Welcome to part two of our series on New Year’s resolutions to improve your kitchen! A new year presents a perfect opportunity to set goals that will make your kitchen more functional, efficient, and inviting. In part one, we covered resolutions like organizing your pantry, meal planning, and cleaning out old appliances and cookware.

Now let’s dive into the second set of kitchen resolutions to consider taking on this year. From easy DIY upgrades to embracing new recipes and techniques, these ideas will help you make the most of your culinary space in the months ahead!

Refresh the Paint and Decor

Giving your kitchen walls a fresh coat of paint can completely transform the vibe of the space. Consider choosing a crisp white or opt for a warm neutral tone like almond or gray. Painting the ceiling the same color will make the space appear larger.

Look for areas where the paint may be cracked or peeling and focus on smoothing out those trouble spots before adding the new color. Clean the walls thoroughly before starting.

When selecting sheen, opt for an eggshell or satin finish, which will stand up well to moisture and frequent cleaning. Stay away from flat paints, which show scuffs too easily. Use painters tape for clean edges and apply two coats for best coverage.

In addition to walls, consider repainting or staining kitchen cabinets. This can update their look instantly without the cost of brand new cabinetry. Sand lightly before painting and use a primer meant for slick surfaces like cabinets or furniture.

Look around the kitchen with fresh eyes and aim to declutter unnecessary items. Remove small appliances you no longer use, decorative pieces that just collect dust, and any textiles or dishes that don’t bring you joy. A tidy, minimalist look helps small kitchens feel more spacious.

Accessories like removable wallpaper or reclaimed wood shelves can add personality without a lot of work. Incorporate new kitchen towels, rugs, candles or fresh flowers to brighten up the space.

Upgrade Lighting

Proper lighting is essential in the kitchen for both safety and ambiance. Evaluate the existing lighting and determine if upgrades could make the space more enjoyable.

Swapping out old fluorescent tubes for LED fixtures can increase brightness. Under-cabinet lighting illuminates countertops and task areas. Pendants, chandeliers or track lighting add style while providing light for dining.

Consider adding dimmers so you can adjust the lighting based on the task at hand. Position lights over the sink, stove and center workstation at a minimum, but don’t be afraid to add more as needed.

Natural light is ideal in the kitchen when possible. If the space lacks windows, paint the walls light colors to reflect more brightness. Skylights or solar tubes can channel sunshine into dark corners of the kitchen.

Proper lighting serves both form and function. It allows for safely using knives, reading recipes, and seeing into cabinets, while also setting the right mood for mornings, parties or relaxing meals after dark.

Improve Storage Solutions

No matter the size of your kitchen, there never seems to be enough storage. Take time to assess where you’re falling short – are pots and pans piled on the counter or appliances hogging shelf space? Addressing these deficiencies through improved organization will make your kitchen more pleasurable to cook in.

For a quick fix, install wall-mounted pot racks, hooks and magnetic strips for utensils. Slide-out drawers or pull-out shelves allow you to utilize cabinet space to the fullest. Lazy susans and tiered shelves keep items accessible in deep cabinets.

Consider investing in storage solutions like:

  • Step stools to reach high shelves
  • Under-sink roll-out trays for cleaning supplies
  • Drawer organizers for utensils
  • Spice racks to clear counters
  • Cabinet door racks for cutting boards and cookie sheets
  • Plastic bins for categorizing pantry items

Take measurements and shop carefully to find storage solutions that fit your current space – there are lots of adjustable options. Clearing clutter has a huge visual impact in kitchens both large and small.

Upgrade Countertops

Countertops take abuse in the kitchen from hot pans, cutting, prep work and more. If your counters are badly worn or don’t function well for your needs, consider resurfacing or replacing them.

Popular options like granite, quartz and solid surface materials hold up beautifully in kitchens. Tile or concrete can also be attractive choices. Pros for each include:

Granite – Heat and scratch resistant. Adds value. Comes in many colors and patterns.

