How to Update Your Kitchen On a Budget

Whenever I walk into a home with a bright, white kitchen—big or small–I’m almost always in love. Call subway tile basic, but it’s cheap and feels bright and clean. And as you see in the photos above, it can completely transform the room most say is the heart of a home.

Whether you’re in the market for a new (old) home, need to update your current home, or are wondering if you should update before selling (the answer is an easy yes), this post is for you. Let’s talk about how this kitchen was transformed into a bright and gorgeous space for less than $2000 including supplies and labor.

After seeing the updates Conor made on his latest listing, I had to share a before and after, because this looks like a brand new kitchen. He hired someone to take on the work for his client but if you’re handy and like a project, you could always save a little by painting the cabinets yourself, making the project even more budget friendly.

If you’ve never done tile work yourself or aren’t that handy (like yours truly), I’d leave that to a professional. If you’re planing on listing your home for sale, find the right realtor–chances are they might have contacts for a handyman, painter, contractor or anyone else you may need and they can also give you advice on where to spend your money to get the best return on your investment.

Project details / sources

The backsplash including all materials and removing the previous tile only cost $625!

The cabinet and kitchen trim is Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore
The walls are Stonington Grey by Benjamin Moore (my pick)

It’s amazing what some paint, tile can do isn’t it?

Conor’s clients updated with the goal to sell the unit. Had this been an update for a client looking to stay or for us personally, we would have switched out the hardware for this, added this faucet, and new lighting.

lighting options


Firefly Pendant

This fixture is $199–one of the prettier and more budget friendly multi-pendant options I've seen.
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Brass Pendant

This one is only $29.99!
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Globe Pendant

$249 and so beautiful!
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West Elm

Trough Chandelier

This one is $399. Also available in brass.
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and some finishing touches

Loom Decor

Flat Roman Shade

I just got this for our kitchen and it really warmed up the space.
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Crate & Barrel

Turner Bar Stool

I put these in Conor's last kitchen and in The Everygirl office.
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Painted Wood Stool

Currently on sale for under $130!
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Striped Rug

A 2x3 rug (under the sin) or runner will add some warmth to your kitchen.
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Whether you’re looking to stay or sell, a simple coat of paint and a few minor updates can add so much to your home. If you’re looking for a realtor in Chicago or help with a project, leave a comment or message me or reach out to Conor here

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  • I really enjoyed this post, Danielle! I think it would be fun to do something similar with other rooms in the house, like bedroom, bathroom, etc. What I really liked is the way this can also be applicable to those of us who rent–maybe not the major changes like the tile but definitely the finishing touches section.

    1. Hi Jessica! I can probably put something together looking at all my rentals but haven’t taken on a project like this one. Will be sure to have Conor document future listings so I can share those updates here though! Any specific Qs you might have? I’d be happy to help!

      1. I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on what changes make the biggest impact in a room (when you’re on a budget). I’m about to move (I rent) and have been itching to make some big changes to my bedroom. I’m in my mid-30’s now but because I spent most of my twenties and early thirties in graduate school, I’ve had most of my furniture and decor since my twenties, and so much of it doesn’t really feel like me anymore (probably because most was hand-me downs and budget pieces). I’m not in a position to replace the really big stuff (like bed, sofa), but would love to update other items to feel a bit more modern and mature (I’ve had the same IKEA duvet cover for YEARS!). What’s worth spending a bit more on (like bedding, decor, accent furniture, lamps, etc)? Which items do you remember buying for your own home (or your home with Conor) where you thought, “now this is definitely me”? If new items need to be accrued slowly, where would you start? What would you hold off on purchasing? Sorry, for the information overload–my questions got away from me!

  • Hi Danielle,

    Love what you/Conner have done with the place. I’m in Chicago as well, looking to make some updates to my kitchen. Any handymen you can recommend? Specifically, anyone you can recommend to install the backsplash?

    1. Hi Hayley, I would check out Angie’s list or even task rabbit to get some quotes and availability. For tile, I usually look online at Home Depot, Carraratiles.com, or visit Tile Discount outlet in Logan Square. Hope that helps!