Here’s how to spruce up walls, cabinets, countertops and more in your kitchen without spending a fortune.
By Diane Franklin

The kitchen is often described as the heart of the home, so of course, you want it to look its best. The average cost of a kitchen remodel tops $20,000, however. A daunting price tag like that will give most consumers pause, but rest assured there are a variety of ways you can update your kitchen at a fraction of that cost. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider.

Paint or Paper It First

The most economical way to spruce up your kitchen is to give it a new paint job. Paint will take dingy or tired walls and brighten them up considerably. Some of the most popular colors for kitchens include off-whites, soft yellows, light greens, grays, and taupes. Cooking creates more than usual grease and stains for kitchens than for other rooms in the house, so make sure you use a quality paint that features good washability.

Wallpaper is an excellent way to give your kitchen some personality, and kitchen patterns abound. You can choose from such themes as fruit and vegetables, farm animals, wine bottles, chefs, dinnerware, florals, geometrics, stripes, faux patterns and more. Today’s non-woven wallpapers are easier to hang and remove than products of the past, so don’t let a fear of wallpaper installation deter you. However, if you’re not inclined to hang it yourself, your local paint and wallpaper store can direct you to a professional installer who can do that for you.

Upgrade Cabinets or Countertops

If your cabinets or countertops have a “blah” look, you don’t necessarily have to rip them out and start from scratch. There are cabinet and countertop painting kits from companies like Giani Inc. and Rust-Oleum that extend the life of these expensive-to-replace features. Or you can hire a decorative painter who can come in and work some painting magic to make the transformation for you. You’ll still come out ahead by saving on the tear-out and disposal charges. Update your cabinets even further by adding new hardware.

Add New Details

Often a tile backsplash can add a nice embellishment to the area behind your stove and adjacent countertops. If you want to do an economical backsplash, some attractive peel-and-stick options exist that will save you the cost or the DIY labor of installing real tile. Other ways to upgrade your kitchen include adding a decorative range hood; putting new pendant lighting above your counter seating area or island with decorative globes; and sprucing up windows with new window treatments.

Add a New Floor

Replacing your kitchen flooring may be the most expensive option of all suggested so far, but it may be well worth it because of the dramatic transformation it will provide your kitchen. You can install vinyl tile in a kitchen for less than $1,000; ceramic or porcelain tile for less than $1,500; and laminates for less than $3,000. That still puts you well under the $22,000 price tag for a total kitchen renovation.

Add Your Personality

The best kitchen décors show a little bit of the homeowners’ personality. If you love wine, then wine racks, a wine-themed wallpaper, and posters depicting wine labels may be the best way to display it. If you’re into country chic, then decorate with vintage pitchers, stylized chicken sculptures, and cozy area rugs. Add an appropriate wall saying on the wall in a peel-and-stick or painted stencil.

Showing who who you are is part of the appeal of all decorating, and the kitchen—where the heart of the home resides—is no exception to that rule.