Budget Kitchen Makeover

By Kate Riley January 17, 2017

I’m so happy to be sharing this kitchen makeover today! Several months ago I toured this house before a crew came in to give it a makeover. This is another transitional house managed by my local Committee on the Shelterless and this one is for veterans.

I shared the family room last week, and today I’m excited to show you changes in the kitchen. I designed the new look on a tight budget and love how it turned out. It’s amazing what new tile, countertops, light fixtures, and hardware can do!


Below is how the kitchen looked when we started. This is a small L shaped kitchen with a peninsula that had room for two counter stools. You’ll notice we kept the original cabinets which saved a ton of money. I did pull out the one upper cabinet next to the hood because I wanted to make the space feel less cramped and also add a feature wall of tile.


This gorgeous gray tile is my favorite new addition, it’s perfect in shape, scale, and hue!

Once that upper cabinet came out I had room to create a feature wall of tile. Notice the addition of new crown molding which finishes the top of the cabinets and adds a few inches of height.


I asked a few brands to donate products since the non-profit I designed this kitchen for had a very small budget. Several pitched in to help me give this space a makeover.

Floor & Decor generously donated the backsplash tile. I shopped my local store a few months ago, and opted for this elongated gray porcelain hexagon mosaic. This is the Villa Elongated Hexagon in Pewter, it’s also available in several more colors. The white grout really shows off the geometric pattern.




I repeated the same technique in this kitchen that I did several years ago in this space, wrapping the tile around the window – this makes it a focal point and allows the tile to take the spotlight.


Instead of nickel or brass, I chose to add smaller doses of black to this kitchen with a new oil rubbed bronze faucet, knobs and bin pulls, and the new gooseneck light over the sink.

I love the contrast black adds to all white cabinets. The new refrigerator is gently used, but it has a black handle (yay!) and the plaid rug adds another touch of black.


Laminate is an excellent choice for countertops for anyone remodeling on a budget. The modern approach to installation is to not include a laminate backsplash. Instead have the countertop fabricated so that it stops at the wall (like with stone) and use the tile to create the backsplash.

The old countertops were a rust colored laminate that had not been cared for and they also had some peeling and burn marks. The new laminate is far more contemporary with its marble pattern, this is Carrara Bianco by Formica in a matte finish with a modern tempo rolled edge. Thank you Formica for the very generous donation for this project!



Below is another “before” and “after” shot. I swapped the fixture over the sink for a black gooseneck style, it’s actually an outdoor light (yes you can use them indoors!). The counter stools are also from Lamps Plus, but both are currently unavailable right now.



I’m so pleased with the result! New tile, countertops, and hardware go a long way in freshening any kitchen space!



*Tile was donated by Floor & Decor, countertops were donated by Formica, and the light fixture and counter stools were donated by Lamps Plus. Sending out a huge thank you to these brands for their generous donations to this makeover for a non-profit! All opinions are mine.


  1. Can’t believe this is a budget makeover – it looks fabulous! Love love love the tile you chose and how you’ve paired it with white grout to really make it pop. Really great tip on the laminate backsplash too. It looks fresh and modern.

    • Hi Mary, I brought the tile to the very edge and we covered the raw edge of the tile with a thin piece of 3″ trim nailed inside the window frame.

  2. Of course it came out beautiful!! I love the wall tile the most! Having a black handle on the refrigerator is genius since those handles get so dirty!

    The Formica counters look like the real deal, I was wondering how you got marble on a tight budget!

    Great job as always! Thank you for helping the Veterans!

  3. I love, love, love this kitchen! And I appreciate both the design tips and the fact that this is for veterans.

  4. Holy moly this looks fantastic! Boy those countertops and tile look so good. Genius to take the tile up the wall and wrap around the window too. I would not have guessed those countertops weren’t real marble. Great job!

    I live in Vegas as was wondering how you determine the location and house to buy for a flip house. Do you look at short sales/foreclosures? I would love a post on how you determine a great flip house.

