Let there be (new) light
One of the quickest design upgrades you can make in any room is to ditch old light bulbs and/or fixtures and replace them to be more in line with modern styles. How dramatic of a change you opt for depends on your taste and how much you want to spend, though you’d be surprised how much of a change you can achieve just by replacing brash fluorescent bulbs with warm-lit LEDs. If you want to take it a step further, replace entire fixtures—particularly pendant lights and flush mounts. You can score fantastic deals on new fixtures at sites like Wayfair and Joss & Main so that you don’t have to spend big to make a big impact.
Paint your cabinets
Your cabinets are main focal points in your kitchen, so it makes sense that painting them is one of the kitchen design ideas that makes the biggest splash. It’s a whole lot cheaper than replacing them entirely, and doesn’t require quite as much DIY know-how as you might assume. Look for a paint color you like in a gloss, semigloss, or satin finish (or just let the clerk at the home improvement store know you’re looking for paint that’s suitable for cabinets and they’ll be able to guide you to the right varieties). Before you start painting, clean, sand, and fill in any imperfections on your cabinets so you get a flat surface, and always be sure to allow paint to dry completely between layers. With just $50 to $75 in supplies and a weekend of your time you could have a completely new look to your kitchen cabinets.
Swap out hardware
If you want to go all-in on your cabinet redo (or if you don’t want to paint your cabinets but do still want to see a big change) remove existing cabinet pulls and knobs and swap in some new ones. New hardware is one of the very best of budget-friendly kitchen design ideas, since they’re incredibly easy to install and have the power to instantly update the look of your space. How much you spend depends on the material of the hardware you choose (brass is going to run you more than chrome, for example), as well as how many pieces of hardware you need. Look online to price compare and ensure you get a good deal, and be sure to purchase hardware that’s the same size as the pieces you removed so that you can easily screw them in to the existing drill holes.
Remove cabinet doors
Looking for more kitchen design ideas that can help you give those cabinets a completely new look? Choose one or more of your cabinets and remove the doors entirely to bring some exposed shelving into the space. It’s a super simple way to brighten up the room and bring in more visual interest, plus you’ll be able to display some of your favorite plates, bowls, and glasses. Be sure to remove all joints and hardware that were securing the doors in place, and refresh the shelving on the inside of the cabinet if you need to with a fresh coat of paint.
Have fun with chalkboard paint
You can turn pretty much any surface in your new kitchen into a chalkboard (yes, even your refrigerator!) for just the cost of some magnetic primer and chalkboard paint—about $30 total. A chalkboard accent feature is a great way to bring in some utility and flair, and also ensures that you always have a place to write your grocery list or the weekly menu. Designate where you want your chalkboard to go—the pantry door or the cabinet next to the fridge are always a good choice—and then be sure to outline it off with painter’s tape so that you don’t end up with an errant chalkboard surface where you don’t want it. This is an especially useful kitchen update if you have little kids, since they can keep busy drawing while you cook dinner.
Shop antique stores for retro kitchen appliances, décor, and dishware
Modern kitchen design doesn’t mean completely shunning retro features. In fact, a touch or two of vintage décor can bring in loads of charm and personality, especially if you’re a fan of farmhouse style. Plan a day trip to go antiquing and look for pieces that can add a luxurious touch—think copper pots and pans (here are some tips on how to restore them to their old shiny finish), glass cake stands, 50s-style milkshake mixers, and farm signs (“Fresh Eggs,” “Pies Baked Daily,” and so on). Spend as much or as little as you’re comfortable with, focusing on pieces that are in good condition or can be brought back to their previous luster with a little bit of elbow grease.