10 small ways to update your kitchen on a budget

When it comes to choosing the room in every house that works the hardest, the kitchen is a top contender. With kitchens enduring so much daily wear and tear, it’s hardly surprising that they can become shabby and feel dated much faster than other rooms.

It doesn’t help that bills for kitchen refurbishments can run into the thousands – something many families can’t spare, even if the arrival of spring has us longing to give our kitchens a makeover. 

However, you might be surprised by how much small changes can transform your whole kitchen. Whether you’re on a tight budget or have a little more cash to splash, here are ten small ways to update your old kitchen without the cost of a full kitchen redo.

1) Deep clean and organise

Sometimes all you need to make your kitchen look and feel like a brand new room is good scrubbing and decluttering. If your kitchen has gotten a bit grubby and messy over time, cleaning everything thoroughly and tidying the clutter away can easily achieve a fresh minimalist look. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean throwing things away to leave your worktops empty – it just means being smarter about how you use your storage and what you keep out on display. It’s best to only leave the essentials out, such as the toaster, kettle, and microwave, and put everything else away.

You could invest in some new kitchen storage organisers, such as hanging racks inside cupboards or drawer dividers, to give everything its own place. Switching what’s stored in specific cupboards or drawers can take some getting used to, but it’ll definitely feel like a different kitchen! 

2) Style open shelves

To transform your kitchen storage, why not take the doors off your wall cabinets and turn them into open shelving? Achieve a Scandinavian style by keeping most things minimalist and tidy, but using open shelves to display your dinnerware – your plates and glasses can double as decorative pieces.

It’s also helpful for creating an open pantry, allowing you to keep track of your staples on display in labelled jars and baskets. Alternatively, if you have the wall space, you could simply hang plate racks or spice racks on the wall to create open storage without altering your kitchen cabinets.

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Removing the door fronts does give you the chance to dress up the shelves, though. Why not paint the edges and leave the interiors white, or do the reverse to make the inside stand out? Or be more adventurous and try ombre shelves – painting each a different colour to create a gradient effect.

3) Change kitchen cabinet handles

One of the easiest ways to update your kitchen cabinets without much effort is to swap the cabinet handles for a new style. Though they mainly have a practical purpose, cupboard handles or knobs can make a big visual difference to the appearance of your kitchen units.

To make things simpler, it’s best to look for hardware that fits the existing drill holes in the doors, and designs or colours that match other features in the kitchen. For example, you could match them to your kitchen sink, or choose an accent to highlight such as a particular colour in your splashback.

If you don’t want to buy new kitchen cabinet handles, you could update your existing handles by removing, spray painting, and re-installing them. Even this simple change can make your cupboards feel like new – though you’ll need to buy the painting supplies if you don’t already have them.

4) Replace kitchen cabinet doors

If you want a more significant change without the expense of entirely new kitchen cabinets, you can simply replace the cabinet doors. This changes the cabinet fronts and handles in one go, and also gives you the opportunity to switch to handleless cabinet doors if you want a sleeker style.

Of course, you’ll have to measure carefully to get the perfect fit, and make sure you choose a design that suits the style of your kitchen. Most cabinets are neutral enough that it’s not difficult to find replacement doors that don’t look out of place, and you can always create contrasts instead.

Again, if you don’t want to buy new doors and replace them entirely, you could refresh your existing cabinet doors with a new coat of paint. Either brighten up the current colour or try something new, such as swapping from a darker shade to a lighter hue, or vice versa.

5) Install a glass splashback

Every kitchen can benefit from a splashback to protect the wall behind messy areas like the hob and sink, which are likely to experience various food splashes and high levels of heat and moisture. If your kitchen already has one, consider replacing it, and if it doesn’t, consider installing one.

Like cabinet handles, a splashback isn’t just practical – it also provides an opportunity to add visual interest to an otherwise plain part of your kitchen. There are plenty of ways to create a splashback, from vinyl transfers to stick-on tiles, but toughened glass splashbacks are ideal for a sleek finish.

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The possibilities are almost endless with a glass splashback – you could choose a solid colour, a pattern, a printed texture to imitate wood, stone, or tile, or even a printed image. Your splashback could double as wall art, bringing some new colour and personality into your cooking area.

