10 Budget Ideas to Update Your Kitchen

by Susan Serra, CKD

Today I am thrilled to welcome our HomeWorkshop.com Kitchen Design Expert and Contributor, Susan Serra, CKD. Known to many as “The Kitchen Designer” for her popular blog, Susan is an award-winning Certified Kitchen Designer, with a national clientele.

I believe in changing my kitchen (or any) interiors every once in awhile to suit my moods or a new point of view. I don’t believe in the philosophy that when a room is done, it’s “done.” How boring! I’m yawning already just thinking about it. Seasons change, styles change, we change, and we crave renewal. That’s a healthy thing.

Kitchens can seem virtually impossible to “change”, not to mention, change on a budget. Cabinets are permanent as are countertops and appliances. Makes it a bit challenging. Following are some innovative and creative ideas to change your daily life in the kitchen from ho hum to ahhhhh!

Susans Previous Kitchen

1. Do you have glass wall or tall cabinets? Paint the interiors of the cabinets. “But, they have a beautiful factory finish on them that matches the doors!” My reply is “And?” Go ahead, seek out a beautiful raspberry color, a soft umber, bright blue or whatever suits your fancy. Sponge paint, rag roll, stripe it, anything. In no time flat, your kitchen will be transformed. A huge bang for the buck.

2. Add a little luxury appliance. I’ve just added a hot/cold filtered water dispenser by Insinkerator. I don’t know how I lived without it. From cold water drinks to couscous in 7 minutes flat via immediate hot water, it’s a time saver and a super efficient energy saver.

Ballard Designs Chair Cushions3. Think fabrics! How are your chair pads looking? A bit worn? I know, you haven’t changed them in 5 years. There are SO many great chair pads to be found virtually anywhere, especially online, in every color and style imaginable, whether French inspired, natural themed, soft or bold. Take a look and you’ll be surprised how excited you’ll be over chair pads, I promise.

4. Do you want/need a new kitchen and the time isn’t right anytime soon? Get a few interior storage aids for your cabinets to make your wait more tolerable. Just remove your adjustable shelves, get out a screw gun and install. You’re done and your kitchen life is changed for the better. Trust me.

boontje fixture5. The lighting fixtures in your kitchen were meant to be temporary 10 years ago, I know that’s true. I cannot begin to tell you how many incredible and reasonably priced choices there are for lighting fixtures. Some of the least expensive fixtures are shown in the very coolest design blogs.

6. Comfort and color can bring two very good things to your kitchen by adding a rug in your work area. Whether fabric, chilewich, gel pad, rag rug or other, your kitchen will feel warm and comfortable. A rug makes an important design statement on several levels…texture, color, proportion, STYLE.

swedish rug7. We always see hardware in a list like this, and it’s true, it’s one of the very best ways to change your kitchen into whatever theme you want. Hardware is jewelry, I’ve always said. Go express yourself and get new hardware. I know you’ll be so happy to see new hardware on your doors every time you enter the kitchen.

8. Remove a couple of cabinets and add shelving. Is your kitchen a little confining? Adding shelving will open up your kitchen visually in a significant way, even by removing just one or two cabinets. Get pine shelving, paint or stain it and use it for cookbooks, dishes, glasses, baskets or collectibles. I’ve lived with open shelving for years and LOVE it. This got me thinking…I’m recently moved into a new home with a 20 year old kitchen. This weekend’s project is “rip down the corner cabinets!” Don’t want to remove the cabinets? Remove the doors and touch up the hinge holes.

9. Assess your accessories. One of the easiest and most creative elements to change. Take a fresh look at your tried and true collections. Then, remove them! Forage into any room of the home, including your living room and steal art, good art, good dishes, good collectibles, and create a new look. Watch your proportions…too small items just don’t look good on high shelves…if you think an item is too large for the space, it probably isn’t. Arranging accessories can take hours and hours. Try different looks, different positions of items. Pay attention to color and texture too. Step back, judge and tweak.

10. Make yourself a cup of coffee, tea or other favorite beverage. Relax and admire a job well done and enjoy your updated kitchen.

My most important message is to express yourself. Take risks, take your time, experiment, think, move things around until it feels just right, and it will.

the kitchen designerSusan Serra is a CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer) is an award winning designer and the principal of Susan Serra Associates, Inc., for nearly 20 years.

Susan’s design work is widely published in online and print shelter publications and she is a frequent source for the media on kitchen design issues.

Susan’s blog “The Kitchen Designer” is the most read blog authored by a professional kitchen designer.


What’s the best budget improvement you’ve made to your kitchen?

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5 Comments for “10 Budget Ideas to Update Your Kitchen”

Some great tips! I change out the cushions on the chairs in my dining room (which has a doorway in the kitchen), but my kitchen chairs are the ones where you can remove the seat and add fabric.

Once when I was bored with just the fabric, I found all these great trims I loved, but couldn’t figure out how to use. It turned out they were the perfect length to go around the seat, and they add the bit of whimsy I like to slip into my decor.

Thanks for the GREAT inspiration from this article! Regarding a room, my old kitchen, that I’d given up on. My favorite was to accessorize the ledge over my kitchen sink that has held the same colored bottles for as long as we’ve lived in this house. Now I want to empty it, clean it up, maybe even PAINT that little ledge a bright color….then DECORATE it! What about a blue ledge with my cream pottery vase collection? Or a golden yellow with only cobalt blue glass bottles? Or a deep lavender with all my Mom’s old silver pieces? THANKS for a new way to enjoy my many hidden away collections!


Susan has the best ideas, doesn’t she? And she makes me feel courageous to do things like grab a brush and paint over the “factory finish” on my cabinets.

And I love your idea of freshening up the seat cushions with trim. There is always a place for a little whimsy, yes?

See you around the blogoshpere,
— Kathy

Hi Casey,

I know what you mean; when a room gets old and tired, it does make you feel like giving up. But this is good inspiration to jump right in and breathe new life into the space.

Even if it’s just your ledge, a new color and display will freshen it up and make you smile when you do the dishes (is that possible?). LOVE the deep lavender with Mom’s silver idea — break those things out of the cabinets and let them shine!

Thanks for popping in,
— Kathy

Another easy change can be a new backsplash. If you’ve got something super-special like custom-painted or glass tile you probably want it to stay, but for those of us stuck with paint, wallpaper or plain tile, it’s not that hard to repaint, rip off paper and replace with tile, or add ceramic paint or transfers to existing plain tile. There are lots of possibilities.

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