Whether you’ve lived in your home for a while or you recently moved into a pre-owned home with questionable décor, many people find themselves wanting to give their outdated kitchens a makeover to look more modern.
If you’re in this position, you’ll be pleased to know that it doesn’t take a total refurbishment to create a beautiful contemporary kitchen. There are lots of creative and strategic changes you can make to transform a boring old kitchen into a stylish new room, from cool lighting and clever storage to upgraded appliances and glass splashbacks.
Whether you’re staying in your home for the foreseeable future or planning on selling up soon, here are some great tips for giving your old kitchen a modern facelift.
Refresh wooden cabinetry
You don’t have to replace your old kitchen units entirely to make your cabinets look more modern. As long as the units themselves are mostly plain, you can remove doors with decorative moulding or trims and replace them with simpler Shaker-style doors or handleless cupboard doors.
Contemporary interior design is all about streamlined minimalism, so a smoother and less fussy finish will immediately make your units look trendier. Matte finishes look sophisticated, but gloss finishes are the ultimate popular choice for a sleek and shiny modern kitchen.
If new kitchen cabinet doors aren’t in your budget, you can still update your old cabinets with a new coat of paint. Modern colour schemes tend to stick to light and bright, making spaces feel bigger and cleaner, though you could also choose moodier dark greys for an extravagant contrast.
Upgrade metal hardware
Rather than replacing your unit doors – or in conjunction with replacing them – you can swap the old handles for a new design. Many outdated kitchens use materials that are commonly found in traditional design, such as wooden knobs, whereas newer kitchens feature sleeker metal fixtures.
Cupboard handles and drawer pulls are like the jewellery of your kitchen, serving as accessories in addition to functional opening tools. Investing in high-quality new handles can instantly add a modern touch, whether you opt for aluminium or copper, or a brushed or polished finish.
To enhance the elegant symmetry expected from a modern kitchen, be sure to match your metals throughout. So, if you update the handles, consider updating other fixtures to match, like the sink and faucets or your hob and cooker hood – or even any storage tins you leave out for tea or coffee.
Swap new flooring
Though you may look down less when you’re busy using your kitchen, if you step back and consider how the room looks when you first walk in, the flooring contributes quite a lot to the overall visual effect. Especially if you’ve got dented, peeling linoleum tiles, or worn-down wooden floorboards.
Forget about classic kitchen flooring patterns or farmhouse-style flagstones. If you want your kitchen to look ultramodern, you should consider laying down new vinyl or laminate flooring. These provide scratch-resistant and slip-resistant kitchen floors at an affordable price, in a variety of designs.
It’s much cheaper to achieve the look of sleek tiles or wood-effect flooring that easily wipes clean with these options – after all, modern life is all about convenience and balancing beauty and practicality. Stick to neutral or light colours and your new floor will succeed in its supporting role.
Repaint the walls
Easy yet always effective, painting your kitchen walls a light colour is a straightforward way of making the room feel brighter and bigger. Modern kitchens highlight open space and uncluttered surfaces, so don’t feel pressured to use patterned wallpaper or anything that adds too much visual noise.
A fresh coat of white paint would be enough on its own, though you may want to select one wall or a section of wall to paint in a different colour, creating a contrasting feature that makes the clean white pop even more. You can opt for an off-white, but steer clear of whites with yellow undertones.
The ‘colour pop’ kitchen is an alternative take on the contemporary kitchen, which breaks up the monotony of an all-white or all-grey kitchen with selected spots of colour. It doesn’t have to be too bright, but you could choose a blue or green shade for one wall or to carry through accessories.
Classic kitchen appliances are traditionally white, hence the name ‘white goods’ – but these can discolour over time, making your kitchen look much older even if they continue to function just fine. If it’s in your budget, it may be worth upgrading your appliances to versatile stainless steel.
This is, of course, a very practical material, but it also contributes to the slick aesthetic expected of a modern kitchen. Whether brushed for a more muted finish or polished to a shine, the metal will fit in with a range of colour schemes – which can’t always be said for fading whites or plastic coatings.
Though buying new appliances is undoubtedly a bit of a splurge, it’s worth it in the long run. If you choose durable, high-quality, energy-efficient products, they’ll still be working like new in many years’ time, keeping your kitchen looking good and saving money on your bills at the same time.
