Having a gourmet kitchen with custom cabinets, high end appliances, and a huge island with seating is pretty standard on everyone’s dream list. But that dream list comes with a pretty high price tag. Wouldn’t it be great if we could add some of those wish list items to our builder’s grade kitchen, without having to demo and remodel the entire room? I’m here to help. 15 Ways to Customize a Builder’s Grade Kitchen.
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15 Ways to Customize a Builder’s Grade Kitchen
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of the following questions, this is the post for you.
- How do I customize a builder grade kitchen or home?
- How do I update my builder grade kitchen?
- Can builder grade cabinets be painted?
- How can I personalize my tract or spec home?
And the reason I know this…. is that I have a spec home also 😉
15 Ways to Customize a Builder’s Grade Kitchen
When we flooded a couple of years ago, we had no other choice but to basically remodel our entire kitchen. Even though lots of people have told us how nice it is to have a “new kitchen,” it also came with a V.E.R.Y. new price tag.
And I know that most of us do not have the funds to completely remodel the entire kitchen, but that shouldn’t squash our dreams completely – right?
Well I’ve done some digging to give you the best inspirational pictures, and 15 ways to upgrade your builder’s grade kitchen that won’t break the bank.
Let’s get to it!
15 Ways to Customize a Builder’s Grade Kitchen
- Update Hardware
- Paint Cabinets & Island
- Paint Ceilings
- Reface Cabinets & Add Glass to Doors
- Add Island & Breakfast Nook Lighting
- Update Backsplash
- Replace or Paint Pantry Door
- Add Upper Cabinets
- Add Cabinet Lighting
- Customize Ends of Island and/or Cabinets
- Add Ceiling Beams, Shiplap, or Coffered Detail
- Change out Vent Hood
- Add Open Shelving
- Replace or Update Countertop
- Lower Bar Top
#1 Add or Update Hardware
The easiest and least expensive way to customize your existing kitchen is to change out the hardware.
I know everyone probably already knows this tip, but it really makes a big difference.
Don’t forget that this applies to door knobs, like the pantry or back door as well. Use different shapes and sizes to add more interest.
#2 Paint Cabinets & Island
Another budget-friendly way to add a custom look to your kitchen is to paint the cabinets a white or light color. This will also help your kitchen appear larger than it is.
Here is what our kitchen used to looked like when we had it painted.
If you really want to customize the look, paint the upper cabinets one color and the lower cabinets a different color.
You can paint or stain the island a different color than all of the cabinets also.
This adorable kitchen featured in aesthecurator.com has a ton of character and charm.
#3 Paint Ceilings
Another inexpensive way to give your kitchen a custom look is by simply painting the ceiling in a bolder color like a rich blue or charcoal gray.
This beautiful kitchen featured in Better Homes & Gardens really makes the entire kitchen pop.
Plus, it brings the focal point up which helps make the kitchen feel more spacious.
#4 Update Backsplash
This is probably one of the most important ways to customize a builder’s grade kitchen. Even if you think your existing backsplash is probably “not that bad,” it most likely is (just keeping it real!!)
Besides the cabinet color or even the counter top material, just updating the backsplash completely changes the look of a kitchen.
Unfortunately, I don’ t have an exact before and after picture since we remodeled. But I just wanted to show you how much it changes the entire look of the kitchen.
***TIP*** Try this design tool out to play around with different colors, materials, shapes etc.
#5 Add Island & Breakfast Nook Lighting
Adding light pendants to your island or a small chandelier to your breakfast nook is a perfect way to add color and personality to a plain kitchen.
Our home did not have either, and it has really made a huge difference. Not only does it give the eyes a natural focal point, it’s a great way to add your own personality.
Go with the same metal finishes if you like a clean look. Or use different styles, textures, and colors for a playful vibe like this one from the HGTV Dream Home 2020 – love it!!
#6 Reface Cabinets & Add Glass
A great way to update your existing kitchen is to reface your cabinets and add glass to some of the doors.
When you reface your cabinets, you are simply replacing the door and drawer fronts, but keeping the actual frame or base intact.
