9 easy, cheap ways to upgrade your kitchen

Updating your kitchen might feel overwhelming. Don't overthink it. Here are nine ways to spruce up your kitchen.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
4 min read
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Upgrading your kitchen on a budget can seem impossible. New appliances aren't cheap. Neither are countertops and cabinets. And what if you are renting and can't actually make big changes?

Despite those common road blocks, you can still give your kitchen a facelift on the cheap. Here are nine simple and affordable ways to make your kitchen feel brand new, even when it isn't.

Create a color scheme

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One of the easiest ways to give your kitchen a tiny facelift is by creating a theme or color palette and sticking to it.

For instance, you can start by buying new kitchen towels (to hang from the stove handle, of course). Whatever primary color(s) you choose for the towels, you should also choose for the different accessories and kitchen tools, such as pot holders, accent rugs, coffee mugs and, if you're feeling spendy, a Kitchenaid mixer.

Having a color scheme throughout the kitchen will make everything look more cohesive and put together.

Change your cabinet knobs

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Another affordable and simple way to spruce up your kitchen is to replace the handles or knobs on cabinet doors and drawers.

Sure, you can head to your local hardware store and pick out some new knobs and drawer pulls. But if you want to stray from the standard look, look online at shops like Etsy or locally in stores like World Market, Anthropologie, or your local hobby or craft store for something more original.

This will set your kitchen apart from all the others and you won't have to spend thousands to do it. Admittedly, some drawer pulls and cabinet handles can get rather expensive in a hurry, especially if you have a lot to replace.

Temporary backsplash treatments

Replacing a backsplash doesn't have to be an expensive project. You can often find discounted backsplash tile and do it yourself pretty cheaply. However, the time and effort of doing it yourself can be mitigated by simply covering what you already have.

Not only is this affordable, you can make it a semipermanent installation so it's easily removed later if you decide you really don't like it or when you move out of your rental. Then you don't have to worry about replacing it with something else. You can just remove it and you're back to square one without having to do a totally new installation.

For a temporary or easily removable backsplash, you could paint several pieces of thin plywood, peel-and-stick backsplash tiles or upholstery fabric stretched over and glued to sheets of acrylic.

Watch this: Build a gallery wall perfectly every time

Put countertop ingredients in jars

Another design choice that can bring your kitchen up to speed is to store commonly used ingredients in glass jars.

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you frequently use sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper and other ingredients and have them out in the open, all the different containers, branding and labels can make the counter seem cluttered and disorganized. 

Storing everything in matching glass jars and containers will cut down on the visual clutter and make everything appear more organized, as if those items belong on the counter.

Create stations

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Also, consider reorganizing the items on the counter to create stations for different things you may do in the kitchen. For instance, place everything related to coffee in the same area on the counter.

Anything used for breakfast — the toaster and coffee pot — should be in their own section. You might want a separate space for a prep station, where you keep all your knives and cutting boards together. Not only does this help you be more efficient with your time in the kitchen, it can also make the counter tops look less cluttered by having everything grouped together.

Clear off countertops

What about all those things you rarely use but take up tons of counter space? Put them away. Store the blender and Instant Pot or slow cooker in a cabinet until you're ready to use them.

This doesn't just go for larger appliances, though. Even if you keep some utensils and ingredients out, store the ones you use least often when they're not in use. You'd be surprised how much neater your kitchen looks when you don't keep every cooking utensil in your arsenal on display.

Change the lights to smart bulbs

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An extremely easy-to-make change is the light bulbs . You can place smart bulbs in hanging lights and recessed lighting.

With this, you change the lighting throughout the day to match the mood. Bright white light might be helpful while you cook. But a softer light might be better while you get your coffee early in the morning. And late at night, you can have dim, warm lights to help lull you to back to sleep after your midnight snack.

New floor coverings

Another simple way to upgrade your kitchen is by mixing up the floors. If it's been a while since you changed the kitchen rug, swap it out for a new one. And if you've chosen a color theme for the kitchen, make sure to choose one that complements that (a direct match might be a little bit over the top).

If the flooring is in need of an update and you're not ready for a large renovation, consider peel-and-stick tiles or a floating floor.

Add a smart speaker

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Every kitchen can benefit from a smart speaker. They can help you create a grocery list, suggest recipe ideas, help you pair wine and beer with food, let you catch up on news or audiobooks while you clean or cook, and so much more.

Read more: 12 ways to use Alexa in the kitchen

Unfortunately, they're not much to look at. However, you can disguise your Alexa or Google Home speaker so it will match your kitchen theme or perhaps blend in. You can get creative with a flush-mounted install or make the speaker look like a piece of decor.

If you have the wall space, consider hanging some wall art (which also doesn't have to break the bank).

Check out other ways you can give your home a makeover.