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Closing on a builder spec house. Bland kitchen.. Design help!

Jenifer Broughton
last month
last modified: last month

We are buying a builder spec home. The kitchen is already designed. White shaker type cabinets.

There are a lot of cabinets. We are swapping out the electric stove and getting the gas.

We are having the granite 'lip' removed and adding a riva mist glass tile backsplash, but that's about it. It's pretty bland. How can I make this kitchen look more custom?

It's not the best photo, but this is what I'm working with.

The light pendant is actually hanging where the table will be.

Any ideas would be appreciated!!

I've added two photos from Houzz that I do like.

Here is the actual counter, cabinet colors along with the backsplash on the upper left.



I'd like to spend less than $5k to do some updates.






Here are some inspirational kitchens I like.


Woodinville Retreat · More Info



Classic Coastal Colonial Renovation - the Ultimate Island · More Info


Comments (71)

  • Kay p
    last month

    First of all congratulations on your new home! If you don’t extend cabinets to ceiling don’t put things on top of them. IMO it can look junky as people seem to get carried away with stuff. I think you have a a very nice kitchen to work with.Please take pictures after you have added your own touches.

  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    We live a very comfortable life. All kids are grown and out of the house.

    We definitely could have afforded a much more expensive home.. I feel there is equity to be built upon here with the right cost efficient ideas.


    The microwave is on an exterior wall.



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  • Jennifer Hogan
    last month

    You have a lovely kitchen in a nice, new home. Right now it is empty and devoid of color or texture, no lights are turned on and all of these things make it feel dull and lifeless.


    The professional photos of designer kitchens are often not "real", they are shot with professional lighting, staged for the photo and photoshopped.





    Don't do anything until you get in and figure out what it looks like when you have furniture and art.


    Don't lose sight of the purpose of your home. It is the place you and your family will build memories. A home filled with love and laughter will build beautiful memories and it won't matter if the cabinets went all the way to the ceiling or not.



    Jenifer Broughton thanked Jennifer Hogan
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    " The microwave is on an exterior wall"

    The same wall that has too many cabinets, no view and insufficient light.

    "We could have afforded a far more expensive house"

    But you are asking as to what is expensive to make this kitchen APPEAR more expensive. In a tract setting meant perhaps for less fortunate empty nest couples, or young families on their first new to them venture.

    More Importantly? What about this? Aside from a far better quality kitchen......look at the feel and the palette. I'd make VERY certain I liked those builder typical counter tops before I added a back splash. Do these feel the same to you?



    My point is, do you want to spend 70k to turn a 50 k kitchen to 120k?

    I think that is what you want: )

    Jenifer Broughton thanked JAN MOYER
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks Jan, for your input. I actually do like the gray and blue/gray palettes. I should have turned the lights on, I did pull that photo from a video I quickly took in the house.


    You cannot tell, but the island is a light blue/gray.


    The two photos I added were inspiration, kitchens I were drawn too when browsing.

    The one below is probably my favorite. I don't have intentions on exactly mimicking any kitchen, I am simply gathering ideas, from people smarter in this area then I am, on how to get a similar look with what I have. How can I 'upscale' what I have.. How can I take builder grade cabinets to the next level to give my kitchen a little custom feel, even though it's not a custom kitchen.


    I do appreciate all the feedback.



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  • Kendrah
    last month

    First, I think your space is going to look beautiful. Everyone is shocked at this stage no matter what the price tag of your build is.


    Put a price tag on how much you are willing to spend on additions to this kitchen. $3k, $5k? Let us know. We can help you prioritize. Please post pics of other side of the room and what furniture will go there. What table are you using?


    1. Get a hood. Need it with gas stove. Vent outside. Figure out one that will require the least wall repair and side cabinet coverage. Do this inconjunction with adding soffit.


    2. Tiles. Others here say not to mix granite and glass backsplash. Thoughts? I don't love 3x12 for your space. Why not 4x6? Why beige, neither of your inspo pics have it? Get many samples, glue to a board and place vertically on your counters. Looking at backsplash laying down next to the counter is not an accurate orientation.


    3. I too hate a gap above cabinet. Get an estimate for a soffit. Your cabinets are fine, but compared to your inspo pics they look cheap and not well laid out. More of them will only accentuate the problem. Divert your eye from them and they look fine.


    4. Any interest in painting island blue? Looks lovely in your pics and would break up the bland. No to legs.


    5. Get three quotes from electricians for adding island lights. They can better tell you what is involved. I'd prioritize this over glass door fronts. Can you measure edge of island to center of current chandelier and let us know? Curious.


