21 Little Ways to Refresh Your Kitchen for 2021

updated Jan 8, 2021
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Happy 2021! Or, more specifically, day number 294 since most of us have been at home. While we all wait for our vaccines, many of us continue to spend way more time in our kitchens than we ever imagined we would. We’re all cooking more, yes. We’re also, um, staring at these spaces day in and day out. Which means things that never really bothered us before — ugly countertops, boring walls, unorganized drawers — have found impressive new ways to get under our skin.

That’s where this post comes in. We’ve rounded up 21 little ways (for 2021, get it?) to refresh any kitchen. These tips lean in to making kitchens more aesthetically pleasing, while a few will help your space hum a little better, or get you excited to be in there … still. And they’re all simple enough to pull off on your own. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

1. Adjust the height of some shelves.

When was the last time you adjusted the shelves of any of your cabinets? Your storage needs have likely changed, but your shelves probably haven’t. Pinpoint your most annoying cabinet and then ask yourself if the shelves are working for you. If they’re not, try raising or lowering a shelf to better fit your needs. If you find this makes a big difference, consider checking out the rest of your cabinets, too.

Credit: Emma Fiala

2. Add puck lights under your upper cabinets.

Good lighting can make a big difference. Not only will puck lights under your upper cabinets help you see what you’re doing, they can also be flicked on to set a different kind of mood. We love these battery-powered lights from Home Depot, which can be ordered online and installed without any special hardwiring. Bonus: They come with a remote control!

Credit: Namamat

3. Get a pretty floor mat.

A pretty floor mat (or even a simple rug) can cover up unsightly flooring, liven up your space, and make things more comfy for you while you work. Interested? Check out The House of Noa, who makes the world’s prettiest anti-fatigue mats. They look like vintage rugs and feel like a mouse pad for your feetsies.

4. Add some washi tape.

This is a little one: Turns out, most washi tape is the same width as cabinet shelves. Take a few minutes to roll some out on the edges inside a few cabinets. We find it adds a fun pop of color and makes us smile every time we open a door to get something.

5. Hang up a new piece of art.

We’re huge fans of art in the kitchen. (Just keep it away from the sink or stove, if it’s pricey!) If you already have stuff hung up, consider rearranging it with other pieces from around the house. If art in the kitchen is new to you, give it a try. You can even lean a frame up against a wall (on a shelf or counter) if you want to try it without putting a nail in the wall.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Go through your junk drawer.

Honestly, this could be fun! Take everything out of your junk drawer. Get rid of stuff you don’t need. Find new homes for things that don’t belong in there. And put the keepers back in a more organized way. Even with the drawer closed, you’ll feel much better about things whenever you walk into your kitchen.

7. Swap out your hardware.

Designers call hardware “jewelry for your cabinets.” So it makes sense that swapping out knobs and pulls will give your kitchen a new look. They can be a bit pricey, but we love the look and quality of the options at Schoolhouse Electric and Rejuvenation.

8. Get some new dish towels.

Similarly, a pretty dish towel that’s hung up on your oven handle or a hook can help add color and texture to your kitchen. We love these from Food52, and these from Williams Sonoma, and these cheap-o ones from Amazon.

9. Add some hooks.

Hooks turn unused wall space into storage space. And they also make a room look more fun and interesting. (Proof: How fun and interesting is that kitchen above?) Add hooks for towels, aprons, hanging plants, measuring cups, and more. You can even add hooks to the bottom of shelves/upper cabinets and hang mugs from them. Or add Command hooks to the back of cabinet doors for added storage.

10. Pick out three things to donate.

A blanket statement like “declutter your kitchen!” can be overwhelming. So instead, your assignment right now is to just find three things that you can give away to a friend or donate. Look for things you have multiples of or never use. We’ll revisit this idea again soon.

11. Get a sponge holder.

You might not think a sponge holder will make that much of a difference, but think about stepping up to this sink to find the sponge just sitting there … at the bottom of the sink. A sponge holder helps your sponge last longer. And it makes the sink area look prettier. We’re obsessed with this pretty ceramic version from Etsy.

Credit: Isabel Pavia | Getty Images

12. Treat yourself to one new kitchen tool you’ve been wanting.

Yes, we were talking about decluttering just a second ago. But you deserve a treat! Buy yourself something (anything!) that you’ve been wanting that might get you excited to be in the kitchen again. Could be a $5 spoon rest or a fancy new carbon steel skillet. Whatever you can afford and happen to be excited about.

13. Remove one cabinet door.

This is an old rental trick for people who hate their cabinet doors. Ready? Just take one or two doors off. You can easily do it with just a screwdriver. Take off the hinges, too (save them somewhere in case you need to put everything back). You’ll have an instant display area and you can arrange your favorite dishes in a pretty little vignette. And you can keep all your other stuff hidden behind the remaining doors.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

14. Add some labels.

They don’t even have to be pretty ones done up in calligraphy! Just add labels (to containers, shelves, bins, etc.) so that you and everyone else in your household know where things go. It will bring you so much peace of mind. And even basic, ugly labels end up looking nice somehow!

15. Embrace self-adhesive paper.

See that “butcher block counter” in this kitchen above? It’s actually just self-adhesive paper! Use some to transform your countertops. We’ve even seen people use the stuff on their fridge.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

16. Paint the walls.

A lot of these sorts of lists will suggest painting your cabinets. We’ve done it and we can tell you that is NOT an easy task. (You can definitely do it, but it’s not as easy as the other things on this list.) Instead, we suggest just painting a wall or three.

17. Bring in some plants.

Plants can do so much to transform a space! Steal a bunch from other rooms or order some online. (Yes, you can successfully order plants online!) If you’re shopping for some, we love the options at Bloomscape.

Credit: Cat Meschia/Kitchn

18. Swap out a light.

Lighting work can be intimidating, but it’s really not that complicated. If you’re changing out a light, you just need to be sure you kill the breaker (double check with a voltage tester!) and then you wrap wires around other wires. See? Not hard! If you still want something simpler, check out this kit from Home Depot, which allows you to hang a stylish pendant light from a recessed light.

19. Bring in an island.

Even if your kitchen doesn’t have a built-in island, you can bring one in. Wheel in an island cart for an updated look and more storage.

20. Display some collectables.

Okay, this (above) is a LOT of collectables, but you get the point. Collect vintage tea cups? Old jadeite? Consider setting up a shelf to really show off your collection.

21. Install a temporary backsplash.

While tiling and grout work is not much of an easy project, these peel-and-stick Smart Tiles are pretty foolproof. Just read this story first.

Are you doing anything to refresh your kitchen in 2021? Tell us about your plan in the comments below!