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January 27, 2020

From IBS 2020: Budget-friendly Kitchens & Baths

Last week at the International Builder Show in Las Vegas, I was honored to present with Doris Pearlman on Kitchens & Baths: Details, Finishes & Floor Plan Ideas for Different Price Points. As you might imagine, I covered the floor plan ideas while Doris wowed us with a variety of new products, finishes, and trends for 2020. Over the next three weeks, I’d like to share my portion the presentations.

We will work our way up in price point, starting with budget friendly kitchen and bath floor plan ideas this week.

Kitchens: Budget Friendly

The key to a quality budget-friendly kitchen is maximizing your dollar and focusing on how the space lives. Just about every kitchen today starts with the island, and this is no different with budget-friendly. Keep it simple with one level, 6’-3” to 7’-3” based upon the size of the following three components:

1. Sink at 30” or 36”
2. Pull-out garbage can at 18” or 24”
3. 24” dishwasher and a 3” end panel.

The backside of the island can either be the back of the cabinet or a 2 x 4 wall with drywall. But a word of caution, while the drywall finish may be budget friendly, it is prone to scuffs from shoes.

Behind the island, consider a single bank of cabinets with two 4’ wide base and upper cabinets flanking the stove. Why? Four feet is the largest single stock cabinet, therefore we are limiting the number of cabinet boxes purchased while maximizing storage. Keep in mind, these have two foot wide doors which can seem a bit unruly. Keep the distance between the island and this row of cabinets to around 4’-6”. This will allow two people to function in the kitchen without potential calamity or collisions.

In a tight floor plan, you may be tempted reduce the distance between island and cabinets. Before you do that, add the outline of the appliances’ doors in the open position and you will quickly learn how tight the kitchen becomes when the oven door and dishwasher door are open. Do they hit each other? Do you have room to stand in front of the range when the oven door is open? How about the standing room at the dishwasher?

Speaking of the dishwasher, don’t fall for the myth that it should always be on the right side of the sink because most people are right-handed. Since loading the dishwasher isn’t a fine motor skill, this doesn’t matter. Additionally, this doesn’t consider unloading the dishwasher. Locate the dishwasher closest to most of the cabinets for which the clean dishes will be stored. If this happens to be on the left side of the sink, then absolutely locate your dishwasher to the left! Admittedly, the example below isn’t quite “Budget-friendly”, but it paints the picture.

The last part of a budget friend kitchen includes a walk-in pantry. Framing and drywall are cheaper than cabinets and yield the greatest amount of storage. This takes pressure off the amount of cabinets needed. Add wire shelves for affordability and handy do-it-yourself buyers can upgrade later.

Master Bathrooms: Budget Friendly

Several years back, clever production builders designed what they thought was the perfect master bath. The base version of the bath included a 30” tub shower, one sink and an exposed toilet. In truth, the “base” version was miserable, forcing buyers to upgrade. But lucky you, there were options! You could upgrade to a 42” tub shower, you could add the second sink, or you could have a 36” by 36” shower. That’s a lot of moving parts, and a prime opportunity for plumbing errors in the slab. Not to mention, the shower was so small, buyers would have to open the shower door to pick up the soap.


Instead, in the exact same amount of space, you can provide buyers with a 36” by 60” shower, two sinks and a semi-private toilet. No moving parts while optimizing the parts that buyers appreciate.

Add about 7 more square feet, and you can turn the toilet and add a door for privacy – something I always advocate for. Let’s face it, no one looks good sitting on the toilet.

I know in a lot of markets, the shower pan is a must – especially if the master is on the second floor. Fear not! A shower pan paired with large format tile and an upgraded shower enclosure can yield an awesome shower. Add a seat in the shower, and you’ve got a real winner.

Now let’s talk about the two sinks. Instead of running a long, short mirror across both vanities and mounting the light fixates on the wall above, consider two smaller mirrors hung vertically. Now you can add the lights to either side of the mirror for a more flattering light source.

You may be surprised at how nice “budget-friendly” can be – your home buyers certainly will be! With thoughtful planning, we can make these spaces punch well above their price point and really move the game forward in housing!

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters