Simple Changes, Major Impact: 5 Kitchen Makeover Ideas for Less

Liza Riguerra
Mar 5 · 3 min read

Did you know that the typical price of a full kitchen renovation in the San Francisco Bay Area ranges from $75,000 to $100,000 (based on If a full-on remodel isn’t currently in your budget, there are other, less expensive ways to improve the look and functionality of your kitchen. Here are some smaller scope project ideas that have big impact without the hefty price tag.

  1. New hardware and fixtures. Replacing dated 80s cabinet handles to a more modern finish such as satin nickel, satin brass, or matte black can immediately transport your kitchen into the 21st century. Ideally, the finish of the handles should coordinate with other metals around the kitchen, such as the faucet or light fixtures, meaning you may want to update these items simultaneously. Besides updating the finish, consider other modernizing touches such as a faucet with a pullout sprayer or touchless sensor for added convenience.
Dramatically improve the functionality of cabinets with roll-out shelving. Photo courtesy of The Container Store.

2. Roll-out shelves and storage organizers. Upgrading to roll-out shelving in your base cabinets and undersink cabinet can dramatically improve the functionality and the capacity of your kitchen storage, making your items easier to access. Look for roll-out hardware with heavy-duty, full extension glides, allowing the shelves to pull out as far as possible beyond the cabinet box. In addition, outfit your new shelves, as well as your drawers and upper cabinets, with storage organizers such as clear bins, utensil compartments, spice inserts, lazy susans, etc., to take advantage of every inch of storage space.

3. Paint or paper the walls. Changing the wall color will immediately spruce up a tired kitchen. A light, neutral color will make the space look clean and bright, or paint a bold, unexpected hue to create a fun accent wall. Whatever color you choose, purchase paint with a slight sheen (such as eggshell or satin) to better allow for wiping and scrubbing. Similarly, wallpapers made of vinyl are more durable in the kitchen than those made of paper.

4. Install a new backsplash and/or countertops. Backsplashes and countertops are the largest, most visible surfaces in your kitchen, so if they’re dated, chipped or stained, your kitchen’s appearance may suffer. Using tile on the wall is the traditional backsplash method, but try creating a durable and unexpected look using more unique materials such as a custom fitted sheet of glass or stainless steel sheet metal. For countertops, engineered quartz is wildly popular, and for good reason. Not only is it extremely durable, it requires minimal maintenance and comes in a wide variety of looks to suit your design — from clean, uniform colors to impressively realistic-looking stone veining patterns.

5. Update your cabinets. Cabinetry typically takes up a lion’s share of a kitchen remodeling budget. If your existing cabinet boxes are in good shape and function well for you, refacing them is an appealing way to rejuvenate the look for less money. According to Patrick Keane, owner of Keane Kitchens in Belmont, “cabinet refacing is the most cost-effective way to bring a new look to your kitchen.” When refacing, you replace the cabinet doors with new doors and, if necessary, install new wood or laminate over the existing cabinet box. Another option is to paint or restain existing cabinets. Painting your cabinets can be a DIY project for those who are handy, but it’s essential to clean and prep the cabinets properly beforehand to ensure a successful outcome. If you’re not up for painting or plan to do more complicated refacing, hiring an expert may be a better option.

Keep in mind that there are contractors who specialize in mini kitchen remodels, meaning you can get professional help while also staying within a reasonable budget.

Riguerra Design is an innovative, award-winning design firm that has helped many clients create their dream homes. Connect with her on Houzz, Twitter, and Instagram.

This article is also published in The PILOT, the monthly publication of the Redwood Shores Community Association (RSCA).

Liza Riguerra

Written by

Owner of Riguerra Design, an interior design firm. A Techie Meets the Arts. Best of Houzz 2016–2018. NKBA Northern CA Kitchen Design Winner.