10 Inexpensive Ways to Update a Tired Kitchen

Drilling a hole to apply new pulls and fronts to old cabinets.

Refurbishing your kitchen doesn't have to take a huge bite out of your wallet if you update slowly and focus on one area at a time. Sometimes simple changes can make a dramatic difference. You might be surprised at how replacing the cabinet hardware or changing a light fixture can breathe new life into a tired kitchen. Most areas can be changed in a weekend and will cost less than $100. Just think, if you focused on one area of your kitchen each week, you could have a brand new kitchen in less than three months. Here are a few suggestions for what you can work on.

1. Paint

Paint is the best way to make an easy and inexpensive change to your kitchen. There is nothing in your kitchen that you can't paint—except the food, of course. Covering those dated wood cabinets by painting them white can make a small kitchen seem larger. If the walls or cabinets are in poor condition, a faux finish will help hide the blemishes. Be creative and go wild. Paint is never permanent and can easily be changed if you don't like the look.

2. Countertops

A stained or outdated countertop can spoil the whole look of a kitchen. Rather than replacing it, you might consider tiling over it. If even that is outside of your budget, consider re-laminating it instead. Laminate sheets can be purchased at almost any home improvement store and are cheaper than purchasing all new countertops. Plus, they are lighter, easy enough for one person to install, and they come in a variety of finishes, colors, and styles.

3. Cabinet Hardware

Changing the cabinet hardware is another way to update the look of your kitchen. It can be surprising how such a little thing can make a big difference. Cabinet pulls and handles are available in a variety of different designs, shapes, colors, sizes, and textures. If your cabinets have hinges that show, you may need to replace these at the same time to match, so budget accordingly.

4. Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts

Replacing only the cabinet doors and drawer fronts is much cheaper than installing all new cabinets. If this is out of your budget, consider replacing the inside panels of your cabinets with lattice door inserts. They are unique and add an interesting texture. Additionally, the inside panels can be replaced with clear glass to display your favorite dishes and glassware. Or if you like the look yet you don't want your cabinets on display, you can use frosted glass.

If you already have glass cabinets and have grown tired of having your clutter on display, consider using chicken wire behind the glass or hang fabric from small curtain rods on the inside of the cabinets.

5. Appliance Panels

If you can't afford to replace your refrigerator or dishwasher, consider covering it. Appliance panels and trim kits are inexpensive and come in over 200 different colors and designs including stainless steel, sports motif, and chalkboard. This is the perfect answer for mismatching appliances.

6. Floors

Nothing can make a kitchen look dirtier or more outdated than the wrong kitchen floor. Replacing it doesn't have to be an expensive or even time-consuming project. Most kitchens have square designs, which make them easy to tile.

Or there is vinyl to consider. It is even easier (and quicker) than tile since it comes in self-adhesive tiles that can cost less than a dollar per square foot. A wide range of patterns and styles ensures that there will be something that fits every kind of kitchen, and these kind are virtually indistinguishable from sheet vinyl if installed correctly.

7. Light Fixtures

Replacing outdated light fixtures not only gets rid of an eyesore, but also has the advantage of adding more light. Consider adding track lighting, for instance. They come in a variety of widths, are prewired, and are easy to install. Many feature halogen spotlights that can be pointed at key areas of your kitchen like the stove or workstation.

8. Sink and Faucet

Think about how much time you spend standing in front of the sink, and then think about the condition of your sink. If it could use an update, you might want to consider installing an undermount sink. Undermount sinks sit beneath the counter, which makes wiping the counter much easier. You might also consider installing a porcelain or cast iron sink if you have grown tired of the stainless steel look.

If you can't afford to replace the whole sink, consider replacing just the faucet. With so many different shapes, sizes, and finishes of faucets, it can be hard to decide which one will work best. A faucet with a high arch works best if you need to fill large pots or buckets often, such as when you’re cooking for a big family.

9. Backsplashes

Backsplashes are often unused and ignored. Change this trend by making it colorful or practical. You can add color by tiling it or painting it. Alternatively, you could purchase—or even make—small decorative prints to hang there. If you need more space or like things close at hand, make your backsplash more practical by adding specially designed railings. The railings come with shelves, hooks, and other types of holders that can hold frequently used items such as utensils, spices and even cookbooks.

10. Plants

Kitchen windows can become instant greenhouses with the addition of a couple of glass shelves. Use glass clips to install them directly on the window, add a few nicely potted herbs, and you have an herb garden that is not only beautiful but handy, too. The empty space above your cabinets is perfect for some nice silk plants; just keep in mind that adding these means an extra thing to dust when cleaning. Consider using your larger serving bowls as containers in order to free up your cabinet space. Simply take out the flowers and wash when the dishes are needed.