Quartz – Doesn’t need sealing. Non-porous. Nearly stain proof. Manmade for color consistency.

Solid Surface – Seamless installation. Easy to clean. Durable and repairable.

Tile – Customizable sizes, shapes and layouts. Works well for butchers block accents.

Concrete – Industrial vibe. Can be stained or stamped. Heatproof.

Schedule time for a kitchen remodeler to visit and measure so you can receive an accurate quote. Be sure to indicate preferences for edges, thickness, finish and any special cutouts needed for sinks or stoves.

While waiting for a major overhaul, small steps like regrouting or adding a backsplash tile can improve the look of existing counters affordably. Protect surfaces daily by using cutting boards and trivets.

Embrace Open Shelving

Upper kitchen cabinets can make a small space feel closed in. To create an airier aesthetic, try converting some cabinets to open shelving. This allows you to display favorite cookware, dishes or accents while still keeping necessities accessible.

Before removing cabinet doors, ensure the shelves inside are sturdy and made of finish-quality wood. Stain or paint the interiors to match if needed. Consider adding trim details along the shelves to finish them properly.

Use open shelving judiciously – focus on areas above eye level so lower cabinets can still conceal mess or clutter as needed. Glass doors are another option for maintaining access while hiding away some objects.

What you display on open shelves helps set the tone for the kitchen. Ironstone dishes, copper pots or a collection of cookbooks all make for pleasing arrangements. Just be sure to anchor any heavy antiques or appliances securely. Also avoid displaying anything you don’t want fading in sunlight.

The possibilities are endless for personalizing open shelves to suit your aesthetic. They lend a casually elegant feel to the kitchen when styled properly.

Improve Ventilation

From simmering stews to searing steaks, kitchens generate a lot of heat, steam and aromas. Proper ventilation is key to dissipating these effectively so your kitchen stays comfortable.

Evaluate the current ventilation – are vents working adequately or seeming lackluster? Upgrading to a more powerful external ventilation hood can greatly improve air quality.

Ductless recirculating hoods are another option, offering several fan speeds and built-in filters to trap grease and odors. Install above the cooktop or range to vent steam, smoke and smells outside.

Strategically place exhaust fans elsewhere in the kitchen if possible. Position them near the dishwasher, oven or other heat-generating appliances. Look for Energy Star rated models that will operate quietly and efficiently.

For a quick fix, install a ceiling fan over the dining table. The air circulation will allow steam to dissipate rather than accumulate in the space. Box fans in windows can also help push out stale air, especially in summer.

Keep all vents and filters clean so air can flow freely. Proper ventilation makes the kitchen more comfortable and prevents moisture from damaging surfaces over time.

Upgrade Appliances

Outdated or inefficient appliances can make cooking far more frustrating. Eventually repairs may no longer be worth investing in. When appliances start deteriorating, it’s a sign that upgrades could be on the horizon.

Consider which appliances you use most frequently and which are underperforming. Prioritize upgrades starting there. Common options include:

Refrigerators – Look for improved insulation, spill-proof shelving and temperature control. Integrated designs blend in seamlessly.

Dishwashers – Quieter models with sensor technology optimize cycles. Upgrade to a built-in style for a seamless look.

Stoves – Safety and speed may be enhanced in newer gas or induction cooktops. Added functions like air frying capabilities give versatility.

Microwaves – Inverter technology allows for more even cooking. Convection functions bake and brown foods effectively.

Be sure to measure carefully when selecting replacements. Make note of fuel sources and electrical specs needed as well. Shop end of year sales to get the best deals.

Small appliance upgrades can make a big difference too. High performance blenders, multi-cookers and espresso machines all elevate your culinary potential.

Expand Pantry Storage

Even well-organized pantries can quickly become overloaded and cluttered. As you accumulate more kitchen tools and ingredients over time, the need for pantry storage space increases.

