Is it best to spend $500 addressing one issue (like the backsplash) or spread that money around? The choice ultimately depends upon how large your kitchen is and what you want to change. Spending $500 on a new backsplash makes a massive difference in a kitchen, but so does spending that money on new flooring or a new kitchen island. Spreading your money among multiple upgrades like new decor, towels or new cabinet hardware can also make a big visual difference.
With such a small budget you'll want to shop at the right places. Look for seasonal sales at your hardware store and visit local salvage yards, many of which have surplus materials from contractors. Paint stores sometimes have odd lots or discontinued colors that they sell at a steep discount. Ask a friend or neighbor if they have tools to lend or share to help you complete your project.
The kitchen backsplash, however small, is a highly visible area. Placed right at eye level, the kitchen backsplash is a great area to refurbish, paint or upgrade. And because it's an area generally reserved for artistic expression, you can use a variety of materials to bring your vision to life. If you already have a backsplash, consider painting the wall above it to make it really stand out. If you are handy, you can use tile (visit a salvage shop for bargains) or locate a stone remnant that fits the area. Larger tile pieces are generally less expensive, and you'll spend less money on grout.
If your cabinets are a decent color, upgrading the cabinet hardware can instantly give them a new look. You can spray paint your existing hardware (remove it first and spray paint outdoors) or find inexpensive new hardware. Stenciling the cabinets, or painting them, may take time but can give a huge facelift to the kitchen. Some home owners even find that removing some of the door fronts and exposing the shelving creates an open look that updates their kitchen. Use those exposed shelves to display decorative pieces or pretty glassware.
Sometimes upgrading the sink and faucet, which can look aged and dirty over time, can give a huge lift and make the kitchen feel cleaner. For an easy DIY, purchase new fixtures that have the exact same size and countertop placement. If you are unsure about your plumbing skills, find a professional plumber on Porch.com who can do the job quickly without leaks or spills.
Countertops and floors can be redone for under $500 if you have a small kitchen. New laminate or stone remnants can be fitted and placed directly over old counters. If you have tile countertops, there is a special paint that you can use to give them a fresh update. If you have wood flooring, consider stenciling or painting it for a fun, retro look.
A fresh coat of paint, even if it's a neutral white, can instantly upgrade the kitchen space. Kitchen walls are usually heavily used and abused with food splatters or greasy buildup. If your walls are particularly dirty, be sure you clean or sand them before applying primer paint. Choose a semigloss finish that is designed for heavily trafficked areas like the kitchen.
A well-lit kitchen is incredibly important. Bad lighting may lead to cut fingers or unattractive food. Luckily, changing out lighting can be relatively inexpensive, even if you need to hire a professional electrician. If your current lights have good "bones," you might be able to simply spray paint the fixture or purchase a new shade. Don't forget that adding new lighting can also be a great upgrade to the kitchen. It's easy to add LED lights underneath cabinets. Not only will you increase the functionality, you'll make your kitchen look instantly larger.
If you don't want to change any of the surfaces (or can't change them), you can actually make a big impact with accessories. When used in the right ways, objects can draw the eye away from older fixtures. Look through your home and gather decorative objects to place in the kitchen. A handful of seemingly random objects, like candlesticks or serving trays, can be given a cohesive look with a coat of spray paint. Hanging a small display shelf is a great way to use vertical space and add decorations. A new floor rug can cover up an unsightly floor, and valances or blinds can help frame an old window.
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