Add some glass to some of the cabinet doors like this beautifully designed kitchen by Studio-McGee. It adds a ton of character and definitely gives off a custom vibe.
#7 Replace or Paint Pantry Door
Paint your existing pantry door, replace it with an antique door, or add a barn door to give your kitchen a customized look.
Take a look at this beautifully designed kitchen by CVI Design. It is the perfect blend of vintage charm meets modern living.
This painted pantry door (Ocean Floor by Benjamin Moore) is now an accent piece and not just a utilitarian piece.
#8 Add Upper Cabinets
Adding upper cabinets to the top of your existing cabinets is definitely worth the extra money. Those open spaces above builder grade cabinets don’t do anything except collect dust – lol!!
If you don’ t have enough room to extend your cabinets or build extra cabinets, try adding a wide piece of wood molding.
In our kitchen pictures below, the upper cabinets above the ovens and fridge are dummy cabinets, and the ones to the right side are actual cabinets.
#9 Add Upper Cabinet Lighting
Here again, we added upper cabinets to the sink side of our kitchen. But on this side we added the glass and rope lighting to add a more high end look.
I love how we can display our pretty crystal serving bowls, pitchers, candle sticks, etc. so we can enjoy them on a daily basis.
*FYI* – We were able to save our upper (main cabinets) from the flood, so we did keep the frames and refaced the doors only. This saved us a ton of money.
Then we had the upper (at ceiling) cabinets built.
#10 Customize Ends of Island & Cabinets
A great way to add a custom flair to your kitchen is by adding millwork (wood detail) to the ends of your island or even the sides of cabinet bases.
You can also add shiplap, herringbone or simply frame it out with 2×4 wood panels.
You can also add feet to the base of cabinets or island like mine.
#11 Add Shiplap, Wooden Beams or Coffered Detail to Ceiling
Another way to customize your builder’s grade kitchen is to draw attention to the ceiling (other than paint) by installing wood detail.
Add shiplap, cedar beams, coffered millwork, beadboard, etc. to your ceiling.
I know most of the homes (like our’s) do not have very tall ceilings, so this is a great way to visually add height without actually raising the ceiling.
This kitchen designed by AGK Design Studio is simply stunning. The coffered ceiling (among a ton of other great features) is a perfect inspiration photo showing the importance of ceiling detail.
#12 Update Vent Hood
Another small change that makes a big impact is updating or painting your existing vent hood.
This one created, built, and painted by Jill Rose is to die for!!! If you love DIY projects, you gotta check out her tutorial – it’s genius.
Of course you can always purchase one too if this project is a little out of your wheel house. No judging here 🙂
Isn’t this kitchen by Resolve Design-Build just gorgeous? And that range hood is simply stunning!
#13 Add Open Shelving
If you have a blank wall that you are not using or want to remove your upper cabinets, try adding open shelves.
They are very trendy right now, and definitely add a ton of character to a plain kitchen.
On the bubble? Try something like these shelves in this beautifully designed kitchen by Architectural Designs. They can be installed on a side wall, or area that serves as a buffet station or coffee bar.
#14 Replace or Update Countertop
Even though it is one of the more costly items to replace in the kitchen, updating your countertop is definitely worth the money. It sets the tone and style for your entire kitchen.
We used one of the builder grade’s granite countertop choices (when we purchased our home in 2005), and replaced it with quartz when we flooded (2018). It completely changed the look of our remodel – trust me.
If you already have an “upgraded” granite, you are fine. But if you’re looking for a custom look, it might be time to do a little update.
Here is our before granite countertop.
And here is our after quartz countertop.
#15 Lower Bar Top
This is definitely an option to consider if you want to give your kitchen a custom look.
Not only does lowering the bar top expand your kitchen visually, it gives you more usable counter space also.
We were planning to lower our bar top and open the living room wall before we flooded. But God had other plans.
Here is a great before and after job performed by KBF Design Gallery. They do amazing work if you want to check out their website.
What a difference it makes – right?
I hope you found some new ideas and helpful tips to inspire you to try out a couple of these ways to customize your own kitchen!!
Have a Great Week Everyone!!
Love & Hugs 🙂
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