It doesn’t matter if you recently renovated your kitchen or have been looking at the same countertops for decades—no one wants the heart of their home to look cheap.
“Your kitchen is one of the hardest-working rooms in the house, so make it a priority by keeping it updated and pleasant to be in,” says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP. Not incidentally, when it comes time to sell your home, it’s one of the rooms potential buyers judge the most.
So take a critical eye to your kitchen as a whole and then dive deep into the details. Paint color, lighting, and clutter all play an important role in keeping your design fresh. To help make your kitchen look more pulled together, here are eight things you should nix—and smart ways to improve them.
“Nothing screams ‘cheap kitchen’ more than outdated fluorescent tube lighting with a yellowing plastic cover,” says Jamie Novak, the organizing guru and author of “Keep This Toss That”.
Plus it tends to give off an eerie greenish hue that’s commonly found in soul-crushing workspaces.
“You don’t want people to associate these lights with office buildings,” says Drew Henry of Design Dudes.
Fixing bad lighting doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Novak recommends replacing it with a budget-friendly chandelier or pendant lights. Henry likes recessed lighting with accent pendants. You can also add a small table lamp to your kitchen counter or remove a curtain valance from a kitchen window to bring in more light, says Gray-Plaisted.
Every cheap-looking kitchen seems to have a linoleum floor, but ripping it up and replacing it with hardwood is an expensive undertaking. To save a little dough, Novak suggests hiding a linoleum floor with a bright rug. Or consider decorative tile instead of hardwood, says Henry.
“It won’t be as big of an investment, but it’ll instantly make the space look more luxe,” Henry says.
Avocado and orange paint in a kitchen may be trendy for a few seasons, but over time it’ll end up looking tired.
“Timeless colors are subtle, so try for whites, cool grays, and other neutrals in the kitchen,” says Henry.
Clutter looks bad, period.
Piles of old mail and a half-dozen small appliances can crowd your countertops and ruin sightlines. The solution: Put everything away that you don’t use on a daily basis, and get into the habit of opening bills and recycling catalogs the minute they enter the house.
And don’t get us started on that row of platters and cheapish baskets that line the top of many kitchen cabinets.
“Keeping anything up there, like teapots or dried flowers, is a dated way to decorate a kitchen,” says Katie McCann, a professional organizer and owner of Haven, a New York–based home and office organizing company. Sparse is your goal, so sweep it all away.
Worn-out drawer knobs
Anything that’s chipped or scratched will bring down the look of your kitchen, especially drawer pulls and knobs. Replacing these fixtures is an inexpensive DIY project that will give the room an instant upgrade.
“Think of them as jewelry for the space,” says Henry.
Reality check: That suspiciously lush-looking potted ivy on top of your refrigerator isn’t fooling anyone. Fake plants have a tendency to look cheap, so nix the plastic foliage and stick with a vase of fresh flowers (or nothing at all).
If you’d like to include some greenery in your kitchen, Novak suggests placing a few potted herbs along the windowsill. You can use them in meals, and thriving plants will elevate your space.
The ideal kitchen look includes appliances with all the same finish.
“Design shows report that stainless is waning and black appliances are emerging,” notes Gray-Plaisted. But if a new fridge or dishwasher that matches isn’t in the budget, you can always cover up the odd duck with peel-and-stick tiles or a piece of fab wallpaper cut to fit and held in place with four strong magnets.
If you must have a free-standing garbage can on the floor, opt for one made of metal, not plastic. Metal is slightly more expensive than plastic, but the investment is worth it for the polished look it’ll bring to your kitchen.
If you can’t spring for a new trash can, try tucking it away.
“Go for a model that will fit in a closet or pantry, or install a cabinet unit that offers the slide-out trash can feature,” says Henry.”