8 Do it Yourself Bargain Kitchen Facelifts

Here are 8 different ideas for updating your kitchen that you can do on your own and save a lot of money doing so.


Matt always says he loves decorating kitchens because there’s no furniture to move around!  What he doesn’t realize is that there are plenty of other projects to keep us busy, and many of them are about creating and highlighting special details in the room.  Details in a kitchen are one of the ways you can make your kitchen better than run of the mill and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg!


Anything from a special wood finish, to interesting hardware and knobs can give cabinets a custom look.  I just love the current trend of mixing and matching cabinet finishes.  This seems a bit easier to accomplish if you are redoing the entire kitchen, but remember, cabinets can be painted, and if you are in the beginning stages of a cabinet redo, consider using two paint colors instead of just one.  Start by selecting a soft background color or a neutral for most of the cabinetry then select an accent color or one that’s a bit bolder to become the “special” part of the kitchen’s décor.  When selecting the cabinets for the accent color, one method is to choose at least three areas, somewhat apart from each other, that appear to make sense.  A corner cabinet with glass doors might be the perfect cabinet to highlight.  A cabinet in the center of a run of several might be appropriate as well.  Another option is to highlight the cabinets under or above appliances.

kitchen3This great kitchen, by KraftMaid Cabinets, shows how pretty it can be to use a coordinating color for the cabinetry on the island.  I’ve seen this done many times and the effect is gorgeous.  Another great detail to add to cabinets is trim molding.  Many times, the top edge of upper cabinets just ends flat.  Imagine how pretty the kitchen would become if there was crown molding there, as in the KraftMaid kitchen, or perhaps a captain’s rail would be a nice addition.  This could be a nice place to add a rope molding in the accent color you’ve already chosen.  These woodwork additions aren’t that expensive, especially when you do the work yourself.  Talk to the professionals at your local home center store for tips on doing any of these projects.


Although kitchen cabinet hardware is kind of an obvious detail, the difference it can make is astounding.  I can’t tell you the number of times Matt and I added beautiful knobs and pulls to kitchens without hardware and our homeowners just can’t believe how much more interesting their kitchen becomes.  It’s a very simple job too, just grab a screwdriver and set aside a bit of time.  Remove your hardware, clean up around the knobs if need be, and replace with hardware of the same type, meaning knob or pull.  You can find really unusual hardware in many home center stores as well as in catalogs.  Just keep your eyes open, hardware can be found in the most unusual places.  We recently redid a nautical kitchen and found the hardware at a boating supply store!  One fun kitchen used small children’s toys as cabinet knobs.  What fun!


Floors are another area of the kitchen that seems to get ignored.  Once the flooring selection is made, look for a way to give it a twist to add even more personality to your room.  Even inexpensive vinyl flooring can be laid on an angle, or inset with co-coordinating pieces.

Or, even easier, throw down a couple of runners or area rugs that bring color, pattern and bit of sophistication to the kitchen.  Keep in mind, the rugs are more than just frivolous accessories, it’s undeniably more comfortable to move around and work in a standing position when your feet are on cushier floors!  This particular rug has a rubber backing so it stays put and doesn’t slide around underfoot.  Keep this in mind when you are shopping for area rugs.  If the backing is fabric, grab a piece of rug hold for safety.

Counters and Backsplashes: 

You may not think that you can update your counters, but Matt has done just that at his previous home.  The counters were in a cream laminate and had some knife cuts and stains on them.  Instead of replacing the entire countertop, Matt added ceramic tile to it.  He used the current countertop as the base and first built a wooden edge all the way around.  He maid sure the wooden edge extended above the laminate the thickness of the tile. He then added the tile adhesive and started placing the tiles.  Of course there is tile cutting, measuring and planning in there that I breezed over, but it is a fairly inexpensive way to get a new counter!


If you have a simple painted backsplash, here is a great place to add some detail and really change the look of your kitchen.  Matt and I have done this project several times and have always loved the results and all you need is some paint and a little creativity.  Basically, we painted tile on the backsplash!  With some tape and a level just mark off and tape the grout lines, assuming the color that is currently there is your “grout” color.  Then, start painting tiles!  We’ve taped on the diagonal for diamond shaped tiles, we’ve painted bold bright colors, and we’ve even used stencils to add decorative tiles to the mix.  It’s a lot of fun and fortunately there isn’t too much surface to cover!  While the tiles are still a bit wet, pull off the tape so you don’t pull the paint film off with it!  You could even paint a special “tiled” design behind your cook top or sink.



We can’t forget about the walls in the kitchen when it comes to bargain facelifts!  I think we all believe that there is nothing that can make a difference more than color and you can get just that with an inexpensive gallon of paint. In this kitchen on the left, red walls with white cabinetry works wonders! Of course paint is just one option.


Matt and I have wall papered many times as in this country kitchen on the right.  We’ve added stained bead board to help create the look of the teak insides of a yacht….


…and even used Venetian plaster in this kitchen, all with great results.


