13 (Almost!) Free Kitchen Updates


Sprucing up your kitchen doesn’t have to take a big bite out of your budget. Small changes will add big style when you think creatively.


Play With Your Food

Who says a kitchen has to be boring? Add a fun touch with plates that spell out whatever’s on your mind. Designer Brian Patrick Flynn turned mismatched plates into this very clever kitchen decoration by simply applying vinyl letter decals. Attach plate hangers and display in a grouping for budget-friendly artwork that packs a playful punch.

Colorful Island

White cabinets help a kitchen feel bright, open and clean. But too much white can be too much of a good thing. Change things up a bit by painting just the island a color that really pops, like robin’s egg blue. Design by Sarah Richardson

Top It Off

Turn a colorful but unused apron, shower curtain, tablecloth or any leftover piece of fabric into a cute window topper. If sewing isn’t your thing, make a no-sew version by simply cutting the fabric to size, then creating a pocket for hanging. Clean the edges with iron-on fusible webbing.

Cozy Up

Add cottage charm and ample seating to your eat-in kitchen by bringing a weathered garden bench indoors. Fill with pillows to create a cozy seat that will invite guests to linger over a home-cooked meal. Design by Sarah Richardson

Make Your Mark

Chalkboard paint inexpensively turns a ho-hum kitchen into a hip family-friendly hangout. Simply paint a wall or section of smooth cabinet doors, then tell your family they can write on the walls.

No Space Wasted

Turn a sunny window into a spot for displaying a collection of your favorite kitchen items. Vintage pieces in a similar color palette are especially lovely when grouped together. Kitchen window shelves are also the perfect location for growing light-loving herbs and flowering plants.

Don’t Forget the Floor

Spice up an eat-in kitchen with a trendy zigzag pattern painted on the floor. The key to a durable finish is the proper prep. Before painting, remove all traces of polyurethane or buildup of kitchen grease. Prime the surface with an oil-based primer and follow with paints rated to withstand foot traffic.

Salvage Chic

If you’re handy with a saw, cut up found strips of weathered wood to give your kitchen island or peninsula a cottage-style facelift. Alternately, you can give new boards a similar look by painting them in different colors, then heavily sanding them.

Add a Fresh Pop

Display fruit in colorful bowls on the countertop. This dish of green apples adds a lovely splash of color, plus you’re more likely to help yourself to a healthy snack if it’s in plain sight.

Modernize Vintage Lighting

Easily give a dated brass fixture an updated look with a can of spray paint. If you don’t feel comfortable removing the fixture yourself, have a friend who’s electrically savvy give you a hand. Place the fixture on a drop cloth, cover the sockets with painter’s tape, then evenly coat all surfaces with paint. Reinstall the fixture and swap out the traditional candelabra bulbs for frosted globes or Edison bulbs.

Easy Artwork

Forgo several small pieces of artwork and create an eye-catching focal wall by hanging a large section of wallpaper or boldly patterned fabric. Create a frame with trim you already have on hand or can pick up inexpensively at your local hardware store.

Show Off Your Stuff

Create the look of a built-in china cabinet by simply removing a set of cabinet doors and filling the space with shelves displaying your favorite dishes. For added pop, line the back of the cabinet with wallpaper or paint it in a complementary color.

Create Custom Canisters

Give glass canisters changeable labels with chalkboard paint. Check your local craft store for pre-made chalkboard labels that simply stick on or do it yourself by first masking the area you wish to cover, then etching the glass and brushing on the chalkboard paint.

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