Design on a Budget: It’s Not Impossible

May 24, 2013

Wendy Bircher of Yankee Barn Homes updated cabinets by swapping out the hardware with fixtures from Restoration Hardware and applying a steel gray-colored lacquer paint for a more contemporary look. Photo Credited to Yankee Barn Homes – www.yankeebarnhomes.com.

Plenty of homeowners want to make renovations to their existing kitchens and bathrooms, but because their budgets are limited, they either piece meal a project together themselves, or they choose not to make any changes at all. This untapped market could definitely benefit under the guise of a professional designer, and there are several ways to work with limited budgets. 

“Not everyone has the money for major renovations,” said Wendy Bircher of Yankee Barn Homes, “but they can still amp up without gouging their bank accounts.”

Bircher also suggests spending the big bucks on the things that are really important – like cabinets – up front and then adding key elements down the road that can easily be replaced at a later date. She also suggests using a laminate countertop instead of pricy stone or tile. 

More of Bircher’s Tips:

Wall paint. This provides the greatest impact for the least amount of money, and you can choose rich, vibrant colors. 

Cabinetry. Stock cabinets are available in a variety of choices, and you can beef those up with moldings and trims. 

Faucets and fixtures. Big-box stores carry a wide selection of these for the kitchen and bath – in high-end finishes like antique brass and oil-rubbed bronze. 

Knobs and pulls. Bircher says these kinds of items can break the bank, but thinking outside of the box and selecting natural finishes and interesting shapes and colors can make a difference and doesn’t always have to be expensive. 

Tile. Visit an upscale retailer and head straight to the clearance bin, which is often packed with overstocked items. 

Mirrors. Bircher suggests not settling for frameless when it comes to mirrors and instead says to encourage clients to use eBay and Craigslist to find good deals.

According to Lynn Gastineau of Gastineau Log Homes, “It’s very realistic to be able to stick to a budget. You look at what would be easiest to replace later, and spend the money on the things you either can’t replace or that can’t be replaced easily.”


Lynn Gastineau of Gastineau Log Homes designed this kitchen with a center island with a built-in downdraft range, eliminating the need for a large, expensive hood. She created a corner pantry in lieu of a corner cabinet or shelving unit, which can by pricey. Photo credited to Gastineau Log Homes – www.oakloghome.com.

More of Gastineau’s Tips:

Cabinets. Scratch-and dent stores are great places for finding cabinet doors and then adding your own glass shelves later. Big-box stores are good for finding basic or underfinished cabinets that you can paint or to which you can apply a creative finish. 

Storage. In kitchen corners, lazy Susans and pull-out cabinets and drawers can be expensive. Building a pantry in the corner is more cost effective, and the door can be stained to match the cabinets for a more custom look and feel. 

Lighting. Gastineau is a big fan of kitchens having a lot of up and downlighting, as well as direct lighting over the workspace, and she says there are a lot of inexpensive light fixtures available in the market. Good lighting around mirrors in the bathroom is a must, and a can light in the shower area is an inexpensive way to maintain enough light in that space. 

Showers. A large shower unit, designed accordingly, may not require a glass door.  

“You never know what someone’s budget will be, but the design can be beautiful regardless – you just have to be creative,” adds Bircher. “Hiring an interior designer can be expensive, but he/she is keeping up with your budget and making sure you are not making costly mistakes.”