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Make your kitchen feel more modern with these 6 simple ideas

Tired of looking at your mid-century modern decor? Perhaps you’ve spent a ton of time in your home over the last several months and are bored with the colors of your walls. Maybe you feel like your kitchen could use some better lighting. Much like a new haircut, making a few small and easy kitchen updates can feel like a major refresh.

However, you may not be able to pinpoint exactly where to start. There are ever-changing trends and endless options. You also may not want to invest a whole lot of time or money into the project. That’s okay. There are plenty of small ways to modernize kitchen spaces. We went trend-spotting for you and can recommend these six simple upgrades.

Trade dated hardware for something sleek

Not all kitchen updates are drastic. Take a look at the hardware on your drawers and cabinets. Perhaps you have hinges that look vintage. However, if you’re looking to modernize your kitchen, the word “vintage” may feel like code for “dated.” Consider swapping these hinges for hardware in matte black and weathered nickel, two on-trend finishes. When deciding which direction to go in, think about your cabinet and drawer color. Black finishes tend to go best with light or white cabinets and drawers, while nickel pairs well with darker ones. Though neither will stand out like an accent wall, either will up the sophistication of your space and make it feel fresh and current.

Getting warmer: Give your walls an inviting update

We stare at the same wall every time we sit down to eat a meal or work from our kitchen counters. Some people love the familiarity. Others may need to change it up after a while. Though bright-colored accent walls have a certain wow-factor, consider going with a more muted look with a tile backsplash. It’s less likely to go out of style next year, and looking at calming colors can make you feel relaxed. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to neutrals, like tried-and-getting-trite gray. Experts share that wine reds, deep greens, and rich browns add subtle warmth to a space.


Repaint your cabinets instead

If you love your wall color but are ready to leave your cabinet look, refresh that instead. White cabinetry is having a moment, and it can make your kitchen feel as crisp as a fresh-picked apple in September. This trend isn’t for everyone—those with small children whose tiny (messy) hands like to pry open cabinets to eat all the snacks may want to steer clear. However, people with older children or the double-income-no-kids crowd may be ripe for this change. Sherwin-Williams Snowbound is a favorite of interior designers. For something a bit warmer, check out Decorator’s White at Benjamin Moore.   

Let there be (woven) light

Nothing feels gloomier than a dark kitchen on a rainy day. If you get stuck at work and eat dinner after the sun sets, eating in a darkened area can add insult to injury. Brighten up your space and add a touch of style by adding new light fixtures. Mid-century modern saw a rise in industrial-style lighting that looked sleek but at times felt a bit dark and heavy. Create an effortless and airy vibe with woven light fixtures instead. Designers are loving lighting fixtures made with light, natural materials like bamboo and rattan. These fixtures pair particularly well with the also-trending warm-colored tile backsplashes and white cabinetry.

Dane Deaner/Unsplash

Float on (and reduce clutter) with shelves

To be perfectly blunt, clutter will never look stylish. However, if you prefer to buy your coffee and baking ingredients in bulk, you may find that you lack counter and pantry space in your kitchen. Floating shelves can nix this issue and leave the space looking less cramped. These shelves, which by the way, are trending on Instagram, also allow you to add some personality to your kitchen. Perhaps you bought some cool decorative ceramic plates the last time you were in Italy and want to show them off. Adding open shelving makes space for you to do that.

The simplest life: Just add small touches

Of all the kitchen updates you can make, this idea may be the simplest. Instead of drilling holes in your wall or breaking out paintbrushes (or calling a pro to do the job), create a curated kitchen with small touches. This trend is particularly easy to implement if you already have floating shelves or pantry doors made of glass. Simply add cookbooks, artwork, plants, or decorative items from your travels to shelves, glazed pantries, open counter space, or even your kitchen table. It’s easy to swap these items out (if you get bored of them), or you can get rid of them entirely if curated kitchens go out of style.

We spend a ton of time in our kitchens—eating, entertaining, cooking, and working. After a while, it can start looking kind of stale. You don’t need to spring for a $25,000 full kitchen renovation to spice things up, though. A few simple tweaks, like new lighting or refreshing the color of your cabinets or tile backsplash, can help modernize kitchen areas. Before starting, think about your lifestyle, family, and needs. If you have children, white cabinetry may not be for you. However, you may need to clear the clutter off your counters and benefit from adding some floating shelves. Then, carve out a budget for your easy kitchen updates and consider finding a pro to ensure the job gets done correctly.

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BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
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