The 10 Best Kitchen Upgrades You Can Do for Less Than $100

published Feb 4, 2021
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Credit: Katie Currid

Kitchens aren’t just for cooking and eating: In many homes, they’re also a homework zone, a home office, board game central, and more. And when you spend that much time in a space, it can start to feel a little stale.

But before you go digging up $20,000 for a full kitchen remodel, consider what you can do with just $100 or less. Home renovators and designers have plenty of ideas for refreshing your space on a serious budget so you can get the most impact for the least amount of money. Get inspired by these ideas, and create a new kitchen look in just a few days.

1. Turn pots and pans into a functional display.

Especially in small kitchens, pans are likely crowding your cabinets and falling all over the place when you open the doors. Instead of shoving them away, turn your pans into art.

One of the most versatile ways to do it is with a wall-mounted rail (or two). Fill it with s-hooks, then hang pots, pans, and other tools so they’re within arm’s reach of where you’ll need them.

2. Repaint your cabinets.

What’s cheaper than a can of paint? Not much, and it makes a serious impact on your kitchen’s look. (It’s environmentally friendly, too, says Jessica Salomone, Principal Designer at Lotus and Lilac Design Studio: Painting and reusing what you have means there’s less headed toward the landfill.)

Of course, this is a big project, so make sure to budget a few weekends for the job. For the best finish, make sure to prep the cabinets by properly cleaning, sanding, and priming them before you start painting.

As for finishes, Terry Koubele, the owner of Five Star Painting, recommends using semi-gloss paint to brighten up a darker space; it’s also a good option for kitchens since it’s easier to wipe clean.

Want a surprising twist on a regular ol’ paint job? Try painting just the edges of doors and drawers in a punchy color.

3. Expose some shelves.

On the other hand, why paint your cabinets when you can just take off some doors? The open shelving trend has taken off in recent years and works well for making beautiful dish displays and for adding visual interest to a row of cabinets. Regan Mauck of The Blooming Nest took the plunge in her own home, taking off the doors of her cabinets before painting them inside and out and adding some chunky new shelves.

Of course, you can skip the paint altogether, and use dishes and plants to add interest, like this savvy renter did.

Credit: Katie Currid

4. Get creative with the backsplash.

If the idea of hiring someone to create your dream subway tile backsplash look is making you (and your wallet) squirm, there may be a better way. “A peel-and-stick backsplash is a great way for DIYers and renters to upgrade or style their kitchens,” Salomone says. This cost-effective and low-commitment option may even be less than $50, depending on what style you choose, with options that look pretty convincingly like ceramic or even marble tile.

Of course, you’re not limited to tile backsplashes, faux or otherwise. Peel-and-stick wallpaper in a whimsical pattern would make for a fun change-up, too — or you can give bare walls a simple swap with just a quart of paint.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

5. Replace your faucet.

This is a relatively quick way to up the aesthetics and the function of your cook space. Choose a faucet with a high arch and a pull-down sprayer, and you’ll modernize the look of your kitchen while also making washing dishes a breeze.

Credit: Madison Bess

6. Change the lighting.

If you are living with whatever lighting came in your kitchen when you bought it, it may be time to consider if it really goes with your style, and the look you want in the kitchen. “Changing your island lighting to updated pendants will make a big difference in the space,” Salomone says.

You can find plenty of fixtures for $100 less at big box stores, but it’s also worth getting a little creative to DIY statement piece for less. For instance, the dining nook in this boho-style kitchen features a pendant light made from a pendant light kit and a rattan basket.

7. Add decals to your cabinets.

If you’re nervous about painting cabinets — or you’ve got a strict landlord— reach for a less permanent change. Vinyl decals or peel-and-stick wallpaper can add a little whimsy to plain cabinet fronts.

Credit: Sylvie Li

8. Hack a kitchen island.

A kitchen island doesn’t have to be a major investment — take thiss popular IKEA option comes in at $108, a simple and stylish birch option that matches most kitchens. Add a towel bar and some hooks, and you’ll be essentially adding more square footage to your kitchen.

Credit: Lana Kenney

9. Install hooks under cabinets or shelves.

The space between the countertop and your upper cabinets or shelves is an underutilized storage haven. To make it work over time, screw small cup hooks into the wood (you’ll likely need to make a small pilot hole first). Then, hang mugs or kitchen tools from them so they’re always at the ready.

10. Cover appliances with contact paper.

Refacing your existing dishwasher or refrigerator with contact paper is an easy and cheap way to get a new look. Choose a plain color for a classic style, or a whimsical pattern to turn your appliance into a showpiece.