How can I update my kitchen without replacing it? Budget-friendly tips from design experts

If you’ve lived through a full kitchen refit, you’ll know exactly how stressful it can be. Weeks of microwave meals and TV dinners. Days of dust and kitchen equipment boxed up or distributed around the house.

But what if, as you consider your kitchen ideas, there was a way to update your kitchen without replacing it? A new-look kitchen with no huge price tag attached and very little inconvenience. Sounds interesting. Well, with some great advice from interior designers who share their tips for kitchen updates, you’ll discover there are many ways to update a kitchen without replacing it.

From simply adding in new accessories to painting cabinets or changing the walls, floors, or backsplash, we’ve got it covered. Everything you need to inspire a great new look for your kitchen.


So, how can you update a kitchen without replacing it? Start by thinking about what you actually want to achieve and why you’re thinking of an update rather than replacing the whole room. Are you looking to save money or time by swapping in a few new features for a quick fix? Or perhaps you’re happy with most elements of the kitchen, but some details are crying out for a refresh. Whatever your reasons for opting to update rather than replace your whole kitchen, it’s reassuring to know that small changes can make a big difference. And there’s an entire team of interior designers who agree and are ready to share their expert knowledge on how to update a kitchen without replacing it.

Homes & GardensWondering which items are making your spaces look smaller? These are the things to start with – according to professional organizers. If you’re looking to accentuate small room ideas, it may be tempting to look towards space-stretching paint colors, creating visual illusions with mirrors, or hanging light-enhancing window treatments to create the illusion of space. However, while these tricks are undeniably important, the items you keep in your room are equally as impactful. And these things are not always large pieces of furniture. Instead, they can be as small (but significant) as wooden coat hangers or card game packaging. Really.


A key part of your update will be your kitchen cabinet ideas. Suppose you’re thinking of how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them. In that case, you’re in good company because painted kitchens are favored by design experts, who appreciate the way they give a fresh perspective with very little outlay. Not only is it a budget-friendly way to change things up, but it’s also environment-friendly too. Why send kitchen cabinets to a landfill if you can give them a new lease of life and upcycle them with a can of paint?

‘A kitchen remodel doesn’t have to be wildly expensive to give it an update,’ says Emily Flaxman, owner and principal designer of Flax Interiors. ‘In some of our projects, budget constraints mean that we don’t replace the cabinetry. Instead, we paint the walls and cabinets, replace the hardware, changed the light fixtures, and add new countertops and backsplash. It gives the space a whole different vibe – taking it from dated and drab to refreshing, bright and airy.’

Anna-Jaël Hotzel adds, ‘You might not want to change the countertops but can use their color and material as a jumping-off point for your cabinet design choices. What works well about using an analogous color palette is that it instantly looks sophisticated and creates a lot of atmosphere. Consider using a color similar to the one on your worktop or experiment with going two shades lighter or darker. You can also play with contrast by choosing a finish opposite of the worktop. For example try a glossy paint finish on the cabinets if you have a matte or honed worktop, or a matte paint finish if you have a glossy one. This approach creates visual interest and can help create a more dynamic and balanced space.’


If you’re looking at kitchen wall decor ideas, by all means, consider kitchen wallpaper and tiles as a way of introducing color and pattern. Still, one of the easiest options for updating a kitchen is to paint the walls – provided you get the color right.

The color palette for kitchen walls is important, says designer Lina Galvao of Curated Nest. ‘We love Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace for spaces that get less natural light, and Benjamin Moore Simply White for a soft warm white. Using matte finishes for hardware and tone-on-tone finishes for accents is also a great way to keep things zen,’ she adds.

Don’t forget about lighting and, most importantly, the color of your kitchen lighting. Make sure you buy warm white light bulbs and use dimmers and varied sources of light to create more relaxing lighting for different activities and times of the day.’