    6. Add your stools and hardware. Live with these changes for a few months before you start messing with new glass doors. I think they will accentuate some odd cabinet layout.


    If this were my kitchen I'd: Get a hood. Get a soffit color matched to cabinet. Backsplash 4x6 subway tiles matched to white cabinets, thin white grout lines. Undercabinet lighting. Swap island top for butcher block with walnut stain. Add in table with washable rug beneath. Swap chandelier for larger transitional lantern with polished chrome to match polished chrome hardware, or brass to match brass hardware. Have that be focal lightings and potentially skip island lights.


    Jenifer Broughton thanked Kendrah
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Do you want my brutal truth answer?

    Live with this kitchen for a full year.

    Why?

    Because at that point, you can decide if you want:

    TWO Windows, FAR fewer cabinetry uppers on the exterior wall.

    The microwave, ditched to a low location via a drawer style under the counter top.

    You can decide if you truly love those ordinary counter tops, after a visit to a couple stone shops.

    What's my point?

    Before you spend thirty k putting lipstick on a kitchen that now appears as 50k at best and will end looking like 75k at most?

    You could spend the 80 to 100 k that should have gone to a more luxurious home and get a kitchen you love. You don't NEED all the uppers. You appear to have a pantry! the wall was filled with builder grade cabinets less expensive than giving you windows?

    There's only so much you can do to an H and M jacket, to make it really resemble or fool an eye into Chanel.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked JAN MOYER
  • HU-910663146
    last month

    Ask yourself what it is that you like from your inspiration photos. That exercise can help you narrow down how to achieve it. Both inspiration photos have 3 hanging lights. To me, spreading the lights out like that makes the kitchen seem larger and more spread out too. Changing the lights seems fairly easy to achieve. Love your inspiration photo too. Your kitchen will look great once it is all done.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked HU-910663146
  • Boxerpal
    last month

    MW on an Exterior wall?.. Perfect add a fun hood.

    Keep the bs simple

    Instead of uppers a wide trim and lighting hidden behind the trim

    Add under-cab lighting too.. Its amazing how lighting and trim can elevate a space.




    Young House Love blog showed this below and it looks super.



    Young House Love Blog




    Molding to builder grade cabs add dept



    With Love Mercedes Blog did this cute country idea. I think they should have a hood but that my own pet peeve. I like the idea of using the space above to create interest.




    With Love Mercedes Blog



    Some fun hood to add to your kitchen



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    Kitchen Range Hoods · More Info



    Jenifer Broughton thanked Boxerpal
  • Tish
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Forget the expense to add the gas line for a gas range. Just put the cost difference into buying an induction range.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Tish
  • jodyrah
    last month

    I replaced an electric range with an Wolf induction range when we bought our home. It had an over the range microwave with “vent”. Unless have a proper vent hood, you will not remove cooking odors. Whenever you boil water, the steam will condense beneath the microwave and adjacent cabinet, dripping everywhere.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked jodyrah
  • Mindy Binder
    last month

    I dislike OTR microwaves as much as the next person but why is there an assumption it doesn’t vet to the outside? We replaced two and they both vented to the outside.

    Good luck OP, definitely live with it a while and decide what would make the most difference for YOU! There are a great wealth of advice and pro experience on this site but it’s your kitchen and only you know what is most important for you and that’s where you get the most bang for your buck.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Mindy Binder
  • Katie B.
    last month

    Nothing beats a new home- clean slate. It’s beautiful!
    After 3 builder basic homes and always wanting “better” than what was there, I have learned a few things and calmed down on the topic. Learn from me and save yourself some grief. Even if you do nothing else, keep it clean and decluttered. I think we are attracted to the perfect, clean, uncluttered staging of photos more than the spaces themselves. Sometimes we don’t even know what we like when it comes down to it. I always thought I had to trim out and build up every inch of my home for it to appear nicer. When in reality what I actually love is minimal kitchens with no or very few uppers and little trim and just a few high end touches (artisan and handmade lighting, cabinet hardware, tiles). Now, I would definitely put a nice range hood in this kitchen. You could wrap your island in shiplap (it doesn’t need to be “farmhouse;” there are so many styles now). Nice lighting and cabinet hardware. Companies like Lamps Plus have complimentary lighting designers. My BEST advice is to get on Pinterest and search endlessly for kitchens resembling yours. There WILL be a kitchen just like yours that you love, and you might need to do very little or nothing at all.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Katie B.
  • ladybug A 9a Houston area
    last month

