This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link we may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. This helps us keep our freebies, content, and tutorials FREE ALWAYS for you! We really appreciate your support!

Kitchen Remodel: How to Make a HUGE Impact on a Small Budget

 How we remodeled our kitchen to make a HUGE impact on at TINY budget of only $500! 

Kitchen Remodel: How we went from UGLY to PRETTY on a tiny budget

Each time I post pictures of my kitchen on our Instagram I always get lots of questions and compliments.  This makes me smile from ear to ear for one big reason.  When we moved into our house I HATED the kitchen.  Forget me telling you the good, the bad, the ugly… it was just the bad, the bad, the ugly!  We knew a kitchen remodel was one of the first DIY tasks on our list, BUT being a young family who had just bought a house, the budget was small.  Really small.

I love DIY projects because it is one of the ways that my husband and I really enjoy working together.  He wouldn’t admit it, but he has a GREAT eye and a fantastic sense of design.  We started brainstorming, researching, and thinking of creative options on how to turn this massive kitchen {where I would be spending a ton of time} into a center-point of our home that we would really love to be in and to look at.

We are living proof that even if your kitchen is HUGE you can remodel it with a very small budget if you aren’t afraid of some simple DIY projects.  We managed to make a huge impact on our kitchen spending under $500!  It’s hard even for me to believe when I see the pictures.  The best part is that beyond the dollars, I LOVE my kitchen.  I used to hate every detail and now I love each and every one.  The bright airy-ness.  The way the colors work together.  The height and structure of things.  How everything melds.

So let’s look at the before and see what needed a makeover and how we changed it on a budget.  I have to apologize for these before pictures.  These were taken before we moved in.  I didn’t have a blog, or even know I one day would.  I lived in a world where I snapped photos quickly and continued chasing my toddler.  Now I take a million and one pictures.  I am concerned with lenses, angles, lighting, and staging.  Then not so much.

My UGLY kitchen before the remodel- See how much it changed for under $500!


Problem:  The colors!  I thought I hated everything.  The cabinets, the counters, the island color etc.  Honestly I dreamed of getting rid of it all, although I knew that was not in the budget.

Solution: We knew the orange-red tone on the island was enhancing all of the oranges in the wood in the cabinets and around the kitchen.  So we went to Home Depot and got a quart of Behr Ultra Premium paint in a neutral color that matched the rest of our home and the first thing we did in the house was to paint that island.  Cost: $15

I was expecting it to look better.  I wan’t expecting the entire kitchen to halt being entirely offensive to my eyes!  Once the orange was gone, the counters stopped glaring ruddy red and looked like a nice neutral gray!  The builder grade oak cabinets, while still not my favorite, were much more subdued and easy on the eyes.  It is important to note that when painting the interior of my home I always think it is really important to use high quality paint.  Especially on a place like the island that will get lots of scuffs from shoes, you want something that will hold up well and clean easily which is why we went with the Behr Ultra Premium.

Kitchen Remodel: How to Paint Cabinets without Sanding

Problem:  The next problem was that even though the cabinets did look much better without the orange, they were still just kind of blah and we were going more for something like beautiful.  They were boring and the definition of baseline builder grade.

Solution:  Since replacing the cabinets for $10,000+ was really out of the question we started researching our options.  Since my husband works {more than} full time and I was pregnant with a toddler at the time, our time was also limited.  This was actually a pretty intimidating project for both of us because 1.  We had A TON of cabinets and were a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work that could take and  2.  We didn’t want to mess up the cabinets trying things and then be forced to spend $10,000 or live with looking at our failure every day.

After dwelling on this quite some time and spending WAY too much mental energy, we decided to take the plunge and go with the Rustoleum Cabinet transformations kit.  The things that enticed us most were that there as no sanding involved (important detail since we had roughly a million cabinets), the fact that the texture of the wood grain can still be seen through the paint, and the vast color palate they offered.  You can see all the colors here.  Again we picked this up at The Home Depot where you will find it in either a light or dark kit in a small or large size.  Once you decide which fits the bill you then take it to the paint counter and have it tinted to the exact shade you picked.  We used Linen.

