Design a Stunning Kitchen (on a Budget)!

To be honest, I really don’t know how much we ended up spending on our kitchen.. Good thing my husband didn’t marry me for my ability to track expenses on an Excel spreadsheet! We did projects in our kitchen slowly over about 6 months. I was on an 18 month maternity leave (Yay Canada)! when we did our kitchen projects, so we had a very small amount of money coming in, yet we were able to complete this transformation with using just a little bit of our savings. If I could guess, I would say we spent approximately $10-15K CAD (10-5K in upgrades through the Builder, and 5k in things we did ourselves).

If you don’t like reading long blogs, here is a very quick summary of my FIVE (5) tips to design your kitchen on a BUDGET :

1. When buying new-build, use the (sometimes) INCLUDED upgrades to your advantage

2. Allow yourself 6 months to a year to finish a bigger project. Tackle smaller projects within the big project individually so you can pay down bills before moving on to the next project

3. Always keep an eye open for sales. If you know you will soon change out light fixtures, pick out which ones you want, then watch for coupon codes and sales, such as black Friday

4. Do you like designer items, but not the price tag? Keep note of key words and plug those into google to find knock offs (or “dupes” as I like to call it) for substantially less money! I was inspired by Jillian Harris’ kitchen, in particular those huge oversized lights! But her pendants were $1700 each! I found dupes for under $300 – They are linked at the bottom if you like this style!

5. Do as much as you can yourself or enlist in the help of a handy family member/friend
. Labour is expensive!! I find family members are *usually* willing do things for a few drinks and a meal!

Now, for those of you who like a lengthly read, grab yourself a cup of tea (or a Diet Coke) in my case, and read ahead!

We purchased this home through a Builder, so we had the advantage of getting to choose the layout and finishings ourselves. After we took possession of our home, the changes were more about customizing the kitchen to our exact taste. We changed the things that we either couldn’t get from our Builder, or the things that were more economical to do ourselves (i.e., countertops, backsplash, upgraded fixtures and hardware).

This is what the kitchen looked like a few weeks before we moved in!

I TOTALLY understand, not everyone buys their home from a builder and unless you are lucky, getting the exact layout and colour cabinet you want in your home before you move in might not be an option. We are actually in that situation RIGHT NOW in our new home which we bought as a resale. Our current kitchen is in the dreaded colour.. BROWN! We haven’t made any changes to our new kitchen as we’re waiting till I’m done (my second) maternity leave. As soon as I go back to work I will be pushing to start the transformation as soon as possible!

If you HAVE purchased a home from a Builder, here are a few tips for getting the prettiest kitchen on the block, in the most economical way! :

1) Plan to spend most of your money designated for upgrades in the kitchen

If the kitchen is important to you and where you intend to spend most of your time, plan to spend most of your upgrade budget in the kitchen. You will get the best resale value by doing this and you are probably going to enjoy your home more as well!

2) Upgrade your cabinets

It’s more economical to get nice cabinets form the start vs getting cheap plastic cabinets and replacing them all down the road. The difference between standard cabinets and upgraded cabinets is so obvious (depending on the builder of course). No matter how many other upgrades you add to your home, a kitchen with plastic cabinets with bumpy texture is not going to feel custom or luxurious!

3) Upgrade your cabinet package (if this is an option)

In our first two homes (both new-builds), we paid more for a package that included a few extra things (my favourite and what I miss most in our new house, was the inclusion of pots and pans drawers)! We also had to pay a little extra for the builder not to install cabinets in the space above the stove. A custom hood fan over the stove or even chimney fan looked nicer in my opinion than cabinets with the Builder-grade hoodfan. This wasn’t a very expensive upgrade and it saved us the work of fixing the cabinets (as my understanding is, the cabinets wouldn’t be finished on the sides if we had not paid for the cabinet to be removed).

We bought our own hood fan after we closed rather than going with something from the Builder (which would have been overpriced)! I would have loved a custom wood hood fan, but it wasn’t in the budget, so we got a chimney fan from Costco! I think it was around $200 which to me was the best price for the look of the fan (and the reviews were good too)! MONEY SAVING TIP: Something we found out later on because we did not realize is sometimes you can get a deal on a hood fan if you buy it with your other kitchen appliances (kitchen, stove, dishwasher).

