One Week to Overhaul a Kitchen on a Budget

November 25, 2020
...there are a few simple things that don't cost a lot but can really change the look and feel of a kitchen.

Whether you are  updating a basement suite as a homeowner, updating a suite you’re renting or are doing  a bridge-upgrade until you can do a full renovation - there are a few simple things that don’t cost a lot but can really change the look and feel of a kitchen. Raquelle and Jean had one week and a limited budget of less than $800 to turn their basement suite kitchen around. Raquelle gives us the down-low on how they used cupboards, walls, fixtures, furniture and countertops to refresh their outdated kitchen on a budget:


While it may have been desirable in its prime, the dark mahogany cupboards were making this already small basement suite feel even smaller. Never mind the complete lack of usable storage and countertop space - the kitchen was pretty unusable.

Past renters had used book shelves to try to create a bit more room but they ended up creating a look of disorganized clutter where nothing matched.

In a small, low-light, low-ceiling basement suite, the original dark mahogany kitchen cupboards made an already small kitchen seem to shrink even more. So the first thing they decided was to brighten it up. That was the easy part. 

The next decision was, how? While Raquelle wanted to paint the cupboards a beautiful rich Robin's egg blue or stain them white, Jean really wanted to keep the natural wood. After some push and pull they decided to do a test to see what was really under all of that dark stain. 

What they really didn’t want was to have that 90’s orange gloss - so they wanted to stay far away from any Maple-like colors. When they sanded down a portion of the cupboards, they found that they actually had quite a light and lovely natural color with lots of personality. 

So, they found a completely clear matte stain that protected the wood but didn’t add additional color. They compromised by keeping the cupboard doors natural and painting the trim and some accents white to keep it light and bright. 

Then they added some beautiful (but completely affordable) matte black handles that were purchased off Amazon to really elevate it and give it a finished look.

If you are renting and are not allowed to actually change the cupboards, check out all of the fantastic removable wallpapers out there!  They are available in everything from muted palettes to crazy bright colors or patterns.  Cover your cupboards, and when you change your mind or move out, just pull it off, and they are back like you found them! 


In a perfect world, Raquelle said that they would have done more with paint on the walls and added a fun backsplash. Unfortunately, their time and resources ran out too early.  But here’s what they wanted to do, and may do in the future:


The walls are light but are clearly a beige color. Had Jean had more time off, they would have wanted to re-paint those walls either a cooler clean white or  had some fun with a bolder color. Because there isn’t much wall space in the kitchen area and they had already lightened up the cupboards, they could have gotten away with some really fun and bold colors like the Robin's egg blue Raquelle had wanted earlier.   Paint is relatively inexpensive, especially for such a small space, so feel free to go wild and create the look you want.  Again, if you prefer, you can opt for the removable wallpaper to get some color, (or tone down a color you don't like).


They are looking at adding a fun hexagonal backsplash behind the stove and around the kitchen sink. They would have made it a solid wall of tiles behind the stove but would have given it more of an organic shape around the kitchen area. For this, they looked at using peel and stick tiles. 

Peel and Stick tiles are a perfect short-term option because they look great, are easy to install, will stay on as long as you want (heat and humidity resistant) but can be removed with little to no damage to the wall. This is perfect for a renter or someone who is doing a “bridge” update to their home.



As they told it, they had a doozie of an old kitchen faucet to contend with. Not only was it sorely outdated but it also leaked. It’s possible that they could have fixed it up but it was such a sad-looking thing - it just had to go. Thankfully Jean got a little rough with trying to fix it one day so the faucet's fate was sealed. 

They chose a squared pipe chrome-plated contemporary kitchen faucet with a pull-down sprayer by fluid. Raquelle had her eye on this faucet for a while before getting it and while the chrome does require more regular cleaning (might be better in a house with adults rather than children) she hasn/t questioned the decision once. The perfect mirror finish helps reflect any light and the contemporary shape really draws the eye. 


Unfortunately, at the time of these photos the lighting hadn’t been changed out yet but they swapped the outdated and mismatched kitchen lights for the same IKEA NYMÅNE ceiling spotlights that they already have in the living room. They have a matte black finish which works perfectly with the hardware they chose for the cupboards and put off a surprising amount of cool white light. The lighting even tones down the warm beige of the wall color, giving them a little more of what they wanted without having to paint.


Butcher Block Island

They managed to get this IKEA butcher block island for a steal. they hunted the classifieds high and low and ended up taking this guy home for under $100. This basement suite is a complete open-concept, so the island didn’t just provide more (much needed) storage and prep space, but it also created a visual separation from the other areas of the suite.


To add even more light and depth, they are adding a mirror in a sweet french window frame to the wall over the sink. Mirrors are well known to add to the illusion of space while bouncing more light and the frame will help add a little bit more character. 

Hanging Dish Rack

They really want to reduce clutter on our counters as much as possible, and while they have a dishwasher, there are always those odds and ends that need to be washed by hand. So they added a hanging dish rack in (you guessed it) matte black. 

Side Cart

They haven’t found the right one yet but the pair is on the lookout for a cool side cart or shelf that can house some sweet things like plants and wine on top, with the microwave underneath. They  despise the look of a microwave, so any possible way to hide it is all the better. 

Counter Top

The pair are suckers for countertops and think that they make a world of difference in a kitchen (and bathroom). While it would have been better to swap out the old countertop that they don’t like - it simply wasn't in the budget. So, after lots of research they found a Lowe’s that supplied countertop paint. Again, they ran out of time in that week so you won’t see the finished product in the images here but they opted to paint the countertops a clean white color that blends with the trim. The color also bounces light from below, creating a far brighter room.

The pair are planning to go ahead with some of the updates discussed above, but they are eally proud of what they accomplished so quickly and on such a tight budget!  Here is the reveal picture of the kitchen now!  

So, you should be getting the idea here.  Small changes can make a huge difference.  They went from a dark, crowded feeling basement suite to a light, more functional space in less than a week for about $800 (Canadian - so if you are a US reader you can spend even less).  Before you start, scope out local hardware and thrift stores, scroll through Pinterest and Houzz for ideas, visit your local kitchen and bath showrooms and let your imagination run!  They are so glad that they did!  

Small changes won't be sorry!

The perfect mirror finish of the kitchen faucet helps reflect any light and the contemporary shape really draws the eye.