    • Hi Erin, I look for a listed home that requires only cosmetic changes, I don’t want to move walls or plumbing or do anything major architecturally. Foreclosures or short sales take a lot of time to gain ownership so although I’ve tried to grab them in the past I’ve never purchased one. Kitchens and bathroom remodels sell homes so I look for a house with kitchens and bathrooms that are dated and go in with the purpose of refreshing them for resale. New flooring and windows also help and of course fresh paint on the walls. I shared a few more tips here: http://centsationalgirl.com/2015/02/the-best-home-improvements-for-resale/

  5. i’m getting ready to re-invent my kitchen and may steal some of your ideas. LOVE the backsplash. I too want to just repaint out my cabinets to save money, and mostly do the counter, backsplash, fixtures and lights and probably a new floating floor since I intend to go with greys and charcoal colored cabinets. Thanks for the lovely inspiration

  6. Such a pretty space!
    Might you share a post on counter top edging, and the appropriate edge for different space styles?
    My kitchen was partially remodeled a few years ago by another owner, and the new counter has a rounded edge that extends beyond the cabinets. I believe it appears too contemporary for a 1930 English-style cottage in Carmel? Thank you.

    • I like an ogee edge with a more traditional home, I agree the rounded is more modern but it’s also a clean look so I don’t think you can go wrong with a rounded edge countertop especially when the cabinets or tile complement the style of the home.

  7. I love that your kitchen make-over is realistic and simple. Too many people think they need to add new cabinets, solid surface counters and all that expensive stuff. Your’s looks great and it is down to earth and much more doable for a lot of us.

  8. I always love your kitchen renos and this one is beautiful.

    Kate, I really admire you for all the work you do with charitable organizations. You are so talented and very generous to help others so often.

    • Paint is ‘Wise Owl’ like you see in the family room post from last week but with the lighting it’s a little washed out.

  9. great work. i LOVE the print next to the cabinets – any chance of a closer shot or link to source? it’s actually in line with the tattoo inspiration i have floating in my head for my next ink…! thanks :)

  10. You are such an inspiration, Kate. You have an exceptional ability to do beauty on a budget. That’s where I am – on a budget and it’s fine. The footprint of my kitchen cannot be changed and my oak cabinets are paintable and I love white cabinets so why spend a small fortune getting new cabinets. My brilliant brother recently came to visit and helped me turn my very busy ceiling (two 2×4′ fluorescents siding a solar tube with a boob-look cover, a ceiling fan and a 16″ square vent) into a work of art (for a very small budget and some time, Other small changes have been made and new flooring throughout the house is to come (again, inspiration from you). Love your support for the laminate countertops – there’s so much out there now and they can look so great – seems foolish to spend big bucks on granite (which bores me) or quartz on an “refresh” update when I can get the effect of your kitchen above on a budget. This one goes into my collection files. Great job. .

  11. Amazing! It looks so fresh and clean. You’re so creative to work within such a tight budget yet produce an end result that is so beautiful and inviting. So inspiring. Well done!!

  12. Your makeover is lovely, yet I bemoan the loss of even one cabinet in such a small kitchen. Would it have been possible to move the single upper cabinet to the wall at the end of the island, just above the phone jack?

  13. Stunning and you did this all in tight budget, great job! I love the walls done with grey tiles. I’m thinking of getting these for my kitchen as well with solid wood kitchen cabinets in white and laminate flooring. i will be getting these from I-Maxx Exchange Inc (www.imaxxexchange.com). They did a great job with my bathroom cabinetry as well.

  14. I love the look you ended up with! It is simply gorgeous! Still, doing the wall tile like you did would have cost a pretty penny had it not been donated, yes? I also recognize how budget-friendly laminate is (and in fact, I plan to use it myself), but I would have loved to have seen a full budget for this project that includes the retail value of the donated materials and labor. :)

  15. Do you know what type of cabinets these are? Getting ready to do our first flip and am trying to figure out our cabinet options.

  16. Love this look! I am looking at the backsplash tile online and it is described as taupe. It looks grey in your pics. Does is have brown tone in it?

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