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6 Simple ways to make your kitchen look more modern

You’ve probably heard this factoid before: The kitchen is the most used room in the house. It’s where you lovingly prepare family meals, bake birthday cakes and sneak a secret cocktail so you can make it through Christmas dinner without snapping at your mother-in-law. It stands to reason that if you spend the most time in one room, you should actually like the way it looks.

Here’s the downside of the kitchen being the most popular room in your house. It’s crammed full of people almost every waking hour of the day. Clutter piles up again before you can clear another countertop. Once-cool kitchen design elements fade and quickly grow outdated, because who has time to renovate a kitchen that’s always in use?

Before your “kitchen depression” sets in, there’s something you need to know. Interior design experts swear by just a few simple kitchen updates to completely transform a tired room. Try one of these simple kitchen facelifts, and you won’t even recognize your favorite room the next time you cook dinner:

1. Add a fresh coat of paint

This trick is so easy even the laziest homeowner can do it (i.e., me). Painting cabinets is one of the simplest and most effective ways to update an aging kitchen, says Denise Cheshire, home stager at the Home Staging Institute. “A dark kitchen with dated wood cabinets can benefit from a fresh coat of glossy white paint.”

Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency in Portland, Oregon, explains how to modernize your kitchen cabinets with a quick coat of white paint, “Wash with TSP: Be sure to wear gloves and a mask and properly ventilate the space. Prime: I recommend B-I-N primer from Zinsser. Again, wear gloves and a mask, properly ventilate the space. Paint cabinets: I think Miller Paint, Spade and Archer No. 1 in semi-gloss is the world’s most perfect white.”

2. Breathe life with flowers

Here’s the perfect design tip for those reading who don’t really plan on following through with any of these kitchen updates (I know who you are): Just add flowers. And water. That’s it! Kelsey Harper, florist on BloomNation and owner and designer at Flower Girl Los Angeles, explains how she keeps her kitchen feeling fresh without much effort, “Extra tall branches like cherry blossom or dogwood on a kitchen island can help feel like you’ve brought the outside in. I throw a few stones in the bottom to secure the branches from tipping and to weigh it down a bit.”

Harper adds, “Potted orchids add elegance to any kitchen. Not to mention, watering them with a few ice cubes at the base is the easiest way, and you’ll never forget if they’re near the freezer.”

3. Get a new backsplash

If you are going to spend cash money on one kitchen upgrade, move a brand-new backsplash to the top of your list. Even to my untrained eye, it’s clear to see that a tasteful, well-installed backsplash can instantly make a kitchen look more modern — and more expensive. Erin Davis of Mosaik Design and Remodeling in Portland, Oregon, endorses updating a kitchen backsplash with modern materials. Davis tells SheKnows, “This can range from hugely popular geometric tiles in white or lighter grey tones to a sheet of glass to stainless steel. Not only are these materials sleek and modern, but they are super durable and easy to maintain. Rectilinear porcelain tiles are also a good bet. 4″x24″ tiles set in a subway pattern are a great look.”

Patricia Davis Brown, owner of Patricia Davis Brown Designs, qualifies, “The backsplash is the most visible material in your kitchen, and it has a big impact on the character you wish to portray. Tile backsplashes offer plenty of modern selections to choose from and are a great choice.”

4. Replace hardware

When you think of kitchen hardware as your kitchen’s jewelry, as Davis Brown sees it, replacing old knobs actually becomes fun — you’re just shopping for some new kitchen accessories. Davis Brown says, “Replacing the hardware can take 10 years off an old kitchen. Hardware is the jewelry to the cabinets. Just by replacing a traditional, ornate handle with a sleeker, more modern one will change the look of your kitchen.” Cheshire adds, “New cabinet hardware, such as chrome cup pulls, can be a nice update for not a lot of money.”

There’s still hope if you’re strapped for cash and are in desperate need of a hardware update. Liz Toombs, owner of Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors, recommends, “If you’re on a tight budget, spray-painting existing hardware saves money while still giving you a whole new look.”

5. Rethink storage

You may scoff at the idea that making upgrades to your cabinets can transform the look and feel of your kitchen, but according to Laura Nicosia, organization guru at ShelfGenie, these subtle storage changes can make or break your kitchen appeal. Nicosia recommends starting by removing cabinet stiles. She explains, “Some base-cabinets will include a stile, or the vertical piece of wood that extends from the top of the cabinet to the bottom, dividing the cabinet in two halves. This can interfere with storage and prevent easy access to heavy or bulky appliances. Skilled installers can remove the stile and attach it to the inside of the cabinet door, freeing up more space and improving access. This will allow for the installation of Glide-Out shelving that spans the entire width of the cabinet and will easily store more appliances.”

Jennifer Adams, host of Home & Lifestyle on OWNZONES, will do you one better: “Try open shelving to add a fresh look to your kitchen. This is a particularly good option if you have brightly colored plates and bowls, since you’ll get to show them off.”

6. Trade in old appliances

For those who have extra reno money to spare and want to improve their home’s value, updating old appliances is just what the interior designer ordered. “Stainless steel appliances are not only the most practical and versatile, but they are an expected standard in any up-to-date kitchen,” says Olga Adler of Olga Adler Interiors.

Adams calls appliance upgrades a vital “splurge” that can benefit your kitchen style for years to come. When you consider the fact that high-quality appliances are both useful and easy on the eyes, Adams’ advice just makes sense: “I highly recommend splurging on luxe appliances, such as a large industrial stove. Not only will this completely change the feel of the kitchen, but it also adds quite a bit of utility!”

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