Next to the kitchen units themselves, the worktops above your base cabinets are one of the largest factors deciding how dated your kitchen looks. Whether it’s vinyl, tile, or stone, if it’s faded, stained, chipped, or cracked, then it’s automatically going to make your kitchen look worn out.
The modern aesthetic should be smooth and shiny in a subtle way, with minimal texture or pattern to distract the eye or clash with accessories. Marble, granite, and quartz are good choices (if expensive) for durability and a blend of complementary colours without being overly decorative.
As new kitchen worktops can be costly, you might want to go down a more affordable route and opt for kitchen counter wrap. These vinyl wraps can help you achieve a luxuriously modern stone-effect or wood-effect countertop, and they’re easy to swap if you want a fresher look every now and then.
Add a glass splashback
Without a splashback to protect the wall behind your hob or sink from splashes and moisture, it can soon become discoloured and dingy looking. Don’t let a dirty wall drag your kitchen aesthetic down – make it look new again by installing a modern glass splashback behind your cooktop.
Rather than busy patterned tiles or bland subway-style tiles, which are commonly found in traditional splashbacks, mounting a toughened glass splashback is a tasteful way to add protection and a stylish piece of artwork in one. They’re easy to mount and can even be installed over existing tiles.
You can use the smooth glass panel to fit in with the understated modern aesthetic, perhaps with a print of neutral wood or stone to complement your worktops, or use this as your ‘colour pop’ focal element. You’ll have a wide choice of natural landscapes, fun art prints, or even custom images.
Add an island or breakfast bar
If you want your kitchen to meet modern lifestyle needs, you’ll need an island and/or a breakfast bar (or a kitchen peninsula, which can be both in one). Most islands will have an appliance built in, whether it’s the sink plumbed in from below or the oven and hob with an extractor above.
However, you can also use an island as an uncluttered counter for food preparation, especially if you opt for the ultramodern kitchen choice of having built-in appliances in a wall of units. Everything has its place, and you have more than enough space to cook or sit and eat.
The benefit of islands or peninsulas with breakfast bars attached – even if it’s just a small overhang continuing from the countertop – is that it provides the opportunity for a small seating area. Adding stools rather than wooden chairs boosts the feeling of a room ready to support on-the-go lifestyles.
De-clutter with hidden storage
Embracing modern minimalist chic means de-cluttering your counters and only leaving necessary appliances or limited decorative items out. If you want to have dinnerware or jars of spices on display, open shelving is a better choice – as long as you have the discipline to keep it organised!
To help you keep your kitchen tidy and achieve agleaming modern look, you’ll need to optimise your storage. Even a beautiful kitchen is only as good as it is functional, so cupboards full of clutter won’t help you. Look for handy storage solutions like pull-out, swing-out, or carousel mechanisms.
If you want the extra storage space to keep everything out of sight until you need it, you could try extending your upper cabinets to the ceiling. Most wall cabinets fall around a foot short at least, with the gap accumulating dust – you may as well extend your sleek cabinet fronts and shelf space.
Install new lighting
Lighting is the finishing touch to any room that not only illuminates the space to make it functional, but also defines the ambience. Modern kitchens don’t stick to standard overhead hanging lights (unless they’re pendant lights above an island or peninsula).
Recessed lighting is the most modern choice due to its discreet nature, which maintains the smooth and sleek style running throughout the kitchen. Chandelier lighting gives you an opportunity to create a focal feature, but it only works if it’s a minimal industrial design.
Ways to modernise your kitchen lighting include fitting puck lights under your cabinets or adding strip lighting along the bottom edges to illuminate your worktops. When it comes to the main lights, whether you choose ceiling lights or wall sconces, consider installing a dimmer switch.
Modernise your old kitchen
As you’ll have learned from reading through these suggestions, the main characteristics of a modern kitchen are clean lines, minimalism, and stark colours. Remember that ‘less is more’ and use your storage space wisely to keep things streamlined and uncluttered.
You don’t have to do all of the above to update your kitchen’s appearance, but choosing a few of these tips and combining them can significantly rejuvenate an old-fashioned kitchen.
The most important thing is creating a kitchen that works for you and meets your needs, so you can enjoy every second you spend in your modernised space.