How To Remodel Kitchens on a Budget

Being our last best nest, tearing out the kitchen for a total redo was not happening! To see what we spent our remodeling dollars on to upgrade our beloved smaller downsized home, read on:

In my design career, I could show you dozens of upscale kitchens that I have designed with top of the line appliances, counters, hardware, faucets, pot fillers, and on and on…..actually, just exactly like our last kitchen in our Cypress home that I designed. 

But not for this remodel, on no.  With Bob and my semi-retirements, being wise with our upgrading budget allowed for changes yes, but not for gutting our new home’s kitchen. This is where as a designer, I decided to spend our remodeling money to get the most bang for the buck as they say.

As you can see in this image, 95% of the elements were brown, brown, or brown toned. I realize that this was the trend in the early 2000’s. However, with my love for light filled spaces, there was no way to keep most of these kitchen finishes.

As a design professional, my work with clients was to solve their issues and challenges by creating solutions to meet their budgets as well as their project goals. Now, this was another opportunity for me to be my own client so to speak, by meeting our budget and accomplish design goals, especially in our last best nest!



While unfortunately, most of the appliances were in good condition, replacing them all wasn’t in the budget. However, in the future, I have my eye on which appliances to purchase. Regardless though, since I am not a fan of microwaves on the counter, this made the priority list in this remodel.

Bob spent a ton of time online trying to find a microwave to fit into existing cabinets since most microwave ovens are very deep. As you can see, he succeeded and I could not be happier with the results. We did bring our small scale trusted toaster, convection oven that fits perfecting in what I call our business area of our kitchen.

This short video below will show you the results that I believe hiring a professional contractor, who retrofitted cabinet , is well worth your remodeling dollars.


Important, always, always buy samples of your paint selections! As you can see in this image, samples were painted on the cabinets but we also had samples throughout the first floor to evaluate paints in the stairway, trims, doors, and etc.

In every space, there is an emotional response, usually unconscious, but there are definitely vibes given off in all our spaces. What is your emotional response to this before image of the kitchen before our remodel?

Also, as we age, research tells us that lighter, brighter interior spaces enhance not only our emotional needs, but is also a requirement for the 50+ to live and work in lighter, brighter spaces in order to achieve their optimum wellness over all areas of aging.

As you can see by the above and by the following photos that painting these cabinets perhaps made the most impact for dollars spent. My advice is to you is either have it done professionally or plan on lots of prep time along with several coats of good quality paint. 

To me, painting outdated cabinet finishes is one of the best investments for resale, along with enabling homeowners to experience this maximum enjoyment. In doing this one upgrade, client responses were consistently the same. Why didn’t I do this sooner!? 

Revere Pewter by Ben Moore is the paint color that was FINALLY selected…long story here that my sister loves to tell!


As I made my priority list for this kitchen remodel, without a second hesitation, I knew that backsplash just had to go! Can you even imagine those tiles trying to work in this upgraded kitchen?

I have to share this side note of a sweet story of installers measuring mistake of pricey custom tile from California for our former Wichita Cypress home. I wisely kept the overage moving this tile from Kansas to Ohio…:) What you are viewing in this image is that exact tile that measured out to almost the exact amount needed…only 4 tiles left over.


A major remodeling inverstment was to replace all, and I mean all, of the flooring on the first floor. We removed the carpeting in the living room, master bedroom, dining room, and this existing maple/orange toned flooring in the kitchen and laundry.

The above sample was our final flooring selection, Pergo Outlast + Vintage Tobacco Oak Laminate Flooring 7.5’ wide by 47.25” length from The Home Depot.

What a difference this decision made! I would highly recommend this major investment that not only you will love the easy care, but also the resale value that hard surface flooring is for attracting home buyers.

This image above reinforces why this kitchen floor just had to be replaced even though it was in good condition. I probably struggled with this decision more than any other one. However, viewing the image above versus the image below and well, hello Mitzi, what was your issue? Easy answer, money. Whew again, thank goodness this change was made.


By now most of you know that I am a lighting fanatic, yes, this is true. Why? Because for all I have written, spoken on, or blogged on, lighting is ALWAYS a goal.

Upgrades under counter LED lighting, additional ceiling cans, and changing out yellow cast light bulbs in all ceiling cans of course made a huge difference. For this major change, the budget was not terribly affected for the exchange of money spent.


The hardward, counters, sink, faucet and appliances were not changed or replaced. This is where having a professional advise you on where and what to spend your remodeling dollars on literally, pays off.

Next post I will share with you the hearth eating area of the other end of our last best nest kitchen.

Please stay tuned for the announcement of an exceptionally exciting offer to you all that I know you will totally love and want to have for your own knowledge of kitchens.

And please remember, there are always ways to upgrade, remodel, or enhance your own kitchens, always. My hope is that this post will inspire you to evaluate your own kitchen for what could make it one of your favorite spaces.

Loving and Living Life Together, 


  1. Judith Taylor

    These are such great ideas and it is so important to know how to meet each homeowner at THEIR budget.

    • Mitzi

      I so appreciate your understanding Judith on my post for each homeowner to assess their budget, what works for them, and to not be intimidated by seeking upgrades that do not require a major do over. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Leslie Carothers

    What an informative and interesting post, Mitzi. I love seeing where you splurged and where you saved. In the end, it came out so beautifully… light and bright and perfect!

