Cutting Corners in the Kitchen

By Chelsea

Our kitchen renovation was the first major project we completed in our house.  Oh, my, was it exhausting. And it took FOREVER…or so it seemed. But in true Ewald fashion, we saved money by cutting corners and doing (almost) all of the work by ourselves. Here’s a look at how we saved on costs and still ended up with a kitchen that we love:

1) Painting Cabinets

Here are a few before shots of our kitchen from shortly after we moved in  (we had already removed wallpaper and painted the walls):



The cabinets were in nice shape, but made the whole space feel dark and dreary. I’m often a fan of tone-on-tone looks, but not in this case.  The dark cabinets matched the dark flooring (like, they were twins…can you see it in the picture?) and so one of them had to go.  Our options? Buy new hardwood flooring, buy new cabinets, or paint the ones we had.  This wasn’t a hard decision for us and probably took all of about 2 seconds to decide.  Of course we opted to paint our cabinets!  This decision easily saved hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Here’s the rundown of what we did and what you’ll want to consider doing if you’re thinking of painting your cabinets:

1) Remove doors and hardware

2) Sand and clean

3) Prime with a good primer

4) Paint in a color of your choice, using a high-grade semi-gloss paint (we used Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic in Alabaster).

5) Let doors dry for several days before re-hanging.

It’s time consuming, but it’s easy. And cheap. And the results are so worth it:



We actually had our cabinet doors sprayed by a professional painter, but otherwise, we did all of the painting ourselves. We LOVE how they turned out!  So much brighter and happier!

Here are a few other ways we cut corners on this project:

2) Craigslisting appliances

We don’t seem to have any pictures of our stove and microwave before we replaced them, but they were old, white and dirty. Since our dishwasher was already black, we decided to simply match our “new” appliances to that. Black isn’t our first choice for appliance color, but we didn’t want to pour money into new stainless appliances at the time (and probably won’t ever in this house). We did a little searching on Craigslist and found these nearly-new:


Intead of paying big bucks for each appliance, we got the deuce for about $600. And did I mention they were only 3 years old?!? Craigslist, you are indeed our friend.

3) Subway tile

Save LOTS of money on a backsplash by installing subway tile.  It’s classy and uber-affordable. I think we paid about  4 cents per tile for our backsplash, which added up to a grand total of about $12 for the whole backsplash.  Crazy, eh? And it’s totally us. Clean, bright and classy (ok, you’re right, we’re not that classy, but we try). We added a little pop of color by choosing a tinted grout. Chip saved us even bigger bucks by installing it himself.  Again–it didn’t get done in a day (or a week, for that matter), but it was worth the wait!


4) Countertop material

There are so many alternatives to expensive granite and quartz out there. We knew we didn’t want to pay for either of those materials, and truthfully, we like the look of less expensive materials better. Though laminate has come a long way and can mimic more expensive options, we ultimately decided against it. Instead, we went with solid surfacing. It’s far less expensive than granite, quartz, soapstone or any other high-end material, and yet it looks great and is really durable. We chose a dark granite-colored finish that has little flecks of gray, brown and white in it.  It goes great against the white cabinets and subway tile. We opted not to add a counter backsplash (that little lip that often sits up a few inches against the wall) to give it more of a clean, high-end look.

5) Adding cost-effective storage

We obviously have a small kitchen. Not a lot of cabinet space. Not a lot of counter space. Where to store everything? This was a question we struggled with for a long time. Our answer?  Inexpensive furniture pieces and baskets. Enter the Ikea Norden Sideboard. Perfect solution to our small kitchen woes!

photo 1

We also added one extra little cabinet where there was previously just an empty space where we stored our garbage can. The little bit of extra storage it brings is great!



6) DIY Window Treatment

Last, but not least, rather than purchasing a custom roman shade (which can cost hundreds), I made my own. I’m no seamstress, but I can sew in a straight line.  I followed a simple tutorial which gave clear and easy steps…and voila!  Cheap answer to a window covering!


And there she is!  Our cost-effective kitchen transformation.  No matter what your budget, there are ways to refresh and renew a space.  Anyone working on a kitchen project right now?  Let us know if you need some help!



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