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15 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Feel Brand, Spankin' New—This Weekend

January 27, 2017

You're a hundred times more likely to cook—and ten thousand times more likely to be happy doing so—if you actually like to be in the room where cooking happens.*

The good news is that you can perk up and even customize the look of your kitchen without renovating at all, and you can do it this weekend. Here are 15 mini kitchen makeover projects that'll do the trick—just pick one (the thing that bugs you most?), make a quick shopping list, and clear a few hours on Saturday. Oh, and roll up your sleeves juuuuust a little bit.

*Made-up statistics based 100% on how I feel about cooking in sad kitchens.

1. Put down a rug.

Something soft and cushy underfoot will warm up a kitchen space immensely, in look and feel. Obviously, you might spill something on it at some point so don't opt for an impossible-to-clean sisal. Wool or cotton in a dark color or pattern would be more prudent (and pretty!).

2. Install LED strip lighting.

So many things wowed us about the apartment featured above (here's the whole tour!), but two projects stood out. The first: You can install LED strip lighting under your floating cabinets for brightening up your workspace (literally), inside glass-fronted cabinets for a very soothing glow, or atop cabinets for ambiance.

Here's a primer on which bulb brightness to choose, and a video about cutting and installing LED strips. There's only a tiny bit of wiring required—the rest is like using a sticker!—but it'd also be wise to get a rundown on installation at the lighting store.

3. Swap in a new faucet.

The second project idea from that home tour: A new faucet! (Stick with me here—not all these projects ideas will require wiring or plumbing.)

Installing a new faucet can actually done with minimal fuss (it's mostly unscrewing, threading, and screwing)—just be sure to turn the water off before you start! And watch this video, and chat with the person you buy it from for additional tips.

4. DIY a backsplash.

Renters (and commitment-phobes) might try one of the tutorials above for backsplashes that you hang on the wall using a French cleat. They're totally removable, but look like a permanent install.

5. Remove some of your cabinet doors.

If your space feels cramped, or if you like the open shelving look but aren't up to taking down your floating cabinets, try removing the doors (hardware and all!). They can be put back on if you change your mind or move, or you can paint the inside of the shelves a light color for even more of the breezy feel.

6. Or paint the outside of the cabinets.

Two Food52ers—our VP of Advertising, Lauren Locke, and our Managing Editor, Kenzi Wilbur—just did this at home to freshen the look of their wooden cabinetry, and agree that it makes a world of difference. "You want to sand them really well so paint sticks," Lauren advises (do that!).

We love the putty color she chose (above), which complements the tint of the floor and walls.

7. Hang some art.

Anything placed above or near a stove will get a layer of filth on it very quickly, but other exposed bits of wall space (by the fridge, under a cabinet, etc.) are ripe for hanging frames.

8. DIY a pegboard wall.

Because it's what Julia Child would do (and finally, you'll have a place to hang all your favorite tool with loops in the handles—and aprons, and dish rags, too.) Tutorial below.

9. Tile a wall, or part of a wall, or the floor.

Thanks to stick-on tiles (we like the little white hexagonal ones), this activity can be renter-friendly. If you're going for something more permanent underfoot, consider a black or grey grout so you're not constantly cleaning it.

10. Take everything (all of it!) off the counter.

Something about having counter space makes us want to muck it up with cute accessories that we don't actually use all the time. But by stowing them away—in your cabinets, in the pantry, in a hall closet if you need to. Even the salt cellar! Put it up when you're done cooking. It's going to feel like a new kitchen.

11. Deep clean.

You know this, but an actually thorough deep clean of your kitchen is enough to make it feel like it's been overhauled. Set aside the time, read up on our best tips, and have at it. (Yes, that means get the gunk off the top of the hood and take a toothpick to any grody crevices!)

12. Replace the overhead light.

You can do something totally nutty, like turn an old wok into a pendant lamp, or go way more low touch and simply replace the cover on the existing flush mount to something a little less "hardware store." (There's often a selection on sale at Rejuvenation.) An in-between option: Loop a pendant bulb over a ceiling hook for a warm added glow.