    I had an OTR microwace that vented outside as well. Probably not as efficient, but it depends on your style of cooking.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked ladybug A 9a Houston area
  • Katie B.
    last month

    Here’s some inspiration
    The last photo is basically your kitchen finishes with some nice decor.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Katie B.
  • Monique
    last month

    I would sprnd money on replacing that gray floor before I touched the kitchen.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Monique
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Two things a bit incongruous

    "

    I'd like to spend less than $5k to do some updates. "

    "We definitely could have afforded a much more expensive home.. I feel there is equity to be built upon here with the right cost efficient ideas"

    Reality:

    Count the doors and drawer for hardware. The 4.00 Home Depot type or the Top Knobs 9.00 dollar type?

    Tile - you bought it? What's that and add a day of install labor, and grouting the next day. Can't be done on same day

    You have stools? Put them in there.

    Pendants over island:

    The 149.00 variety? Or more? You won't fit more than two, and factor in the electrician and any necessary ceiling repair for location change.

    Spend a month of nights cooking - you will find you need more recessed which are minimal and oddly placed here, or under the cabinet lighting to supplement what is there.

    The 5 k? It probably isn't going make a miracle here, unless this locale is one with very inexpensive labor.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked JAN MOYER
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks everyone for your inspiration. To Jan, it appears no matter what I say, you are providing negative feedback. I appreciate that maybe you are trying to play devels advocate, but I am just looking for discussion on positive changes, updates I can consider. Also, I am pretty handy myself. I appreciate your opinions, but lets stay on the positive side.



  • AnnKH
    last month

    Jenifer, I LOVE the woods in your back yard!

    Hubby and I bought a spec house, and lived happily there for 32 years. Over time we replaced carpet with hardwood, changed out virtually every light fixture, painted every room (a few more than once), and replaced the bathroom vanities. After 19 years (and raising 2 kids there), we remodeled the kitchen. Not one of those things happened in the first year - partly because we were house poor, partly because we were concentrating on planting trees and grass.

    Two years ago, we moved, and bought a house built in 1995. The very first thing I did - before we moved in - was add pullouts to most of the lower cabinets. Not as good as actual drawers, but MUCH better than lower cabinets. I liked that the door attached to the bottom pullout, so it functions as a drawer (one motion to open). I moved the knobs to the center of each door front after these photos were taken.




    Jenifer Broughton thanked AnnKH
  • drblount10
    last month

    Hi Jenifer, congrats on the new home! With your inspo pics, color and light can make a big difference in the kitchen area. Looking at your second photo, go for all white except for the counter--white backsplash, even if it is subway tile or paint, white wall color and /or trim to fill in the space above the cabinets, and undercabinet lighting. Cabinet hardware adds bling.

    This will give you a bright white kitchen area that is still budget friendly. You can move in and accessorize as you go.

    Classic Coastal Colonial Renovation - the Ultimate Island · More Info

    Jenifer Broughton thanked drblount10
  • RedRyder
    last month

    The inspiration photos have a lot more light than your house will have. Ask the builder for double the recessed lights now, pay whatever it will be. THEN you can assess your kitchen.

    I agree with @drblount10 - an interesting white backsplash can be gorgeous. Again, look at the inspiration photos. Maybe they are Zellige? They look “shimmery” which adds to the elegance. But those kitchens are a lot of white and a lot of light.

    Fill in the empty area over the cabinets with crown molding and some filler. Check other photos to find exactly what you want.

    Glass inserts in a few doors is nice IF the insides are pretty. Otherwise, you have to paint them first, and then store your prettiest bowls there.

    The pullouts posted by AnnKH will make your life nicer. Worth the investment.

    Once you move in you can change the microwave to a pretty hood. I would wait till you live there because there are SO MANY styles, you need to really figure out which one would work. Bravo to getting gas instead electric.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked RedRyder
  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Realism, is not negativity. A budget of five k is incongruous with creating "upscale" or "equity" from very basic. It is incongruous with saying you're "very comfortable, could have afforded more" in a home.

    Spending five k on all the things I and others have mentioned may certainly help you reduce what you perceive as bland. Adding decoration to just about anything will do that.

    Ambient lighting is first, ( more recessed ) Pendants over the island, or no other effort will show.

    Hardware, the stools, etc.

    But 5 k does not go far these days, labor considered.

    Filling in a ceiling gap, adding a hood, relocating a microwave, getting the tile installed, paying the electrician, possible repair and of the ceiling, perhaps some doors changed to glass doors.

