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Where to Splurge and Where to Save in the Kitchen

By: Sarah Beaumont

January 10, 2017

To many, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we partake in our morning coffee rituals, fuel our bodies with food, have wine nights with friends and cook dinner with our loved ones. So why shouldn’t it be as beautiful as the meals and memories we make in it?

We know that overhauling a kitchen is no easy task. It’s a time-consuming and expensive process. But it doesn’t have to be nearly as messy as that time you decided to make pasta from scratch. When it comes to creating a kitchen on a budget, our designers know the secrets. So we asked them for insider tips on where to splurge and where to save on a kitchen overhaul.


Call attention to your countertops. “An attractive countertop will always be a focal point, so I love to splurge on the right stone or quartz,” Laurel & Wolf designer Gabriela Taylor says. “It’s a surface that gets used everyday so it should look beautiful AND hold up over time,” Taryn Bone agrees.

Invest in a beautiful and affordable backsplash. Your backsplash is just a small part of your kitchen, but it has a big impact on the entire room. So even if you splurge a bit on quality tile, it’s still a pretty affordable upgrade in terms of your overall budget. Lori Evans likes to spend more on backsplash tile because “it’s at eye level and can really add a pop to inexpensive cabinets.”

Designers Sara Richards and Gabriela Taylor prefer to save on backsplashes by using timeless materials. “You can get the look for less when it comes to tile. Classic subway tiles are inexpensive and will never go out of style,” says Gaby. “I use simple white subway tiles or hexagons,” Sara agrees. “They look clean and fresh without breaking the bank!”

Or you can opt for an nontraditional backsplash like designer Sara Brown. “Tile is amazing, but there are so many different options out there to save you time and money. My favorite material for a super mod backsplash is plywood!”

Don’t blow your budget on flooring. Between food spills and shuffling back and forth while cooking, your kitchen floors take a lot of heat. So does it really matter what they look like? Well, yeah. You want your floor to flow with the rest of your design, but durability is important too. Cynthia Ryan says “Save on floors because there’s a ton of good looking, budget-friendly, durable floor tile available that will wear well with pets and family.”

Care for your cabinetry. When it comes to cabinetry, our designers have mixed feelings. But they do agree on one thing – your cabinets should look good no matter how much or how little you spend on them. Mandie Maguire says, “Splurge on quality, timeless cabinets because those will last through trends. I recommend white cabinets with clean lines because they seem to always come back in style.”

If you decide to opt for a less expensive set of cabinets, Sara Richards recommends splurging on beautiful hardware. “Well-designed hardware is like jewelry for a cabinet—it just adds a special element.”

According to Ellie McIntosh, you might not even need cabinets. “Utilize your drawers! They are more functional. You can save money by using open shelving rather than upper cabinetry, which creates a more open feel in the kitchen.”

Upgrade your lighting. Have you ever tried cooking in the dark? We’re guessing it didn’t go so well. Every kitchen should have proper task lighting. Mary Beth of MBZ Interiors suggests splurging on under-cabinet lighting, which seriously helps while you’re chopping veggies or when you need a subtle light to lead you into the kitchen at night.

If you’re considering a dark paint color, strong lighting is especially critical. “I had a client who wanted a dark colored kitchen but only had two light fixtures in the whole space. I told her to invest in proper lighting before picking her paint,” says Jenny Robbins.

Don’t skimp on quality appliances, but find a deal. The last thing you want is a refrigerator that keeps losing its cool or a dishwasher that barely does its washing. Kate Cabiltes says “it’s important to splurge on appliances because they shouldn’t need to replaced very often. Put in the extra research to find appliances that get good ratings and stand the test of time – paying for top quality is a long-term investment that will pay off.”

Appliances may be expensive, but you can find many of them on sale. “Plan ahead and hit major holiday sales to cut your appliance budget by 40-50%,” Samantha Peters recommends. “You can buy them during the sale and most retailers will allow you to schedule your delivery and installation at almost any time in the future.”


Related: Where to Splurge and Where to Save in the Dining Room

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