5 Easy Kitchen Updates for $250 or Less

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After thousands of meals, your kitchen may be looking a little dingy and you may not have the $19,000 that the average homeowner spends on a kitchen remodel to fix it. Still, there are a few things you can do that’ll brighten your space until you have the money and time for a full refresh. Here are five kitchen updates that cost $250 or less. Why not try one this weekend? (Also see our Kitchen Design & Planning Guide.)

Consider a spot of color, $200

A few prominently placed bursts of bold color can work wonders by drawing the eye away from less attractive features. Pick furnishings like bar stools, small appliances, and accessories in bright shades, and don’t forget the often-overlooked kitchen window, an ideal place to add color and pattern.
Tip: For window treatments, be sure to buy machine-washable fabric, so you can periodically nix cooking grease or lingering smells. Look for deals in the remnant rack at the fabric store; instead of paying custom prices, use iron-on hemming tape and clip-on rings to make your own.

Install a focal-point fixture, $100

Choose one prominently located fixture, like the one over the kitchen island, and replace it with a show-stopper. Think bold color, an eye-catching design, or the sparkle of crystal. There are many online sources for light fixtures at reasonable prices (three great examples: lightinguniverse.com; lampsplus.com; progresslighting.com) but you might fare even better on Craigslist.org or by trolling local flea markets. Even if you have to pay an electrician to rewire a nonworking fixture, the price will probably still be right.

Add an island, $250

A custom-built island combines style and storage with a sometimes-hefty price. Save by opting for an unfinished or ready-to-assemble island and doing part of the work yourself. You’ll find a wide variety of doors, drawers, and countertops in different configurations, starting at around $150 at sources like unfinishedfurnitureexpo.com, amazon.com, or JC Penney.
Tip: Before you buy, make sure you have enough room to fit the island comfortably; you should have a 36- to 48-inch wide clearance on all four sides.

Update the hardware, $100

Installing new hardware is probably the simplest cabinet update. To avoid having to fill a bunch of screw marks, be sure to measure the distance between the holes after you remove the original hardware, and then choose new styles that match that size. There are plenty of places to buy new knobs and pulls, but you’ll find bargain prices in the hardware aisle (not the cabinetry aisle) of your local home center, online (try overstock.com), and at Ikea.

Paint high-impact areas, $100

You probably know that you can give old cabinets new life with a pretty new finish. But before you commit to what can be a painstaking project, especially if you’re hoping to transform your whole kitchen, think about focusing the power of color on a single area. Choosing an unexpected hue for one section—around the sink, say, or on an island, or both, can make a surprisingly big impact, with a lot less work than tackling an entire room of cabinets.

Top paint picks from our tests

When selecting an interior paint, you can’t go wrong by shopping at your local home improvement store. The best paints in Consumer Reports’ tests are sold at Ace, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. Here are the details.

Home Depot

Lowe’s

Ace Hardware

—Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

More from Consumer Reports:

The best matching washers and dryers

The best French-door refrigerators

How to get a stronger Wi-Fi signal

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