Where to spend and where to save when remodeling a kitchen – 'this is how to stick to your budget,' say designers

While a kitchen renovation can be a pretty pricy project, you don't need to pay over the odds for every single thing. This is how you prioritize

A kitchen with fluted marble island
(Image credit: Trevor Tondro. Studio credit Jeremiah Brent)

It can be hard to say no when you're remodeling a kitchen, especially when you want to create your dream cooking and entertaining space. A kitchen reno involves making several decisions on materials, finishes, colors, and appliances, and more often than not, you find yourself overshooting the budget.

But it doesn't always have to be the case. If you can decide on what elements are essential to your modern kitchen, and spend money in the right places, you can bring your project in on budget, without too many compromises. We asked top experts to help us decide where you can save and spend, and here's what they had to say.

What should you spend and save on?

When remodeling a kitchen, it's normal to feel overwhelmed as you may want the best of fixtures and elements but may not have the budget for it. This is where you need to prioritize. 

'It is important to spend on the items that have meaning or represent a high priority,' says Richard Misso, the creative director of The Stylesmiths. 'If on a tight budget, it is prudent to create a wish list, or what we like to call a 'Blue Sky Day' list. It should have all your wildest dream kitchen ideas listed.' 

'The next step is to do a project costing estimate, as this will help you eliminate the items that aren’t a 'priority' or a must have,' says Richard. 'Alternatively, it may help you understand that a budget increase may be required.'

Spend: kitchen cabinets

A kitchen with sage green cabinets

(Image credit: Heju)

'When it comes to kitchen cabinets, it's often wise to spend a bit more to ensure durability for such a high-traffic area,' says Kerrie Kelly, founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Studio. 'High-quality cabinets not only enhance the overall aesthetics of your kitchen, but also offer longevity and functionality, which is crucial.' 

One more thing to consider with modern kitchen cabinets is whether you'd like to paint them. If yes, do remember that you will have to live with that shade or finish for a long time... good cabinetry can last decades, after all. So choose a color you think you'll always love, and is timeless like grey, off-white or ivory, or choose a classic wood kitchen that can be re-painted in the future. Have a little more budget? Choose interesting handles and knobs to elevate the kitchen cabinet. 

Spend: appliances

A kitchen with an island in the middle

(Image credit: Virtually Here Studios. Studio credit Ome Dezin & Office of BC)

'Once your budget is set, spend on the items that will give your kitchen longevity or bring you joy,' says The Stylesmiths' Richard Misso. 'For example, If you consider yourself a master cook, then appliances and a durable kitchen island will be key areas to spend on.' 

High end, well-known gadgets not only aid in preparing better meals but also add a sophisticated touch to the kitchen. 'Appliances, like those from Hestan, are known for their wide color offering, innovative design, and premium performance, serving as a complement to well-crafted cabinetry, creating a harmonious, high-end kitchen space,' says Kerrie.

However, do remember. If your lifestyle is not very kitchen-focused, you're always on the go or mostly use your kitchen for socializing, then saving on the island would be better. 'If you’re not really a cook but make a great cocktail and cheese platter, then you could purchase lower spec appliances and spend more on fashionable chic finishes and maybe incorporate a bar into your kitchen design,' says Richard.

Save: backsplash

A kitchen with hanging pendant light and terrazzo backsplash

(Image credit: Emanuele Zamponi. Design: Studio Venturoni)

'Kitchen backsplash tiles offer an excellent opportunity to save while still achieving a striking look,' says Kerrie. 'By selecting stylish yet affordable tile options, you can allocate your budget to other kitchen essentials, like plumbing and appliances, which are worth the investment for their durability and advanced features. This way, you can have the best of both worlds – a visually appealing space without overspending.'

You can also reduce the tile costs by lowering the number of tiles a design uses. You could do just three or four rows of tiles above your countertop to catch the splashes and paint the rest of the wall in a coordinating color. Remember to use a wipeable emulsion.

Spend: sink 

A long kitchen counter with a sink

(Image credit: Cesar Rubio. Studio credit Knock Architecture & Design)

For kitchen sinks, while you may feel it's better to save, but designer Kerrie thinks otherwise.

'Consider this a place to spend,' says the designer. 'A well-constructed and thoughtfully designed sink, coordinating with sleek and reliable appliances, durable countertops and layered lighting ensures that your kitchen functions seamlessly. It's a daily workhorse, so investing in a durable and versatile sink can greatly improve your overall kitchen experience.'

Save: Lighting 

A kitchen with pendant lights above the island

(Image credit: Barls Wedlick Architects)

'Kitchen pendant lighting can add a lovely layer of drama to any kitchen, but remember decorative pendants are not as effective as task lighting in a work area like a kitchen,' says Richard. 'A rule that we tend to apply in an open plan kitchen/ dining concept is: Only add a feature pendant light in an open plan kitchen if there is no pendant above the dining table. Pick one or the other. Our preference is to add a pendant over the dining table as this generally allows for an intimate dinner party to be cozy and dimly lit.'

If you do go ahead with a pendant, consider adding dimmer switches where possible, so you can change the mood of the kitchen and eating area, as and when guests arrive. 

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Aditi Sharma Maheshwari

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast).  Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.