13. Wallpaper the insides of the cabinets (or drawers)!

Unless you've got glass doors on your cabinets, this move won't make your kitchen look any different at first glance. But open them up and you'll be greeted with a bit of playfulness (and color?). Good for those nervous about putting pattern everywhere.

14. Update your knobs.

A lighter touch move than painting them or, um, taking the doors off, replacing your kitchen cabinet knobs will make it feel like you did much, much more. If you've got lots of handles, consider using a few different styles: painted wooden knobs on painted wooden cabinets, brass pulls on the big wall of storage, etc.

15. Add a slab of wood or marble atop your counter.

A dislike of one's kitchen countertop is a conundrum indeed (and an expensive one to overhaul). Rather than replacing the whole thing, top part of it with a surface you like better—an oversized cutting board that you can keep out at all times (ideally one that fits a certain slab of workspace, so it looks made to fit). Pizza stones and marble slaps can also have the same effect: A little bit of fancy to make your whole workspace feel perky.

We're going to be bringing you more and more weekend project ideas (some of them will be an in-depth look at one specific tutorial, some will be lots of ideas like this article)—what would you like to hear more about? Tell us in the comments.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Barb
  • Jessica Bellingham
    Jessica Bellingham
  • Greenstuff
  • Mm
  • cookinalong
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Barb March 24, 2017
Due to circumstances, I've rented my past two homes, so I'm limited to what I can change. Both houses, I put up a peg board to clear out my junk/untensil drawer, and can I say that's the best thing you can do. Suddenly, an unused blank wall can hold the contents of 2 or even 3 drawers worth of whisks, wine openers, stirring spoons, microplanes, spatulas, etc. I paid $2 for an ugly poster with a plastic frame the first time, spray painted it bronze and added pegboard to fit. The second time I just bought trim and did a few 45 degree cuts.
Jessica B. March 12, 2017
I recently hung some small framed works inside my cabinets, in the back behind the bowls & plates. They're not always completely visible, but they're safe from most grease, dust, and light damage, and they brighten up the interior a lot!
Greenstuff March 12, 2017
That's a sweet idea. I have a few little sculptures nestled among the ingredients in my cabinets.
Greenstuff January 27, 2017
I've had several kitchens with wooden floors that just cried out in their need for rugs, and I've gone through a lot of them. Most all of them have been slipping or tripping hazards and impossible to clean. I think I finally found a solution last year with woven plastic rugs from Sweden. They lie flat and can be washed in a machine or by hand with a sponge or brush. I'm twelve months and counting--longer than the total lifetime of some of my mistakes.
Molly F. January 27, 2017
That is too funny! I have been looking at those. Where did you order yours from? I also found some kitchen towels with illustrations by Elsa Beskow that I am turning into curtains!
Greenstuff January 27, 2017
My rugs are from Plastica
Not quite as quaint as Elsa Beskow, though now that I think about it, some of her images could work in my kitchen!
Molly F. January 27, 2017
Thank you for the source. Here is a link to Elsa's towels.
Mm January 27, 2017
I love your ideas! I have paintings and folk art throughout my kitchen & wouldn't have I any other way. They do not get filthy since they're dusted usually once a month which takes maybe 15 minutes! Also we have never tripped on the throw rugs & mats scattered around. So I say go for it, whatever makes one happy to be in there, it's all good!
Molly F. January 27, 2017
Personally, I cannot imagine my kitchen without rugs or 'useless items' that bring me joy and evoke warm memories.
cookinalong January 27, 2017
Some good tips, but some real duds. Assuming that your kitchen is a workspace, functionality should be the top priority. So taking the doors off the cabinets to make the kitchen feel more "open" grease, grime, dust, etc.? Art work on the walls? Not unless you also want it covered with the aforementioned unavoidable cooking byproduct gunk. That's right up there with useless knick-knacks cluttering up the counter space. And a rug??? Do the words "tripping hazard" mean anything to you?? Also, adding a rug adds to the cleaning burden. It's a good thing the author recommends deep cleaning...With the kind of kitchen described here, you'd be doing more cleaning than cooking.
Also thumbs down on putting away the things you use all the time...salt, wooden spoons, tongs, pepper mill, etc. All those things should be within arms-length of the stove/work triangle.
