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.

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 cabinets


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

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 kitchen moldings

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.

Do you know the awkward space that’s on top of kitchen cabinets that no one really knows what to do with except for add 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 plate racks

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. Wayfair is my GO TO for kitchen hardware. It’s where I got the crystal drawer pulls for this kitchen. You can see them here. The crystal knob came from Lowe’s.

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 love with your kitchen all over again. 🙂

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


  1. Image for Kris Kris

    We renovated our kitchen four years ago and yes, I do love my kitchen. While we were renovating, I took the opportunity to reimagine where I would store my stuff, getting rid of things in the process. Sometimes I have a tendency to put things somewhere ... anywhere .... just to get them off the counter, but it isn't always the best plan. Looking back, that was an absolute freebie in terms of making my kitchen more usable and one I would highly recommend. The other inexpensive idea that made a big impact was to add under-cabinet lighting (actually, we need to replace one of our lights--that's how much we have used it!). SO much easier for my middle-aged eyes to read recipes and work in the kitchen and it looks pretty, too. BTW, for those of you with ugly cabinets from the 50s or 60s which can't really be updated by paint, I feel your pain!


    Such great ideas! We plan to make some changes to our kitchen -will have to use some of your ideas!

  3. Image for Jan Jan

    Thanks for all the great tips. Where did you get the basket tray, (for lack of a better word), on your island? I've been looking for something like that.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Jan  I got it from Hobby Lobby several years ago!  It's one of my favorite things in my kitchen! Happy day! karianne

  4. Image for Karen Karen

    Hi KariAnne, What did moulding did you use to hide the seam between the cabinet and plywood? The best idea ever!

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Karen, It was just a picture molding from Home Depot. It's in the decorative molding section! Hope this helps! karianne

  5. Image for Deanna Day Young Deanna Day Young

    I do love my kitchen with black and while checkerboard tile, black countertops, white cabinets and stainless steel appliances. I love the yellow walls and the pops of red in the area rug and the tea kettle. I love the half moon window on top of the full window with the white wooden blinds. BUT I feel like it needs a gooooooood cleaning. The white cabinets need to be scrubbed. The canister lights need to be cleaned. And I purchased a 3-D bicycle for my wall along with some wall words about life being a journey. I am planning to take down the old decor on the big wall and redo it with the bicycle and some "journey" sayings and travel pictures. I also keep my table set with bright colors and change that out every couple months. The things I need to do to LOVE my kitchen again sounds to me like some elbow grease and time. Thank you for having me do this exercise. I've been putting off knowing what I need to do and you have inspired me!! Thank you!!

  6. Image for Amy Amy

    Beautiful! This kitchen is a dream! Our kitchen is in desperate need of a facelift to catch up with the rest of the house. Love the dish rack on the wall!


    Hello Karianne, I so hope someday to make your recipe plate wall. Do you recall what font your friend Greta Used? Thank you & have a great summer.

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