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8 easy ways to revamp your kitchen

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Looking to spruce up your kitchen? Try these expert-recommended updates

Bright kitchen with a marble-topped island, brass fixtures, and wooden countertops and shelves.
In this remodeled San Francisco home, the kitchen features Ikea boxes fronted by drawers and doors from Semihandmade.
Photo by Carlos Chavarria

Kitchens see a lot of action, so they need some love and care in order to stay in good shape. And one way to do that is through small updates, which will not only improve your day-to-day experience at home but can also deliver great return on investment.

We spoke with a couple of industry experts to mine a few tricks of the trade and insight on what to focus on when considering kitchen updates.

1. Consider new cabinet coverings

The easiest way to get the biggest visual impact is by investing in new cabinet coverings. If you have an Ikea kitchen, there are a number of companies specializing in stylish doors for Ikea cabinets boxes, such as Reform, Semihandmade, and Kokeena.

If you’re working with a designer to redo your cabinets, you might even take it one step further and conceal your refrigerator to match your cabinetry for a completely uniform look. “We like to try to tuck the refrigerator into a bank of tall cabinetry so that it becomes more of a thickened wall than something that juts into the room,” says Portland, Oregon-based interior designer Jessica Helgerson.

The refrigerator in this renovation by Helgerson blends right into the rest of the cabinetry.
Photo by Jeremy Bittermann courtesy of Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

2. Look at simple island options

For this kitchen in Brooklyn, a vintage table takes on some “island” functions, like offering an eat-in area, gathering spot, plus additional surface area if needed.
Photo by Read McKendree

Kitchen islands don’t all have to be custom made. There are plenty of retail options that can both increase your prep and storage space and provide a central gathering spot for family or guests.

Helgerson also points out the decorative potential of adding an island. “We usually try to get an island up on legs, so that it feels more like a pretty piece of furniture than some cabinets that wandered into the middle of the room,” she says.

Try West Elm’s Compass Kitchen Island for a stylish midcentury-inspired touch or stainless steel tables for instant counter space (like this one from Home Depot).

3. Take an architectural approach to storage

For an open kitchen, concealing kitchen storage is especially important, says Berlin-based Danish architect and furniture designer Sigurd Larsen. “In many of the houses we built, the kitchen was integrated in the living room. The client and I often wanted a kitchen that did not look too utilitarian, and was a nice, calm element when it was not in use.”

One trick, he shares, is to store as much as possible under the countertop, so the setup seems “more like a sideboard with nice lamps hanging above.”

For this kitchen in a renovated midcentury home in Philadelphia, no upper cabinets means a clean “sideboard” effect and room for a statement mural backsplash designed with Clé tile.
Photo by Heidi’s Bridge

4. Look for special tiles

As the example above illustrates, finding special tiles for a backsplash can be a great way to inject color and a bit of character into a kitchen remodel.

“We’ve been working with a variety of small local tile manufacturers to make special parts and pieces that fit our tile needs,” says Helgerson. “And it’s fun to think a little harder about those details and then see it all come together.”

Ann Sacks has a wide range of stunning styles, while Heath Ceramics offers beautiful hand-glazed tiles with a midcentury feel.

5. Choose a statement stove

At this Oakland, California, home, all eyes are on the vintage range.
Photo by Carlos Chavarria

Larsen loves a high-tech stove with an integrated fan, which eliminates the need for a range hood. “A stove with an integrated fan is a nice way to keep the space above the countertop free,” he says.

He recommends Bora stoves, which suction directly from the cooktop. Helgerson, on the other hand, is partial to a more classic but equally impactful look by way of Lacanche ranges. “The knobs are just too damn cute!” she says. Another idea is to go vintage, like the example shown here.

6. Incorporate cozy (and fun!) seating

Seating like stools or a bench can be arranged around a kitchen island or wherever there’s a bit of extra space.

“I’m hardly ever finished cooking when my guests arrive, so I put a bench in my kitchen where I can install them with a glass of wine, and they can sit and entertain me while I finish,” says Larsen.

A color-filled Brooklyn apartment.
Geometric stools by Eric Trine liven up this remodeled kitchen in a creative director’s Brooklyn apartment.
Photo by Gabriela Herman

7. Create warmth to balance hard surfaces

“We try to introduce some natural wood and a little green into every kitchen,” says Helgerson. “It creates a tactile warmth that helps to balance all the hard surfaces.”

In this revived Hudson Valley home, the kitchen incorporates wood in the whitewashed pine floors and cabinets by EB Joinery. A handful of houseplants bring in extra life.
Photo by Chris Mottalini

8. Try an impactful countertop

Helgerson loves pyrolave countertops. “They are lava stone slabs that are cut to size, glazed, and fired—basically making a countertop that is one giant gorgeous tile.”

Take some inspiration from this midcentury kitchen preserved in original condition, where the countertop is not only a ravishing turquoise but also matches the backsplash for greater impact.
Photo by Laure Joliet