Designers Share 5 Easy, Affordable Ways to Update Your Kitchen

A light and airy kitchen with blue gray cabinetry and light wood and light blue accents


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Kitchen renovations can wreak havoc on anyone’s bank account. As a notoriously pricy room to redo—the appliances and cabinets and countertops, oh my!—refreshing your kitchen can easily overwhelm your budget.

If you’re feeling stuck with an outdated kitchen, don’t fret. There are easy and affordable ways to revive your kitchen’s design, from switching out hardware to adding a backsplash.

“Home renovations can quickly become expensive, and with kitchens being the most used space in a home, they often need more TLC,” Jen Nash, the senior design lead at Magnet, says. “We need to think more creatively in terms of how we can rejuvenate our kitchens and homes."

Rest assured, there are plenty of affordable ways to update your space. Read on for five interior designer-approved tips to transform your kitchen without breaking the bank—no reno required. 

Meet the Expert

  • Jen Nash is the senior design lead at Magnet, a design firm focused on kitchens.
  • Kathy Kuo is a lauded interior designer and owner of the eponymous design store, Kathy Kuo Home.
  • Amy Studebaker is an interior designer and owner of Amy Studebaker Design.

Update Your Lighting

Routinely find yourself mumbling about how much you hate your kitchen’s dingy lighting? Maybe it's time to give an upgrade a go. "Putting thought and intention into your lighting makes a big difference in just about any space, and the kitchen is no different,” interior designer Kathy Kuo says.

Set a vibe with a sweet set of pendant lights over a counter area or kitchen island. Sconces or flush mounts are also super practical and are relatively affordable lighting options that can often be easier to install than chandeliers or hanging pendants, Kuo says.

To create even more ambiance, put them on dimmers, which evoke a more intimate feel and gentler light, especially when sneaking into the freezer for a late-night ice cream treat. 

affordable kitchen updates

Kathy Kuo Home

Change Out Your Hardware

Think of your kitchen’s hardware like jewelry—it’s the finishing touch to your kitchen’s outfit. A new set of pulls can elevate outdated cabinets, and perhaps add a surprising pop of color or pattern. Best of all, they can easily (and affordably) be changed out to create a whole new vibe whenever your kitchen is feeling a little stale. 

If changing all of your drawer and cabinet pulls feels overwhelming though, start with your island, if you have one.

"Changing your island hardware to something that contrasts your perimeter cabinetry is an easy change to your kitchen,” interior designer Amy Studebaker says. “This is a small update that will make a big impact in your kitchen—and immediately elevate your space."

affordable kitchen updates

Design by Peter Spalding / Photo by Kelley Kish

Add Counter Seating

Take a good, hard look at your kitchen counter. Are you using it to its full potential? “I always advise my design clients to add as much seating as possible to their kitchens if they have the space,” Kuo says.

That includes the counter, where a chic set of bar stools can create a whole new look for your kitchen. Kuo notes that this instantly creates another area to gather, whether it be to enjoy a quick meal or to chat with family while you're in the midst of cooking.

When shopping for bar stools or counter chairs, Kuo recommends aiming for a similar style to your existing dining furniture for a cohesive look. Choose lightweight pieces too; those will be easier for everyone, including little ones bellying up to the kitchen counter to finish math homework, to move around.

kitchen with patterned island and stools

Blue Copper Design

Revitalize Your Cabinets

“Cabinets are the focal point of the kitchen, so refreshing these can make a huge difference, offering an affordable way to rejuvenate your space,” Nash says. No need to tear them out entirely though. For an impactful refresh, consider painting them or investing in vinyl that you can cover your cupboards with.

For a more subtle refresh, outfit your cabinets with LED lighting strips underneath your upper or lower cabinets. That small addition can make a big impact and completely transform the appearance of your kitchen, giving it more of an atmospheric feel, Nash says.


Another idea from Nash: temporarily remove one of the wall cabinet doors to create open shelving. This is perfect for stylishly showing off your favorite crockery, glassware, or cookbooks at no extra cost.

affordable kitchen updates


Update Your Backsplash

Backsplashes are both pretty and practical, our favorite combination of traits. They also provide plenty of opportunities for an affordable kitchen transformation.

“Updating your backsplash is an effective and affordable way to update your kitchen," Nash says. "Plus, it not only reinvigorates the appearance of the kitchen, but it also protects the surface underneath from stains or damage."

Instead of mulling over pricey tile, though, consider sticky tiles or wallpaper as a backsplash alternative. Both are inexpensive options that’ll give you the chance to experiment with colors, patterns, and textures without blowing your budget.

An all-white kitchen with a black and white tiled backsplash

Katie Hodges Design