As Mark Holliday, president of design-build firm Trace Ventures, tells TZR, many homeowners are craving a change after two years of endless time spent in the kitchen. This is clear from social media — practically everyone appears to be doing big renovations to better their cooking spaces. But while it’s true that a large change in your home can improve your daily life, doing serious construction is not always a realistic option for myriad reasons. Fortunately, though, that doesn’t have to be your only course of action — in fact, there are tons affordable kitchen changes you can make, according to interior designers. “Making updates with major impact doesn’t have to break the bank,” continues Holliday.
That may not be something you’ve heard much before, especially with so many on Instagram touting their dramatic kitchen makeovers. Yet the experts have spoken: Many impactful updates cost little to no money at all. Even better? They also require much less effort and time than, say, ripping out your cabinets or flooring for all new materials. So if you’re looking to give your kitchen a facelift now, there’s no reason to wait on getting started. Below are seven expert-approved ways to provide your space with a new look without breaking the bank.
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Change The Backsplash
The most effective and affordable way Amy Youngblood, principal designer at Amy Youngblood Interiors, has updated a kitchen? Changing the backsplash, since it doesn’t require replacing more expensive details like countertops or cabinets. That said, she does advise picking “an attractive, yet simple, porcelain tile” to keep costs down and to provide a cleaner, more updated look. “I did this for a single male client who had a rather decorative bar in his lower level. It was a huge improvement!" she tells TZR.
Update The Fixtures & Hardware
When it comes to inexpensive kitchen improvements, interior designers reiterate the impact of one particular update again and again: changing the fixtures and hardware, such as faucets and door knobs. “These things can significantly change the look of your kitchen, especially if you already have neutral, more updated countertops,” says Youngblood. “I did this for a client who wanted to spend money on all new cabinetry but was happy with their [current] layout and [cabinetry] style. They just wanted a facelift."
Holliday takes this further, explaining that it’s best to go with additions that are of-the-moment, yet timeless. “Matching finishes in brass or polished nickel will stand the test of time as trends come and go.” Beth Dotolo and Carolina Gentry of Pulp Design Studios share a similar opinion. “At Pulp, we believe that updating the hardware in your kitchen is a detail that instantly elevates the design; we are especially a big fan of brass hardware,” they say. “You don't need to invest in the most expensive technology in your kitchen for it to look like a million bucks!”
Replace Window Treatments
As far as decor goes, Youngblood recommends swapping out any old window treatments you may have hanging around. “For example, [replace] a dated rod pocket valance with a cleaner-looking simple box valance.” Also, she continues, “Get rid of and replace those old mini blinds with inexpensive faux wood two-inch slat blinds. Better no blinds at all than that!”
Clear The Clutter
Want a totally free way to make a big change? Ditch all those items taking up space on your surfaces. According to Youngblood, this starts by removing dated decor that’s on top of your cabinets. “Better to leave it open than have it looked cluttered and collecting dust!” After that, look to the parts of your kitchen that are more eye-level. “Remove all storage containers from the countertops and move cooking items to where they can’t be seen,” she says. “Much more clean and peaceful looking."
Paint The Cabinets
Though Holliday says that updating your hardware is a good first step, if you want to go further, aim for the cabinetry itself. “Give existing cabinets a facelift with new paint or stain, and then a step above that is to update just the cabinet fronts,” he explains. Joy Williams of Joyful Designs Studio agrees, telling TZR that these alterations can give you a big bang for your buck. And if that feels like too much of a project for you? “An even smaller project would be to just paint your island; that too would bring new life to your kitchen, especially if you use a fun color,” says Lauren Clement of Lauren Nicole Designs.
Upgrade The Lighting
“A kitchen is a workplace in your home so good lighting is key!” Clement shares. Thus, any lighting that’s dated or simply not doing its job should go. Her ideas? “You could add recessed lighting if your kitchen is dim or under-cabinet lighting for task illumination. If you have any glass cabinets you can add lighting in there for ambiance.” The biggest change, however, “would be any fixtures such as pendants over your island or a fixture over a table in an eat-in area,” she continues. “My favorite saying is ‘Bigger is Better’ and this certainly applies here!”
Transform The Flooring
According to Williams, a trick that people often forget about when updating their kitchens is making changes to dated tile flooring. “When you can't afford to rip them out, getting an inexpensive stencil pattern, a little paint, and some muscle can completely transform and update the kitchen you may be hating and don't know why,” she explains. “So much can be done with so little there.”