Under counter lighting is all the rage and for good reason.  There is nothing nicer than good lighting when you are trying to read a recipe or pour ½ a cup of milk and actually see the measurement on the cup.  Most lighting in older kitchens comes from above the sink and then from a center ceiling fixture.  This only sends shadows onto the counter.  One way to fix this is to add under counter lighting.  It comes in fluorescent strips that screw up into the cabinets and can be plugged into outlets along the backsplash or hard wired in.  You might try “puck” lights in halogen fixtures that can be mounted to the underside of the upper cabinets as well.  I also enjoy simply adding small table lamps to my counters I have several in my kitchen and have recently added a couple to my mom’s.


Many of the home center stores have lovely new light fixtures that you can purchase for very reasonable prices.  Check them out.  It is a very easy project to change out a pendant fixture and it just might give your kitchen a whole new look!


Updating your windows could be all your kitchen needs.  Sometimes we let the windows go because we aren’t sure what to do with them.  I always suggest layering at the windows so you have options for light control and privacy.  Start with an inside mounted blind or shade, or one that mounts on the trim.

kitchen13This allows all the privacy you will need.  Then, top the shade with a fabric cornice, an awning or any variety of pleated toppers. Remember, if you make your own window coverings its even more economical!


Yes, finally, my favorite part of giving a kitchen a facelift…the accessories!  I find that most people don’t add too many accessories to their kitchen because they think of it as strictly a work area.  Well, on the contrary, we spend so much of our time in the kitchen it should be the prettiest room in the home!  When you get ready to accessorize, gather together items that blend and make a statement like in the picture above of blue items with an olive theme.  Once you spread them around the room, it will tie all the decorating together.


These spring garden accessories are perfect in this warm pink kitchen.  The white cabinets are distressed and together with the flowers, birds and pottery, you feel like you are in a garden or potting shed when in this comfy, welcoming kitchen.

When you have your accessories collected, take some time to consider the arrangement of things.  If you have space above your cabinets instead of a soffit, you have a marvelous place for displaying accessories.  Glass front cabinets require a bit more thought than simply stacking dishes.  And, don’t forget the countertop when accessorizing.  First place your small kitchen appliances, and then surround them with softening accessories!


This contemporary kitchen is well accessorized.  There are items on top of the cabinets…just enough, not too crowded.  The glass door cabinets do hold the dinnerware, but notice how things are displayed.  Less used soup bowls are on the top shelf in plate stands.  The counter holds special salad oils and a cookbook along with herbs and a piece of art in a plate stand in the corner.  Tall items like a piece of art or a platter can hide unattractive outlets.  Accessories are one of the best ways to update a kitchen.  It may have to be done in stages though since accessories can add up!  Visit discount stores in your area and pick up bargains.  No sense paying a lot for items that will be on top of your cabinets and never seen up close…a crack here, a missing piece there…and no one will notice!

Now don’t let all these ideas scare you.  You certainly don’t want to try everything I’ve mentioned, just pick the details that will give your kitchen the facelift you are looking for.  Remember to be true to yourself and your family, not trendy ideas that might not feel right for you but seem like the “thing” to do.  If you stay true to yourselves, in the end you’ll have a kitchen that your family won’t want to leave…and that’s why they call it, “The heart of the home”!



  1. Christie says

    Hello Shari & Matt!
    As usual, great kitchen ideas. You always think so creatively! I miss your tv show terribly (like losing an ond dear friend) and unfortunately, my PBS stations here in Rhode Island do not carry them. Any chance of them picking it up soon? I sure hope so!
    Best regards,

  2. says

    Hi Shari and Matt! Oh, I’m just thrilled to be getting your newsletter and this was packed full of great ideas. Like Christie above says, I miss you two and your great show you had on HGTV. That network has changed so much and it’s not as good as it used to be. You two are just so real and really did give ideas that regular folks could do. Thank you for that! Thanks again for allowing me to receive your newsletter. Pop into my blog for a visit anytime!
    Be a couple of sweeties,
    Shelia :)

  3. says

    I agree wholeheartedly – REALLY miss you on HGTV – they’ve definitely gone downhill. Unfortunately our local PBS (from Knoxville TN) does NOT carry your show so I REALLY enjoy getting your newsletter. Keep up the good work!

  4. Kathy Torres says

    I miss the old HGTV and especially Room by Room. You always gave us ideas that were do-able and affordable. I recently “up-dated” my 12 yr old kitchen with High-definition laminate counters, tile backsplash and new sink. I love it, despite hearing from current HGTV personalities not to use laminate. It comes down to what you can afford. I’ve had numerous people say it looks like granite. I’m very careful and take good care of my investment. Thanks so much for your work and inspiration!

    • Shari Hiller says

      Kathy, don’t let someone tell you not to use laminate. Laminate’s quality has improved over the years and if that’s what your budget allows, then it’s perfect for you! I’m getting ready to build a home in a rural area where the home prices don’t support things like granite counter tops and high end appliances, etc. I’ll be using the best quality I can find in the most reasonably priced products I can.

  5. says

    Hi Shari, I am really impressed with your ideas.Your one by one detail ideas about kitchen furnishing is really innovative and reasonable too.
    Thank you very much for your good suggestions.
    Will look forward to your next post.

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