kitchen remodel
Home Improvements

10 Simple Ways to Update a Kitchen

We have been living in this house for around 20 years. About 5 years in, we took out all the kitchen cabinets and replaced them. We also got new counters, a sink and all new appliances. Later we added a subway tile backsplash.

Fast forward about 15 years to the present, and the kitchen began to look like it needed some updates in my eyes. The cabinets were in great shape, but I was craving white instead of the natural brown wood. The lights were looking dated as well as the hardware. It certainly wasn’t going to need to be completely gutted, but it did need some changes. I think you will find that this is often the case with kitchens in a lot of homes. They often have good bones and just need some help being brought back to life. Sometimes it’s just hard to know where to begin. Follow along to see what we did! Here are 10 simple ways to update a kitchen.

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1. Paint the Cabinets

Out of everything on this list, this is the least “simple.” It’s not a small job, but it’s a lot easier and more inexpensive than tearing out the cabinets and replacing them! It is one of those times when the power of paint is truly amazing. You can paint them yourselves, or hire it out as we chose to do.

Here is our kitchen BEFORE:

The  kitchen before the updates
The kitchen before the updates

Here is our kitchen AFTER:

The kitchen after the updates, included being painted
The kitchen after it was painted and updated
The kitchen after it was updated, inluding new hardware and light fixtures

I am thrilled with the difference! The color is SW alabaster, my favorite white. You can find all my favorite paint colors here:

We chose to have them professionally painted.

Tip: To cut cost, we removed the doors/drawer fronts and put them back ourselves, something we worked out with our painter. They were taken back to the shop and returned ready to reinstall!

The doors and drawer fronts were removed to be painted

2. Add Open Shelving

This was super transformative, adding so much style to the kitchen! It really updated it profoundly, and I highly recommend it. You can see the entire process here:

Originally we had a cabinet to the left of the window where the open shelves now are.


This cabinet was removed and replaced with open shelves.


The updated kitchen with open shelving
Part of the kitchen remodel was adding open shelves.
The completed kitchen remodel including open shelving and a bamboo shade.

The shelves we used are from Ultra Shelf. They make them in a way that is easy to install, and they’re beautiful! Again, you can follow along in the following post to learn more about the shelves, including links and a discount code:

Putting up the open shelves

3. Change the Light Fixtures

Sometimes overlooked, the right light fixtures can add so much to the kitchen! Here, the new pendant light over the sink, the new ceiling light and the rattan light over the table each add character and catch your eye.

Tip: Be careful when choosing a light fixture to always look at the measurements to see if it would work in your space!

The pendant light  over the sink is a new addition
All the light fixtures are simple ways to update the kitchen!

Before settling on the lights that I did, here are some others that I considered. You can find the links below:

pendant lights
flushmount lights

Light Fixture Links:

4. Change Out the Hardware

Hardware may seem like a small thing, but it is really the cherry on top! I love the hardware that I have in the kitchen now.

I debated between doing black or gold, and I went with this “champagne bronze.”

Originally I fell in love with hardware from Pottery Barn, but I was so happy to find this similar option for a fraction of the price!

Pictured above is what we went with (from Home Depot online), and below is from Pottery Barn.

hardware choices, save vs. splurge
The new hardware was a simple way to udate the kitchen.

Hardware Links:

5. Add Bamboo Shades

Doing this really complimented the wood tones in the kitchen, but it also made the kitchen look more finished off and complete.

A bamboo shade in the window completed the whole look in the remodel.

Bamboo Shades Link:

6. Add Some Wallpaper

After adding peel and stick wallpaper to the back of my china cabinet in the dining room (read about that here:, I became a little addicted. It’s just such a fun way to add pattern and interest. It’s a simple way to update a kitchen!

I found this wallpaper at Target, and decided to put it behind the small section of shelves between two cabinets as well as in the corner cabinet that has a glass door.

Wallpaper Link:


Before adding wallpaper


After adding wallpaper
Adding wallpaper was a simple way to update the kitchen.
wallpaper in the corner cabinet

7. Add a Rug

Another simple way to update a kitchen is to add a rug. I used to just put a small rug in front of the sink. This time I opted for a runner. I love the impact it makes!

Here are two different runner looks:

Adding a rug was a simple way to update the kitchen.
A jute runner
A new runner in the kitchen
A new runner adds a lot to the space!

Rug Links:

8. Add Under Cabinet Lights or Lamps

We already had under cabinet lights, and I highly recommend them. However, when we took down the cabinet and replaced it with shelves the light went with it. We may eventually add some there, but in the meantime I added a cute little lamp. It adds a nice ambience on its own!

Tip: To hide the wire, putting the lamp on a riser works great. The excess wire slides under and can’t be seen!

Adding a light inder the shelves
with riser
What it looks like without hiding the wire.
without riser

Lamp and Riser links:

9. Get Rid of Clutter

Before having the cabinets painted, I decided to empty out everything. That way I could look through it all and get rid of things I wasn’t using anymore or didn’t need. This made it easier to be able to get rid of that one cabinet and the hidden storage that I lost with it. I also was able to clear off some counter space. I can even now fit the toaster in one of the drawers! Having the counters less cluttered just looks better, plain and simple.

10. Accessorize

This is the fun part! With having open shelves for one, there are lots of possibilities of items to display. I love pitchers, pretty canisters, cutting boards, different styles of bowls, cream and sugar bowls, mortar and pestals, baskets, cookbooks, and plants of course!

On the counter, I decided to have two utensil holders this time, one for only wooden spoons and another for the rest. I’m loving this look!

By the sink and window, I love having a plant or fresh flowers in a vase, a candle, and a tray for soaps and a scrub brush.

These are just some ideas for accessorizing the kitchen, small and simple ways to update the kitchen.

Cute accessories is a simple way to update the kitchen.
A kitchen shelfie
Cute accessories like pitchers, a cutting board and a marble utensil holder with wooden spoons.
A kitchen shelfie with lots of cute accessories
A bowl of apples as a centerpiece in the kitchen

Accessory Links:

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