For many homeowners, expanding the existing pantry provides a cost-effective way to gain storage compared to adding on an entirely new room. Here are some options to consider:

  • Convert an adjacent closet or cupboard into pantry overflow space. Just add shelving.
  • Repurpose underutilized spaces like the area under a staircase. Close it off with a door.
  • Install a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit in an unused corner.
  • Remove upper cabinets and extend the existing pantry up to the ceiling.
  • Build out into an attached garage, keeping required clearance space in mind.
  • Construct a freestanding pantry cupboard with doors to place in a open area.

Take measurements to determine the scope of your needs. Custom pantries allow for personalization with slide-out shelves, hidden storage and other options. Expanding just a few feet can often double storage capacity.

Extra pantry space allows you to store appliances, serveware and bulky paper products. It also provides room to stock up on ingredients so you always have what you need on hand to cook.

Upgrade Kitchen Hardware

Once you give your kitchen a cosmetic refresh, outdated hardware like pulls, knobs, handles and faucets will really stand out. Replacing these finishing touches completes the updated look.

Hardware comes in a range of styles and finishes to match any kitchen decor – the options are endless. Consider brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, polished chrome, copper, brass and more.

For ease, look for a matching suite of hardware so the finishes coordinate, even if the shapes vary between knobs and handles.

Some of the hardware that could use a modern upgrade includes:

  • Cabinet pulls and knobs
  • Drawer handles
  • Sink faucets
  • Towel rails
  • Refrigerator handles
  • Pot rack hangers
  • Kitchen cart wheels
  • Shelving brackets

Budget permitting, swapping in all new hardware makes everything seem fresh and up-to-date. For a more economical refresh, start with visible pieces like drawers and doors.

Take your color palette and decor style into account as you select finishes. Hardware makes a statement.

Make Space for a Kitchen Island

If your kitchen feels cramped, a great way to expand the functionality is by adding a kitchen island. Islands provide ample work surface area, storage, and seating without taking up significant floor space. They instantly make kitchens more efficient and social.

Before taking on an island project, ensure there is adequate clearance. Measure your space to be sure an island won’t bottle-neck workflow. Also consider traffic pathways from sinks, stoves and refrigerators.

Islands should be at least 36-42 inches from perimeter counters and appliances for comfortable circulation. Standard sizes range from 30-50 inches deep and 4-6 feet long.

Numerous ready-made kitchen island options exist, from rolling carts to butcher block tabletops on a base. For more customization, build an island on-site to your exact specifications.

Consider features like:

  • Seating – Barstools or benches enhance entertaining.
  • Storage – Shelves, cabinets, racks and drawers hold kitchen necessities.
  • Sink – Adding plumbing allows for food prep right on the island.
  • Appliances – Microwaves, wine fridges and charging stations are handy inclusions.
  • Countertops – Durable surfaces like quartz work best for everyday use. Islands work with any decor style from modern to farmhouse. Outfit with pendant lighting and accessories that complement your existing look.

Improve Kitchen Ergonomics

If you regularly deal with a sore back or pain while cooking, the layout and ergonomics of your kitchen may be to blame. Cluttered, cramped spaces full of corners require more bending and twisting.

Optimizing the kitchen layout and workflow can work wonders for your body over time. Here are some ergonomic enhancements to consider:

  • Ensure a minimum 32-inch clearance area in front of sinks and stoves.
  • Position frequently used items at waist to shoulder height within easy reach.
  • Install adjustable shelves and lighting to place tasks at eye level.
  • Opt for dish drawers that eliminate bending down to lower cabinets.
  • Choose a sink with high arc faucets that swivel to fill pots easier.
  • Keep the trash and recycling bins near food prep zones for easy disposal.
  • Purchase an adjustable-height rolling kitchen cart for personalized food prep.
  • Include a comfortable mat in stand-heavy zones like the sink.

Take note of any movements that cause strain in your own kitchen. Tailor upgrades to minimize these problem areas specifically. Ergonomics are essential for longevity and avoiding injury.

