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  • Stephanie Donnelly

Kitchens: When to Splurge and Save

The heart of any home is the kitchen, and it makes sense that you would want your space to reflect what is most important to you. Whether you’re a bustling family of five in need of more storage, or an amateur chef looking to splurge on top-of-the-line appliances, it’s important to consider how you plan to distribute your budget. Kitchen renovations can come with a hefty price tag, but that isn’t always the case. The most important key to the design process is knowing when to splurge on an upgrade and when you can cut a few corners to save some extra money.

Splurge on:


Custom cabinetry can totally transform any space. I always recommend investing in your kitchen cabinetry. Kitchen remodeling typically takes place once every 20 years, and considering this length of time along with cabinets being a highly used item, you will want your cabinets to last. This means investing in high quality cabinet elements such as dovetail joints, real wood fronts, or quality plywood. Cheap cabinet options tend to peel, bubble, and break with regular use. Cabinets are the most impactful element of the kitchen, and beautiful cabinets can elevate your entire kitchen design. They also take up the most visual room in the space, so don’t cut corners here!

Check out our cabinet blogs for more ideas on cabinet choices and our favorite cabinet colors!


Aside from cabinetry, the next most important element of your kitchen design is the countertop. You want to make sure that you select a countertop that will last many generations and be a statement piece in your home all while remaining as something that is classic and timeless. You need something that makes sense for your lifestyle, and while less expensive materials such as laminate or wood may give you the look you’re trying to achieve, they may not be the most durable. Countertops need to be able to withstand everyday accidents like spills and dishes knocking over that will resist breaks and chips, so investing in something that will last is crucial. Learn more about surface choices and how to find the best countertop for you and your lifestyle here!


For kitchen appliances, I typically recommend going for options that make the most sense in your lifestyle. Whether they be big or small appliances, higher end brands typically offer more features or better looks. If you know a kitchen appliance will be highly used, consider splurging since the quality is usually heavier duty. If it doubles as a decorative feature, meaning it's on the countertop 100% of the time, take into consideration the look of the appliance as well and splurge for something that will fit your aesthetic. Commercial grade appliances are stunning! However, if commercial grade appliances are unrealistic for your kitchen budget, there are many similar appliances you can find at more affordable prices.


Cabinet knobs, handles, and pulls are high-touch areas in any kitchen, and having them made from top-quality materials will ensure that they withstand the test of time. Your cabinet hardware and fixtures are the jewelry of your kitchen. Adding a few high-quality pieces is the perfect finishing touch. Since you are going to be putting your hands on your cabinet hardware every day, look for materials that have a nice touch such as polished nickel or soft satin brass. Both finishes can fit into any kitchen style from traditional to contemporary. Pieces like these are a relatively small investment that will withstand daily use and keep looking great for years, so splurge for the best hardware you can find.


Much like your countertop, your kitchen backsplash is another excellent design splurge. There are so many beautiful tile options available today, and your backsplash is another major focal point in your kitchen. I would select a quality material first, such as marble, natural materials, matching countertop material etc, and then decide how much to spend since there is a huge range of backsplash tile options and prices. If you're tight on budget but still want a high end look, I would suggest a less trendy pattern and more simple neutral. This way your backsplash will look good with a variety of design styles. Today, manufacturers are creating sheet porcelain that looks precisely like marble or other natural stone that can give your backsplash a seamless look.

Check out our previous blogs on how to choose the best backsplash for your kitchen in part 1 and part 2 here!


Something that can frequently be overlooked in kitchens is the plumbing, but this is an area of your kitchen that you definitely want to splurge on! There are some great convenience features with plumbing fixtures now such as sensors, built-in colanders, garbage disposals, central vacuum systems and more that are totally worth the upgrade. Investing in mid to high end plumbing will make a substantial difference when it comes to the overall looks and feels of your kitchen.


