10 Decorating Mistakes & How to fix them!

Free Workshop

6 Ways to Update your Builder Grade Kitchen

Kitchen updates don’t have to be really expensive or overwhelming. These six tips for updating a builder-grade kitchen will hopefully give you some inspiration and ideas to make your kitchen feel more like you, without breaking the bank.

I think the charm of a kitchen that feels custom and vintage speaks volumes, and it isn’t too hard – even if the blank slate you’re working with doesn’t have a lot of character of it’s own.

During the beginning of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “Fixer Upper” days, in one of their early episodes, I remember there was a clip of her working on her styling at the end just before they do the big reveal, and she said something like:

“We’re going to do the best we can with what we have.”

That thought really resonated with me, and has stuck with me all this time – so I want to speak that over you.

Wherever you’re at, whatever resources you have available to you, don’t worry that your place doesn’t boast a million dollar kitchen.

If you can do something to make it a better, prettier space for you and your family – do it! Do the best you can with whatever you have.

These kitchen update tips I’ll share below are my ideas that don’t require full kitchen makeovers, don’t require new appliances, and don’t cost anywhere near what you’d pay for a typical kitchen remodel (which can usually be anything from $10k-$100k!!) .

These will all give you quite a bit of bang for your buck, and they should all make your place feel more like YOU.

If you get to the end of this post and realize you’re still wanting to grow in your knowledge about this and other home design questions… come on over to elitedecoratingacademy.com to learn more about my comprehensive decorating course! With over 28 hours of teaching material broken down into 160+ classes that are an average of 10 minutes each, this is the course for any designer in any stage of your decorating journey!

6 Builder Grade Kitchen Upgrades:

Number One | Paint

Was there any doubt in your mind that I’d say something different for my #1, most important kitchen updates tip?

Paint, paint, paint!

Paint can really be used for a number of kitchen updates! Floors, tile, cabinets, countertops – you name it!

| For countertops, I also have gotten asked quite a bit if the technique I used for our Faux Concrete Table can be used on counter tops – and it sure can! I actually got the idea to try that process on our table from a blog sharing how they did it on their counters!|

Paint is amazing in it’s abilities to transform a space!

If you’re wanting to change your cabinets, I think white is a great classic and safe choice! It brightens and looks really nice with a wide range of countertops and floors and wall colors!

These before and after pictures from Life with Leanna show an idea of just how much paint can transform a space!

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com
Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com
Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com
Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

They certainly did a bit of other work like with the island and the flooring – but the change to the bright white from the bright yellow makes a big impact!

Behind the SCenes
Join the Waitlist for the Behind the Scenes Design Group
Thank you!

This is another example from Orrick and Company of how a bright white kitchen can look.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

2-tone or “tuxedo” kitchens are also really popular right now – usually with a darker color on the lowers, and lighter colors on the upper cabinets.

This is an example of that from Becki Owens.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Number Two | Hardware

I like to think of hardware as the “jewelry” of a room – and it’s really one of my favorite parts!

In a kitchen, you can update your space with:

  • a new faucet
  • cabinet pulls and handles
  • lighting

These hardware samples are from Rejuvenation.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

I often get asked if it’s ok to mix metals, and I say yes! My personal preference and advice is to only choose 2 to mix, but some designers advocate for mixing up to 3!

I think this has to do with how large of a kitchen you are working with.

My tips for mixing metals are to use two with good contrast (like gold or silver with black/oil rubbed bronze, but not something like silver with nickel.) and to keep your metals in their own plane.

So for example, if you use gold for your lower cabinets like this sample from Next Luxury, you could use your oil rubbed bronze for the upper cabinets and maybe your light fixture.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Something else I love about hardware is that you can switch it out so easily – even in a rental! Just keep track of your original hardware if you’ll need to replace it when you move out!

Number Three | Add a Focal Point

One of the easiest ways to add a focal point is to create an accent wall.

My friend Andrea from Pine and Prospect added this really cute faux stone wall at the end of their kitchen that I just love!

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Another fun accent wall idea is a cute wall paper like this one from Country Living.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

You can also do accent walls with bead board, or shiplap (although I do feel this trend is quieting down and might be on it’s way out).

And if an accent wall isn’t really your style, you can choose to make something like your kitchen island your focal point instead.

I’ve seen some people paint them bold colors, while some people add corbels and other trim work to add detail.

Decorate Confidently & Love Your Home
Get Access to Sarah’s Curated Vintage Art Collection – Sent Straight to Your Inbox! 
Check your inbox – your email should be arriving soon! 

I just love how Rhoda from Southern Hospitality dressed up her peninsula & lower cabinets with this blue paint! Dreamy!

Spring Kitchen

Number Four | Open Shelving

I get that not everyone will have this option, because often time shelving is coveted space – but IF you have cabinet space to spare, consider either a) taking off your cabinets completely and replacing them with open shelving, or b) swapping the doors to add cabinets with glass.

Marble Shelf picture credit: House of Bliss

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Or these glass shelves by Becki Owens.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Or these wooden DIY shelves by Bigger than the Three of Us.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Before making the leap to open shelving, I’d suggest you make sure that you a) have the storage space for the things previously in the cabinet, and b) that you have items you’re happy with storing out in the open.

Here’s another cute example by Studio McGee with glass doors.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

Number Five | Add your Personal Touches

This is where you get to bring in the things that make the space your own. Whether that’s specific art or signs or storage – bring in your character.

With storage, especially, I always recommend adding cute options like baskets, jars, and crates to put away anything that might look unsightly or otherwise cluttered.

My rule is to only keep things on your counters that serve a dual purpose of storage & their assigned job.

Having useful storage that goes along with the look of your home will always serve you well!

Like these white open shelves by Country Living.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

This same thing goes with small appliances like toasters and microwaves. If they’re not serving a decor purpose as at least 1/2 their duty, I’d say relocate them so they’re still functional, but out of sight!

Other ways to add your own character are to add pops of color like this bold green pantry door from Country Living.

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com
Future Bespoke Retreats
Enter your email below to be among the first to hear about future Bespoke Design Retreat plans! 
You’re in! 

Number Six | Bring in Accent Lighting

Again, I think using lighting as an inexpensive kitchen update is a fantastic idea.

Not only can it be really practical, but it also changes the mood of the room! Especially when you have times where you want the full lights toned down and you let something like under cabinet lighting shine.

And under cabinet lighting doesn’t have to be hard-wired in! There are cute options like puck lights which can be stuck to the underside of your cabinets, or rope lights strung and secured around the bottom perimeter of your cabinets.

Brooke from Nesting with Grace is using stick on lights under her cabinet here!

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com

I hope this list of Kitchen Updates gives you something to think about!

If you like these ideas and are inspired to make some simple changes in your own space, I recommend creating a design board or mood board to help narrow down your choices and get a visual representation of your space!

I teach all about that and so much more in my Elite Decorating Academy! Join us at elitedecoratingacademy.com to learn more & to get started!

Pin this for Later | Kitchen Updates:

Builder Grade Kitchen Updates by sheholdsdearly.com


Welcome to



All Posts


Room tours


Seasonal Decor

Design lessons