Embrace a Smart Kitchen

Home technology is better than ever and the kitchen stands to benefit tremendously. “Smart kitchen” upgrades make tasks easier, save time and energy, and simplify cooking and cleanup.

Consider embracing smart technology like:

  • Smart thermometers – Monitor food temperatures remotely via smartphone to prevent over/under cooking.
  • Voice assistants – Use voice commands to set timers, add grocery items to lists, look up recipes and more hands-free.
  • Smart displays – Access step-by-step videos and cooking instructions. Stream music playlists.
  • Wi-fi enabled appliances – Control ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers from your phone. Receive alerts if doors are left open.
  • Smart lighting – Adjust overhead lights via voice controls or an app. Install under-cabinet lighting with auto-on motion sensors.
  • Smart faucets – Touchless faucets turn on and off automatically. Apps control temperature and flow.

Start small by adding smart features gradually as budget allows. Even a couple conveniences like voice assistance and wireless lighting controls can make daily kitchen routines radically more enjoyable over time.

Learn New Recipes and Techniques

The new year presents a perfect opportunity to expand your cooking skills and try new recipes. Branch out from your routine dishes and staple meals.

Cooking shows, food blogs and social media provide unlimited inspiration for trying new cuisines and techniques. Read cookbooks from the library or try recipes from friends. Sign up for a meal kit delivery service that provides innovative recipes and pre-measured ingredients.

Aim to attempt one totally new recipe each week. Save or print out recipes you want to tackle so they are easy to access later.

Pick a cuisine like Moroccan, Indian or Thai and vow to learn staple dishes and flavors associated with it. Browse international grocery aisles and purchase ingredients to experiment.

Enroll in a fun recreational cooking class through a local culinary school or kitchen supply store. Many offer evening or weekend classes on topics ranging from sushi making to pasta techniques. This provides hands-on practice in a low-stakes environment.

Learn and perfect cooking methods that intimidate you. Master pan sauces, roasting proteins, frying eggplant. Tackle baking challenges like laminated dough.

The new year offers a chance to get out of recipe ruts. Push your culinary skills and expand food horizons. Then enjoy showing off newfound kitchen talents when entertaining.

Incorporate More Green Cooking

“Green” cooking aims to reduce energy, water, and resource consumption in the kitchen while also generating less waste. It minimizes environmental impact through conscientious food sourcing and preparation.

Here are some attainable habits for cooking greener:

  • Plan meals based on seasonal produce that doesn’t require long-distance transport. Purchase local ingredients whenever possible.
  • Freeze overripe fruit and veggies to use later in smoothies, soups or baked goods. Properly stored, frozen produce retains nutrients.
  • Compost vegetable scraps rather than trashing them. Many local services offer kitchen compost collection bins.
  • Cook multiple meals using one heat source like oven roasting a few things at once. Use smaller appliances to avoid powering up the range.
  • Allow frozen foods to thaw in the fridge overnight rather than microwaving repeatedly. Only boil the water needed for tasks.
  • Avoid disposable paper towels and plastic baggies. Swap for reusable towels, storage containers and bags.
  • Line shelves with repurposed materials like crates, jars or baskets rather than plastic organizers.
  • Purchase eco-friendly cleaners in bulk rather than disposable wipes. Use reusable rags instead of paper towels.

Adopt new habits steadily until they become second nature. Your kitchen habits can reduce waste dramatically.

Host More Home Cooking Parties

If one of your goals is to entertain more frequently at home, a great low-stress option is to host casual home cooking parties. These interactive get-togethers let guests mingle while creating a meal together under your guidance.

Some fun themes include:

  • Burger night – Provide rolls, cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion and sauces so guests can build custom burgers.
  • Taco/fajita bar – Make meat, beans and rice. Let guests assemble tacos with favorite toppings.
  • Pasta making party – Roll out dough together. Boil different shaped pastas. Make sauces.
  • Wok station – Set up ingredients and let guests stir fry own veggie or protein combo in a hot wok.
  • DIY pizzas – Make dough and sauce. Provide toppings