Give your builder-grade kitchen a fresh outlook with minimal mess using these inspiring improvements from Melissa Michaels of The Inspired Room. She shows us how she pulled off her kitchen remodel on a budget with tricks you can apply to your own space.
BHG Melissa Michaels Kitchen
Melissa Michaels was able to give her kitchen a bright, airy update on a minimal budget and without major disruption thanks to some scrappy thinking.

A single smart floor plan fix, as well as a punch of personality, gave this builder kitchen new style and function. Cabinets removed from the range and sink walls add to the room's new airiness. Quartz countertops, a subway tile backsplash, and a modest island—all in shades of white—further freshen the space without requiring reconstruction. Take a look at the smart ways Melissa Michaels gave her basic builder kitchen a remodel on a budget. They’ll inspire you to look at your own space in a whole new way.

kitchen before
Before being updated, Melissa's kitchen wasn't bad; it just lacked the personality and openness she wanted for the hub of the home.

1. Rethink your flow

Melissa had peninsula problems. As you can see in the before photo, the breakfast bar trapped guests and cooks in a corner so that only one person could work at a time. By removing the breakfast bar, relocating the dishwasher to sit next to the sink, and adding new cabinets that match the style of the originals, the kitchen gained great party flow and six valuable drawers.

Kitchen Cabinet Colors
The dark charcoal lower cabinets are a nice contrast to the bright white of the upper cabinets, trim work and countertops. Melissa chose Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore for the lower cabinets and Dove White by Benjamin Moore for the uppers.

2. Use paint to update kitchen cabinets

Cabinetry is often one of the big ticket items that can jeopardize your ability to pull of a kitchen remodel on a small budget. Painting the existing maple cabinets charcoal and white helped blend the new cabinet by the sink as well as a panel that covers the soffit on the fridge wall. The medley of bright and creamy whites found throughout make for a clean, sunny space worth spending time in.

3. Convert cabinets to open shelving

Near the refrigerator, one set of cabinet doors were removed to create open storage. Paneling behind the shelves creates continuity with surrounding cabinetry. Pops of yellow and blue in ceramic dishware bring cheery color into the kitchen.

Melissa Michaels Kitchen
Melissa swapped out the above-range microwave for a new range hood for practical reasons as well as aesthetics. The new range hood is properly sized for the space and provides the right amount of ventilation.

4. Don’t replace decent appliances

A modern range hood replaced an over-the-stove microwave, which moved into the walk-in pantry to save counter space and avoid tedious installation. All other appliances stayed, keeping remodel costs in check. If your appliances are in working order, consider keeping them to keep costs down. If they need an aesthetic upgrade, look for appliance-approved paint or magnetic stainless panels that can freshen an outdated dishwasher or refrigerator door.

Melissa Michaels Kitchen
The sunny window ledge is the perfect place for Melissa's teacup garden, a collection of mosses and small succulents she tucks into flea market-found cups.

5. Learn to adapt

An apron-front sink designed to be easily retrofit into existing cabinetry replaces the previous model, allowing Melissa to get the sink of her dreams without breaking the budget. Look for other ways you can adapt your existing kitchen structure to fit new features. You can find kits online that will help you turn a standard cabinet into a pull-out waste center or a lift drawer for appliances, all features you would pay much more for if you scrapped existing cabinets and started from scratch.

Editor's Tip: Pretty faceted knobs add sparkle against gray base cabinetry. Have some fun with touches like knobs and pulls; you can get more trendy than you might with other finishes because changing them out isn’t a big budget hit.

Melissa Michaels Kitchen
The mix of stain and paint finishes gives Melissa's island much more character than a plain painted piece would have. If you're staining a butcher block surface in the kitchen, be sure to look for food-safe products.

6. Repurpose functional furniture

An unfinished piece of furniture became a personality-packed island thanks to a special DIY paint treatment. Melissa used a plastic bag full of screws and nails to give the island a distressed texture. She then painted the frame, stained the top and shelves, and screwed in hooks to supply a handy spot for dish towels and utensils.

Melissa Michaels Kitchen
Melissa installed industrial-style sconces with Edison bulbs on either side of the kitchen window for task lighting and added character.

7. Choose classic tile

Melissa chose white subway tile for the full oven wall and the backsplash behind the sink. It’s a great choice for a low-cost kitchen remodel because it’s inexpensive and lasts the test of time. Plus, you can lay it in a variety of patterns, from the classic running bond shown here to 45-degree herringbone, double basket weave or vertical running bond.

kitchen pantry with microwave and open shelving
Melissa repurposed a sofa table not being used elsewhere to give a home to her relocated microwave. She used washi tape and some new knobs to give it an inexpensive update.

8. Cut down on doors

Next to the refrigerator was a standard doored pantry with basic builder wire mesh shelving. Not a space suitable to be shown off. But what the original pantry lacked in personality, it made up for in useful space. The storage space became a decorative extension of the kitchen by removing the door and adding shelves for baskets and jars. Clear glass containers save time when identifying contents and look pretty lined up in a row, while a console table serves as a handy spot for the microwave.


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