Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
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Achieving a modern look in your kitchen doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars or require hiring a contractor for a remodeling project. Implementing a few cheap hacks can transform the kitchen in just a few minutes.
Some cheap ways to modernize your kitchen include making some style improvements such as clearing up space, hanging up some artwork pieces, buying stylish accessories such as rugs and decorative items, and spending a little money on conventional upgrades, such as getting a new coat of paint.
In this article, I’ll explore some of these excellent kitchen makeover ideas in more detail. You’ll find all you need for the stylistic transformation you’re considering.
1. Get Rid of Clutter and Put Away Small Appliances
One of the first things you should do when trying to get your kitchen to look modern is to get rid of the clutter. You may not have noticed, but your kitchen has probably turned into a hoarding space for files, bags, your mail, the kid’s school materials, and more. Clear out everything that shouldn’t be in the kitchen and find new positions for them elsewhere.
You should also organize your small appliances. The coffee maker, toaster, and other appliances you use daily should remain handy, but everything else should be packed and moved elsewhere to keep your kitchen counter free.
2. Paint the Kitchen With a Modern Color
One of the fastest ways to get your kitchen looking modern is to apply a new coat of paint. Consider colors and textures like beiges, creams, high-gloss, distressed, and matte finishes. Greys and blacks also work great as they can make the kitchen look both modern and extravagant.
Go with white if you want a paint color that can make the space look bigger. It reflects light and is perfect if you can deploy wooden or metallic highlights. However, muted and sophisticated colors like cream, champagne, or charcoal are a favorite among designers for a reason.
They give off the modern feel while bringing an air of luxury to the space in a way you can’t quite achieve with standard colors like silver, white, black, or gold. A good tip is to mix different colors in a palette for an even more striking look. Think about a mix of cream, light beige, and white.
3. Get New Hardware
If you don’t have any plans of buying new hardware just yet, you can still give your kitchen a modern feel by updating the hardware in door handles, cabinet handles, sink fittings, etc. With cabinets, you have to ensure the new hardware fits the existing holes.
If you can’t find hardware that matches the existing holes appropriately, you can get the job by sanding the surface a bit and using auto body filler or some wood putty (the non-shrinking variety).
When setting up the new hardware, don’t hesitate to mix and match. For example, using brass hardware in a kitchen with a predominantly chrome accent can work great. If your cabinet and doors are painted white, you can use black or golden hardware on them.
4. Replace Your Old Appliances
If you have some money to spare, replacing the appliances in your kitchen is a great way to get it looking modern. The new appliances will also improve the value of your home. You should consider switching to stainless steel appliances as these are popular in most modern kitchens—perhaps due to their versatility and practicality.
Such upgrades can be cheap if you can find deals that will allow you to trade in old appliances. Your warranty is most likely not active anymore, but you can find programs that encourage homeowners to swap their white goods for more eco-friendly models.
Apart from white goods, you can also get good deals on appliances like stoves, ovens, and more. Explore your options and replace what you can.
5. Replace a Major Appliance
If you can’t find good deals that will allow you to swap out all your appliances on the cheap, you should consider replacing just one main appliance that can become the kitchen’s focal point.
A farm sink, a French-door refrigerator, a modern pizza oven, or a vintage stove design are all options you should consider. Make this appliance the focal point, and rejig the rest of the space around it to give the kitchen a modern look.
6. Paint Your Cabinets
If your cabinets are currently unattractive and worn, they’ll contribute to your kitchen’s dated appearance. You may feel you’re permanently stuck with them because you can’t afford new ones, but have you considered buying some chalk paint and going to work on them?
FolkArt Home Decor Chalk Furniture & Craft Paint and Shabby Chic Furniture Chalk Paint are some easy-to-use paints that come in great colors. Choose the color or a mix that works with the predominant theme, and you can transform the cabinets in an hour or less.
7. Remove the Clutter on the Fridge
In modern kitchens, the fridge doesn’t double as a giant notice board where everything from grocery lists to reminders is hung. Such an approach will leave it cluttered and contribute to the dated look of your kitchen. Clean everything off, and the fridge’s exterior and design will take center stage again.
When you peel off the pasted notes and everything else, the surface might be sticky and dirty. Clean up using a detergent and a grease-cleaning product.
