This post may contain affiliate links.

The kitchen is one of the most essential and utilized areas of the house. We cook, eat, and gather in our kitchens. It is the heart of the home, a focal point, and the center of our everyday living. 

It’s safe to say that some kitchens may have seen better days – and in those cases, modernizing the kitchen for aesthetics and functionality is the ideal solution.

So, whether you are a homeowner or renter with a large or small kitchen, updating the look and feel of your kitchen will transform the space and how efficiently you use it. And you don’t have to complete a full gut kitchen renovation to achieve this.

Here are 16 ways to modernize your kitchen on a small budget.

modern kitchen

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I will earn a small commission if you purchase through my link. Please see the full disclosure for more information.

How to Upgrade Kitchen Without a Full Remodel

1. Paint your Existing Cabinets

kitchen cabinet with new hardware

While this might initially sound intimidating, painting your kitchen cabinets is an easy way to modernize your kitchen. It is a budget-friendly way to update your kitchen cabinets without the high price tag and labor costs of a complete replacement.

You can go for a two-tone look by painting the bottom cabinet or upper cabinets different colors, or keep it simple and paint everything the same color to give your old kitchen a modern look.

Go bold and paint it with forest green, grey, or navy blue paint – or keep it classic and clean using white paint.

This DIY kitchen makeover can be applied to most kitchen cabinet surfaces using high-quality primer and specialty paint from Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, or Home Depot. Once complete, you may not recognize your original kitchen.

A little sweat equity and paint can go a long way. Just make sure to wipe it down with a cabinet degreaser before priming and painting it.

Test paint samples today on Samplize

2. Change the Kitchen Faucet

before and after kitchen faucet

Your kitchen faucet is vital to the functioning of your kitchen. A stunning kitchen sink faucet can add beauty and sophistication to a kitchen – especially a pull-down faucet Updating a kitchen faucet is a simple way to help breathe new life into your kitchen.

new kitchen faucet

As long as you have the right tools, the desired faucet, and the patience, updating a kitchen faucet is a small change that can revamp the image of your entire kitchen. 

3. Replace Cabinet Hardware

kitchen cabinet knobs

Although a small change, replacing the kitchen cabinet hardware can make a big impact on your home. When you think about the number of times you open and close your cabinet doors daily, it’s easy to understand the wear and tear and abuse the handles receive.

Changing the cabinet knobs, drawer pulls, or handles can have a lasting effect. Adding new hardware is also an effortless kitchen update.

You can update the color to this oil-rubbed bronze knob finish or this modern gold handle – either way, the color or style you choose will give your kitchen an instant update.

Replacing handles is as simple as unscrewing the nut on the back of the door handle to remove the existing handle and then installing a new one. If you are trying to replace a knob with a pull, you will likely need to drill an extra hole.

If you don’t have the budget to buy new replacement handles, you can even spray paint the existing handle to give it a fresh look.

4. Restyle your Countertop

updated kitchen knobs

Restyling can be as simple as reorganizing the items on your countertop or adding unique home decor items to make it look attractive. Clean and seal it before incorporating modern accessories to create a fresh look and feel. 

Showcase your cute cutting boards or add matching soap and lotion dispensers. Add some greenery, such as flowers or fake plants, to bring instant beauty and life to your kitchen. Bring a bit of nature to your kitchen and give it a natural vibe.

Round out your countertop space with beautiful accessories. Incorporate a charming cutting board like this thick bamboo butcher block cutting board and display your pretty cooking utensils in this Natural Teak Wood Cooking Holder Set. Then organize your kitchen knick-knacks with a pretty basket.

5. Bring in New Appliances

modern kitchen

One of the fastest and easiest ways to modernize a kitchen is to replace old appliances with modern versions. Replacing aging or malfunctioning appliances can help save you energy and money while increasing efficiency.

Consider replacing an old refrigerator, stove, or microwave to automatically give your kitchen a facelift. Explore energy-efficient options and opt for stainless steel or other up-to-date designs that fit your budget.

If large kitchen appliances are not within the budget, incorporating small kitchen appliances can be as simple as a fancy new coffee maker, stainless steel toaster, retro microwave, or this funky color air fryer.

6. Say Yes to Open Shelves

brown open shelves

Open shelving is a trendy way to take advantage of vertical wall space while making things more easily accessible in your kitchen.

It is also the best way to fill a blank wall and help display some of your best or prettiest kitchen accessories and appliances. 

Open shelves can serve both for their décor value as well as practicality while making your kitchen feel larger and brighter.

You can purchase ready-to-install floating kitchen shelves like these or DIY your own to give your space even more storage

7. Update Kitchen Floor

luxury vinyl plank floors in kitchen

Simple changes like new flooring can make a world of difference in a kitchen. From laminate and luxury vinyl tiles to engineered wood, plenty of modernized flooring options won’t break the bank.

Update your kitchen from drab to fab within a weekend by replacing your old linoleum floor and opt for luxury vinyl plank instead! You can have a new, refreshed, modern kitchen in just a few days.

8. Add a Nice Runner

If new flooring is not in your budget or you don’t have the time, adding a rug or runner is an easy, cost-effective way to update your kitchen quickly.

Not only will it add a touch of style, but it can also help disguise an older floor. It sounds super simple, but it can make a huge difference.

