One of the best ways to improve the look of your kitchen is to make changes to your old appliances. Unfortunately, the popular stainless steel models are out of your price range if your budget is under a grand. But depending on how you want to allocate your finances, you could spend some on a used fridge or range to provide a bit of a modern look. Use community ad listings to find cheap, gently used appliances. Craigslist is a great place to start. If you're persistent, you can find a used stainless refrigerator for less than $500, which would leave you another $500 for some of the other DIY projects we'll talk about next. If you aren't a slave to trends, look for ads for new non-stainless appliances. Stainless is so popular, you'll often find people selling their brand new black or white units on the cheap.
Most appliances can also be refaced for as little as $300 each. Look on the Internet or in your Yellow Pages for appliance refinishing companies and find out what kind of deal they'll give you for multiple units. You may be able to refinish your range and fridge for just half of your budget. Auto body shops will paint your appliance fronts for an updated look, or if you want to go even cheaper, you can buy appliance paint at the hardware store and do it yourself. You can also switch out the worn-out knobs for little money. Contact the manufacturer and see if they sell new hardware for your range. It's amazing what small changes like brand new knobs and handles will do to make your appliances look better.
Updating your greasy old cabinets is another great way to liven up your kitchen for cheap. If you're good with a utility knife, you can reface them yourself with materials ordered on the Internet or at a home-improvement store. You can also paint them for even less. A little washing, light sanding and a primer coat, and you can be as creative as you want to be -- it won't cost you more than a couple of hundred dollars. Even though you're on a budget, don't go for the cheapest paint available. Kitchen cabinets take a lot of wear and tear from heavy use and fluctuating temperatures, so buying good quality paint is money well spent. Every home-improvement store has discounted paints that customers get mixed, but never pick up. You can find some exceptional deals if you're willing to be flexible with your color palette. For more detail on exactly how to reface or paint your existing cabinets, please read our DIY article How to Resurface Your Cabinets. If you really want to go cheap and use your money elsewhere, try removing the old cabinet doors altogether and go with an open shelf look.
Replacing the hardware on the cabinet doors and drawers is another great way to spruce them up, with or without resurfacing. Take one of the pulls or knobs off and take it with you to your local hardware store to ensure that you get the right size. If you stick with the same size, it's just a matter of grabbing a screwdriver and switching them out. If you find the perfect drawer pulls and they're a different size, just fill the old holes with wood putty and repaint the drawer fronts before drilling the new holes. Hardware can be pricey, but you can also find some bargain pieces that might fit your taste.
In the next section, we'll give you some tips on paint, molding and lighting.