On the other hand, good lighting is always a good investment. If it needs painting, or there's a color that makes you happy, go ahead and spruce it up with a new paint job. But use a good quality semi-gloss that's washable. Don't skimp here (or in the bathroom). This is a room that gets lots of wear and tear, is exposed to moisture, heat, grease, etc. Good paint will pay off because it will wipe clean and look great for a long time.
Emily S. January 27, 2017
We recently moved to a new place and the kitchen is on my list of things to do. Although a full remodel is not currently in the budget, we were able to paint, hang art (and more storage!) and update the knobs. I will say it has made a difference! The counter and backsplash are still on my ugly list, but at least some of our personality is showing.
Smaug January 27, 2017
There are (a few) people in the world who can do an acceptable job of painting cabinets with a brush- if you're one of them, you probably know it already. Of course it depends some on what you're willing to accept. It's a little easier to roll it on and brush it out, but they really should be sprayed- if you insist on painting them.
Molly F. January 27, 2017
I am a terrible painter, so I hired a real painter. He did the inside of the cabinets, too. It helped get rid of the smells of the previous owner, who was a smoker.
Smaug January 27, 2017
ps I notice that a lot of the cabinetry in the photos uses frame and panel construction, a floating panel of wood set into a slot in the frame. If this is genuine (the pattern is sometimes molded into particle board) and the panels are solid wood, this presents a couple of particular problems for painters. This method of construction is intended to accomodate wood movement (due to moisture fluctuation)- if you drip paint into the groove, which is very difficult to avoid, it can basically glue in the panel, which can lead to it splitting or warping as it moves. And if you paint when the panel is not at it's minimum size, when the panel shrinks it will expose an unpainted edge, not a great look.
Molly F. January 27, 2017
Yes, for certain. If you're painting frame and panel it is best to finish the components before they go together. It would also be a shame to paint solid wood since it is so beautiful on its own, like installing carpet over hardwood flooring.
PHIL January 27, 2017
I agree, I am a decent DYIer and I did a bathroom vanity. It was A LOT of work to do 6 drawers and 2 doors. sanding , priming , sanding, painting , sanding, painting, sanding, sealing, sanding , sealing ... front back and sides.
Smaug January 27, 2017
That does suggest a possibility not mentioned here- replacing cabinet doors and drawer fronts. This won't be a DIY project for many, and they probably won't be seeking tips on a cooking site. There are, however, many companies that do this, and it's vastly cheaper than making (and installing) new cabinets; the old boxes are usually quite serviceable, and generally very little of them shows. A medium DIY'er might even be able to do the installation themselves. Another small suggestion- replacing old electrical switch plates can have a surprising amount of effect, especially if you're willing to blow for some nice ones.
Molly F. January 27, 2017
Funny you should mention switch plates. Those are on my agenda. We've changed the switches and outlets to black and will replace covers with rustic steel/wrought. My bin pulls are cast iron and registers will be, too.
Molly F. January 27, 2017
We recently bought an older home with kitchen cabinets that were built in place by the previous owner. Since there was quite a lot to do to the entire house, we opted to paint the kitchen, paint the cabinets and installed new bin pulls and cabinet door knobs. It feels clean and I love it more refurbished than if we'd ripped the kitchen cabinets out and replaced them with new. I like knowing that the previous owner built these sturdy cabinets over 50 years ago. He included some homemade decorative touches that tell me he loved his wife and wanted to make it special for her. At some point, we will replace the countertop with butcher block and install an old enameled sink with 2 drain boards we scored for free. It is also one of the two rooms that received new flooring. We used a marmoleum product as I wanted something durable and a green product. I love my kitchen!
Suzy S. January 27, 2017
Good grief! Take the SALT CELLAR off the counter and bring it back each time I cook? No, I don't like "clutter" on my counters. I DO like tools! (I can claim to be a minimalist -- if you compare me to Julia Child. ) Of course, I cook 2-3 meals/day. If you cook once per week, I guess you can pretend your kitchen is for show and not for use.
Elaine January 27, 2017
I so agree!
Fatimah S. January 27, 2017
I absolutely love this! Great tips that I can actually see myself doing.