8. Use Some Marble
Marbles are a popular feature of most modern kitchens. They are elegant and can bring some class to the space. You don’t need to rip out your countertops completely to enjoy the benefits of installing marble. All you need to do is add an accent of marbles in strategic parts of the kitchen to elevate the entire look.
You can use pre-cut pieces of marble to create subtle marble highlights across your kitchen. Think about lining your baking area with marbles or using some of it to create an excellent backsplash. You can also use it to transform a part of your kitchen floor. Choose the right marble colors to blend into the larger scheme, and you can make your kitchen look modern with ease.
9. Install Vinyl Flooring
Upgrading your kitchen’s look to a more modern appearance can be as affordable as installing some vinyl flooring. You can get good bargains that can withstand the rigors of life in the kitchen for under $5 per square foot. In terms of design, you’ll also have many options to choose from, including everything from ceramic appearance to the stony look.
This is a favorite amongst DIY kitchen upgraders because, apart from the affordability, they are easy to cut up and install. When choosing the vinyl, go for options that nicely complement your kitchen’s existing look and feel. Look at your cabinets, appliances, and the dominant color theme.
To ensure you choose the piece that’s the best match, grab a few sample pieces and leave them around on the floor for a while, paying attention to how they look as the lighting situation changes. Go with the option that satisfies you the most.
10. Pay for Some Highlights
Spending some money on highlight pieces in the kitchen can help you get closer to that modern look. These pieces grab the attention once anyone walks into the kitchen. We’ve touched on this briefly above, but for appliances.
You can do the same thing with other kitchen fittings such as sinks. With a stone or copper sink, for instance, you’ll spend a bit more than what a conventional sink will cost, but it transforms the look and feel of your kitchen immediately without other wholesale changes.
11. Spend on Some Lighting
Lights are often an afterthought when it comes to a kitchen design. However, they are important elements you shouldn’t ignore when trying to make your kitchen look a bit more modern. You should consider fixing low-hanging light fixtures to make your ceiling look higher than it is. The best position for such fixtures is directly above your kitchen islands and dining spaces.
There are many designs to go with, but globe fixtures are the best option if you want an affordable option that will complement most kitchen décor. You should consider paying for a dimmer as well. The dim lights (during dinner especially) can make the space look modern.
12. Invest in Potted Plants
Spreading some greenery around your kitchen is an excellent way to enhance the look and feel of your space. It adds some natural ambiance to the overall décor.
A good tip is to use your window sill to grow some of the herbs or vegetables that are a frequent fixture in your recipe. Your kitchen will look more modern, and you’ll save some money when you head out for grocery shopping.
13. Make Your Ceilings Look Higher
Costly kitchen transformations often include raising the roof as part of the project due to the modern and classy look it guarantees. What happens when you can’t afford such changes or just don’t have the design freedom? You can create an illusion of higher ceilings easily.
One way to do this is by installing low-hanging light fixtures, as we’ve seen above, but you should also consider using window panel treatments. All you need to do is to find some complementary fabric for the existing panel. Once secured, call in a seamstress to complete the attachment, and you’ll make your window look long and create the feeling of higher ceilings.
14. Deploy Some Statement Ceramic Tiles
As I discussed for marble above, you can make your kitchen look modern by using statement tiles in strategic positions. You should consider choosing the slate-effect variants as these can transform basic cabinets and give them some presence.
You can also use the tiles as a backsplash just behind your cooking area. You’ll get an excellent look when you choose tiles that complement your painted walls.
15. Create Sophistication With Moody Colors
I mentioned painting in colors like cream and beige to create a modern look in your kitchen. However, ultra-matte black, grey, and deep brown are colors that not only look great but also give off a sophisticated feel. Go with options with deep pigmentation for a classy look.
When painting the kitchen and fittings with these colors, it’s a good idea to remove the metallic parts of doors and cabinets so you won’t paint over them. The contrast you’ll achieve is a huge part of the sophistication.
Depending on the pieces you have in your kitchen, you may need to sand and prime to get the best results. You should also consider spraying the cabinet for an even finish, which will be harder to achieve with a roller or a brush.
16. Install Some Excellent Dining Chairs
If your kitchen has adequate space, you should consider converting to the eat-in style by setting up a stylish dining area with some chairs. The chairs can be super affordable options that look good enough. The goal is to ensure comfort, make a statement, and get the modern look you’re going for. Watch out for sales on dining sets and grab some for yourself.
