Getting The Classic White Kitchen On A Budget


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
To be perfectly honest, a kitchen renovation project was never part of our immediate family goals. Heck, it didn’t even make it to our five-year plan! Having lots of bills and other household expenses to pay prevented us from also putting up an inspiration pegboard of before and after kitchen remodels on a budget. But my wife had always wanted an all-white kitchen remodel, partly because ours is a serviceable but cluttered area, and slightly because it no longer (as Marie Kondo always puts it) “sparks joy” for her.

Last month though, something happened that got us launching into our remodeling project right away. We got both a busted faucet and chipped countertops at the same time! That’s when I realized that I’ve just about had it with preparing meals while trying to ignore the annoying dripping sounds and avoiding getting injured by the sharp edges of the broken tile.

So I may be thrifty, but I know when remodeling is due. Fortunately, we both agreed on it, and here we are right in the middle of our renovation project. I will be sure to post the results when we’re done; but for now, here are all the practical lessons I’ve been learning on how to achieve my wife's dream white kitchen remodel project while trying our best to keep within our budget.

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Stick to a subdued palette

We live in a smallish home – which is cozy but not big enough to accommodate a large central island for casual breakfasts and meal preparations. We have a serviceable galley kitchen with a small window near the sink that looks out at a pocket garden. It lets in enough sunlight to make the entire kitchen look cheerful and for me to save on electricity because I don’t need to keep the lights on during the daytime.

But the main reason that we insisted on a white kitchen remodeling project was that white could help visually expand the room. Sure, I like the occasional pop of color like the next person. However, our old kitchen was painted the kind of bland beige associated with rentals, with a sad-looking wooden baseboard that made the walls look shorter. After studying several all-white kitchen remodels and using them as design inspiration, we decided to stick with a muted palette. The primary color will be white, including the backsplash (white subway tiles), kitchen cupboards and cabinets, and other shelving materials. The only other items that will deviate from this pristine palette would be our countertops, which will be replaced with granite, so it’s stronger than the tiles we used to have; and the door leading into the main dining room, which will be painted a serene pale blue that my wife simply loves.

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Invest first in the items you will use the most

That busted faucet and treacherous tiled countertop were the first to go in our renovation project. They were not just some of our most-used kitchen fixtures – they also were one of the oldest (I don’t think they were ever replaced since we moved in, actually). Judging from the rusted spots on the spout and the area around the faucet, I don’t think the previous tenants cared to invest in high-quality fixtures for their kitchen sink.

I did my research and discovered that brass faucets are the best. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford them on our budget. So we got the next best thing, which is a swivel spout made of chrome. It looks classy and shiny, shouldn’t corrode quickly, and be durable enough to last us for a couple of years at least. As for the countertop – well, we replaced it with granite which is both heat and scratch-resistant. So yay – no more sharp edges for me or my wife to get cut on while we prepare meals!

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Take advantage of special sales

We were lucky enough to catch the tail-end of an “everything must go” sale at our local hardware store. Since it was still in January, one shop, in particular, was getting rid of the old inventory to make way for new stock. That’s how we got huge discounts on our main kitchen fixtures, including cabinet pulls, faucets, tiles, shelves, and even some cute decorative knick-knacks that can liven up our kitchen. We managed to get everything while sticking to our budget, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think we could have afforded all these new items at their regular retail price. So I’m still thanking my lucky stars that we started our kitchen reno while holiday sales were still ongoing.

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Always keep hygiene and sanitation in mind

The classic white kitchen should remain as spotless and pristine as possible. However, with a somewhat messy family (especially on school mornings), this seems to be a considerable challenge.

This is why I’m glad we stuck with a Scandinavian-inspired minimalist design for our kitchen. My mom argued that having all-white cabinets and cupboards will show up dirt much easier. But I argued back that seeing dirt and grime right away will likely motivate us to clean up regularly, rather than let the mess pile up as I usually did (no thanks to the strange swirly patterns on our tiled counters and the overall beige-y backdrop of our kitchen). And because we invested good money on our new fixtures, I became extra vigilant about spotting the first signs of corrosion and grime on them.

I guess my bottom line is that, even with a seemingly sterile-looking kitchen, regular maintenance is a must to keep everything sanitized and hygienic. We have our cleaning products in a pull-out cabinet near my sink, so everything is within reach in the event of spills or leaks. And after every meal, the dishes are washed straightaway and stored in their proper cupboards and shelves.

I shudder to think of the kind of health risk we were subjecting our family to by keeping that busted faucet and chipped tiles in the meal preparation areas! Knowing when to invest in new stuff to keep my entire family healthy and happy is not something I regret doing. In fact, we are really looking forward to our beautiful new kitchen, which should be unveiled a couple of weeks from now.

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