Details like paint colors, hardware, and backsplashes are all recommended by interior designers.
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No matter how small of a project it may be, the right upgrade can make a big impact in an outdated kitchen. "An outdated kitchen doesn't always mean the entire space needs to be gutted," says Sara Barney of BANDD DESIGN. "Most of the time if you are unhappy with your kitchen, changing up a few things will do the trick." Fortunately, there are tons of easy and affordable ways to instantly modernize an old-fashioned kitchen. "If you're not afraid to get a little paint splatter on yourself, or if you're open to learning a new skill, such as how to replace lighting fixtures, then you can totally update your kitchen without too much stress or money," interior designer Breegan Jane says.

various black and white patterns themed kitchen decor and backsplash
Credit: Ryan Liebe

Looking for ideas about how you can quickly update your out-of-date kitchen without calling a contractor? We asked a handful of interior designers to share their suggestions and here's what they had to say.

Update cabinetry.

A little paint can go a long way in any space, but this is especially true in an old-fashioned kitchen. "Painting your cabinets is by far the easiest way to update a kitchen," says Anna Kroesser of Kroesser + Strat Design. "The prep work is key, so make sure you take the time to properly sand the doors and frames so the paint goes on evenly." If you don't want to commit to a new cabinet paint color, Lauren Wills of Wills Design Associates suggests using peel-and-stick vinyl or wallpaper (cut to size) for an instant (and removable) update. "It's an impressive change that doesn't require all the work involved in painting," she explains.

Switch out hardware.

If you want to modernize your kitchen in mere minutes, Barney suggests simply switching out your cabinet hardware. "Single knob handles are easy to swap out because the holes and screws are standard size, so you'll just need to unscrew the knob from the hole and screw your new knob in," she explains. "For drawers and cabinets that have pulls, you'll want to remove your current hardware and measure the distance between each hole. Also make sure to measure the depth of your cabinet or drawer so that you know how long the screw needs to be on your new hardware."

Paint key features.

According to Jane, adding a fresh coat of paint or stain to certain key features of your kitchen can help create a more contemporary feel. "If you have an open concept kitchen, remove some or all of the doors to your upper cabinets and paint the inside of them a fun color to execute an open shelf look that is on-trend with many contemporary kitchen designs," she says. "You can also add a pop of color to your range hood by painting it a unique color with heat-resistant paint."

Refinish countertops.

Nothing dates a kitchen like a lackluster countertop finish, which is why designer John McClain recommends sprucing yours up with spray paint or polish, such as Kylon's Coarse Stone Textured Finish Spray ($18, or Rejuvenate's Countertop Polish ($16.69,, for an easy upgrade. "Over time, countertops, no matter what the material, start to look a little faded," he explains. "There are several products on the market that you simply spray on that give the illusion of refinishing. The spray permeates the surface and fills minor scratches and revitalizes the color."

Install a new backsplash.

Stuck with an outdated kitchen backsplash, or worse, no backsplash at all? McClain says stick-on-style backsplashes are easy to install yourself. "Not only are they made with flexible materials that resemble real tile, they can easily be cut with scissors so installation can be completed over a weekend," he says. "Don't expect this solution to last a lifetime, but with proper care, you could keep this new backsplash for four to five years and then switch that out to another stick-on style. Best part: minimum investment and no special tools required."


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