17. Buy Wood Veneer Cupboards
More expensive modern kitchens often feature handcrafted solid-wood cupboards, but you can achieve a very similar look if you go with a wood veneer. The latter looks just as good as solid wood, even though it is far less expensive. The sleek and modern appearance is why such products are trending in idea boards across the web.
If you choose to go with this option, you should pay attention to the veneer’s grain, considering the direction it’s going to run in your kitchen. Also, this approach may not look great if you have wood as the kitchen flooring. The “wood clash” effect will take away from the overall aesthetic appeal of the space.
18. Install Some Great Looking Wallpapers
Wallpapers usually don’t come into the conversation when most people discuss kitchen upgrades. Still, they can help give your kitchen that modern look you’re going for, especially if the current décor is bare. It can also make your kitchen look more upmarket. A contrasting look made of wallpapers and tile or marble backsplash will transform most kitchens.
19. Install Metallic Pendants
Many modern kitchen designers always include some metallic pendant lamps, and it’s not hard to see why. You can give your kitchen a modern look with some metallic pendant lights hanging directly over your counter or table. These fixtures come in various forms, so you’re sure to find an affordable set.
Go with finishes that are a nice foil to the dominant theme. For instance, copper metallic pendants will look great in a predominantly white-themed setup.
20. Buy New Wares
Your kitchen’s look and feel can also be affected by the wares you served drinks and foods in. Pick up some affordable modern-looking cups, bowls, plates, and glasses. You should also look into investing in some stemware, as these can make an excellent impression.
When you buy a good looking set, think about displaying them in a glass cabinet or a cabinet without a door to transform your kitchen’s look.
21. Set Up a Beautiful Island
Most modern kitchens have a good looking island. You can achieve a modern look by making yours as beautiful as you can afford. A good tip is to fit a worktop that is in contrast with the rest of your kitchen. You should also consider special lighting for the area, with hues different from the main kitchen lighting options.
22. Buy Some Cheap Counter Covers
If your counters are old, you don’t necessarily need to buy new ones—which are typically expensive. You can go with adhesive counter covers. These sets of contact paper are designed to cover counters and tables, giving them a different look.
You can find designs that look like marble, granite, or brick. This way, you can change the appearance of your counter without breaking the bank. Be sure to go with a style that works well with your cabinets’ color for a bolder look.
23. Buy Wood Countertops
If you don’t like the look of counter covers, you should consider spending some money on wood countertops. The thick block style is popular in many modern kitchens because it looks great and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.
Unlike stone and laminate, scratches to this countertop’s surface can be removed with some sanding and refinishing. So, this is an inexpensive and long-lasting option to change the look of your kitchen.
24. Refashion Your Backsplash
The only element that makes a statement as strong as the backsplash in any modern kitchen is the cabinet. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on it when trying to make your kitchen look modern. You should consider trends like subway tile, herringbone, and concrete. For a more temporary look, you can use wallpapers.
25. Create Fake Window Views
Creating artificial outside views using appliqués is another excellent way to make your kitchen look modern. It’s an interesting way to make the kitchen look visually interesting, ensuring that you don’t have to spend money on window treatments.
When you combine this with hanging some potted plants around the kitchen’s rear windows, you can create a lush green modern ambiance around the space.
26. Paint Your Countertops
The countertops are getting a lot of attention here because of their position in the kitchen. Another way you can spice them up for a modern look is to paint them.
Suppose you have old laminate or wooden countertops and don’t want to cover them up with adhesive covers as discussed above or pay for a new installation. In that case, you can get paint from companies like Rust-Oleum and Giani Granite. If you choose to go with paint, don’t hesitate to play with textures such as the stone look. Simple colors can also work, though.
27. Hang Some Artwork
Artwork can make any space feel modern and sophisticated, and your kitchen is no different. Invest in some affordable big-sized art to make your kitchen look a lot bigger than it is. This is a perfect option to go with if you live in a rented home and don’t have the freedom to make permanent changes.
28. Give Your Appliances a Stainless Steel Finish
Stainless steel appliances feature heavily in many modern kitchens. You can get some paint-on stainless steel finish to make your old-but-functional appliances look modern again. However, if you choose to go with this, you should make sure you choose the right product for domestic use, as liquid stainless steel is made for industrial use as well.