    Maybe the number isn't 3 k to 5 k that gets you what you're wanting. Is it 10k? Something in between, or more? It isn't 3k or 5k for what you really w.a.n.t. If that amount ends with you being thrilled? Great, and nothing wrong with being thrilled.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked JAN MOYER
  • chicagoans
    last month

    Congrats on your new home! I’d live with it for a few months and then start by investing in changes you feel would make it more functional. For example, your lowers look like cabinets rather than drawers. If they don’t have roll out shelves I’d start there.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked chicagoans
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    The lower cabinets, along with the island do have roll out shelves. That’s a plus

  • ptreckel
    last month

    A microwave drawer can range from $1200-$3000k. Then a range hood…. Then cabinet modifications to accommodate both. It will add up quickly. Especially if you start replacing lower cabinets with drawers. You will exceed $5000k quickly. Cosmetic, decorative changes are always less expensive.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked ptreckel
  • Jenny
    last month

    I like you recently purchased a home that was significantly less than what we could have spent. It doesn't matter why, but it's what made sense to us. I also don't have super expensive taste - or rather I do, but I don't indulge it very often.

    I am wrapping up a kitchen renovation so I've been doing a lot of shopping. I would suggest you consider higher quality knobs (not big box) because the quality really shows. Then decide on island lighting that also gives the more sophisticated look you desire. Make it a focal point, since you don't have a 48" range hogging the spotlight. Put in a lovely hood if desired and your kitchen will definitely look elevated over its simple appearance now.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Jenny
  • Katie B.
    last month

    I’m in process on a remodel of a 1980s original place. 80s builder basic. It needed an electrical and plumbing overhaul, but now we are doing the fun stuff. We ended up keeping most of the cabinetry because it was solid wood. Some we are restaining. Some we are keeping in all of its vintage glory. We kept a lot of the floor tile too because it was neutral and nice craftsmanship. We spent $$$$ on cabinet hardware, tile for the fireplace, and lighting…but today I bought $15 passage door handles because well, I liked them. We also splurged on a nice stove and custom hood. As I was ordering knobs from Perigold and door knobs from Lowe’s today (kind of a dichotomy) I realized it doesn’t take much to create a luxury feel in any project.

    So fun- can’t wait to hear what you decide to do here.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Katie B.
  • drblount10
    last month

    Two pendants are good over your island. I found vintage milk glass because it allows light through the top but you are not looking at bare bulbs.

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    Jenifer Broughton thanked drblount10
  • Ruth
    last month

    Too many bland white uppers. Switch out some of the doors for glass doors. Add crown molding to all.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked Ruth
  • eld6161
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Yes to building a thick crown molding that goes to the ceiling if possible.

    How many inches is it from top of cabinet to ceiling?





    And this idea but up to the ceiling



    Jenifer Broughton thanked eld6161
  • RedRyder
    last month

    Rjuventation has GORGEOUS lighting. Here is the link to their pendants.

    https://www.rejuvenation.com/shop/lighting/pendants/


    I like the examples posted by @drblount10.

    Jenifer Broughton thanked RedRyder
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Great ideas are coming in! Thank you everyone!

    I do plan to add crown molding to the top! I will also add hardware to the cabinets and replacing the microwave with a hood at some point. I do like the idea of adding glass to a few doors as well. Pendants over the island is also on my list!


    We also changed the backsplash tile to a subway tile.

  • Tish
    last month

    5K is a new color on the walls and a couple of bar stools. You do not get the upscale kitchen that you want without spending 10x -20x that amount. But an upscale kitchen in a downscale house, in a downscale neighborhood, is a big missmatch. At it’s worse, it is burning retirement money that for negative return on the changes. At it’s best, it makes you happy to use the kitchen every day, for a cost of $15 a day for the next 10 years. Double that for a 100K change.



  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    I can actually spend what i like in the kitchen. I never mentioned ”retirement” or asked anyone their opinion on ”what I am or should be burning through” financially. Frankly, Tish, that should not be your concern.

    The purpose of this post was to ask others for ideas and inspiration.


    This is the exact problem with social media type platforms, apps etc.

    There is a difference between constructive criticism and someone just being distasteful and rude.



    Have a good day Tish. I hope your weekend is beautiful.

  • Tish
    last month

    You are the one who put in the budgetary restriction, and then espoused grand changes directly at odds with that miniscule amount. Perhaps you yourself are completely at odds with the life course ahead, which is why you set such a miserly amount for changes.


    You either want to spend the money it takes to get what you want, or you don’t. Make up your mind. You are either in with the existing kitchen, or completely out with the existing kitchen.


