Oh, good design does NOT have to be expensive. It actually has nothing to do with cost - just creativity. You can do wonderful things with stock cabinets and middle to lower cost products just as easily as you can with the high end. Study kitchens that you like to get a clear vision of your personal design aesthetic. That's the first step. The secret here is that you can use alternative products and materials to design the kitchen - you don't have to stay within the confines of every item in a cabinet manufacturer's product line. Mix it up and it can look well designed. Point is, do not feel confined by cost - you're only as limited as your imagination, which sometimes takes a little time. Does that help?
It might seem like common sense, but the best thing you can do before embarking on a kitchen remodel is step back and decide on your overall style vision. Committing to a clear aesthetic will help you avoid making scattered choices along the way. And to maintain this vision throughout the project, begin with the end goal in mind: What’s the feeling you want to evoke when you enter your kitchen? Write down some words that express your desired look; like sleek, chic, country, industrial, urban, casual, formal, French, Scandinavian, coastal, farmhouse, or eclectic. Refer to this list whenever you’re making design decisions or choosing products and materials, to keep you focused.