29. Buy a Rug
An area rug can add some warmth to the kitchen while also ensuring your comfort as you cook. With this approach, your kitchen will look more modern and feel as welcoming as the other parts of your home.
If you decide to get a rug, it’s a good idea to go with a model made for outdoor use. This way, it can withstand the rigors of use in a kitchen. Such rugs will also be easy to clean up when spills happen.
30. Buy Some Stools
If your kitchen has the space to take counter stools, you can get a few to add some personality to your kitchen. Go with designs made of interesting shapes and materials for a modern and sophisticated appearance. Add at least four of these to the space if you can fit them in. For smaller kitchens, you should consider at least two stools.
If the space available can’t take those, then you should consider other recommendations as one stool will not achieve the aesthetic lift you’re going for here.
31. Change Your Faucet
Faucets in kitchens have come a long way over the years. Now, you can find them in a variety of shapes and sizes, so if you still have old fixtures, you can spice them up to make your kitchen look more modern. Choose options that are interesting and decorative enough to match your cabinet’s hardware for a truly high-end appearance.
32. Decorate With Fresh Fruits
You’ll find a bowl filled with fruits and vegetables in most modern kitchens and for good reasons. They look good as decoration, especially when you use fresh and colorful options like artichokes, apples, bananas, pear, carrots, and oranges. It’s also nice to reach out to your kitchen table for a healthy bite while cooking or baking.
Fruits are also a great decoration for the kitchen because they can last for two weeks, which is a lot longer than flowers. You can also use fake fruits if you don’t want to regularly refresh your fruit décor, but the plastic texture of these looks very bold under half-decent lighting. If you’re having friends or family over and want to create an attractively modern feel, go with real fruits.
33. Buy Some Fragrance
Cheap candles tend to add to the dated ambiance in a kitchen. They are not only bad for your health, but the cheap smell can also be off-putting. You may feel that they are a cheap way to add some fragrance to the space, but there are better alternatives.
The costs also add up over a year, so if you’re spending $300 on candles for a year, you can afford to buy a diffuser and some flameless candles to make the kitchen look more modern and elegant while smelling great.
What to Do When Redesigning Your Kitchen
We hope you’ve found some interesting ideas that will work for your kitchen, but before you set out to implement them, here are a few bits you should keep in mind:
- Create a budget first. Most of the ideas we’ve seen above are affordable, but it can all add up when you choose a dozen things you’d like to do. This is why you should have a hard expense cap and stick with recommended tweaks that will fit.
- Make a plan. Most of these ideas can’t be implemented in isolation. For example, painting your cabinets should go hand in hand with painting your kitchen walls. Both of them shouldn’t come after changing countertops, as you may end up limiting your color choices. You should have a plan on how to implement the options you’ve chosen for the best results.
- Hire a professional when in doubt. Cheap methods of making a kitchen look modern, like painting, installing wallpapers, changing the flooring, shaking up the backsplash, etc., are DIY projects, but they are not for everyone. Don’t hesitate to pay a professional to get the job done. The simplicity of the projects often means you can get a lot done for less than $200 in hourly wages.
When it comes to making a kitchen look modern, you have many options that don’t require spending thousands of dollars for a makeover.
Even if you live on a property where investing a good amount of money on a kitchen makeover can add value to the home, you may be better off spending that money on building an extra bathroom, building a sunroom, or sprucing up your home’s exterior.
Go over the options above and pick as many combinations as you can afford to make your kitchen look modern on a budget and save money.
- My Move: How to Modernize Your Outdated Kitchen
- Modernize: 20 Easy Ways to Modernize Your Outdated Kitchen
- Forbes: 11 Ways To Update Your Kitchen On A Dime
- Cabinet World: 10 Tips to Modernize Your Outdated Kitchen
- Country Living: 30 Easy and Efficient Ways to Update Your Kitchen
- HGTV: How to Update Your Kitchen Without Breaking the Bank
- Real Simple: 8 Little Ways to Update Your Kitchen Without Renovating
- Good Housekeeping: 10 Cheap and Cheerful Ways to Update Your Kitchen
- At Home in the Future: 7 Design Upgrades That Will Modernize Your Outdated Kitchen
- The Dedicated House: Easy Extravagance: 7 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Look More Expensive
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