    You can’t even get Christopher Peacock’s cabinet pulls for that kitchen with 5K. Much less his custom designed everything else.

  • HU-785934951
    last month

    5K maybe could cover some pendants?

    Jenifer Broughton thanked HU-785934951
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks Tish. I did add the number, as someone asked what I would “like” to spend so they could provide ideas on what that amount would do.


    Maybe we are in two different worlds. I could care less about “Christopher Peacock” cabinet pulls. I care about cabinet pulls I like for what I want to spend, not the brand name or whoelse has it or what the trend is.


    Again, thanks for you input. Have a beautiful weekend.


  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks bry911. Backsplash is already paid for just waiting to be installed :)

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    "The purpose of this post was to ask others for ideas and inspiration. "

    To get a more "upscale look" and then defined as what can you do "with 3 k to 5k"

    Everyone has a different idea of what "upscale" should entail. What it could entail.

    Don't get miffed when someone has a different definition of that than you do.

    Don't mix your message with I could "have afforded a lot more house"......." I am very comfortable" because it confuses those attempting to help you.

    It's the internet, and everyone will read your words differently. You decide what is important to you..

    Just know there really are no miracles on 3k or 5k. There is better. There is less "bland". There is pleasing and absolutely great for YOU and you're happy with the result. That's all that matters.

  • Louie
    last month

    If you prefer the cost of builder grade homes, it is no surprise that they come with builder grade kitchens. If you are going to preach the choice of buying less than, maybe you need to look in the mirror again before you next look at that kitchen .

  • bry911
    last month

    You know Verbo just loves to make three or four different accounts to post on the same thread…

    Jenifer Broughton thanked bry911
  • rebunky
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Besides the backsplash and cabinet hardware, the only other thing I would do to the kitchen at this point is ask the builder to add a simple crown molding to the upper cabinets. Whenever I see no crown on the uppers, it looks unfinished to me.

    Then move in and live with a while. It won’t look blah once you add your stuff and decorate with some color. Enjoy your new home!

    Jenifer Broughton thanked rebunky
  • jo mu
    last month

    I would get an electrician to add pendant lights over the island get some show stopper pendants lots of affordable options online might take a while to come in

    Add a soffit and crown molding to the ceiling to make the cabinets look more lux

    Jenifer Broughton thanked jo mu
  • jo mu
    last month

    Id remove the microwave and cabinets and get a nice hood

    Jenifer Broughton thanked jo mu
  • drblount10
    17 days ago

    Good morning! Any updates?

    Jenifer Broughton thanked drblount10
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    17 days ago

    We move in 4/5 then I will share progress :)

  • chispa
    16 days ago

    Just a comment about budget, specially when getting ideas from Houzz photos ... here are the pendants suggested by someone several posts up, who posted 3 kitchen photos and this was the bottom one.

    I've seen these pendants in person, they are really nice and you'll need $3,238 for a pair, before tax!



    Jenifer Broughton thanked chispa
  • RedRyder
    16 days ago

    Let us know when you’re all moved in and how that kitchen feels. Being in the space with your stuff will definitely make it less “boring white”. (I like white kitchens.)

    Jenifer Broughton thanked RedRyder
  • Jenifer Broughton
    Original Author
    16 days ago

    Thanks RedRyder! I like white as well. First order of buusness will be to find cabinet pulls!

    Our ”stuff” gets delivered on Monday…. that will be a fun process lol! I will keep this thread updated :) So happy that ppl are still interested!

  • housegal200
    16 days ago
    last modified: 16 days ago

    As everyone suggests, move in first so you get a feeling for the space. You can warm up the kitchen by adding well chosen, functional hand crafted, antique, or wood elements-- trays, baskets, a colorful kitchen rug, and maybe a bright Le Creuset pot on the gas stove, or a beautiful fruit bowl on the island. Add a small antique counter table lamp in one of the corners along with undercabinet lighting.

    Later on, you could front a couple of the cabinets in glass or remove the ones by the window and put an art work there or open shelves with beautiful dishes or pottery you already own.

    I like these gold and wood elementsm (a couple open shelve,s wicker stools) great pendants. . It's a shame your builder picked that gray-type trendy flooring which is on the cool side.

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    Kitchen rug, wood cutting board, great pottery on open shelves that open up the kitchen window since you already have a lot of cabinets.

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    Painted island with wonderful pendants:

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    Beautiful wood bowls and vase of flowers, nice wood stools.


    Jenifer Broughton thanked housegal200