Our Favorite Kitchens on a Budget

These DIY kitchens were transformed by smart shopping, salvaged materials, and a little elbow grease.

By Catie Bielecki

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neutral kitchen with blue islan
Modern Touch

    The homeowners had to sacrifice some of the luxuries they craved, such as soapstone counters, but the end result was this warm, beautiful--and affordable--kitchen space. Glass-front 1930s cabinets were repainted and old linoleum was ripped out to reveal an oak floor.

Modern Touch: Double-Duty Tile

    Backsplashes are a simple way to add a pop of color to your room however they can add up. Consider salvaged materials like these for a cost efficient fix.

    Budget Saver: An old library was an unlikely source for the salvaged glazed terra-cotta tiles that created the unique $90 backsplash.

Modern Touch: Customized Modern Look

    The new base cabinets, island, baker's table, and plate rack were built out of inexpensive paint-grade pine. The island gets a country-cottage touch from cheap beaded-board plywood.

Vintage French

    Take a hobby or passion and use it as inspiration when redoing your kitchen. A passion for antiques is sprinkled throughout the homeowner's comfortable kitchen. A favorite collection or group of monochromatic dishes can be displayed atop your refrigerator, an often-neglected space.

Vintage French: Unique Cabinet Choices

    An old French wire wine cage was converted into a distinctive cabinet. Metal shelves were added to hold dishes and glassware. Large or heavy items are stored on open shelves beneath the unit.

Vintage French: Old Piece, New Purpose

    This large antique cabinet was once used in a French shop, now it houses a dishwasher and sink.

    Budget Saver: Drop-in sinks that rest directly on the countertop are less-expensive than undermounted sinks. When remodeling a kitchen, consider keeping the sink in the same place to avoid extra plumbing expenses.

DIY Savvy

    The homeowners did much of the work in this stylish and cozy kitchen themselves in order to afford the high-end look they wanted. They craved expensive polished concrete counters, but opted for concrete on just the central island and installed it themselves.

DIY Savvy: A High End Custom-Look for Less

    The homeowners installed the pretty tile backsplash themselves, a stunning complement to the bold, rich wall color.

    Budget Saver: To give standard cabinets a custom-feel, choose different color shades for the upper and lower cabinets. In this kitchen, the homeowners chose a light honey finish for the upper cabinets and a dark finish for the lower cabinets. Matching hardware keeps the look cohesive.

DIY Savvy: Cozy Seating

    A built-in bench is a practical choice for creating a small-space breakfast nook. The homeowners' children created the one-of-a-kind artwork by filling in leaf sketches with small bits of colored paper.


    This black and white kitchen has a classic feel, accented by a pop of red. Fragments of the 110-year old cottage, inlcuding an original brick chimney column and exposed ceiling beams, add old-world character to the kitchen.

    Budget Saver: Use leftover floor tiles to cover the counters. You may be surprised how much you have left after completing the floors. The homeowner chose to use only the black tiles and the end result was a sophisticated, cohesive look for much less than the cost of granite.

Bistro-Chic: Cafe Style

    Roman shades trimmed in red dress up the large windows. The large kitchen island is the perfect place for food prep or to grab a quick snack. Shelves and cubbies below the island are a smart place for storage. Tall chairs are accented in a charming white, red, lime, and yellow striped fabric.

Bistro-Chic: Contemporary Touches

    Dishes, cookbooks, and pantry items rest on modern stainless-steel shelves. The combination of old and new keeps the space feeling fresh.

Vibrant Color, Big Impact

    This country kitchen got a feisty makeover when painted this crisp combination of white and chartreuse. Original tongue-and-groove paneling remains to give the space vintage appeal and texture. Long, sheer drapes let in lots of light; large, unframed artwork adds a modern flair.

Vibrant Color, Big Impact: Calm with White

    Clean white cabinets and laminate countertops are brightened by a few personal touches--a colorful table runner, a wire basket of fresh fruit, and a vase of pretty daisies.

    Budget Saver: Ready-to-assemble cabinets are a practical way to save money. They can be easily installed with basic tools and a little bit of skill. Most home-improvement stores even offer easy instructional workshops on basic projects like this.

Vibrant Color, Big Impact : Clear the Counters

    To keep utensils, supplies, and clutter off the counters, consider using a stainless-steel shelf-and-rail system. Whisks, tongs, and spatulas can hang from metal hooks; spices and pantry items are easy to find when stored in glass canisters.

Cottage Kitchen

    In this warm cottage-style kitchen, a refinished original maple floor combines with modern touches like contemporary track lighting and stainless steel appliances to create a one-of-a-kind space.

Cottage Kitchen: Personalize with a Motto

    The sign above the range celebrates the homeowner's carefree attitude and relaxed kitchen atmosphere.

    Budget Saver: Keeping appliances and furnishings neutral allows you to experiment with bold color. Plus, paint is an inexpensive way to make a noticeable difference. This homeowner painted three times.

Repeat Color

    Cheery checked window treatments in the breakfast nook echo the red tones of the kitchen. Keeping the top two-thirds of the linens neutral helps the space feel light and airy.

Modern Update

    Creamy white cabinetry and light wood make this remodeled 1930s kitchen a cozy place to cook and entertain. The walls are painted a soothing sage green, a popular shade from the home's original era. Glass blocks below the cabinetry let in sunlight, but keep some privacy as well. Vintage dishes in green, blue, yellow, and pink decorate the space.

