The $400 Kitchen Remodel




I design and build homes in the $350,000-$600,000 range (like the one in the photo above) for a living. I have a regular client that hires me to decorate her home, giving me carte blanche and a $10k budget to bring style to her $450,000 home.

However, I have lived in and designed interiors in homes a fraction of that cost. In 1986 we rented our first home for $500/month and practiced our budding remodeling skills. It was a brick ranch in a blue-collar neighborhood, and we had a new baby, a willing landlord, and lots of energy. So we commenced pulling down some hideous fake brick wallpaper, added a wall between the family room and kitchen, changed the flooring, and created a tile backsplash behind the range. We provided the labor and our landlord bought the materials. We didn’t know what we were doing, but learned so much along the way.

In the past two years, I’ve remodeled four investment properties, three of which we sold for around $125k. The updates were cosmetic and inexpensive and made those homes come alive. I love taking a property in need of some updating and making something beautiful and livable out of it. So much can be done on a tight budget.

A friend of mine is a young mom of three and lives in a home similar to our Texas ranch. Tight and small at just 1000 square feet, it is the original tiny house that is so trendy right now. The five of them make it work, and have been laboring to make it their own. With some paint, thrift stores, and some creativity it can be done.

They wanted to spruce up their eat-in kitchen, but only had about $400 to work with. We met and discussed the possibilities. Then they hosted a yard sale to earn a bulk of the needed cash, got out their circular saw and paint brushes, and went to work. Fortunately, their appliances are stainless and not in need of replacing, and the tile on the floor is already a simple gray 12”x12”, and easy to work with.

Their plan:

  • Set a budget. If you know what you’ve got to work with up front, you can carefully plan your purchases.
  • Paint cabinets a light warm gray color in a gloss paint.
  • Create a backsplash with beadboard, and paint a happy yellow; paint was purchased from the ‘mistake’ shelf at Lowe’s.
  • Change counters to dark gray/black pre-formed Formica (available at Lowe’s and Home Depot). This was the bulk of their costs.
  • Add under-cabinet lighting to illuminate work spaces.
  • Up-cycle an old frame mounted on a door and paint inside with black chalkboard paint.
  • Paint walls a bright white in the same gray tone as cabinets.
  • Add some happy children, and voila!

So, don’t think a change in your interior design will require thousands of dollars. Even on a shoestring budget, you can make significant updates that will breathe fresh life into your home.