Revitalize, Don’t Replace: 8 Ways to Modernize an Outdated Kitchen


How can one modernize an outdated kitchen?

If you’re looking for ways to modernize your old-fashioned kitchen space without totally replacing it, you’ll be happy to know there are lots of options for updates, small and large, for this most important room in the house.

Changing just one or two aspects of the kitchen can transform the environment and save the time, cost, and inconvenience of having a full renovation. However, choosing the right kitchen ideas to spruce things up can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here!

We came up with a wide range of inspiring updates to help modernize an outdated kitchen. Any of these suggestions will make a difference in your kitchen and help bring it up to date. The best part? You don’t need to replace anything all at once. We’ll also help you decide where to start, what to change, and what to keep.

This being said, here are some ideas on how you can modernize an outdated kitchen!

modernize an outdated kitchen
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1. Paint existing cabinets to give them a fresh new look

One sure way to give your kitchen a completely new vibe is to focus on updating the cabinet ideas. The color and style of kitchen cabinets really can add to the space, and while it’s neither desirable nor possible to keep up with all the latest interior design trends, it’s possible to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them.

According to experts, many outdated kitchens have one good thing in common—real wood cabinets. They explain that real wood isn’t always used nowadays, which means that you have a better chance to paint them and for the paint to last longer.

Prep is essential, though. Cabinets should be sanded, primed, and then painted. Fill the holes if you choose to use new hardware.

Upcycling existing cabinetry in this way is an excellent way to modernize an outdated kitchen, and the result is always satisfying and a game changer. If you have a larger kitchen, paint the island instead of the surrounding cabinets. It will look much better.

2. Choose a timeless color that will make a difference

There are many paint colors for a kitchen to choose from. Test a few kitchen cabinet colors in stores and consider them in both natural and artificial light before making your final call.

If you want to modernize an outdated kitchen and your plain white cabinets are looking old-fashioned, take them to the ceiling and paint them a much more fun color. It will completely transform the look.

If this kind of project makes you feel a little nervous, consider having them painted professionally. It costs a bit more, but the pro guys can help give your cabinets a more factory finish. Choose colors that are timeless and light.

Lighter colors are great to modernize an outdated kitchen because they will deliver a bright and fresh feel. If you have some extra money and your cabinet boxes are still in good shape, you can also replace the door and drawer fronts.

There’s a word of caution from experts, who explain that painted cabinetry can chip, especially due to constant wear and tear. Make sure your contractor has enough experience painting cabinetry and is using the proper primer and paint. Opt for paint-spray cabinets instead of hand-painting, as it will give the most professional and durable finish.

3. Change the wall color

Another easy and effective way to modernize an outdated kitchen is to paint the walls. While it may not be as transformational as painting the cabinets, it’s not as complicated as the project above.

Moreover, if your existing color is one you’ve been seeing for a while now, you’ll soon see positive results with fresh paint on the walls. If you’re looking for a more dramatic sense of change, opt for a different shade or pick a color from another area of the color wheel.

Most importantly, choose a color that you like.

Photo by Molenira from Shutterstock

4. Replace wall cabinets with open shelving

We’ve all accustomed to seeing more freestanding and unfitted styles of kitchens as current trends promote a more open look. Because of that, layouts that incorporate lots of wall cabinets can sometimes look a little old-fashioned.

To modernize an outdated kitchen that features this type of layout with the upper cabinets making the room feel too heavy, consider swapping them for open shelving.

Interior designers agree that this will give your kitchen a fresh vibe. But it’s not just that. Glass-fronted display cabinets or open shelves will also give you more storage space.

Kitchen shelving ideas work best if they’re tailored to the individual layout. In some situations, it may work better to keep some wall cabinets and incorporate open shelves in a smaller section of the kitchen.

A great idea you can try is fixing helves on decorative brackets above kitchen windows to display plates and other collected items. The shelves can also serve as a rack for task lighting, too.

Read on to discover other ways to modernize an outdated kitchen!

5. Try something different for your backsplash

Replacing the backsplash gives you the chance to inject more design personality into the kitchen. While the backsplash is generally limited to the practical areas of the kitchen, such as behind sinks and cookers, it can pack a big style punch.

There are lots of options for materials and finishes that will help you modernize an outdated kitchen, giving it a fresh edge. Marble continues to be one of the most popular materials for a backsplash, and metal, zellige tiles, and mirrored finishes are all having their backsplash moments.

As you consider the best one for your space, think about how your choice will complement existing countertops and cabinets. You’ll want to modernize an outdated kitchen, not make it look like a mix of styles. Experts suggest replacing the backsplash with the same material as the countertop, which will give it a modern and elegant look.

6. Replace the countertop

Ask any designer about lighting, and they will tell you that it can make or break a room. That’s why, when you modernize an outdated kitchen, rethinking the lighting should be part of the process.

Swapping the countertop for something different can easily modernize an outdated kitchen and give it some of its sparkle back; combine it with freshly painted cabinets, and you’ll have a kitchen that feels newly fitted.

If you’re looking to add texture and warmth to your kitchen, white walnut and oak are wonderful materials to consider. These materials are very versatile and can be used in most kitchens as countertops, combined with existing cabinets, used as panels to hide appliances, or as open shelving.

Replacing kitchen counters while maintaining the layout doesn’t have to be extremely expensive. If you can get access to slab remnants from a fabricator or stone supplier, there are great savings to be had.

kitchen rug
Photo by Pixel-Shot from Shutterstock

7. Throw down a rug or update the flooring

Don’t underestimate the power of a humble rug to modernize an outdated kitchen. Rugs are such an easy way to give a new vibe to a space. Make sure you choose colors that are complementary to the rest of the room to help create continuity and give it the designed feel.

Here are some budget-friendly options from Amazon.

Also, kitchen floors get a lot of heavy use. Water damage, wear and tear, and staining will all take their toll, and replacing dated or damaged floors will instantly modernize an outdated kitchen.

According to experts, wood and wood-effect flooring are having their moment right now, with the trend heading for darker shades to offer a smart contrast with lighter cabinetry. Terracotta, marble, and porcelain tiles also remain popular and are practical flooring ideas for kitchens, worthy of serious consideration when updating a space.

8. Set the scene with lighting

Ask any designer about lighting and they will tell you that it can make or break a room. That’s why when you modernize an oudated kitchen, rethinking the lighting should be part of the process.

You can have the best and most stylish design in the world, but if the lighting isn’t what it needs to be, it will ruin things rather quickly. So update the pendants and change the chandelier—it will make a big difference and completely change the feel and look of your existing kitchen.

If you want to give your house a more transitional appeal, choose simple lighting that may have a more contemporary shape, and make sure that the temperature of your light bulbs matches what you have throughout the rest of your home.

If you liked our article on ways to modernize an outdated kitchen, you may also want to read 9 Common Decorating Mistakes and Ways to Fix Them.