kitchen on a budget tip number five: paint a piece of furniture

If painting the cabinets is too much commitment (I get it–painting cabinets can be a little scary) why not just add a hutch or bookshelf to your space and paint it instead?

This gray hutch that I bought at a yard sale years ago for $75 provides great storage and fills up the wall with a little color with about 1/64 of the commitment of painting the cabinets.

I get asked all the time what color it is. It’s painted mostly SW Mindful Gray.

If you are looking for a good gray paint? Here are some of my favorite grays for any project.

Looking for a farmhouse hutch like this and you can’t find one?

No worries.

We made our own. Here’s a simple project to make any hutch into a farmhouse hutch.

You could also transform a thrift store piece with this simple faux finish.

tip number six: change out the barstools

Looking for an easy way on how to update a kitchen on a budget?

Why not change out your barstools?

I just changed out the barstools in our kitchen. I had white barstools from IKEA (that I loved and were SO easy to clean), but that was a lot of white in an already white kitchen. I wanted to warm up the kitchen area just a little, so I found these wood barstools.

I looked at these first (which I loved, too). But then? I bought these They were half the price.

They are super sturdy and come in tons of different finishes.

tip number seven: small kitchen projects

Sometimes it’s just a small project in the kitchen that makes a difference.

It doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Just a little project to make you fall in love with your kitchen again.

Here are some of my favorites:

And if you only have five minutes for a SUPER budget update for your kitchen?

All you need to do is cut some branches from your yard.

Put them in a glass vase on your counter.

It’s such a simple tip.

And it’s free.

And chances are that one small change…

…will make you fall in love with your kitchen all over again. 🙂

PS Let me know if you need any sources for the kitchen.

For example, I always get asked about the runner.

You can see it here.

disclosure: affiliate links are used in this post. If you purchase something through my links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Thistlewood.

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  1. Image for PJ PJ

    Thanks, KariAnne. It is that time of year when I want to tweak my home and, especially, my kitchen for the warmer days ahead. Spring has finally arrived here in Upstate New York...Hooray!

  2. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    I had black cabinets that were beat up from previous owners and I took a black Rustoleum marker to them and it has made me think I have a new kitchen!!! It has done such a great job!!! It is a real lift. It has 4 other markers (in the kit)that you can use on your floors, steps, etc. that will really improve your home!!! I really like what it has done in such little time!!!

  3. Image for Ann C Ann C

    You showed several photos of your platter rack but the how-to was for your plate holder. I love the platter rack with the recipe behind it. I’d like to try myself. Can you share where I can find that post, please?

  4. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Love all your ideas for the kitchen. Actually have done several of them for our place out here. Thank you!

  5. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    EXCELLENT post, KA. Think I need to do just that. TY for your continual inspiration. Seriously. Have a great Mother's Day weekend.

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