Custom cabinetry, marble countertops, a gigantic kitchen island and ultra-trendy accessories — these are just some of the features you can find in a high-end kitchen. The pinnacle of luxury, this magazine-worthy style can feel unattainable for many homeowners embarking on a kitchen remodel. But with clever planning and savvy shopping, it’s now possible to get this designer look without blowing your budget. The trick is to follow a few simple design principles and swap ultra-luxe materials for budget-conscious (but equally impactful) substitutes.

Luxury kitchen designed by Sara Bederman. Photo: James Bombales 

We sourced alternatives and got expert tips for designing a luxury kitchen for less at Improve Canada — the largest home improvement centre in Canada. Conveniently located two stop lights north of Toronto in Vaughan, Improve Canada offers a one-stop shopping experience for all of your renovation needs. There are over 350 showrooms under one roof (40+ in the kitchen category alone) where you can easily spend half a day sifting through everything from stone to flooring to cabinetry to get ideas for the kitchen of your dreams.

1. Swap natural stone for porcelain or quartz.

MaxFine Calacatta available at Surfaces For All Purposes. Photo: @fmg_fabbricamarmigraniti/Instagram.

Marble is the quintessential stone used in luxury kitchens. Unfortunately, real marble can easily blow your budget — especially if you’re opting for a variety that’s richly veined or rare. Fortunately, with advancements in technology, there are tons of composites that replicate the look.

“The man-made products that look very close to marble are porcelain and quartz,” says Paya Tavassoli, co-founder at Surfaces For All Purposes (SAP) within Improve Canada. “Quartz has been around for much longer. Fewer people are using porcelain for countertops because it’s not as well known within this industry.”

Despite being less well-known, porcelain has become a rising star among architects and designers. Tavassoli carries MaxFine Calacatta — an Italian porcelain that he says mimics the look of marble better than any other product out there. “If you want to buy a real Calacatta, you’re going to spend $140 to $160 per square-foot. This will run you up to $10,000 for one slab versus $1,000 for one porcelain slab that looks almost identical.”

Porcelain is also much easier to maintain. Since marble is porous and absorbs stains, you will have to reseal it every four to six months to protect it from regular wear and tear. “When you put the porcelain down you don’t have to worry about it and it’s a fraction of the cost,” says Tavassoli.

In all, there are 21 tile and stone showrooms at Improve Canada.

2. Upgrade cabinets with custom doors and panels.

Custom doors and panels from Vangarde. Photo: @VangardeCabinet/Instagram 

Custom cabinets are the cornerstone of any luxury kitchen, but the price tag can easily gobble your budget. If you’re not quite ready to replace your whole kitchen, one solution is to upgrade the cabinet doors instead.

Vangarde Cabinet Design & Factory Inc. sells doors and panels that are compatible with IKEA kitchens — with contemporary, traditional and modern styles and over 60 colours to choose from. They’re made right here in Canada with materials sourced from Italy and Germany. “We do kitchen installations, we do design. We do everything that a kitchen company would do. But instead, we’re using the IKEA carcass as a skeleton and the base of the foundation of the design,” explains Vangarde’s owner, Sam Argentino. You can book an appointment online to sit down with one of Vangarde’s designers to look at samples, ask questions and get inspiration. Pro tip: It’s best to secure an appointment with all of the showrooms that pique your interest in advance since the local businesses located within Improve Canada can sometimes be found doing a service call or an installation for a homeowner like yourself.

Vangarde makes it easy to make your dream kitchen a reality. You can either buy the doors/panels and install them yourself or they can ship the IKEA cabinets pre-assembled with Vangarde’s doors. If you choose the latter option, you have the option to get a soft-close feature — a nice touch in a high-end kitchen that you won’t find with standard IKEA hinges.

With the rise of more minimal kitchens, one trend that’s grown in popularity is ditching upper cabinets in favour of open-shelving. This look can save you money and deliver a high-end look and feel (especially if you invest in great cabinets and custom doors below).

3. From the floor to the walls, there are opportunities to save.

Luxury Vinyl Flooring. Photo: @asliceofsuffolk/Instagram

If you’d rather not splurge on hardwood flooring, there are some affordable vinyl options that mimic the appearance of wood and are just as durable and low maintenance.

Remodel Canada Carpet One is a one-stop shop within Improve Canada for all of your renovation needs. If you’re looking to get the look of hardwood for less, they suggest trying a relatively new flooring option, luxury vinyl. Depending on the style you choose, you could save as much as $4 per square-foot compared to similar hardwood styles. Considering the average kitchen size is around 300 square feet, this means major savings.

With over 23 flooring showrooms at Improve Canada, you can ask about a variety of flooring options and installation styles — including laying the luxury vinyl planks in a herringbone pattern to achieve an ultra-luxe look.

For the walls, there are many budget-friendly design options that will add extra impact. Plain subway tiles are timeless, affordable and easy to mix and match. They can also be installed in unique patterns, like chevron or herringbone (get inspiration at over 21 showrooms in the tile and stone category).

4. Luxury is all in the details.

Pendant Light Fixture at Tubicen Lighting within Improve Canada. Photo: @tubicenlighting/Instagram

On a simple, classic outfit, a few pieces of jewelry can quickly elevate the whole look. The same goes for details in a luxury kitchen, like investing in eye-catching, high-quality hardware and statement lighting.

Chandeliers and pendants over a kitchen island are the perfect accessory to not only brighten your space, but add some mood lighting and unexpected personality. “I wouldn’t try to save money on a chandelier or a pendant above the kitchen island,” says Anna Zhilkin, a designer at Sosna Inc., an award-winning renovation company. “Lighting is the key feature, like a cherry on a cake. It always creates a focal point and will catch your eye immediately.”

Try including a statement pendant light, wall sconces or under-cabinet task lighting. At Improve Canada, there are 13 showrooms specializing in lighting and electrical. If you want a modern, traditional or contemporary feel, you can source a light fixture that will deliver the right look (and get the installation taken care of, too).

Photo: 350+ showrooms located within Improve Canada. Book an appointment with a showroom.

Kitchen renovations are notoriously expensive and time-consuming. When you visit Improve Canada, you can get the kitchen of your dreams without blowing the budget — right down to the finest details. You can start your journey online and book appointments with showrooms to get started.

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