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7 Affordable Kitchen Designs

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I want to go back in time, knowing what I know now and redesign every disgusting rental kitchen that I ever endured. Sure, there are limitations with a rental, but I’m more and more convinced that had I just invested a little bit of dough and did a lot of the labor ourselves, we could have had a really good kitchen for $1200 (as seen below) instead of living in 1990’s contractor grade depressing garbage.

So I enlisted and (art directed) our new contributor, Kelsey Smith, to design some unique kitchen looks, for as inexpensive as possible and she killed it. KILLED IT.

A few notes: all these prices include 20 pieces of hardware, 20 square feet of backsplash, and an 8′ counter. Prices do not include paint, as that’s hard to calculate but most kitchens don’t need more than two gallons which is $50, so add that into the total.

There is a look for everyone, now go get to it: Classic Cafe Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup French Bistro Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Pendant Light | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Chairs | Table

It’s modern but classic, and with way more personality than you’d think a $1200 kitchen would bring. Clean and Classic Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup marble brass blue white Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Pendant Light | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Bar Stools

It’s a slightly more feminine and glam sister – but equally as handsome and classic. Contemporary Glam Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup pink black mable chrome Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Pendant Light | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Chairs | Table

We went dark and modern for this one, which isn’t for everyone and, yet, it’s still a visual crowd pleaser. Mid-Century Masculine Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup Brown Black Green Natural Wood Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Pendant Light | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Dining Set

Contemporary mid-century and under $1k which is just insane. Minty Mod Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup gold brass tuquoise mint Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Bar CartChandelier | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Chairs | Table

This might be my favorite as I am a sucker for anything “tulip, mint, or gold.” That tile is expensive and, yet, it’s still worth it. Modern Farmhouse Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup rustic dark masculine Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Pendant Light | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Chairs | Table

I love that kitchen, but I’m more struck by how amazing those chairs are for $234 for four of them!! WHAT??? I’m buying those now for our new outdoor patio (stay tuned). Modern Zen Moodboard Affordable Kitchen Roundup boho blue bamboo Budget Friendly Emily Henderson Design

Counter Top | Backsplash | Wall Paint | Cabinet Paint | Pendant Light | Cabinet Pull | Sink | Faucet | Chairs | Table

It’s happy, friendly and modern, yet organic. I’d drink wine and lean while pretending to cook so hard in this kitchen.

Nail gun to your head – WHICH ONE DO YOU CHOOSE???

Ugh. I’m tied between “Clean and Classic, ” ‘”Minty-Mod, ” and “Modern Zen.” Wait and “Classic Cafe”. GAH. I think “Classic Cafe, ” but it’s really close.

You?

Thanks to Kelsey Smith of Golden Vibes for working with us to round up these budget friendly kitchen ideas. I think we are on to bathrooms next …

Need more kitchen inspiration? Check out these babies: 13 New Kitchen Trends and My Feelings About Them, 48 Budget Friendly Kitchen Hardware Knobs & Pulls, How To Add Personality To A White Kitchen.

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  1. I cannot even tell you how much I freaking love these posts. I too am adding those chairs a la Modern Farmhouse, but I think Classic Cafe is… everything. It is everything.

  2. I LOVE THESE ROUND UPS SO MUCH. PLEASE NEVER STOP.

    Sorry for the all-caps. That’s just how I feel right now.

    1. Agree. They are awesome! So many different options and finely nuanced colours on such reasonable budgets. I guess that’s what you get when you hire a pro. 😉

  3. Clean & classic all day long. Makes me wonder how I spent $50k on our kitchen…she could have built a custom home with that money! Nice job – even if it fills me with regret;)

      1. We have gutted our kitchen and replaced everything floor to ceiling including building our cabinets from scratch. We are at 25k. We would have spent 50k easily if we’d paid someone to do it. I still can’t believe kitchens can cost that much.

        1. It’s insane. These kitchens are definitley more smaller scale and not necessarily for the kitchens you are going to be in for 30 years. I think that the labor usually takes up 75% of the cost, so if you can do it yourself YOU SHOULD. SKilled labor should cost good money, and it does 🙂

  4. These are great, and the prices are doable… but it’s more about the time and life-upheaval needed to paint and put in new counter tops/back splashes. Sigh.

  5. This could not have come at a better time. I am sweating the remaining expenses for our kitchen remodel RIGHT NOW and will be clicking “buy” on at least three of Kelsey’s magical products here. Big fat kisses to Kelsey!

  6. Great post. I’ll also working on a kitchen and I’m having trouble finding a contractor. Can you please write about how and where you would find contractors?

    1. Hey Billy – I keep asking about this too and hope they blog about it soon.

      I’m trying to do a kitchen reno and the design is complete, the materials are picked out and/or purchased – it’s just finding a contractor!

      I was able to finally find a few sites that match you up with a contractor for your job: handy, thumbtack, homeadvisor, and pro.
      I’m getting bids at the moment from a couple places on homeadvisor.
      If you’re on the east coast there is a site called Sweeten.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Ugh. The problem is that good contractors in a builders market (which we are in) are not interested in small jobs, understandably. They only have so much band width so they want to have 5 huge jobs instead of 25 tiny jobs to manage. It makes doing a bathroom or kitchen really difficult because on kitchens they are making $5k to manage so much stuff. Point is – I have been in the same situation and that is why some of my jobs (the bathrooms) have taken so much time – it had to be on their schedule. You want to find someone young and hungry but yes, they will be less experienced. Lastly, I do find that thumbtack/porch/handy have been good for smaller jobs. Just today I had a handy-dude from handy replacing my deadbolt and painting the metal stripping between by two newly painted exterior doors. It was $60 an hour and due to some trouble shooting took 4 hours. INSANE. but the job is done and no contractor would have touched it. He was skilled, just ran into some issues because its an old door. Not sure what my point is other than – smaller jobs are hard to find a good contractor. You are not alone 🙂

  7. Hey! You guys don’t have the link to the bar cart in the “Minty Mod” kitchen – where is that from? I love it!!

  8. My frugal nature wants to embrace laminate but I think ultimately I would be disappointed and want a change. Though, I’m talking about our house not a shorter-term living situation.

  9. Wowwwww, wow wow. This is crazy impressive! I’m not a fan of laminate and particleboard, etc, but with the goal of being affordable? Mad props, team. Accomplishing SO much with so little.

  10. This is so great! putting together all of the pieces for a cohesive kitchen can be hard. I think I like clean and classic the best, but maybe subbing the light blue for the darker blue in classic cafe. But it is such a hard choice!

  11. These designs are sooooooo good! I especially love all the table/chair combinations. Do you have any suggestions on how to pitch changes like this to your landlord? Is it common for the renter to pay for all the materials or do landlords sometimes chip-in or make a deal for lowered rent? Any persuasion techniques welcomed!

  12. I can’t tell you how much I love this new series of low-budget options for décor! It seems like every great designer’s blog has stuff that is so over-the-moon expensive. It is SO wonderful to see beautiful options at more “real world” prices. So thank you! (and my vote is Modern Farmhouse…)

  13. Ahhh, these are AMAZING – and such a timely article, as I have yet to choose what I want for our 1930 bungalow remodel. We’re almost done installing cabinets, so now it’s DECISION TIME. I’ve been dreading it for oh-so-long, but Kelsey’s picks are fabulous! My favorites are “Classic Cafe” & “Clean and Classic.”

    Question on the sources: can you vouch for these? I ask because I’m obsessing over the sink linked under “Clean and Classic” – it’s just what we’ve been looking for – but I’ve never heard of faucetline.com, and it doesn’t exactly look trustworthy (I mean, you can only order by fax….what is this, the ’90s?) so I am a bit hesitant. 🙁

    Your thoughts?

  14. Here’s my dilemma: My 70s kitchen has a low ceiling + soffits above the cabinets + track lighting. It’s basically galley-style with a garage door on one end and dining area on the other, with a small peninsula on the dining side. The kitchen still has the original cabinets with recent counter/backsplash updates.

    I don’t like the track lighting but what’s another option for such a low ceiling? I can’t seem to find any flush mount fixtures that fit the bill. Ideally I could just swap the track for something else, but I’m starting to think that there aren’t any other options besides putting in recessed lighting. Any ideas folks?

    1. Lils, we have/had the same kitchen: low ceiling, soffits, galley-style. We added recessed lighting and will hang some pendants over the peninsula soon. I’m really happy with the recessed lighting. It’s clean and doesn’t draw too much attention. I don’t like the look of flush-mounted fixtures myself, and I think the recessed lights help the ceiling to seem every inch of its 8 feet. 🙂 I expect the pendants to make a big difference with the pretty-factor.

  15. After much deliberation, I’ve decided that modern Zen it is. I’m not ready to redecorate yet but some of these items are so good, I seriously considered buying them now and putting in storage until I’m ready.

  16. I would take a nail gun to the head for you right now, that’s how much you are KILLING IT with blog content lately. We just bought our first house, basically have free/cheap ugly stuff and are starting from scratch with a small budget, plus I’m totally overwhelmed by it all and your blog is helping SO MUCH. Now how to decide?!

