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How to do a home kitchen remodel on a budget: compromise on the big decisions and splurge on the details (Case Study)

Cabinet handles by leather craftmaker Walnut.

We remodeled our own personal kitchen on a below-average budget ($119/sqft) using IKEA cabinets and Walnut Studiolo leather drawer pulls and handles.

During the process, we learned that a few big design compromises kept us on budget and schedule, while freeing us up to splurge on a few important design details that are now our favorite features! We also share a few tips we learned to make DIY kitchen planning easier. All in all, we managed to come in under budget and on schedule thanks to careful planning and a willingness to compromise. This is what we did:


Before we moved in, the kitchen was not only not to our taste (90’s oak cabinetry, black formica countertops, black sink), it just wasn’t functional. Two people couldn’t cook together without bumping into each other, and there wasn’t enough storage. The eating area in front of the sliding glass door never got used.

We *love* to cook, and since we work from home out in the country, we only go out to eat maybe one meal a week. Kitchen functionality is pretty important to our daily lives, so we decided to do a complete overhaul of the kitchen.

Original realtor photo, note the built-in island in the middle of the walkway (bottom left).

After living with the house a couple years, we decided to extend the kitchen all the way along the window wall, which meant taking out the sliding glass door and putting in a picture window.

Removing the sliding glass door and putting in a picture window.
Three years later, we had removed the island and were using a woodworking bench (bottom left) and IKEA bookshelf (right side) for extra storage.

Expanding the full length of the wall would add a ton of storage, allow for an in-kitchen eating area, and frame the kitchen around the beautiful mountain views outside the window. But this made the kitchen MUCH bigger, and we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on the remodel.

Stay Under Budget with Big Design Compromises

Living with the space for a couple years really helped us think long and hard about our design. Since we were on such a budget for such a large area, we knew we had to make some compromises, right at the get-go:

IKEA SEKTION kitchen cabinets with white VEDDINGE door and drawer faces.
The old, quirky lighting scheme had to remain for now to stay on budget and schedule.

Splurge on the Details to Make it Beautiful

Kitchens get expensive fast, and if you try to make everything perfect, the budget will quickly careen out of control. But on the other hand, nobody wants to remodel a space and have it look cheap. Luckily, you don’t have to. By making big compromises on the big ticket items, you can leave more space in the budget to splurge on the beautiful and fun details.

Leather handles are inviting the touch, and naturalized what could have been a sterile white/gray kitchen while not detracting from the view.
Naturally veining quartz island (Cambria Beaumont) brought movement and natural shapes to the crisp cabinet lines.

Things We Wish We’d Known: DIY Kitchen Planning

We learned – and re-learned! – a few tricks of the trade when designing the kitchen. Hopefully these tips will make your lives easier during your remodel:

Under cabinet microwave mounted like a wall oven in a dark corner.

About Walnut Studiolo

Walnut Studiolo crafts original modern designs by hand in our Oregon workshop using only natural materials. We make all the leather drawer pulls and handles seen here. Handcrafted in Oregon out of the finest vegetable-tanned leather and sustainable woods, our leather drawer pulls and cabinet pulls make fine accents to any kitchen, home, or dresser drawers.

Get inspired with our drawer pull project photo galleries. 

Get the details (specs, stylesheets, etc) on our drawer pull info page

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