Revive Your Entire Kitchen for $2,500 or Less

Our design pros show you how to give your kitchen a great new look for as little as $2,500.

Though the average cost of a kitchen renovation is around $35,000, you can get a great new look for your kitchen for $2,500 or less. Start by clearing clutter and updating colors, then install new fixtures and an eye-catching backsplash. Once you've accomplished those tasks, brighten your space with a new lighting plan and install a granite countertop (really!).

"The most dramatic and cost-effective change you can make to your kitchen is improving the lighting scheme," says Cindy Raskin of Design Concepts in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. "It totally changes the ambiance of the room."

A kitchen's lighting scheme is divided into three areas, explains Raskin: general, task and accent lighting. General lighting, typically ceiling-mounted fixtures or recessed cans, provides the overall illumination of the room. Task lighting sheds light directly where it is needed, such as food-prep areas. Accent lighting adds drama by drawing attention to a room's architectural details.

Raskin suggests updating a kitchen's general lighting with an easy-to-install monorail track system, which mounts to the ceiling and connects to the old light fixture's existing wiring. Prices vary depending on the amount and quality of the heads, she says, but complete sets can be purchased for about $200.

To improve a kitchen's task lighting, Raskin relies on under-cabinet fluorescent, halogen or xenon light strips, which run about $40 each. Though these units simply can be plugged into any wall outlet, Raskin suggests springing for an electrician to hard-wire them to existing switches for easier use and a cleaner look. For best coverage, light strips should be installed every few feet. If the units are visible at eye level, install a one- or two-inch wood valence at the base of the cabinets to conceal them.

One of the least expensive ways to change the mood of the entire kitchen, adds Raskin, is by installing a dimmer on a kitchen's general lighting fixtures. This allows the homeowner to crank up the light during cooking time and dial it down when dining or entertaining.

Install a granite countertop? On a budget? Absolutely, says Raskin.

"Granite has really become very cost effective," Raskin notes. Of course, in order to keep costs down, the budget-minded homeowner will have to make some smart choices. First, she says, consider replacing only a portion of your countertop. "Put the biggest wow factor on your island," she advises. "Mixing finishes is the hottest thing going."

Other cost-cutting tips include going with basic black rather than that exotic tropical green, and searching the local supply yards for remnants, which are significantly cheaper. New, thin-cut slabs are more budget-friendly than thick pieces. And by selecting a very simple edge treatment and replacing the custom-cut granite backsplash with self-installed granite tiles, a homeowner can get the look of a million-dollar kitchen for less than a grand.

By following the recommendations of our design pros, you can markedly improve the look and functionality of your kitchen on a small budget. You may not end up with the kitchen of your dreams, but you will have eliminated your kitchen nightmares.

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