How to refresh or update a kitchen

When you work from home, the kitchen becomes even more important.  I change my work areas around and spend time working on my laptop on the kitchen table.  I can then see out into the front garden. This feels much more peaceful than working and looking at the side fence. The improvement to my work at home enjoyment is a direct result of a  recent kitchen update.

The versatility of a kitchen

The kitchen is a very versatile room. You are in it at least for the 3 meals each day and at other times to get drinks. It is the room you go to when you’re on a break and we often use it to entertain friends making cups of tea and coffee while we talk.  A functional and pleasant kitchen is essential in this day and age and it is absolutely necessary for work-at-home mums.

Remodel a kitchen instead of renew Woman Painting Kitchen Cabinets

A new kitchen can easily cost $20,000-$40,000 depending on how much you intend to spend or do. Sometimes we don’t need the old kitchen removed and totally replaced. There are some easy and cheap ways to dress up an old kitchen This is a realistic option if money isn’t flush or the carcass of the cupboards don’t really need replacing.  If all you need is a re-fresh then we have all the tips you need.

Where to start with refreshing your kitchen?

I want you to start by standing in your kitchen.  Take a long hard honest look at what you have, then ask these questions, answering them honestly.

The Questions

  1. Are the cupboard insides still in good order and work well for you?
  2. Do you have enough storage space for all your things? Does the floor plan work for your family now?
  3. Are the surfaces and colours up to date, are they fresh and look good?
    • Do the cupboards need a facelift?
    • Is the splashback looking clean, modern and do you like it now?
    • Does the floor look dated and is it practical?
    • Does the countertop look dated and tired, is it practical for today living?
  4. Do your appliances still work well, are they what you want to use in your kitchen

The Answers

Question 1 – Cupboards

If you answered “no”, this will determine if you need to scrap your kitchen and start from scratch again.  If the carcass is not strong, the laminate insides are chipped and water has warped the shelves or frame, then you will need to gut it totally and start again.   There is nothing you can do for a kitchen in this condition.

Question 2 – Storage and Layout

If you answered “no”, this will determine if you need to add more cupboards and or re-structure what you already have.

Will adding an island bench give you what you need?  An island will give you extra preparation work bench, cupboards under the counter and an area for people to sit if you extend it out to make a bar. Can you or do you need to extend the kitchen to add an additional full-length cupboard or pantry and will this be enough space for your needs?  Or can you turn an adjacent room into a butler’s pantry, giving you a whole extra area to the kitchen?  This will save you having to replace your kitchen, it still might cost a bit, but could save you heaps too.

Question 3 – Existing kitchen surfaces

Kitchen cupboard facelift –

By painting the kitchen cupboards, you can totally change the look of the whole kitchen.  You will need to prep the surfaces before you paint them so the new paint sticks to the laminate.  Choosing a neutral or bright white tone you will be adding a clean sophisticated look which will be fresh and cheerful.

The other alternative to painting your cupboards is to replace the cupboard doors with new doors, this will mean you can alter the style of the cupboards, changing the total look of the kitchen.

Change the splashback

Updating the splashback can make a huge difference, there are lots of different options and a huge price disparity depending on what you choose, but with the savings you make on not replacing the whole kitchen might mean there is more to spend if you choose to do so.

  • Tile splashbackTiled splashback

Tiles are the cheapest option, they are functional, long lasting and there is a huge variety of colours and textures to choose from giving you handcrafted or more uniform look.  You can choose between bold pattens of various shapes, plain large or small or penny-round tiles, glass mosaic tiles or plain subway tiles that can be stacked, laid in brick pattens or on their side or a herringbone pattens they all give different looks too.  Visiting lots of different tile shops will be a visual feast and give you lots of ideas of what you can do. 

  • Shiplap as a backsplash

Shiplap is a cheaper alternative, yet a very country and warm alternative, although not as durable, easy to scrub and clean as tiles, it is easily painted when it starts to look grubby and stains can’t be removed from the paint.  It is also easy to change the look of the kitchen by painting the shiplap a different colour.  White, while modern and clean is a very neutral colour, however painting the backsplash a darker colour like charcoal, black or a deep green can make a statement and change the mood of the kitchen. 

  • A glass splashback

A glass splashback can be expensive, but often we don’t have huge areas, so the cost isn’t that bad overall.  It is a good alternative because it requires no maintenance, there is no grout to clean and it will always look the same.  There are companies that will mount photo’s onto the back of the glass making a statement and a feature of the kitchen, or you can choose a plain colour.

  • Extending the countertop to a splashback

You could extend the counter top surface up the wall. For example, if you are using a quartz, granite or solid surface on the countertop, this could be run up the wall a few inches or all the way to the bottom of the cupboards on top.  This looks really elegant and very expensive, so consider this as an alternative when you are looking at what you will put on your splashback.

Choosing a new floor for your kitchen. 

Consideration has to be given to the flooring in adjacent rooms.  The best results are achieved when the floor surface runs through all the house. Open areas will look larger and much airier.  Flooring needs to be durable as well as look good.  The most popular kitchen flooring for a long time is the tile. Large tiles, while very visually appealing and practical, can be cold under feet and not very forgiving when you drop something.  While tiles are still very popular, timber flooring and vinyl planks are taking over for the warm appeal they give to the home.  A quiet word of warning. If you are changing from one style of flooring to another there may be a lot of labour or expense in pulling up the old flooring. Ask a few extra questions before you make your decision.

Countertops make a differenceSelection of laminates for countertops

A new countertop can have a huge impact on the look of a kitchen. It can be a statement piece or subtlety elegant especially if stone is used.

  • Quartz countertops

Quartz countertops are a very practical, nonporous and guards against germs and bacteria they are durable, maintenance and worry free, they are stain, heat and scratch resistance with a variety of colours and patterns to choose from.

  • Granite countertops

Each slab of granite is totally unique, there are no other pieces with exactly the same markings, they are beautiful, scratch and heat resistant.  Once sealed they are bacteria and stain resistance.

  • Solid surface countertops

Solid surface countertops are a clever choice, they are more affordable yet practical, nonporous and stain and bacteria resilient.  If scratched they can easily be repaired and it comes in a large variety of patterns and colours to choose from.

  • Laminate countertops

A fabulous budget-friendly alternative, there is a huge variety of colours, patterns, styles and finishes for you to choose from.  They are very low maintenance, but you must be careful with exposure to heat and they do scratch easily.

  •  Timber or butcher-block countertops

A timber bench top is a feature to any kitchen, they can be used as a feature to islands, bar areas or throughout the kitchen.  They can be rustic or more pristine and elegant, environmentally friendly, they can scratch and mark very easily and need to be coated in two-pack varnish or food-safe mineral oil to guard against water damage.

Question 4 – Your appliances

Replacing your old appliances can make a huge difference to a kitchen. Changing the white enamel appliances to stainless steel or black will change the look quickly.  Modern-looking stainless steel or contemporary black appliances can be a cheap quick fix. Check that the new appliances will fit in to the space of the old ones. If you don’t measure carefully, be prepared for alterations to adjoining cupboards. The same applies if you decide to change the kitchen sink and taps. Make sure the new ones will fit into the existing holes or you will need to replace the benchtop too.


Refreshing and updating a tired kitchen is a great way of extending the life of a kitchen that isn’t really needing to be replaced.  The look can be amazing and the savings great, it is well worth considering before you embark on the expensive gut and replace.

Julie G is our renovation queen, growing up with a father who was a builder, she has been traipsing around building sites and home renovations all her life.  With a passion to turn old decrepit buildings into amazing new homes, she really is the expert in renovating your home.  


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