  17. Love love love all the budget posts! Keep ’em coming. I do have to point out an error I noticed on one of the prices and links though. The mid century masculine table caught my eye because we just recently ordered a table that looks very very similar to it on Amazon. When I clicked the link, though, I noticed the $400 price is actually just for the table, and does not include the dining chairs. It’s misleading in the photo on the website, but if you click the full description it does state that the chairs are not included. So that’s a bummer because $400 would be a steal for such a killer table with 4 chairs. But for anyone out there who wants a super similar looking table for $130, here is the link for the table we got recently on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J9YT99G/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o07_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    It’s not as big as the $400 table you linked to, but we love the smaller size because our apartment kitchen is tiny and this table fits perfectly in the space we needed it to be. We’ve been very impressed with the quality of the table and we love the look of it. Thanks again for all the high style low budget posts you’ve been doing lately! They are so so helpful for us renters!

  18. Has anyone had experience with homary.com? Seems too good to be true…I’m guessing most faucets, etc. are made in China these days, but wondering if having the US brand stamp guarantees some additional level of okayness (i.e. no lead present, etc.)

    Emily, any thoughts?

    1. YES to a bathroom post please! I’d like a Mid-Century Masculine (with the Contemporary Glam sink) version of a bathroom 🙂

  19. Love classic cafe – it is similar to what we did for our kitchen renovation in our 500 sq ft apartment. You can get butcher block look with easier install and less maintenance with the Saljan counter (which is what we used): http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20264405/. We tore down a wall, changed from a galley to an L shape, and bought/installed a new sink, flooring, cabinets, counters, and open shelving for less than $1500! It’s not perfect but it IS much better than before, and we love it.

  20. Awesome post! Wow, such amazing options at such amazing prices! I think I’d have to go with Minty Mod but they’re all so great1

  21. This post got pinned. In a couple years we’re moving to a senior living apt and I will need this then. Classic Cafe and Clean Classic are speaking to me.

  22. They’re gorgeous and this is the best version of this blog theme so far! I’d go with the first one. I wondered if you could put the retailer on the list of sources so I don’t have to click through to the link – I’m in the UK so can’t get most of these overseas and it’s frustrating to have to click through to see if there’s any chance the beautiful things are from IKEA.
    Also, I started a DIY kitchen install 3 years ago and it’s still not finished – as soon as it was functional again we got tired of DIY! I could see landlords being very wary of the commitment (and skills) of tenants.

  23. i adore these posts!! i’m helping my mom redo her kitchen & bathroom and it has been a huge help to show her you can get great design at an affordable cost! i can’t wait to see the bathroom post! please, pretty please, include a modern farmhouse bathroom <3

    1. PS. We ‘down under’ need an Australian Emily! Pretty much exactly you, Em – but can source everything from Australian stores!!
      *sigh* but I can look and love and be inspired – even if I can’t buy 😉

      1. I feel ya! I am also in Australia and looking for counter height stools like the ones in Modern Farmhouse so I clicked through. Sure enough to they do have something like that, even better, in a stool, sure enough they do post to Australia, great excitement building… Until checkout…. Postage to Australia $480!! I could almost fly to LA and get them myself.

  24. Seriously – this is nuts! In a great way. You’re really killing the “make good design more accessible” deal. Fantastic!

  25. THIS IS JUST THE POST I NEEDED!!! I have been talking kitchen reno ever since we moved into our house, three years ago, but my partner has a lot of sticker shock on the price. I have since drawn up so many various plans, on my iPad, and just this morning developed a floor plan that doesn’t require knocking down a wall! With focus on simple reconfiguration and hardware, cabinet, appliance, paint updates. These mood boards are definitely gonna help seal the deal- heres hoping!!! thx

  26. Awesome job on this round up! I vote for Classic Cafe or Contemporary Glam (but with a white or stainless sink). 🙂

  27. Thanks Emily, I’m buying the Contemporary Glam chairs x2 for my upcoming new home reno dining area. Originally wanted wishbone chairs replica but I think this one look real sleek. My home is Contemporary Modern. 🙂

  28. Good golly! I’m a huuuuge fan of everything Emily Henderson and was doing my “before bed blog reading” and there’s my minty fresh loa chandelier! Thank you so much!

    Cheers from Nola,
    Kirsten

  29. I LOVE these posts! Such great ideas for a renter like me. I have been table shopping for a while and was stuck but the Modern Farmhouse has given me great ideas 🙂 THANK YOU!

  30. You all have been on fire lately. I appreciate the work your team is doing SO much. It can feel so unattainable to create a beautiful space on a budget (hi, full time teacher and graduate student here), but it goes so far to your mental health to have a space you feel proud of and are comfortable in and can’t wait to go home to. I was listening to Orlando on the YHL podcast yesterday say that good design shouldn’t be limited to people with money, and you are really living that out right now.
    Endless thanks to the amount of work that goes in to these posts, and I hope you keep it up. Your whole team (and you!) should feel so proud of all the content you put out. I hope you all know that your work really is helping people in such a special way. Thanks, Emily!

  31. My vote: Minty Mod.

    Also get so excited when these realistic round-ups come out. It means a lot to have your vote of confidence on these products.

  32. These are great! I’d love to get your opinion on faux marble countertops. I am moving into the cutest bunglaow rental, but the only drawback to the home is the outdated 80’s kitchen (lots of gray formica & an ugly greenish tile backsplash). I’ve researched the heck out of rental solutions for ugly countertops and I came across a faux marble countertop cover that adheres like contact paper, although it’s thicker and designed to cover a counter. From what I can tell online it looks incredibly realistic – do you have any experience using something similar, or any additional tips on kitchen solutions for renters? Thank you!

  33. My favorite: Modern Zen (love it all except for the chairs)

    Second favorite: Mid-Century Masculine (a very close runner up)

  34. I love Classic Cafe too and this post is so timely as my husband and I recently bought a house in France in need of updating. We’ll rent it out for 10 yrs or so until we retire and for a 2nd home, we can’t spend a lot on reno. What floor would you recommend with CC kitchen? I’d love 2 or 3 suggestions. Thanks for this Emily!

  35. Clean & Classic and Modern Farmhouse. Since we ARE redoing our kitchen next July I am struggling to figure this all out right. I’m in love with a scalloped tile for the cooktop backsplash (the husband thinks we should turn them sideways to look like fish scales…I’m not super sure about that.) Recycled glass countertops? Or limestone? Which color(s) to paint the cabinets? Re-stain the floors? Double sink or farmhouse single?? Wall color???

    These things keep me up at night and our reno doesn’t start for an entire year.

  36. Love this post, and this series of posts.

    One question: is there any way to turn off the strobing picture in this post and others? I am a migraineur and the strobing pix can trigger a migraine for me almost instantly. I know it looks very cool, but I am hoping that there is a way that I can enjoy your blog posts without exposing myself to a migraine trigger. Many thanks for your consideration.

  37. Hi, Emily hope you are fine. First of all I would like to thank you for your blog. The information you have shared really helpful to many people. The product showcase with pricing is really an unique idea. Hoping for another good post very soon. Thanks Emily.

  38. Thanks! Just bought the (very inexpensive! ) long skinny subways from Clean and Classic to do herringbone in my temporary kitchen. Debating whether to rip out the flanking cabinets next to the big stove for a more seamless horizontal look.

  39. Thank you for all your great design inspiration.

    Got inspired by your “Affordable Kitchen Designs” and took the plunge. Ordered the tile listed above (“Clean and classic”) which was a very cool 2″ x 8″ white subway (very inexpensive).
    Ripped out eyesore chunky beige Mexican tile with dragonflies, took out range-flanking upper cabinets and hired tile man (not so inexpensive).

    But…note to beginners like me. With tile that looooong, it is hard to do the herringbone pattern I had dreamed of unless you have a lot of horizontal space. My tile guy pointed out that I could do it above the 48″ range, but not on the opposite side of room where I had small, fridge-flanking counters, which posed a dilemma. After weighing options, ended up just doing all horizontal running bond, rather then have two patterns in the room, or ditching the tile.

    While it looks MUCH better then the previous tile, and the skinny subways give it a more modern modern look, it is still “just” subway tile without the interesting herringbone pattern, and not what I had envisioned. Though hey, maybe I would have gotten tired of the busy herringbone over time.

    But what I now know is that I should have mapped out the herringbone tile on all three backsplash areas on graph paper BEFORE I ordered tile. I would have seen immediately that it would not have fit on one small section. Lesson learned. Maybe this will help another reader the same mistake.

  40. Most annoying site ever! I came here for some ideas and inspiration but all I got were jumping ads all over the place. I get it that these sites have to have advertising on them and that it is targeted. And I don’t mind that and a sidebar with things that might be of interest or an occasional in your face pop up. But I couldn’t even navigate the site or any of the stories without the ads moving all over the place getting in the way of everything. I’m gone and not returning. Fix this stupid ad thing!