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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.
Our kitchen is DONE and we revealed that whole beautiful lady on the blog today. A HUGE thank you to @Frigidaire Professional who provided the appliances and sponsored the video series (produced by Brian’s company, @propellercontent). We are ready to start our new lives as professional cooks with professional-grade appliances, with children that don’t make messes and dishes that clean themselves. It’s going to be magical. Now, head over to the blog to read all the details about every single inch of this kitchen, and see Brian and Charlie making the world’s cutest pancakes. Photo by @tessaneustadt. #sponsored
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.