    Thanks for taking us along on the journey!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you Leslie, for commenting on this post that I loved sharing with everyone! This is because as I have said, not everyone can always do the ultimate upgrades or can start over in their remodels. …especially for those that are downsizing in all areas of life!

  3. Christie Adams Design

    What a lovely update!! Great job!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you so much Christie for commenting!

  4. Janet Lorusso

    What a brilliant and smart update, Mitzi! These are such excellent tips for getting a whole new kitchen without a full remodel. Paint truly is magical!

    • Mitzi

      For sure Janet as you definitely show on your projects in the magic that paint can do! Kinda like make up for me…..:)
      And cannot thank you enought for your effort on doing a Canva for me! Amazing!!

  5. Denise

    Well done on these choices to upgrade this kitchen! This color you chose makes a dramatic transformation. Also, I was surprised to read about the change in color needed as we age. Thanks for all the great kitchen redesign tips.

    • Mitzi

      You are more than welcome Denise! And yes, color reads differently in aging eyes along with needing tons more lighting to even distinquish the various shades of colors in painted surfaces.

  6. Susie Feia

    Lovely transformation Mitzi! You achieved your objective of creating a bright, light-filled kitchen! Sure you enjoy it now!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you Susie! You are spot on Susie that we love our “new” kitchen now! It was such a downer before so my purose for my post was to emphasize how our kitchens definitely effect our moods and our overall wellness by eliminating all the stresses whether it is lighting or clutter or cabinet finishes.

  7. Amy Wax

    What a great post, you made all the right decisions on giving this kitchen new life, from microwave solution to paint colors to backsplash tile, well done!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you Amy from the color guru herself! 🙂
      I am wanting homeowners to not be paralyed in doing nothing thinking that small upgrades will not really matter but you and I know even subtle changes absolutely matter.

  8. Stephanie

    I have the same microwave issue. Which one did you find? Great makeover!
    Thank you

    • Mitzi

      Your are more than welcome Stephanine! This microvave is a Sharp #R-1214-TYA
      We are thrilled that we made this upgrade!

  9. Margo

    It is heartwarming to see your project near completion and even better to hear your logic. We too are in our downsized home for four years and living with cabinets that are a deep cream with a glaze. They look perpetually dirty! After researching our options of a total re-do we could not justify tearing out perfectly good solid wood cabinets. I finally located someone to paint and update the cabinet doors. My husband and I tackled the marble backsplash this weekend and will grout tomorrow. We have gone back and forth with flooring choices for a number of weeks now and I’m waiting for what I hope is our final sample this week. A hardwood floor lover, this choice has been particularly difficult since the living area of our home is on a cement slab so that we are l8mited in our choices. Unfortunately, my granite countertops were chosen to match the dirty looking cabinets but rather than replace everything we’ve decided on a natural walnut plank top for our island.
    We purchased all new appliances in 2016 and I would say that we will keep them except that we’ve already had to replace the dishwasher. Samsung makes some attractive appliances but they are awful and I fear we’ll be looking at a new fridge in another year. Right now my hardware and faucet fit in nicely.
    I will say that my budget for this redo was a lot healthier due to the pandemic. Our canceled trip to Italy that was to include a son and grandson will pay for a lot of the expense. I haven’t been to the salon since January which totally covered the expense of the backsplash! To be honest, we’ve saved for retirement for thirty years and have decided that it’s time to spend it. At 68 and 69 I say if not now, then when?
    But the icing on the cake came last week when we decided to close in our screen porch with a three season sunroom. If all goes as planned it should all be completed by December. Our home is so small that this added space will truly provide some much needed relief for me. Life is different when you’re together 24/7 and unable to travel and meet up with people.
    I enjoyed reading your book very much and felt that it reinforced our decision to downsize to a smaller home on the water. I hope all is well with you and your husband.

    • Mitzi

      Loved your reply Margo! And thank you for your lovely comment regarding my Design Smarts book! May I quote you or even would you consider giving a review on Amazon?
      Your wisdom in spending your savings from your Italy trip is paying off in unexpected ways for you and your husband to enjoy for years ahead.
      I hear you on not replacing the counters and the challenge of matching them to your flooring selections. And having had a screened in porch on our lasty two homes, I can say without a doubt, you will love, love, love your super smart decision!
      I wish you ad your husband tons of joyful blessings in your years ahead!
      PS Bob and I are great and loving life in our new downszied home and location….:)

  10. Mary Ann Benoit

    Such a beautiful and cost effective transformation!! Wow!

    • Mitzi

      Thank you Mary Ann! As a designer as you are, not simply doing what we do for our clients is a humbling experience. However, using our experience and expertise, we can achieve lovely results while also experiencing the satisfaction of remodeling and staying on our budgets.

  11. Sheri Bruneau

    Thank you for taking us on your own, personal journey of updating your home. Loving all of your choices.

    • Mitzi

      I appreciate this Sheri since knowing you are now preparing for your next stage of life project. When I was your age and life stage, I did the latest and greatest in all my designs plus selections. But at this stage, of leaving the home that we had planned on being our last home, wisdom directed new goals in this kitchen upgrade. And, we are so happy with it all!


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