Kitchen remodels can be expensive and disruptive, but there are many creative ways to give your outdated kitchen a modern facelift without taking on a full-scale renovation. With some strategic updates and DIY projects, you can transform the heart of your home into a stylish and functional space that looks and feels fresh and new.

Refresh Surfaces

One of the easiest ways to update your kitchen’s aesthetic is by replacing or refinishing existing surfaces like cabinets, countertops, floors, and backsplashes.

Paint Cabinets

Painting tired wooden cabinets is an affordable way to give your kitchen a quick makeover. Sand and clean cabinets thoroughly before applying a primer and durable cabinet paint in a trendy color like navy blue, sage green, or glossy white. For bonus points, replace dated hardware with statement handles and knobs.

Replace Countertops

Countertops take a lot of abuse over the years. Replacing worn laminate or tile surfaces with durable and stylish options like quartz, butcher block, or concrete can instantly modernize your kitchen.

Update Backsplash

A new backsplash offers big visual impact for relatively little money. Swap out old tile for eye-catching and durable options like metallic or marble-look tile, colorful glass, or remove tile completely to expose trendy brick.

Refinish Floors

Refinishing worn hardwood floors or replacing outdated vinyl or linoleum with luxurious vinyl plank flooring can make a huge difference. For serious DIYers, staining and sealing concrete floors is also an option.

Improve Lighting

Proper lighting is essential in the kitchen, and outdated fixtures and bulbs can leave your space feeling dark and dreary.

Install Task Lighting

Too little light over work areas forces you to strain while prepping and cooking. Add discreet but powerful LED under-cabinet lights to provide focused task lighting where you need it most.

Update Overall Lighting

Swap outdated fluorescent box lights for attractive flush or pendant lights that provide ambient lighting. If possible, add more fixtures and larger bulbs to brighten up your kitchen. Dimmer switches allow you to control light levels.

Add Accent Lighting

Unique pendants, sconces and accent lighting add character while highlighting architectural details or display areas. Try using color-changing smart bulbs to create different moods.

Improve Storage

Lack of efficient and accessible storage can make your kitchen feel disorganized and cluttered. Improving storage capacity can help maximize your space.

Add Drawers

Deep drawers store more than regular cabinets and make items easy to access. Consider converting existing base cabinets to drawers, or have drawer inserts professionally installed.

Install Pull-Out Shelving

Pull-out shelves and tiered drawers double your cabinet storage area and bring items out of hiding. DIY pull-out spice racks keep seasonings organized.

Add Open Shelving

Floating shelves, wall-mounted pot racks, and glass-door wall cabinets provide pretty open storage to show off attractive dishware and cookware while keeping items in arm’s reach.

Hide Appliances

Keep counters clear by storing bulky appliances like stand mixers inside roll-out cabinet inserts or dedicated appliance garages.

Style on a Budget

The right accessories and décor updates make a big visual impact without blowing your budget.

Paint an Accent Wall

Painting one wall in a bold color adds drama while keeping the majority of your existing paint. Try the wall with the sink or range for maximum effect.

Hang Wallpaper

Self-adhesive wallpaper like removable wooden plank designs or graphic tile patterns can transform backsplashes, walls and cabinetry on a dime.

Display Collections

Show off pretty dish and glassware collections in open cabinets or on floating shelves. Group items by color for a designer look.

Add Plants

Potted herbs, succulents and houseplants bring life and freshness to shelf tops, windowsills and empty corners without breaking the bank.

Use Trendy Textiles

Inexpensive hand towels, dish rags and chair cushions sewn from trendy fabrics like stripes, florals and geometrics are easy ways to incorporate on-trend patterns.

Make Structural Changes

While major renovations involve more work, they can dramatically improve the functionality and layout of your kitchen.

Knock Down Walls

Taking out walls between the kitchen and dining room can make the space feel airier and more modern. Consult an engineer first.

Add a Kitchen Island

Adding a statement island provides ample extra work space, storage and seating. Size appropriately so existing traffic patterns aren’t disrupted.

Bump Out Exterior Wall

Bumping out exterior walls just 1-3 feet can allow space for more cabinets, appliances, counters and seating without altering the existing footprint.