Modern Update: Use Glass

    Sleek stainless steel handles add a modern touch to the cabinets; mottled glass inserts mimic the glass blocks below.

    Budget Saver: Determine what your top priorities are, then distribute your budget accordingly. The homeowners love to cook, so they knew they wanted professional-grade, stainless steel appliances. To afford this splurge, they decided to save money by purchasing classic white melamine cabinets from IKEA.

Modern Update: Brilliant Built-In

    During the remodeling process, the homeowners created this built-in wall niche for their herbs and spices. Transferring herbs and spices from their original plastic containers into pretty, hand-labeled metal tins adds a vintage flair and keeps the niche from feeling cluttered or disorganized.

Mix Old and New

    This Craftsman-style kitchen features a few modern touches such as stainless-steel appliances and sleek lighting, but period-specific trim and warm wood floors fit with the rest of the home. Cabinetry on the bottom half of the kitchen was painted a deep forest green; light paint on the upper shelves keeps the room from becoming too dark.

Mix Old and New: Revived Funiture

    This forest-green kitchen island is truly a one-of-a-kind piece. Unique retro-chic fabric is a fun surprise on the cabinet doors.

    Budget Saver: Look at old pieces in a new way. This island was once an old refrigerator cabinet. A little help from a contractor converted it into what it is today. The homeowner saved even more money by using a vintage mahogany door as the countertop.

Mix Old and New: Showcase Your Dishes

    Neutral open shelves are a smart choice for displaying mugs, bowls, and plates. Warm caramel-colored walls are the perfect backdrop to highlight the homeowner's bright white dishes. Colorful dishes would really pop against a white or light-gray wall.

Fresh Citrus

    A budget-conscious designer used pale yellow, green, and warm neutral paint to brighten up this once-dark kitchen. A new island was built using pieces of home center stock cabinetry and topped off with butcher block to give it a custom feel.

Fresh Citrus: Window Dressing

    A light green and white Roman shade makes the greenhouse window above the sink the focal point of the room.

Fresh Citrus: Smart Savings

    While tile backsplashes are lovely, they aren't always necessary. To save a few bucks consider using a smaller amount of tile like they did in this kitchen.

    Budget Saver: A single row of sculptural accent tile adds a decorative touch; beaded board give inexpensive texture to the backsplash. Linoleum counters provide a clean, neutral look and are much cheaper than granite or marble.

Bold Color, Big Impact

    One of the best ways to get a lot of bang for your buck, is to update your kitchen with lots of color and paint. The cabinets were painted bright white to freshen the space; green and red mosaic tile create an interesting backsplash.

Bold Color: Charming Veggie Fabric

    Vegetable-print curtains inspire the color scheme and are a cute choice for the window above the sink. They are trimmed with a multi-colored striped fabric and hung on a modern stainless-steel rod.

Bold Color: Choose a Resilient Floor

    This kitchen floor is mostly red, but splashes of yellow, green, and white tile are scattered to add even more color.

    Budget Saver: Vinyl composition tile is both inexpensive and durable. Glue-down tiles make for an easy DIY project.

Combination Kitchen

    This desert-inspired kitchen mixes warm terra-cotta with cool blue-green accents. The mosaic tile backsplash was a DIY project. The parquet flooring was created from adhesive-backed oak "tiles," also installed by the homeowner.

Combination Kitchen: Hunt for Deals

    Open shelves are just the right space for an eye-level microwave and to display pretty turquoise dishes.

    Budget Saver: Mixing existing cabinets with second-hand finds and garage-sale purchases can create a stylish custom look. Just be sure to measure twice, making sure everything will fit the space. Sand and paint the cabinets to match, and they will look like they were meant to go together.

Combination Kitchen: One-of-a-Kind Style

    Antique pieces, such as this beautiful wood hutch, can give your space a homey feel. Vibrant pottery and painted vintage buckets add a splash of color.

A Tiny Space

    This itty-bitty kitchen is only 135-square-feet, but you'd never know it thanks to some smart decorating choices. The white, blue, and green color palette is clean and fresh. Stainless steel appliances and frosted glass-front cabinets are modern and stylish.

A Tiny Space: Pretty Curtain

    An elegant white and gray-blue fabric dresses the above-sink window; tiny potted herbs are a natural--and practical--addition.

    Budget Saver: Decorative tile can be expensive, so consider mixing some favorite squares with inexpensive subway tile. The final look is anything but boring.

Separate Dining Area

    Smooth, contemporary stools are pulled up to the peninsula for casual meals; cool pendant lights illuminate the area. Although the wood floors and blue walls are unified, a bold piece of artwork and shaggy rug help define the dining area from the kitchen. The dining room set was a flea-market find and 1950s-style dresser is repurposed as a sideboard.

Chic White

    The centerpiece of this kitchen is a rugged, oversize island that was once a prep table at a bakery.

    Budget Saver: Consider doing away with traditional cabinetry and only focus on the kitchen supplies you really need. Storing seldom-used items elsewhere leaves more room for everyday objects, which can be displayed on less-expensive, open shelves.

Chic White: Organized Shelves

    Three open shelves hold dishes and baking ingredients. The homeowners' children have easy access to their favorite snacks, which are stored in glass canisters on the lowest shelf. Large, undressed windows let in lots of light while neutral walls keep the kitchen feeling fresh.

Chic White: Portable Storage

    A rolling bin was built by the homeowners and is the perfect object to hold root vegetables or party beverages. The simple, three-compartment, wooden box is adorned with handles from the local home center's garage section.

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