Updating the South One Space at a TimeUpdating the South One Space at a Time

Easy Ways to Upgrade a Builder Basic Kitchen

July 15, 2019

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So you are all settled in to your great new home or maybe you have been there for awhile. There is a ton of new housing in the Jacksonville Florida area so I know there’s  a lot of you out there! What’s one thing many of you have in common? Most likely, a “builder basic” kitchen, right? Many of builder basics offer some nice options these days but face it, it looks a lot like your next door neighbors kitchen. (and the neighbor across the street, and their next door neighbors too) For whatever reason, you are just not feeling it in the kitchen.

I know, you have probably invested almost everything to get into that gorgeous new home. Am I right? AND...the budget might not be there right now to upgrade or customize much, I get that..  Besides its all brand new or not that bad! Read on to discover some easy and affordable ways to both personalize and improve the functionality in your “builder basic” kitchen!

Upgrade Your Builder Basic Kitchen With New Hardware

You might say “sure Captain Obvious” but wait! There are actually builders out there who do not consider cabinet hardware a necessity. Depending on your builder, hardware may or may not be a standard item. If it is included as a standard, your options may not be that great!

New hardware can change the look and feel of your cabinetry. I recommend ,(especially in kitchens) to go for the best quality you can afford. Kitchen hardware gets a lot of use and less expensive pieces, though they may look fabulous, will not stand up to the daily use it gets! Go too low here and that gorgeous finish will be worn off in no time!

Another thing you will need to be sure if you are replacing existing hardware is that the size is the same.Entry level builders will frequently include 3” pullsas thee standard so the holes will need to line up. Knobs on the other hand are usually not a worry! 

For more details on choosing the perfect hardware click here to read my post on this!

Change Your Lighting, Change Your World!

Lighting in everything in the kitchen. To much lighting will be annoying. Too little or the wrong color will cause everything to look just “meh”. The proper color of light will make everything look completely wow! This will of course depend on the colors in your kitchen and during daytime hours the amount of natural light you receive. Daylight spectrum, especially LED light is preferred to give the “cleanest” light. If you have the older compact flourescent lighting, changing out to LED will change your world!  Warmer light is sometimes the better choice for certain color palettes. If in doubt about what is best for your space, please, seek the help of a pro!


There are three different types of lighting. Ambient lighting, this generally covers the dominant ceiling or recessed fixtures. Task lighting, dedicated cans, like over the sink or work area and  under cabinet lighting. The last layer of lighting would be your decorative fixtures as in pendants and/or chandeliers. I also put interior cabinet lighting in this category. Sometimes expensive but totally worth it!.

Your decorative fixtures are going to be the easiest to switch out from builder basic to something wow! This is something most people can do on their own or enlist the help of a handyman! I am dearly afraid of anything involving electricity so this girl would choose the latter. There are literally tons of gorgeous and interesting choices at all price points. Just be sure the wattage is what you need for the given area.

Cabinets…..What’s Inside?

I am not talking about the obvious like cookware and such. It’s not enough to have great looking cabinets in a functional space. Cabinets are made for storage, right? It the features inside your cabinets that can both increase storage space  and make your kitchen function like a dream!

To their credit, many builders will include some interior cabinet accessories in their standard kitchens. Some include none at all. In my experience if they do offer them as “upgrades” the cost is very expensive. Many home buyers choose to pass them by as the cost adds up quickly!

Fortunately a builder basic kitchen will contain basic cabinet sizes. These interior accessories can fairly easily be added later on which is good news for you! Many can be installed by the homeowner if you are some type of handy. 

So many great options are available and every cooks wish list will be different.  The basics, trash rollouts, sliding shelves and trays, tray dividers. More sophisticated, hanging pot racks, spice pullouts, mixer shelves, pull down racks for wall cabinets are a few. When it comes to drawer inserts there are knife blocks, cutting board, two tiered storage and bread drawer inserts just to call out a few!


Embellish What's in Your Kitchen Already

Chances are unless you have spent some significant money on upgrades your kitchen is kind of “bare bones” when it comes to the extras! By embellish I’m  not suggesting you bedazzle your cabinet doors or anything. There are several inexpensive additions you can easily make to personalize and upgrade your builder basic kitchen.

  • Add a backsplash! Many builder basic kitchens do not offer a tiled backsplash. When they do it not always that attractive! Typical for many you will receive a 4” splash in whatever the material is on your countertop and painted drywall above.

  In the past when I assisted new home owners for their selections with a particular builder this was always a major sticking point. The client had a picture in mind of what they wanted but this was not in the builders “standard” options. In this case, forfeit the backsplash and do your own after closing. It will be much better on the budget and you will have the backsplash you really want!

  • Level up your island or peninsula! Builder basic islands and peninsulas will typically have a dry wall back, (under your overhang) or sometimes a plain panels or “skins”. Another great option is adding some wainscoting, board and batten molding or even dummy doors for a furniture piece look.

  • Crown it! The standard “builder basic” kitchen does not always include crown molding. A simple crown molding will instantly give the space a lift! Other moldings to consider are light rail moldings will also add depth and sophistication as matching end panels on open ends of base and/or wall cabinets.

To wrap up and put a bow on it here, if you are “happy/not happy” in your new home there are a multitude of ways to personalize and upgrade your space without breaking the bank. These are a few ideas. Some of these projects are simple and relatively inexpensive to accomplish. A few require a bit of expertise which of course I am happy to assist with if you are in the area of Jacksonville Florida. Click here to subscribe and get more great design and remodeling ideas in your inbox!


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