How to Upgrade Your Kitchen Without Breaking the Bank Simple Fixes Can Make a Big Difference


Whether you’re just tired of looking at the same old cupboards and countertops, or looking to sell your apartment, a kitchen upgrade doesn’t have to require depleting your bank account or taking a second mortgage. Rather, modest and well-conceived changes and upgrades can give your kitchen a whole new look. It depends mostly on what it is you want to change. Here are some things to consider.


Without question, replacing and upgrading appliances is the costliest change you can make. Depending on the size and quality of your appliances, buying a new refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher can run into the thousands. “At the low end, you can put in a new four-piece kitchen—30-inch stove, 16-cubic-foot refrigerator, 24-inch dishwasher, and an over-the-range microwave—for about $1,500,” says Margie Collins, a representative of King Range, an appliance store in the Bronx. “For something a little better quality, the price is more like $2,500-$3,000. Top end appliances can run into many thousands of dollars.”


Perhaps the most visible change you can make is your cabinets. This is a place to make a real impact. In New York City with its notoriously small and often reconfigured kitchen spaces, cabinets and the space they fit into may not be of standard size. And custom cabinets can get very pricey. So one quick fix is to either replace the handles and pulls, or the doors, or both. Additionally, you can simply paint the cabinets for a whole new look and color scheme.

Handle and pull replacements can be found at any home improvement store, such as Lowe’s or The Home Depot. They rarely cost more than $1 per piece, although they can certainly run more if you have expensive tastes. Decorators and kitchen designers suggest you stay with a simple metallic look that goes well with the color of your cabinet such as pewter, brass or stainless steel. If you’re sprucing up for sale, don’t chose something too dramatic. Handles with butterflies on them may not be to the liking of prospective buyers, and something as seemingly insignificant as that may turn them off altogether. According to both brokers and design pros, many buyers today like that “move right in” look.

The next step up is to replace the doors on your cabinets. While many apartments may require custom-made cabinets to fit into a specific space, often the actual doors on those cabinets are a standard size. Doors can also be purchased at any home improvement store. Prices on replacement cabinet doors run from $45 to $57, according to, without labor and equipment. If it’s the look of the wood or your doors aren’t a standard size that’s a problem, consider painting your doors and cabinets. With a little steel wool, sanding paper, good-quality paint, and instructions from your Home Depot professional, you can have a dramatic change in no time—a DIY triumph. Another option is changing the wood panels on your cabinet doors for glass. If your cabinets aren’t neat enough for your friends to look inside, however...go with opaque glass panels!

What Else Can You Do?

Other quick fixes include such additions as a crown molding at the top of your cabinets where they meet the ceiling, a backsplash behind your sink, and fresh window treatments. You can even use your small appliances as accents. Toasters, blenders, mixers, and other small appliances in the same color scheme are a great way to tie together your kitchen's look. New window treatments can really warm up a space. Have only one window? If it’s recessed, try some glass shelves in front of it. They can hold anything from a canister set to plants -- even a tiny herb garden if it’s sunny enough.

A Real-Life Experience

Allison Spitz recently upgraded her kitchen through Ikea. She did research -- and got inspiration -- online via Pinterest and other design sites. She then hired a consultant who specifically designs Ikea kitchens. The consultant charges a fee of about $200 and designs the kitchen based on the customer’s needs and Ikea’s system. Spitz made modifications to the design, and afterwards the consultant put the final plan into Ikea’s system. Spitz then went to Ikea and was able to access her plan directly in the store to purchase what she needed. “I am impressed with the quality, style and design, which exceeded my expectations,” she says.

In the end, whether you are using a particular vendor's system or designing your own changes, upgrading your kitchen is less stressful than you think, and can bring a little freshness to your home.

AJ Sidransky is a staff writer at The Cooperator, and a published novelist.

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  • Great article! Where would one find an Ikea consultant--like the one Allison Spitz used--to help design/customize an Ikea cabinet renovation?