6) Add new lighting fixtures

Lighting is crucial to any kitchen, not only for the functional purpose of being able to prepare food safely, but also for the aesthetic purpose of creating ambience. Basic overhead lighting won’t cut it – if you invest in some new kitchen lighting, you’ll soon see how it can affect the entire kitchen.

Don’t be afraid to make a statement with a visually interesting lighting fixture. If you have a kitchen island or a seating area, such as a dining nook or breakfast bar, it’s the perfect place to add pendant lights. Bonus points if you coordinate the material with other features in your kitchen!

Even mounting smaller wall sconces can change the vibe of the room, or you could switch to recessed lighting that provides all the illumination the room needs without obtrusive fixtures. Undercabinet strip lights are a very popular choice for secondary lighting that adds a modern touch. 

7) Try new wallpaper or flooring

Maybe your kitchen cabinets already look timeless and you don’t want to change them. That’s fine, because one of the best ways to change the kitchen around them is to simply repaint the walls. A new coat of paint can really spruce the place up, especially if you repaint the ceiling as well.

If you want something more eye-catching, feature walls aren’t only for living rooms and bedrooms. You can create a kitchen feature wall by painting a section with chalkboard paint to use as a noticeboard, or applying a fun (but moisture-resistant!) wallpaper to one wall or a kitchen island.

Aside from vertical décor, the kitchen floor also affects the visual impact of the whole room. Worn and scuffed flooring brings everything else down, so it may be time to lay down some fresh vinyl flooring. It’s relatively cheap and doesn’t require as much effort as redoing a wooden floor.

8) Invest in new appliances

It requires a higher budget, so may not be the most suitable option for everyone, but upgrading your appliances can instantly give your kitchen a facelift. They don’t have to be the latest designer brand, but a matching oven and fridge or matching worktop appliances will look impressively put together.

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Other than the major appliances, you may want to invest in a new cooktop – such as switching from a gas hob to an induction hob – or perhaps replacing your old kitchen sink. There are a range of styles available these days, from copper to ceramic, and various faucets, including pull-out hoses.

Again, there’s more money involved for this one, but if you’re able to, upgrading to smart appliances can make your kitchen both look and feel cutting-edge. Smart fridges and smart microwaves are just some of the possibilities – how about a voice-activated oven or a remote-controlled coffee maker?

9) Update window dressing

Natural lighting is just as important as your artificial lighting fixtures. Make the most of your kitchen windows by changing the window dressings to something more fitting for the kitchen aesthetic you’re going for, whether that’s swapping curtains for blinds or adding window decals.

Window accessories give you another chance to add colour and texture to your kitchen, tying into a wider colour scheme while drawing the eye to the window area. An example of adding drama to your kitchen window is recreating the look of a Crittall window using tape or painted strips of wood.

Another way to dress up your kitchen window is to turn the windowsill or ledge into a mini garden. From potted herbs to plants and flowers, a bit of greenery goes a long way to brighten things up. If you don’t have a green thumb, you can always select low-maintenance succulents or artificial plants.

10) Add some colourful elements

This ties in with what we’ve discussed above about new coats of paint, feature walls, and splashbacks, but adding pops of colour throughout a kitchen is key to making it feel brighter than before. It typically costs less to buy new kitchen accessories than to replace the furniture.

Small decorative finishes and soft furnishings help to bring a wider variety of colours and textures into the space, impacting the final visual impression the kitchen gives. For example, patterned textiles create a cheerful and cosy vibe, while subtle shimmers lend a sense of glamour and grandeur.

If you want to express your personality more throughout the space, quirky kitchen accessories are the way to go. Whether vintage or contemporary, as long as you stay consistent with your selection of finishes, it should complete a more satisfying picture when you step back and look at your kitchen.

Refresh your kitchen without breaking the bank

Whether you choose one of these tips or decide to combine a few, these simple swaps are extremely handy ways to revamp your kitchen without spending a fortune. In some cases, you can also save money with a bit of DIY, or by sourcing secondhand items that still look good and work well.

Follow these low-budget, high-impact suggestions and you’re sure to see a big change in your kitchen’s style and efficiency, with relatively little effort. Get started now and you could be enjoying a clean and colourful kitchen much sooner than you think!

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