4) If you have an island, move your kitchen electrical over the island for future pendant lights

It was a tonne of money to have the builder add extra electrical to over the island on top of the existing lighting in the kitchen. And it was even more to buy pendant lights from the Builder and them install them. If the Builder allows you to to choose the lighting location of the standard INCLUDED lights, just move your lights above the island! Because we had our standard “boob” lights put in over our island, all I had to do was order my pendants from Wayfair after we moved in and it was an easy switch. We didn’t really miss having extra lighting where the “boob” lights would have typically gone and this way we didn’t have to move the electrical somewhere else and cover up the original lighting spots. My husband, Eric, is an electrician so he can switch lights quite quickly, but it isn’t all that difficult if there is already an existing light to replace and you don’t need to move the location of the light.

If you are able to do the above things, you should have some good bones to work with! If you are buying a home resale, the obvious for doing a quick renovation (or customization) on a budget, is to try and find something with a layout you like, so the changes required are mostly cosmetic and can be done yourself!

Here are my tips for customizing your kitchen when you take possession of your home regardless of whether you bought resale or designed your home with a Builder

1) Change out the hardware!

My first tip for customizing your kitchen after you move in is to change your hardware (this is assuming you don’t like the existing hardware)! When choosing the hardware for our kitchen through our Builder, there were standard options and slightly nicer upgraded options. I didn’t love anything! MONEY SAVING TIP : Sometimes the Builder will give you a refund for the hardware you didn’t get (ours did not, but a few friends who bought with other Builders were given this option)

If you are not sure whether you want knobs or handles etc, you can ask the builder to NOT add any hardware. This gives you the freedom to choose whatever you want and you won’t need to worry about the holes lining up since you will be drilling the holes yourself to accommodate the exact hardware you find. I knew I wanted knobs on the cabinets and pulls on the drawers so I asked my Builder to omit the hardware (as they were not able to drill holes for the cabinets and leave the drawers untouched)

I will change the hardware eventually on the cabinets on our new home, but as before mentioned, they were brown and no hardware will make me love them – LOL So I would like to paint them white first. We went with these gorgeous and well-priced knobs in our last house in polished nickel, and I defiantly would choose them again! MONEY SAVING TIP: Rejuvenation always has sales on their hardware! The customs (if you are shipping to Canada) is also include in their price so there is no surprise customs bill!

2) Install countertops yourself (or through a contractor) unrelated to the Builder. Remove the old countertop yourself for additional cost savings.

If you go with a Builder and they charge an arm and a leg for quartz/granite, like most do, coordinate the installation yourself after you close on your home. This is the same for buying resale. If the home comes with cheap countertops or colour you don’t like, changing them out will make the kitchen more your taste. Shop around and ask for recommendations in your area. We hired a company called City Home Granite to install our quartz counter. Not only was this a few thousand dollars cheaper than going with our Builder’s quartz, but there was also way more selection. We went with a very white quartz with grey veining that looked way closer to marble than any of the builder’s options! MONEY SAVING TIP: We saved a bit of money by removing the countertops ourselves (as the company charged to remove and dispose). Eric also installed the faucet himself (with help from my Grandfather) so that saved us the expense of hiring a plumber!

3) Install a backsplash, preferably yourself or with the help of a skilled family member

Our final task was installing the backsplash. I found the most stunning backsplash from Lowe’s in a marble subway tile. I loved this tile so much, I’m actually considering buying it again for our current house! MONEY SAVING TIP: This might be an obvious one.. but We also bought the tile when Lowe’s was having a sale on this particular tile, and I’m pretty sure they had a deal where if you bought online, you got another discount! We bought ourselves a tile cutter in our previous home as we installed the backsplash in that home as well. I’m pretty sure that was the only tool we needed. We were able to get the backsplash up in a weekend, even with our 5 month old. I don’t know how much it would cost to have these professionally installed, but I think we saved money doing it ourselves. Although Eric would disagree because he didn’t feel he did a very good job. I think that is one of the major problems with doing projects yourself. It could look perfect to everyone else, but because you did it, you notice all the tiny little mistakes you made! Eric claims we are hiring someone “if we ever” put a backsplash in this house, however I’m definitely going to convince him we can do it ourselves!

That’s it for my tips! It is obviously easier to achieve your dream kitchen if you able to design the bones yourself (through a Builder). It is also easier when you can do things slowly allowing yourself to save up for each change. And of course, plan out what you need to buy and always watch for sales! Once we start construction on our new kitchen (hopefully soon), I will fill you in on how to tackle a kitchen upgrade when you have a kitchen that is not your style at all and a little more work is required!


Pendant lights
Marble Backsplash
Tea towels

Thank you for reading!

*This post may include affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog!!

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