Renovating a kitchen is expensive. If you don’t have the budget, you can still use these cheap ways to update your kitchen without breaking the bank or busting out the hammer.

quick ways to improve your kitchen without having to renovate

While we all might have visions of our dream kitchen dancing in our head or multiple images pinned to a Pinterest board—doing a full-scale renovation might not be in the budget at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. Here are a few easy ways to update your kitchen—no remodeling necessary.

  • Paint the walls
  • Switch out the cabinet hardware
  • Install a new flooring
  • Add a kitchen runner
  • Replace the counter tops and sink
  • Replace the faucet
  • DIY architectural details
  • Add new lighting
  • Install a new backsplash
  • Paint the kitchen cabinets
  • Replace the appliances

Paint The Walls

Painting is always my go-to to instantly transform a space. The right color can instantly upgrade the look of any room. From trendy neutrals or the perfect gray, whatever your color of choice, be sure to opt for a color that works well with your cabinets.

Switch Out The Cabinet Hardware

Replacing old kitchen cabinet hardware is not only an affordable upgrade but a quick one too. Removing the old knobs or pulls takes and putting new ones on can take as little as half an hour.

New hardware on cabinets  is an easy and quick way to update the look of your kitchen

Just remember to buy the right size so that you don’t have holes to patch and new ones to drill!

I recently completely changed to look of our old kitchen cabinets from traditional to modern by opting for flat black pulls provided to me by Liberty Hardware.

Matte black kitchen pulls on white shaker cabinets

While the previous chrome ones were very elegant, they were lost in the sea of bright white cabinets. The new black ones really pop and add a fun contemporary vibe to the space.

Kitchen with flat black kitchen hardware, striped runner rug and table

Even though our cabinets have still seen better days, they look pretty good unless you’re really up close.

Install New Flooring

There’s so many options these days when it comes to flooring, so don’t immediately jump to labor intensive tile or brand new hardwood.

If you don’t like your current kitchen floor (hello ancient linoleum!), then an easy DIY option like luxury vinyl is the way to go and can get take your kitchen from drab to fab in a weekend.

before and after comparison of old floor and new LVP flooring

I tackled our linoleum floor in our 80s kitchen when I was pregnant with my third son, and knocked the whole thing out in a couple of days, with only naptimes to get my work done!

Add A Kitchen Runner

A runner in front of a long span of cabinets is a nice way to break up your flooring and add some color to your space. Even if you can’t afford to replace your floors, you can disguise them – or at least distract from them – with a pretty runner.

woman walking across kitchen runner

I chose this striped Dash & Albert runner in my kitchen. Although not it’s not suggested in the cleaning instructions, I regularly throw it in the washing machine to keep it looking fresh.

Did you know you can now buy kitchen runners that are machine washable? These are a smart option if your rug is near the stove, sink or dishwasher where there’s a good chance it will frequently get dirty. The kitchen runner rugs from Ruggable are high quality, durable and washable!

Add New Decorative Accessories

Don’t forget about the power of pretty accessories! Adding in some plants and flowers – whether real or faux – can instantly uplift a kitchen.

The Kitchn also suggest hanging art on the walls – a sure fire way to bring personality into any space and certainly one of the most inexpensive ways to improve the look of any room.

Replace The Counter Tops and Sink

One of the grossest parts of our kitchen when we moved in was our off-white laminate countertops. I had dreamed of an all-white kitchen for a long time, but this was not exactly the vision I had in mind.

With a limited budget to update our 80s kitchen, my dream marble-like quartz countertops were not going to happen. Instead, we opted to install new faux soapstone laminate countertops from Wilsonart. Our kitchen has a huge span of counter space, and we still came in under budget.

Whether you need a short-term upgrade until you can fully remodel in a few years or a more affordable option for your current remodel, laminate countertops have come a long way and are a great budget alternative to the pricier stone and manufactured options.

RELATED: 11 Amazing DIY Countertop Ideas

farmhouse sink with oil rubbed bronza faucet
IKEA Sink Review via Bless’er House

While your countertops are out, it makes sense to replace the sink. IKEA has amazing options for affordable sinks that look super high end, or you can stick to a basic stainless steel option that may be included in the price of the countertop (ours was!).

My personal favorite option is to retrofit a farmhouse style sink, like he Josephine quick-fit sink from Sinkology. It’s designed specifically to work with your existing countertops and cabinets so you don’t have to worry about replacing them!