Go with a bold color like yellow or a cute multi-color pattern. It will make a great addition to your space.

Buy Runner on Amazon

9. Add a Backsplash

kitchen backsplash

One cost-efficient way to modernize the kitchen is by adding a backsplash. You can go the traditional route with white subway tile with black grout, or spice things up with patterned tile, ceramic, or shiplap.

Backsplashes are a great way to give your kitchen an updated look, no matter what style of cabinets and decor you have!

If you are worried about how to install it yourself, a stylish backsplash is simpler than you think. With the right tools and some guidance from YouTube tutorials, anyone can learn how to install a new backsplash that will help bring a completely new look to any kitchen.

10. Reorganize and Declutter the Cabinet or Pantry

Our kitchen cabinets and pantry are the ultimate storage spaces for dry food, dishes, spices, ingredients, pots, cookware, and accessories. We often don’t realize how much stuff we pack into our cabinets that we don’t need or no longer use.

Reorganizing our space can save us a ton of money and time when preparing meals, planning, cooking, and grocery shopping. 

Come up with a strategy on how you would organize the shelves and then declutter. Grab a garbage bag and donation box, and get rid of everything you no longer need or expired items.

Group similar items, such as ingredients, canned items, and other products.

Then, categorize them in a way that makes sense for your household. Use lots of bins, baskets, and storage containers to organize your stuff and label everything for easy access.

11. Install Under the Cabinet Lighting

under the cabinet lighting

Under-cabinet lighting will add a certain ambiance to the kitchen. These small lighting fixtures can illuminate your countertop workspace and provide extra lighting to areas that don’t typically get a significant amount of light.

Under the cabinet lighting is also relatively easy to install. Most require little to no assembly. Some can be glued or plugged into a wall outlet, while others can be converted permanently with electrical wiring (which may require an electrician for electrical work).

Shop Under Cabinet Lights

12. Incorporate Artwork

Incorporate artwork that compliments your kitchen decor or a cute sign with a little pop of color. You can even try a printable wall art from Etsy with your favorite quote or daily affirmation.

All the art pieces can help to define the look of your kitchen.

Shop Etsy Wall Art


13. Affix Wallpaper

Wallpaper can be beautiful and stylish. Wallpaper can add color, pattern, and texture to your kitchen. Adding wallpaper is a great alternative to painting an area.

Go for the removable peel-and-stick wallpaper, which can be less intrusive and permanent (especially if you live in an apartment).

An excellent place to start is by choosing a safe space (one that isn’t behind the sink or stove) in your kitchen to add the wallpaper. You can add wallpaper to a door, an accent wall, or inside the cabinets. 

14. Create a Coffee Bar Station

coffee station

A coffee station is a cool and fun idea for a kitchen – especially if you are a coffee lover. You can take a cute little nook in the kitchen or the extra space on the countertop for the coffee bar.

Stock it with your favorite coffee pot or Keurig, coffee essentials such as coffee beans, a grinder, and mugs.

15. Add Funky, Bold Light Switch Plates

ir?t=thethriftyapa 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B09K42W7Q4

You don’t need an electrician to change out your light switch plates. Go for a bold color instead of the classic white. Just grab a small head Phillips screwdriver, remove the existing plates, and replace them with a new vibrant, funky color. 

Purchase on Amazon

16. Hang your Pots & Pans

hanging pots

Pots and Pans can take up so much space in your cabinets. Hanging them up is a modern and stylish way to use the empty wall space.

For a more cohesive look, hang your pots and pans side by side and mix the lengths and colors. Use this easy-to-install pot rack hanger for an organized and tidy kitchen.


These budget kitchen upgrades only scratch the surface of what you can do to help refresh your kitchen. These small changes are great options for a DIY kitchen remodel.

While some of these ideas might take some hard work, they may aid in creating your dream kitchen that reflects your unique style while adding value to your home.

Other ideas you might like:

Good Luck! Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. Feel free also to follow me on my social media pages – Pinterest and Instagram or subscribe to my mailing list for other design inspiration and home decor ideas.

Website | + posts

Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

Similar Posts


  1. Wow, Tamara, this post is a goldmine for anyone looking to give their kitchen a fresh look without diving into a full remodel! You’ve shared some incredibly accessible and creative ideas that can transform any kitchen, regardless of size or budget. I love how you emphasize the power of simple updates like painting cabinets, changing hardware, and adding a backsplash to make a significant impact. It’s inspiring to see how these changes not only modernize a space but also enhance its functionality and efficiency. Your step-by-step guidance makes each project seem totally doable, even for a DIY novice like myself. Thanks for demystifying the process and for the encouragement to get creative with our spaces!

  2. I loved these simple but effective ideas.
    Changing the hardware, painting the cabinets (yes to colour!), new light switch plates work wonders.
    And the LED stripes make it so easy to have undercabinet lighting.
    The only one I’m not crazy about is the pots and pans hanging. In my opinion it looks like clutter. But some people love it!

  3. Really neat ideas, I haven’t thought about lights for under the cabinet. Thanks for sharing! Having a new kitchen look would be great!

  4. Switching out the knobs and pulls makes such a difference. I bought some very affordable crystal-looking knobs at Target and loved them so much, I also put them in my bathroom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *