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How to spruce up your kitchen without committing to a full renovation

Don't want to commit to an expensive kitchen renovation? There's a whole world of inexpensive tweaks you can make to make your kitchen more stylish and more efficient to work in

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By House & Garden | September 29, 2021 | Kitchen

The kitchen is undoubtedly the most expensive room in the house to renovate from scratch; between the cabinets, the appliances, the tiles, the worktops, the sinks, taps and floor, there's a whole range of things that need to be functional and hardwearing, as well as stylish and appealing.

If you have a kitchen with a disastrous layout, there's not much you can do except start from scratch, but if you simply don't have the budget, or if the kitchen still contains some things you can live with, there are all sorts of things you can do to improve the situation.


Cabinets take up the most visual space in a room, and make the most impact on its general look.

As long as they're in reasonably good condition, it makes sense to keep them. The easiest refresh you can do is to paint your kitchen cabinets.

"Hand painting your kitchen cupboards using a good quality synthetic bush is the best approach," says the team at British Standard. Bright, bold colours feel very of the moment - think deep rich blues, acid greens, or rich yellows.

We also love a gloss paint finish on a kitchen, although it can be tricky to get right yourself. Another quick fix is to replace the kitchen handles or knobs; tacky handles and drawer pulls can really drag down the overall look.

For a slightly more thorough renovation, you could keep the cabinets themselves and take advantage of the many replacement cupboard doors on the market, which can give your kitchen an entirely new look.

Plywood fronts can lend an instant sense of contemporary cool, or you can replace plain flat fronts with something more decorative.

If your kitchen feels a bit weighed down by its cabinets, particularly the upper ones, we love open shelving to display all your dishes and glassware, and it shouldn't be too expensive to take a few cabinets down and put up shelves instead.

For lower cabinets, consider replacing doors with curtains - it's a charming look that can work well with affordable gingham, stripey or chintzy fabrics, even in a modern space.

Alternatively, you might want to consider replacing upper and lower cabinets with freestanding kitchen shelving, which can lend a bit more openness to a kitchen, and they have the advantage that you can take them with you when you leave.

This could be anything from a generous dresser to open industrial shelving, depending on your style and the amount of space available.


Another relatively easy fix is the worktops themselves; if they're unpleasant vinyl options or just worn down by years of use, a refresh here will make all the difference.

Our contributing editor Gabby Deeming replaced the worktop in her rental flat with a new one from Worktop Express at a cost of just over £200 - a small price to pay for such a substantial part of the kitchen.

For the pros and cons of various materials, see our guide to choosing a kitchen worktop.


As the main visual component of the walls, kitchen tiles can either be a major statement or an understated backdrop to the space.

Simple square or rectangular tiles in a subtle colour are never going to be a bad idea, but if you have tiles that are a major eyesore, changing them up is bound to make you happier with the space.

Tiles can be expensive, and there are some jaw-droppingly lovely ones out there if you want to invest in your kitchen, but if you're just carrying out a quick spruce, there are perfectly stylish ones available from high street sources like Topps Tiles and B&Q.

Matilda Goad has done wonderful things with cheap tiles in her London house, making a striking chimney breast in a red and white checkerboard pattern.

'Simply buy the cheapest tiles you can and alternate the colours,' she says. We also love her pantry, where equally down-to-earth square white tiles have been enlivened with red grout - an easy idea to replicate that feels youthful and fresh.

We also love Matilda's sweet curving splashback over the sink - this is a more expensive job as it's necessarily bespoke, but it's a small touch that instantly makes the interior unique.


We all know that lighting makes all the difference to a room, and just because the kitchen is a more functional space than others, it doesn't mean the lighting should be any less considered.

Harsh lighting isn't going to make you want to spend time cooking. Most of the interior designers on our pages go for combinations of angled spotlights, wall lights and pendants over the dining area or island.

Depending on how much space you have, try and light the kitchen in zones. Social spaces need lower, friendlier lighting; worktops and sinks need a focused light from above.

Accessories and furniture

The least expensive option for refreshing your kitchen is just to buy some new bits that can elevate the overall look. Something as simple as a colourful tea towel slung over the oven handle can draw the eye and add a touch of charm.

A new kitchen bin, even, can take that corner of the room from shabby to stylish without any great investment.

Small items of furniture can provide extra storage, helping tidy those things away that usually clutter up the worktop: a small trolley can organise things you want to have on hand, or a wall shelf can tidy away plates and mugs.

Perhaps you don't have quite enough room for an island but could add a slim butcher block in the middle of the room instead?

Even a beautiful new set of pans that you can hang on the wall can make the space seem more luxurious and inviting, and distract the attention from any less desirable elements.

With so many options, there's really no excuse for leaving your kitchen feeling shabby - get sprucing!

This story originally appeared in House and Garden UK.