5 Kitchen Renovation Hacks & Secrets

five kitchen renovation hacks
Marissa Cal Home

Get That High-End Look For Less

If you’ve just moved or have recently decided to renovate your kitchen, then this post can help you achieve a designer look for less money than you’d think! We’ll dive-in to some upscale kitchen features and the secrets to installing them on the cheap. Here are my five kitchen renovation hacks…

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1. Wall Sconce Hack

Sconces are one of my favorite design features. Sure, they are trending big time right now, but they’ve also been around for centuries. What a great way to add timeless beauty to your kitchen!

Now, there is about a .00001% chance your kitchen is hardwired for wall sconces already. Hiring an electrician is a smart investment and they are typically cheaper per hour than other tradesmen like plumbers, tilers, etc. Installing wall sconces, however, means cutting through drywall, moving cabinetry, or even removing tile. That could make the overall investment just not worth it. Thankfully, you can install a wall sconce above your kitchen window or shelves without hiring an electrician to hardwire it.

There is a well-known “puck light hack” amongst Pinners and bloggers. The basic gist is you buy any beautiful sconce your heart desires, then attach it to your wall with screws or glue without any hardwiring. Just add a battery operated light (usually a puck light) and ta-da!

Today there are even puck lights that come with a wall-switch remote! It looks just like a regular wall switch so you’d never know it wasn’t hard-wired. You don’t have to use puck lights though. If your sconces are designed to show a lot of the actual bulbs, you can use battery operated screw-in bulbs.

2. A Built-in Microwave For Less

I hate to say it, but a microwave above the range is a big pet peeve of mine. No offense to the homeowners who have one – most do and so have I! Since I spent a major portion of my life in the UK, I got used to appliances not being the focal point in kitchens, like they seemed to be in the US for a long time. Microwaves bolted upfront and center really take away from the overall aesthetic of a room that is meant to feel warm and inviting. Range hoods have taken center stage these days, but most of us still use microwaves daily. Enter the built-in microwave.

Hidden/ built-in microwaves might be considered trendy, but I argue it’s just the end of an era. Now, most luxury kitchens hide all appliances. Where is the refrigerator? Behind paneled doors meant to look like cabinetry! Having all of your appliances hidden may be the dream, but today we’re addressing more affordable ways to elevate your kitchen, so we’ll say hiding the microwave is good enough!

My kitchen island with a Frigidaire Gallery built-in microwave

Ways to Hide Your Microwave

There are some popular microwaves that come in the form of a drawer or as a pull-down oven. Both are attractive, but they run at least $1000 for the product alone. For half the price, you can use a countertop microwave to achieve the same look. Just find a model that has a matching trim kit. You still need the proper cut-out in your cabinets. If you are getting new cabinets anyway, you can order a microwave cabinet. If not, then buy the microwave first and refer its manual for the exact dimensions needed for the opening.

Example of microwave cabinet via RTA Cabinet Store

Then the trim kit (or frame) gives it a seamless look! There are plenty of options out there. I chose this Frigidaire Gallery model for my kitchen. Here is another option from Panasonic. (Always double check your measurements!)

Unless there is a dedicated outlet inside your cabinets, this is something you will want to hire an electrician for. When we built our kitchen island from scratch, I had no idea that it was required to have at least one electrical outlet, until my electrician told me. Even with the cost of an electrician though, this type of installation is significantly cheaper than the microwave drawers on offer!

3. Take Backsplash to the Ceiling!

We’re seeing more and more designers incorporate tile all the way up to the ceiling in kitchens (and bathrooms). It looks really elaborate, but in many cases it doesn’t take as much tile as you’d think if you have upper cabinets. The uppers fill in a lot of space but your eye is still drawn up if the backsplash is over the windows and any dead space you have above your cabinets.

The key is to choose a classic subway tile. This doesn’t mean it has to be white 3×6 tile but as long as your design calls for a subway tile shape in a white/ cream/ gray family of colors, there is a budget option or designer knock off out there! Below are some examples, all less than $4/ square foot.

Sources: 1. Wayfair 2. Wayfair 3. Home Depot 4. Lowes

So let’s say it takes twice as much tile if you’re going to take it to the ceiling. If you choose subway tile around $3/sq ft versus, for example, the ultra popular Bedrosians Chloe tile at $10/sq ft, that still saves you 40%, and you’ll end up with a more luxury look versus stopping at cabinet level. Since hiring a tiler can be pricey per square foot, this savings only works if you are DIY-ing your backsplash.

Now if you really don’t want to learn how to install tile, you can use an alternative to tile backsplash to take to the ceiling, such as nickel gap paneling. This is another luxury look that works with traditional interior design styles. It’s way less complicated for a DIY project, in my opinion. As for my non-DIY readers, your handyman/ contractor should be able to do this for much cheaper per square foot than tile!

A great example of vertical paneling in the kitchen via Joanna Gaines

4. Vent Hood Insert: Best of all kitchen renovation hacks?

This is a hack I’ve completed in two of my own homes. Actually, I hate calling it a “hack” because it is the genuine thing. Ready to switch out your above-range microwave for a beautiful vent hood?! This is a way to create a real working vent hood using the existing hole in your wall that your microwave currently vents from. Most vent hoods and inserts on the market require a vent cut-out that’s pretty high up on your wall. Check out the diagram below.

In all of these examples, your microwave vent would not be high enough. This is why you’ll need a very slim insert. You’ll have to do some digging for your specific width. I found that Broan and Zephyr have the most options. The vast majority of inserts look like this:

But you need this:

Then just find the right ductwork to convert the round vent in the insert to your rectangular microwave vent hole and some HVAC tape. This part is all cheap and easy to find I promise!

This is where I’d recommend you build your own hood and there are plenty of tutorials for this out there. Here’s a great one from Plank & Pillow. No matter if you DIY or order a pre-made range hood cover, you will save money on an HVAC company having to cut a new hole in an exterior wall!

5. Incorporate Butcher Block

Choosing countertops is maybe the most exciting part of a kitchen remodel, but it’s often one of the priciest. If you’re going with quartz or granite, popular options are going to cost somewhere around $80-$120/square foot, and sometimes more. Marble? Lucky you, but even more.

You can still have your dream countertops and incorporate a cheaper contrasting material as well. Some stunning designer kitchens feature the island and countertops contrasting in both color and countertop material. My own kitchen features an entire butcher block island. You can easily DIY this with butcher block from Home Depot right off the shelf.

My kitchen featuring butcher block island and white quartz surrounding countertops

How Does This Save Money?

Well quartz is around $100/ square ft. The 20 square ft butcher block island cost $300 at the time I’m writing this post, which is $15 / square foot. So using this butcher block countertop for the island saved me $1700! If an entire butcher block island isn’t your style, there are more subtle ways to incorporate it into your kitchen. I love these creative partial butcher block options shown below.

If you find even just a 2×3 portion of your kitchen to put butcher block instead of an expensive stone material, that’s 6 square feet of a less expensive material. That could save you hundreds of, all while making your kitchen more custom.

Have you tried any of these kitchen design secrets? What is your favorite? Message me or leave a comment below!