Shop My Favorite Sinks


Replace The Faucet

Nothing downgrades the look of a kitchen quicker than an old, leaky faucet. Even if yours isn’t quite leaking yet, a shiny new faucet is like beautiful piece of jewelry in your kitchen.

Chrome farmhouse or bridge style kitchen faucet

I replaced our basic faucet with this polished chrome farmhouse style one and I love how it looks! Don’t be afraid to switch up the finish too – your faucet doesn’t have to match your cabinet hardware!

Shop My Favorite Kitchen Faucets

DIY Architectural Detail

Sounds fancy and expensive, right? Wrong! There are so many simple DIY projects you can do in a kitchen to totally transform how it looks.

before and after of old range hood and new DIY hood
DIY Range Hood Tutorial

When I did my DIY Kitchen Makeover in 2019, my favorite project was the range hood that we built. It was a quick afternoon project that made our old cabinets suddenly look fresh and modern. Plus, it only cost us $100!

Other easy ways to add architectural detail in kitchen include adding corbels around your window cabinets, or feet to the base cabinets. These are both cheap items to purchase that really make stock cabinets look high end.

Adding feet to kitchen base cabinets elevates the look of stock cabinets
Kitchen Cabinet Feet Tutorial via Thrifty Decor Chick

In the photo above, Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick upgraded the look of her stock kitchen cabinets using corbels for the feet. Doesn’t it make her cabinets look beautiful?

Related: How to Add Character to a Builder Grade Home

Add New Lighting

Out of any room in your home, the kitchen should be a priority in terms of lighting. You need both overhead lighting and good task lighting.

Replacing your main light fixture is a quick DIY but also budget friendly to hire out if you’re not comfortable messing with electricity (and I don’t recommend DIYing this if you’re unfamiliar with it!).

Adding recessed lights under your cabinets is a great way to increase the task lighting, and also serves as pretty ambient light at night when the main light is turned off.

There’s several affordable ways to achieve this – but my favorites are the stick on puck lights that are operated with a remote control or LED light bars that are plugged in.

Shop My Favorite Kitchen Light Fixtures

Install a New Backsplash

Installing a backsplash might seem daunting, but it’s actually a very straight forward process once you watch a few YouTube tutorials and have the right tools.

If you’ve never tiled before, stick to a simple brick pattern or simple mosaic that won’t require any crazy cuts. Subway tile is always a good option as it looks classic and timeless, is incredibly budget friendly and very easy to install. Mini subway tiles on sheets are also another option that I’ve had success with as a novice tiler myself.

DIY kitchen backsplash with scalloped design

When I replaced the backsplash in my kitchen, I chose a fun scalloped tile that was a little more intricate to install, but not too hard!

Shop My Favorite Backsplash Tile

Paint The Cabinets

Sick and tired of your outdated honey oak cabinets? Paint them! While this is not a quick fix, it’s a relatively inexpensive one.

Painting cabinets takes time and effort to do correctly so that it will last. If you take the time to properly prep the cabinets, use the best paint for cabinets (I recommend Benjamin Moore Advanced), sand in between coats and apply at least 3 coats of paint, with ample drying time between coats, you’ll have a job that lasts.

Not a fan of DIYing it? Hire professionals to spray out your cabinets with a lacquer paint that dries to a smooth, stroke-free finish. This is still a fraction of the cost of new cabinets and will make them look brand new!

Related: The Best Paint For Kitchen Cabinets – 7 Real Life Examples

Replace The Appliances

While replacing appliances is not exactly budget-friendly, it does require little effort on your part.

Order the appliances, have them delivered and installed and your outdated kitchen will look all shiny and new.

Matte white GE cafe appliances fridge with gold handles

Stainless steel is still by far the most popular finish for appliances, especially if you’re planning on selling in the future. But many other finishes exist – including the new white appliances that are sleek any shiny, not textured like those of the past.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found these ideas helpful when considering where best to spend your time and money in updating your kitchen. In sharing these ideas, I purposely included both inexpensive, quick options, as well as more labor-intensive or expensive options.

What you ultimately choose to do in order to improve your kitchen, will depend on a variety of factors, including your budget, whether you’re planning a full gut job in the future or whether you are planning on selling your house in the future.

In the end, even just a combination of the simpler, more affordable updates will go a long way to updating your kitchen without having to endure a remodel.

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