While lighting is important in any space, it is especially important in the kitchen. It's important to have the right balance of ambient and task lighting to maximize the efficiency of this space. When it comes to beautifying and personalizing your own kitchen design, a dazzling chandelier or pendant goes a long way towards elevating the look of everything else in the room. Whether you prefer a cool modernist creation or a grand traditional chandelier, an eye-catching light fixture can be enjoyed from many angles, and it becomes a natural focal point that really makes a statement, even when the rest of the furnishings are kept simple. A fixture with multiple bulbs enriches your lighting scheme, helping to eliminate harsh shadows in the rest of the room. Therefore, lighting is most definitely splurge worthy.

Bar Stools

Bar and counter stools are like the earrings of a kitchen, you can have a great looking outfit (the kitchen) but if the earrings are off, you’ve just ruined it. These are the items that will get the most use and therefore they need to be quality pieces and should have a certain level of comfort. To avoid having to buy furnishings that you have to replace far too often, I recommend staying away from "bargain" bar stools. This is a “you get what you pay for” situation and it’s smart to invest your money here.


Prices for kitchen utensils, gadgets and appliances can vary greatly, making it difficult to know which products you should splurge on and which you definitely shouldn’t. Expensive tools aren't always necessary in the kitchen. You can do just fine with slightly-less-than-the-best, or even bargain-priced products. On the other hand, there are items that you DO need to throw down the big bucks for. Some kitchen tools take a lot of abuse. They need to be sturdy and well-made, or you'll just keep replacing them over and over. No one wants to see a hodgepodge of random plastic sitting in a utensil rack. Splurge for the high quality utensils that are able to be displayed on the counter without having to worry about having the storage space to hide them. Pots, pans, cookware, and bakeware can last a long time if you invest in quality pieces. Plus, they can add to the overall look and feel of your kitchen while on display.

Save on:


Be practical and look for appliances you can save on when it comes to the less used items. The typical guideline you can follow is to invest in large appliances such as cooktops and refrigerators since they need to be replaced about once every 15 years, and you can save on smaller countertop appliances that need to be replaced more frequently.

Area Rugs

Whether it's a runner between the island and the cabinets, a small mat in front of the sink, or a full-size rug covering up hardwood, adding a rug to your kitchen can be a great way to add color, texture, and comfort to the space. A high traffic area such as the kitchen is a lot more prone to spills than other rooms in the house. Don't be afraid to put a rug in the kitchen, just don't spend high dollar on it. I suggest finding a vintage, Turkish or wool rug that can be cleaned for a softer underfoot. Adding a rug pad will help ease standing for long periods of time while cooking or washing dishes as well!


Unsurprisingly, not much decor goes into the kitchen compared to other rooms in the home. Some decor is functional to the kitchen while other pieces are fitting only for this specific space. When it comes to your kitchen decor, the pieces you should save on are the things that don't get a lot of use or the ones you can easily find. Most of these pieces are easy to replace or make personal, so you don't have to stretch your wallet's capabilities when you want to refresh your style.


There are plenty of great options at all different price points that look high end when it comes to art. Reframing second hand or vintage pieces for a modern look, or support a budding artists by purchasing one of their prints is a good way to save while also adding a touch of flair and personalization to your kitchen.

When it comes to kitchen remodeling, you have a wide range of options available to achieve the aesthetics and functionality you need. Your interior designer can help educate you about the many opportunities for savings available to you. They can even show you how to stretch your budget to accommodate those "must-have" luxury items you've been dreaming about for years!

I hope this helps you decide where to splurge and where to save on your upcoming kitchen design. If you’ve already finished your remodel, congratulations! Please leave a comment below with your best tips to pass along. And if you’re looking for kitchen furniture or interior design expertise, head to my contact page to start a conversation! I would love to hear all about your vision for your home.

~This blog was brought to you by S. Donnelly Interiors. Learn more about the interior design project process by following Stephanie Donnelly and her interior design services in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and the surrounding areas!


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