Open lower cabinet with new slide out shelving

Rollout shelves are a perfect upgrade for lower cabinets where items get lost in the back.

When it comes to updating your kitchen, not everyone has the budget (or the time or patience) for a full remodel. However, there are ways to upgrade your kitchen without going through a full gut and construction project. Ways to not only make your kitchen look better, but ways to make it more functional, too.

First, is to update a kitchen that looks dated. Different things like cabinet style, color, countertops, or backsplash can all age a kitchen. If the look of the cabinets is the main problem but they’re in good shape structurally, then you have the option to refinish them. If they are solid wood, you might have the option to re-stain them; however, that is typically a labor-intensive (and expensive) process. The best bang for your buck would be to paint them. Painting your cabinets gives you near endless options of colors to choose from and can completely transform the look of your space.

The next problem area might be the countertops. Laminate and solid surface options, like Corian, are mostly out now, and stone is in.  Granite prices are typically lower than Corian now and offer a more natural, updated look. The variety of colors and styles will give you options while giving you a surface that will hold up better to heat, spills, and dings. If you want something that is even more durable, then quartz is a great option. This is a more expensive choice, but if your kitchen is not oversized, then the price per square foot difference might not be a huge jump and may be worth the upgrade to a material that’s virtually maintenance-free.

When replacing your countertops, it’s a great time to also replace your sink and sink faucet.  If you’re going from laminate to stone tops, I highly recommend switching to an undermount sink.  You’ll eliminate the dreaded lip around your sink that sits on the countertop and is so difficult to keep clean. There are lots of undermount sink options out there, too.  Ones with split bowls, one large bowl, partial divides, and ones that come with accessories like strainers and cutting boards. Depending on how much prepping and cooking you do, you can choose the right sink to fit your specific needs.  Sink faucets also come in a variety of styles and finishes. Some even have the option of a touch feature for when you’re working with raw meat or other messes and don’t want to spread the germs.

Some other minor changes that you could take on yourself without having to make changes to your cabinets or countertops would be to update your backsplash tile, change out cabinet hardware, and of course, paint the walls. Changing out backsplash tile is best left to a professional, unless you are a DIY-er who has some experience working with tile, of course. But changing out hardware or painting is something almost any homeowner can do on their own. When changing out hardware, you can even look at options like slow-close hinges to give your kitchen a high-end feel with minimal cost.

When it comes to upgrading the functionality in an existing kitchen, there are several things that I often suggest. In standard lower cabinets, we all know how difficult it can be to bend down and get those items that have fallen to the back void of the cabinet. In these cabinets, I love to install roll-out shelves to make the cabinet easier to organize and make sure nothing gets lost in the back. These can be ordered online or sometimes through a local handyman or carpenter who also can help with installation.  There are lots of other cabinetry additions, like drawer dividers, tray/baking sheet dividers, trash can pull-outs, etc. Again, a lot of these can be ordered online with installation instructions or a handyman can help install them.

Another functionality upgrade I recommend is to update lighting.  One of the most important things in a kitchen is good lighting, because no one wants to be cooking or entertaining in the dark.  Having an electrician add recessed lighting to replace an old fluorescent light or adding pendant lighting over an island or peninsula can make a big difference. In addition to good overhead lighting, it’s also important to have good task lighting. That could include a light over your sink or adding in undercabinet lighting. Undercabinet lighting comes in lots of options from hardwired to plug-in to battery-powered, depending on your budget.  These are great features to add much-needed light in your workspaces.

If you’re not quite ready for a full-blown remodel, making any of these updates to your kitchen will help bring it into the current times and make it more functional for everyday use.

Photo: courtesy Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling