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‘Paint the cabinets for a quick makeover’: How to refresh your kitchen - without fitting a new one

From swapping out the taps to adding colour with wallpaper, change up a tired kitchen without calling the builders in.

KITCHEN RENOVATIONS CAN be lengthy, messy and expensive, so what can you do when you need an upgrade but time and finances restrict you from investing in a completely new kitchen?

Fear not, there are a multitude of ways to completely overhaul a tired kitchen into a stylish and refreshed space. 

The first step is to narrow down your ideas so you can define the look you want to achieve. Are you hoping for sleek and modern, mid-century cool, glam and moody, or eclectic and layered? Settling on an aesthetic will make all your design decisions much easier and ensure any updates will align with your personal style.

Once you’ve settled on a style, it’s time to get down to nuts and bolts – or paint and taps! Here are ten practical changes you can make to your kitchen that will give it a new look – without calling the builder and plumber in.

1. First, just try painting the walls

Paint is the single most transformative tool in your decorating arsenal. It’s the fastest way to refresh a space, and it can be a quick and relatively inexpensive way to inject colour or brighten your kitchen with a coat of bright white. If you’re ready to go colourful, choose a bold shade for a feature wall or go all in and paint out the entire space – ceiling, trim and all – for a cosy, cocoon feeling.

2. Or add instant personality with wallpaper (yes, even in the kitchen)

Wallpaper is a fantastic way to show some personality. It can also help create a fun space that lends itself to social gatherings. The kitchen is often a hot, humid environment so avoid thin or fabric based papers and instead choose a wipeable alternative (many manufacturers offer kitchen-specific papers). Go wild with a jungle print pattern or keep it classic with a subtle stripe or floral. 


3. Update your cabinets without the hard work

One of the most impactful changes you can make is to update your cabinets. You can replace the doors, paint them a new shade, or update handles for a complete transformation. I’d recommend getting cabinet fronts professionally sprayed for a clean finish. Online shops will have the best bargains in cabinet hardware. 

If you’re up for DIYing your cabinets, check out this tutorial from Laura de Barra in our weekly Task Master feature.

4. And try swapping in a new tap

If you end up replacing your cabinet handles, you may want to upgrade your tap, too. Switching out a standard chrome tap for a brass or matte black option will make a massive difference and finish off the space perfectly. 

5. Dress up your dining area

Updating your dining chairs will make a huge impact in your kitchen if you have an open plan area. For a mid-century, industrial aesthetic, opt for battered vintage leather seating, or go luxe with velvet fabric chairs in jewel tones. Don’t be afraid to mix and match textures and silhouettes to create an eclectic feel. Just remember to measure your dining table height so your new chairs fit underneath comfortably.

6. Or try creating a gallery wall

Kitchens often have free wall space and that makes for the perfect space to get creative. Curate your own gallery wall by displaying your favourite art prints and photographs. In order to create a cohesive look, pick a colour palette and stick to it. If you’re trying your first gallery wall, black and white is always chic. You can also try adding an LED neon light for extra rock ‘n’ roll kudos.

7. Make a statement with lighting

Statement lighting is where it’s at for kitchen spaces. It’s time to move away from the clinical feel of spotlights and opt for unexpected chandelier lighting instead. You have a range of options, from traditional to spiky sputnik style, and as many finishes, from brass to smoked or frosted glass. Oversize lighting is a top trend, and your best bet is to hang chandeliers or pendants low over the island or dining area to create a relaxed atmosphere. 


8. Give flooring a new life with a coat of paint

You may not have the budget to replace floors entirely, but you can quickly freshen up the space by painting your floorboards a bright matte white or a moody black for an instant Scandinavian vibe. If you have tiles rather than planks, try your DIY hand and get creative with tile paint and a stencil. A simple geometric pattern in a small area like a utility or bathroom will help you build your confidence for a larger stenciling project. 

9. Replace your worktops

One way to completely switch up the look of your space is to replace your worktops. It’s a larger investment than painting the walls, but can certainly change up the look without a full kitchen renovation. If you’re tired of dark granite, look at replacing it with a fresh off-white marble or concrete for an industrial feel. If you have wooden worktops, try sanding them back and stain in a fresh shade. 

10. Spruce up your dated splashback

Another investment that can quickly update your kitchen is a new splashback – it’ll set you back a few hundred euro, but will completely transform the look of your space. One option is to go chic and minimal with white chevron tiles, or you could experiment with colour and pattern by using fish scale shaped tiles in glossy emerald green or luscious teal.

11. And have fun with accessories

Finally, have fun with accessories to give the space a fresh look with minimal investment. Look for high impact pieces to really transform the space – patterned rugs in high traffic areas work protect flooring and add and interest, or try an oversized mirror to double the visual space and light. You can add texture with sheepskins and cushions on your dining chairs. Metallics work really well in kitchens: brass trays, plant stands and bar accessories will create a luxe feel. 

More: 12 design tips to help you love the space you hate – from the downstairs loo to the utility room>

About the author:

Jen Connell

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