BUY vs DIY: Kitchen renovation ideas from fancy to frugal

Considering a kitchen makeover? Here are some options to help you stick to your budget
By Avital Norman Nathman  Published on 09/20/2018 at 11:00 AM EDT
Our kitchen renovation: before and after!

Home renovation projects can easily turn expensive, difficult, and frustrating. I knew all of this when I embarked on a kitchen makeover a few years ago… and again this past summer on yet another (different!) kitchen. Through both renovations, however, I learned a lot, particularly when to leave it to the professionals and when to DIY. What I found is that most kitchen renovation tasks can be done on your own, even if your skills are limited! Whether you’re willing to pay for the efficiency and expertise of a professional or you are ready to roll up your sleeves and attempt it all on your own, we have you covered.

Keep in mind that because we’re talking about large-scale home improvement projects, the DIY section will include some purchases, but they will come in way under budget compared to the professional versions.


When we redid the kitchen in our own home, I ended up falling in love with recycled glass countertops. At first I researched how to DIY these environmentally friendly counters, but everything I read said to leave it to the pros, and I’m really glad I did. A couple years later and I still love these countertops (pictured above). They add a splash of vibrant color without overwhelming the space.

Check out these options by Curava.


We recently renovated the countertops in a rental house of ours. Our budget was modest, so we needed to find ways to DIY on a dime…or two. We saved thousands by using a refinishing kit, available online or in most home improvement stores. The instructions were super clear, the actual work fairly easy, and it only took a couple of days (including wait time between coats for maximum drying). In the end, we transformed some blah and basic counters into ones with a pretty stonecoat finish, and didn’t pay premium prices!

Purchase a Daich Countertop Refinishing Kit on Amazon for $151.


If your kitchen has a lot of twists, turns, and random curved corners, laying down a new floor could get dicey. Hire a professional to install. For a kitchen, find a material that stands up well to heavy traffic and spills. I drool over bamboo flooring, a sustainable option that looks pretty fabulous.

Check out flooring options at Green Building Supply.


The footprint of our rental made it easy to DIY the floor. We ripped out the worn tiles that looked permanently coffee-stained, then put in laminate click boards. They look like wood, come in a variety of stains and finishes, and are super easy for the layperson to do. There’s no messy tile glue and planks can be easily trimmed to size with a box cutter! The new floor (pictured above) gave the kitchen a more modern look, took us only two days to install, and cost much less than a professional installation.

Check out flooring options at Home Depot.

Avital Norman Nathman

When it comes to cabinets, there are many options out there. If you have the money to spend, you can find an array of custom-designed cabinets in a variety of materials. Pricier options can be customized. You can finally have that thin, tall cabinet that only stores your baking pans, or a drawer especially crafted to house all of your spices.

Review premium cabinet options at Kraftmaid.       


There are a range of DIY cabinets, depending on your budget. For one of our kitchen renovations, we ended up getting cabinets from Ikea (much cheaper than elsewhere), and put them together ourselves (pictured above). Nothing can help strengthen or break up a marriage more than putting together 10+ Ikea cabinets over the span of a couple of days. If your budget doesn’t even stretch that far, consider refinishing the cabinets you do have. In our other kitchen makeover we sanded and polished the existing cabinets and changed up the hardware to modernize the boring wood. It was much easier and only took a couple of hours, and gave the kitchen a fresher look.

Purchase wood polish and conditioner on Amazon, $8


One way to truly personalize your kitchen is through art. Food-inspired art might seem obvious, but it’s one of my favorite ways of livening up the space. If the rest of your kitchen is fairly monochromatic, why not choose art that provides a pop of color? There are a variety of various kitchen-friendly art pieces out there, and if budget isn’t an issue, you’re sure to find the perfect match.

Purchase a pair of French Mushroom Prints from One Kings Lane, $109.


If you don’t have the funds to purchase new artwork, you can always make yourself some! I once created a wall hanging from a photo I took of an Ikea placemat that had been sprinkled with sesame seeds (after I had enjoyed a bagel). People still comment on it all the time, and are shocked when I explain it’s a print of a photo of a plastic placemat (pictured above)! A color-themed collage is another great DIY method of bringing in artwork. I’ve found that clipping images from magazines like National Geographic will give you some interesting pictures to work with. Snip and arrange magazine images from similar color families and you’ll be amazed at how they’ll add a bit of flair to any room.


There are a ton of amazing options out there for kitchen curtains. Now, not every kitchen needs curtains, but if you happen to have a window you’d like to keep covered on occasion—your nosy neighbors don’t need to know what you’re having for dinner every night!—you’re in luck!

Purchase a 3 Piece Canvas Kitchen Curtain Set from Hayneedle, pictured above, starting at $18.


You don’t have to be a sewing whiz to be able to make your own curtains. Have some cute old pillowcases and a little bit of time? You can follow a no sew tutorial for making kitchen curtains or even roman shades! However, if you do sew, it’s relatively easy to make kitchen curtains as well. Curtains can be a quick, easy, and cheap way to add some personality and flair to your kitchen if you want to change it up, but aren’t ready for anything super drastic just yet.

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