Update Your Kitchen without Doing a Complete Overhaul

Add a touch of your own personal style into your kitchen with a few cosmetic upgrades that don't require a full renovation

Credit: BC Home and Garden

Choose one element to splurge on like the countertop or the backsplash

Designer Karla Amadatsu delights in creating classic and liveable homes in her signature new traditional style. Here she takes on her own kitchen

While many of us fantasize about a full-on renovation, the reality is most of us cannot justify the cost or waste of a gut job. When it comes to kitchens, too many of us, particularly those of us living in the suburbs, are faced with generic-looking spaces, or cabinetry and countertops that are in great condition, but not our style.

Our recently purchased nine-year-old home came with a laundry list of things that I wanted to change, but nothing more so than the kitchen. Dark cherry cabinets, speckled purple laminate countertops and poor lighting all begged for an upgrade. After looking at the layout, I determined that what our kitchen needed – like so many suburban homes – was more of a facelift than reconstructive surgery.

I added smaller (a few with glass fronts) cabinetry boxes on top of existing ones and gables and furniture kicks for structure and detail. A coat of fresh white paint also provided an instant update. When it came to the countertop, I splurged on a marble top for my island and saved by using co-ordinated putty-grey laminate and inexpensive ceramic tile along the perimeter. A polished nickel faucet and hardware and a pair of milk glass and bronze pendant lights complete the look.

Here are a few key elements to a successful kitchen re-facing project:


Keep the same configuration if you can, or move existing cabinetry to new locations if required. Fill in any gaps with new cabinetry boxes if necessary. If you love the cabinets, then have them professionally sprayed. Or, just replace the doors for an updated look.


Kitchen fixtures are a key area to spend money on. Think of the faucet like the jewelry of the room! It will elevate the whole design.

Counters and Backsplash

Treat this as a high/low combo. Pick one element to spurge on (counters or backsplash) and then pick something less expensive for the other area. For example, pair a quartz or marble countertop with an inexpensive white subway tile.


Like faucets, I find lighting is an area where you can immediately tell quality. Plan to buy good quality fixtures. My favourite sources for classic kitchen lighting are Visual Comfort and Restoration Hardware.


This is an opportunity to really add character to a kitchen. Look for weighty hardware in a beautiful finish – think polished nickel, bronze, or antique brass – and combine pulls and knobs for a unique look. Lee Valley, The Home Depot and Restoration Hardware are great sources.


  • Spray existing doors, build a decorative hood fan, add moulding detail $7,500
  • Countertops $2,600
  • Cabinet hardware $200
  • Lighting $1,000
  • Sink $350
  • Backsplash tile $200
  • Window treatment $400
  • Faucet $800

Total: $13,050

*Does not include any electrical, plumbing or tiling work.

Karla Amadatsu is the principal at Kerrisdale Design.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.