A Whole New Kitchen, On a Budget

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Image caption: Design experts say painting cabinets is an inexpensive upgrade to make your kitchen look fresh and new.

One of the best ways to increase your comfort and satisfaction as a homeowner – and help ensure a higher resale value when it’s time to sell – is to invest improvement dollars in your home’s most important room: the kitchen. Problem is, it’s also commonly the most expensive space in your abode to upgrade.

A recent survey conducted by Trulia indicates that, among three out of four Americans who have plans to renovate or remodel their homes, the kitchen tops their wish list (chosen by 48 percent of respondents as their renovation room of priority). Yet, these folks are, on average, only willing to fork over a max of $8,879 on home improvement projects. When you consider that the average cost to remodel a kitchen is over twice that amount – around $22,000, per HomeAdvisor data – that budget doesn’t seem like it would make much of an impact.

But with careful planning, for less than $10,000 you can make more significant upgrades in your kitchen than you think, say the experts.

“If you are limited on budget or time, focusing on a modest kitchen remodel is a smart investment. The kitchen is central to any home, and an update will improve the time you and your guests spend in the room,” says Lynette Bruno, vice president of communications and housing economic research for Trulia in San Francisco.

Paula Kinney, lead designer/owner of Love Your Nest Kitchen Design Studio in Euclid, Ohio, concurs.

“Kitchen renovations are one of the few updates to your home that will actually add value and yield a greater return on your investment,” Kinney says.

Trulia’s Design Panel suggests four simple ways to renovate a kitchen for less than $10,000, including painting cabinets, swapping out kitchen hardware, replacing countertops and creating custom pantry storage. Bruno says any of these steps are worthwhile and cost-efficient when you’re on a tight budget.

“Painting kitchen cabinets can be a relatively inexpensive way to make a big impact on your kitchen,” Bruno says. “For example, if you’re hoping to bring light into your kitchen, painting cabinets in a bright white will completely transform the space.”

Dawn Totty, interior designer/owner of Dawn Totty Designs in Jasper, Tennessee, recommends white or pale gray on the upper cabinets to sport a fresh and clean look, and a deeper shade for lower cabinets to add contrast and depth and hide dirt.

Replacing cabinet hardware is another quick and easy kitchen fix.

“Think of your knobs and hand pulls as your kitchen’s jewelry – for very little expense, you can change them out and make those old cabinets really pop,” Totty says.

Jere Bowden, certified kitchen designer with Auburn, Alabama-based Auburn Design Associates, Inc., agrees that replacing your countertops can make a big difference, too.

“Natural stone can be an affordable and attractive option and offers a wide range of looks. It’s a practical choice for ease of maintenance and cleaning, and its intrinsic durability means it will provide lasting beauty for years to come,” Bowden says. “You can choose a nice solid color granite or veined granite countertop darker in tone than your cabinetry for a more contemporary look.”

Other options worth considering include modernizing your appliances and flooring.

“Upgrading appliances like a refrigerator or oven can have a huge visual and practical impact on your kitchen and still be accomplished for well under $10,000. Doing so can streamline your look and save money with energy-efficient options,” Bruno says.

“I would also recommend a new floating floor in a luxury vinyl tile, which is virtually indestructible, easy to install over existing flooring and provides a fresh and clean foundation for your renovation,” Kinney says.

Lastly, be forewarned that it’s easy to go over budget on a kitchen redesign.

“While it’s smart to be realistic about what you can afford, it’s also important to be realistic about what needs to be done and what it will cost to do the job right,” Bruno adds. “Consider the size of your kitchen and what you think could make the most impact, and get estimates from more than three contractors to understand a ballpark cost for the renovation you really want to do.”

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