Replace Doorways

Widen existing doorways or add new French doors to open up the kitchen to surrounding rooms for an airier, more inviting ambiance.

Replace Sink and Cooktop

Replacing an outdated sink and dated electric cooktop with trendy chrome or matte black fixtures gives the heart of your kitchen an instant face lift.

Embrace Small Touches

It’s often the little things that make a kitchen feel up-to-date. Don’t overlook the importance of minor tweaks.

Update Faucets

A new pull-down faucet in sleek finishes like matte black, brushed gold or unexpected colors like a deep green adds modern flair.

Add Moulding

Moulding and trim offer small but mighty design impact. Add crown moulding up top or flat trim where backsplashes meet countertops.

Install a Smart Hub

A voice assistant device allows you to play music, look up recipes, set timers and control smart devices hands-free while you cook.

Update Hardware

New cabinet hardware like black pulls and brass knobs take surfaces from basic to bold. Don’t forget hinges and drawer slides.

Replace Plates and Mugs

Mix up your dinnerware with fun patterns, modern materials like melamine, or solid colors to complement your new palette.

Frequently Asked Questions About Modernizing Your Kitchen

How much does it cost to update a kitchen without remodeling?

Depending on choices, most minor kitchen updates cost $2,000-5,000. Painting cabinets, refinishing floors and adding new lighting make big visual impact at relatively low cost. More intensive upgrades like knocking down walls or adding an island may run $5,000-15,000.

What are the best inexpensive kitchen updates?

Painting cabinets, updating hardware, replacing countertops with budget-friendly options like butcher block and adding self-adhesive wallpaper offer dramatic transformation for under $2,500 in most kitchens.

What is the easiest way to modernize a kitchen?

Changing cabinet hardware, replacing lighting fixtures and painting walls and/or cabinets bright white for a sleek, modern look tend to be simple upgrades that make a noticeable difference in a kitchen’s style.

Should I remodel or update my kitchen?

It depends on your goals and budget. Minor updates keep costs down while refreshing the aesthetic. Remodels are more expensive but allow you to fully optimize layout and functionality. Upgrade if overall footprint works but décor is dated. Remodel if the layout or floorplan need significant improvement.

How do I choose a new color for my kitchen?

Consider the amount of natural light your kitchen gets, the colors in your finishes, cabinets and countertops, and the overall aesthetic you want. Warm, golden yellows work in dark spaces. Soft blues and greens complement classic white kitchens. Bold paint colors make a statement.

How do I update my kitchen on a small budget?

Focus on quick, dramatic changes like replacing cabinet hardware, painting walls, adding floating shelves, installing adhesive wallpaper, replacing light fixtures and accessorizing with pretty textiles and greenery.

What can I change in my rental kitchen?

With approval, you can update lighting, change cabinet hardware, install peel-and-stick backsplash tile, add removable shelf paper, apply removable wallpaper, replace curtains, and use small fixtures like black appliance covers.

Should I reface or replace kitchen cabinets?

Replacing doors and veneers with new wood or laminate facings costs 50-70% less than new cabinets. Refacing keeps existing cabinet boxes intact. Replacing makes sense if cabinets are damaged or layout needs improvement.

What flooring is best for an updated kitchen?

Luxury vinyl plank provides the look of wood or tile with more durability and water resistance. For a modern-industrial vibe, stain and seal concrete floors. Hardwood offers classic style.

How do I choose new countertops?

Durability and maintenance are key. Granite, quartz, acrylic solid surface, and soapstone perform best but have tradeoffs in pricing and styles. Get samples to compare aesthetics.


Outdated kitchens can gain new life through fuss-free DIY updates and minor renovations that maximize existing space. Focus on changes that make the biggest visual impact like painting cabinets and walls, replacing lighting and hardware, and installing self-adhesive wallpaper or tile backsplashes. For more contemporary style, knock down walls, add a kitchen island, or replace doorways with French doors. Even modest upgrades like new textiles and houseplants go a long way towards modernizing a kitchen’s look and function without taking on a full remodel. Use your creativity, stick to your budget, and you can give your old kitchen a stylish new lease on life.