The project took us about a month from start to finish working on it in our spare time.  Also remember, we have a HUGE kitchen- to give you a reference point, we have 35 cabinets and 12 drawers.  We broke it up into sections and each section took us about a week to complete.  Doing the Cabinet Transformations was time consuming but easy.  As I mentioned before, there was no sanding- a huge selling point for us.  The first step is to wipe the cabinet down with their deglosser.  We found this more like making sure the cabinet was clean, not like stripping it.  Next you apply the bond coat which is basically painting the cabinet.  It will probably take 2-3 coats depending on the color your cabinet is and what you are painting it.  After it is painted you apply the decorative glaze if you want it, which we did.  I wanted it to be as light as possible on the expanse of the cabinet and mainly show up in the cracks and crevices so we spent a lot of elbow grease buffing it out.  We loved how it further enhanced the woodgrain giving the cabinet a more professional feel.  Last, you apply the protective top coat.  Letting each step dry before starting the next was really what lengthened this whole process for us.  Like I said, it wasn’t hard at all, just a little time consuming because of the hurry up and wait all the drying caused.

Using Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations was definitely the biggest bang for our buck in the kitchen.  We LOVE the outcome and I think I have become their unofficial spokesperson.  If only I got commission on all the referrals I have made…. We liked it so much we did both of our bathrooms in dark later on.  As far as wear goes, it is paint, so I think it is important to make sure you have hardware on your cabinets to minimize wear.  I can tell  you that we did our cabinets about two years ago and they still look pretty great.  There are a few knicks and scratches behind the knobs on the most used cabinets, but the majority of the cabinets look just like they did when we finished them two years ago.  We did save some touch up paint for those instances, however since we added the glaze and protective coat it really doesn’t match well.  With it all said and done though, I would ABSOLUTELY without a doubt do it again if we went back in time.  It was the best decision we made in our kitchen.  Cost: $225 {1 large and 1 small kit}

The other major change we made to the cabinets was adding the molding to the top.  I think this got us just to the other side of that builder grade look.  We used 3 inch crown molding that we cut to size and then secured with wood glue and finishing nails.  We did this before painting all of the cabinets so that once the Cabinet Transformations was applied, it looked like it was meant to be that way, not like we pieced a few things together… like we did haha!  We were able to find this in the lumber section of Home Depot and it was pretty inexpensive. Cost: $50

Inexpensive ways to make a HUGE impact in your kitchen remodel

Problem: The backsplash area of the kitchen was covered in lovely peel and stick decals featuring a southwestern motif.  Maybe that wouldn’t be a problem for some… I think decals can be used really well in a home and have an awesome impact when done right, but let’s just face it.  This was not done right.  Those came down, but again we were left with a boring, cheapy, feel to the kitchen.

Solution:  A backsplash was a must.  Tile can be expensive, but it can also be pretty amazingly cheap!  we were able to score this neutral subway tile in the tile section at The Home Depot super inexpensively, which allowed us to splurge a little on the decorative tile to add to the backsplash.  Using them together gave us the high end impact we were looking for but allowed us to spend under $100 for the whole tiling project!

Tiling itself was a very straight forward project and we finished it in about two days.  We decided to stack the tile instead of grouting because we liked the look, and as a bonus saved on the time and cost associated with the grout. Since now then island and cabinets are both neutral colors, the backsplash melded right into the design.  Cost: $100

Problem:  We made a HUGE impact on the kitchen between the cabinets, moldings and backsplash, but we still needed to bring the details together to make it look cohesive.

Solution:  The main issue was the {lack of} hardware on the cabinets and also the faceplates that were stationed every two feet on our backsplash.  The hardware was easy.  Since we have so many cabinets and drawers in our kitchen, we maximized our dollar we used only hardware we could buy in multipacks. This made them substantially more affordable than buying individually. We found the cabinet knobs at Target and the drawer handles at Home Depot.  Cost: $55

The faceplates on the outlets on our backsplash were custom ordered by some previous owner of our home to match the countertops.  Now while this wasn’t bad, we felt like it would just look much better and more cohesive if it was a finish that matched the trim in the backsplash.  We had a quick and easy fix for this though, keeping the same faceplates, but spray painting them with Rust-Oleum’s Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint.  It already had the primer in the formula, so one coat and an hour later and we were in business!  We popped those puppies on and they matched perfectly and looked WAY better!  Cost: $7

So there you have it.  My guide on how to totally transform your kitchen in under $500 { $452 to be exact} Our remodel on a budget, really exceeded my expectations and even dreams for the kitchen we would have in this home.  I hate that I don’t have more detailed pictures and tutorials for each step, but I am happy to answer any questions that you might have if you just leave me a comment below.  Thanks for hanging with me, if you are inspired and remodel your kitchen, be sure and show us pictures by posting them on our Facebook wall or by tagging us on Instagram {@thepinningmama}


New Comment


  1. says

    Having stood in your beautiful kitchen, I never would have believed how bad the be for photos were! WOW! Y’all really performed a miracle in that space!!

  2. Beverly DeShetler says

    Could you tell me where you purchased the 3 black bar stools? They are exactly what I’ve been thinking of putting in my kitchen!

    • says

      I got them at Target several years ago but I have seen them there again on and off so there is a good chance that you could find them. Mine are actually a pretty dark brown but I do think that they have both colors.

  3. says

    That doesn’t even look like the same kitchen! I just used this post to talk my husband into painting our cabinets white. I’ve been working on him for ages but he wouldn’t budge! This before and after finally pushed him over! I’m heading to Home Depot to check things out!

  4. Melissa Priest says

    So thankful I read this pin! We are in the process of buying a bank owned house and the kitchen is super out dated but the cabinets are well made so I am going to paint them. They are dark now but I want them to be around the color you painted yours. Thanks for the tips!!

  5. says

    Beautiful! Our kitchen is on my to-do list – already have the Cabinet Transformation kit ready! Can I ask, what do you mean by stacked tile for your backsplash vs grout? A backsplash will also be on our must-do list!

    • says

      Thank you so much Megan! When you grout you use spacers between the tiles and then apply grout. On this backslash the tiles butt right up to each other leaving no room for grout. It was definitely a little trickier to get perfect this way… less margin for error!

  6. says

    Your kitchen makeover is AMAZING! I love the Cabinet Transformation kit. We’ve used it before and were really very impressed with the product. I’m sharing your kitchen on my FB page today and I pinned it to a Better Homes & Gardens board yesterday (it’s going crazy!!! Yay!). Great job!

  7. says

    It turned out fantastic! I love how bright and open it looks now! Plus, the fact that you did it on a budget is awesome!

  8. Stteph @ Crafting in the Rain says

    So beautiful–and I’m way impressed at your budget! Our kitchen makeover was much more :) but we had holes in our floor where mice were coming in, and 30 year old cabinets with extensive damage from previous owners’ dogs :) Everything from floor to ceiling was replaced! Your space it so big and bright now, I love it!

  9. Lana says

    Looks great! I have the same before cabinets and have been dying to paint them white for years. One thing that is holding me back though is on the side of pantry (which is the end cabinet) the texture is different. It’s not wood like the rest of the cabinets and I don’t know how it would do with paint. Any suggestions?

  10. says

    You were pregnant with a Toddler? You must have been HUGE :-)
    Seriously, it’s a beautiful transformation. I never would have guessed you did it for under $500!!! Well done!

  11. Donna Rodman says

    I really wish I had your talent. I don’t have a decorating bone in my body. I LOVE everything you did to your kitchen. Mine is so bad.

    • says

      Thank you Donna! You can find tons of inspiration on the internet and if you are still unsure, the team at your local Home Depot are always very helpful in helping to select finishes and recommend easy changes you can make!

  12. Suzanne says

    It’s been almost a year since your kitchen remodel and I’m wondering how the paint on your cabinets is holding up. Any chipping or peeling?

    • says

      Its actually been about 3 years since we painted the cabinets. Most cabinets have no chipping at all. The two we use most have some behind the handle – probably from my fingernails.

    • says

      Hi Brandi-
      We kept the microwave and dishwasher that came with the house but did replace the oven and the refrigerator. The oven would have cost over $2000 new but I actually found it on craigslist barely used and the fridge was also over $2000 new BUT I found and purchased it at an overstock store of a local furniture store. Appliances can be expensive but there are ways to get a better deal and more bang for your buck. We did not replace the flooring but have in previous homes. My tips to get a good deal are to watch the clearance section at Home Depot and Lowes and snag up tile that they discontinue when they mark it down. Or if you are anxious to do it right now, you can use less expensive neutral tile you can find very inexpensively, and then spend a little more on accent tiles to give it the high end look. That is exactly what we did in our last home and we did on the backsplash here.

  13. Andrea says

    Curious on your” stacked” backsplash tile. Ive never heard of this – can you give me any more details?

    • says

      Hi Andrea- We used really smooth tile and “stacked them on top of each other flat instead of leaving spacing for grout. So there is no grouting on my backsplash and it gives it little bit of a smoother look.

  14. says

    What an amazing transformation! You really succeed in making me wow! I never thought you can save money from this beautiful output. My husband is planning to remodel our kitchen, thanks for the tips!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *