Kitchen Makeovers Without The Renovation

Cassandra Turner

Interior Designer

It’s hard to get your ‘golden-globules-of-goodness Nigella’ on in a kitchen that that looks and feels dated, cramped or downright ugly. More than ever, kitchens are cementing their place as the hub of the home; a place not only to cook, but to gather with friends, family and housemates, to entertain, to eat, and to generally spend time in. For some time now, we have seen kitchens designed to integrate with the rest of the home, both architecturally and aesthetically. Kitchens have morphed from functional spaces that look like, well, kitchens, to spaces that are layered with a blend of materials and finishes, lighting and even furniture. The result is a welcoming space that has warmth, personality and mood.

Laminate kitchen

Kitchens are well known as one of the key influencers for home buyers. An inviting kitchen can create such emotional connection, it can go a long way to selling a home on its own. However, in the current economic climate, not everyone has the resources or desire to undertake a complete kitchen renovation. There are, however, a number of ways that you can update a kitchen to feel fresh and current without embarking on a full demolition.

Think of the kitchen as an extension of the living space. Before you start, look at the style of your home and the existing kitchen and decide what change will create the biggest impact (that is, what really needs updating the most). You may just need to change one thing to make a huge difference. Take your time to identify the condition of your kitchen and the look that you would like to create.

One of the major interior tends to come out of the Paris design fair Mason & Object this year was metallics. Think gold, copper and bronze in varying textures and finishes. This is a relatively easy and very effective trend to incorporate into an existing kitchen through cabinetry hardware, splashbacks, tapware, accessories or even the cabinetry itself.

Raw, natural materials are also being seen everywhere in the home and translate into the kitchen beautifully. Timber, stone, marble and concrete can be layered with metallics, paint and other finishes to create a much softer and more natural effect than we have seen in the very clinical kitchens of the past.

Here’s our top tips for updating a kitchen without going all the way…

Gold cabinets

Cabinets & Benchtops

New cabinets and benchtops will offer the most impactful transformation. To achieve this without ripping out the entire cabinetry, consider updating the cabinetry face only – that is, either painting or replacing the cabinetry doors, side panels and drawer fronts, retaining the internal carcasses. As long as the carcasses are not badly water damaged, mouldy or cracked, a good internal clean and fresh cabinetry fronts can make the entire cabinetry feel and look new.

If your existing cabinetry is timber, you can choose to simply paint. The most effective solution is to have the doors and drawer fronts removed and taken away to be sprayed by a professional. Use a low sheen or semi-gloss paint for a modern look that is still easily cleanable. Dulux Wash & Wear Kitchen & Bathroom Low Sheen is stain and mark resistant and low VOC. Black or grey cabinets are striking and very on-trend, or choose a feature colour to lift the mood.


If your existing cabinetry is either heavily lacquered (in which case painting may not be an option) or a non-paintable finish like laminate, then replacing the fronts is the solution for you. Laminex and Polytec are two popular choices that have a great range of colours, finishes and textures, including timber looks. Remember to consider the style of the home and your colour scheme in adjoining rooms (essential if your kitchen is open plan).

For cabinetry in decent condition but lacking personality, try bringing in colour or texture with accessories or new cabinetry hardware. These could be metallic, timber, or powdercoated.

Copper handles


Remember, benchtops and cabinets are best buddies, so if you embark on new cabinets, be sure your benchtop holds up its part of the bargain and looks good enough to complement them. Sometimes it’s just a tired or dated benchtop letting the kitchen down all on its own. Quartz surfaces are the go-to for many designers. Unlike natural stone, they are non-porous, scratch and stain resistant. Lightly and heavily veined marble and concrete are very now and work with a myriad of kitchen styles. Look at Caeserstone, Essastone or Silestone for inspiration. Alternatively, for more cost effective solutions, try Laminex or even Ikea.

Wood kitchen bench

Walls and splashbacks

A lick of fresh paint is transformative and a great option for renters (with landlord approval of course). Keep the colour fresh and neutral if you want to bring light into the space, taking into consideration the colours of your cabinetry, benchtop and floor as well as the walls in adjacent rooms. If you are looking for a more moody space, go dark, black and grey kitchens are also hugely on trend and many materials really pop against dark walls.

A great way to inject personality into a kitchen is the splashback. There are a myriad of amazing options available now including concrete-look porcelain tiles, patterned tiles, mosaics, subway tiles and a variety of speciality metallic finishes. A mirrored splashback can open up a small space and bring in light – just be aware of what you are reflecting – or it can create even more chaos. You can also re-grout existing tiles if they are in decent condition. Try using coloured grout for a fresh and fun look. Alternatively raw brick can give the space a warehouse feel.

Copper kitchen


Pendant lighting in kitchens can be transformative and definitely makes the space feel like an extension of the living area. Be conscious of height restrictions and remember that you cannot hang pendants directly in front of operable cabinetry. Over an open island or benchtop is best. This is another item that can bring a great blend of natural materials into the kitchen space.
Wood kitchen bench


A great looking kitchen can look even better with amazing tapware. Taps now come in a variety of finishes including powder coated (in a range of colours) or brass and copper in various finish options in both minimal and old-school styles.

Gold pendant lights

Hardware and accessories

A few of the simplest and least time consuming ways to update a kitchen are to replace the handles on your cabinetry (think great copper, brass or black handles), bring in a great accessory or two on the benchtop in a combination of materials, and if you have countertop, there are some stunning bar stools on the market in finishes like timber, steel and leather that, combined with one other element like new pendants can make your old kitchen feel worthy of a day or night of decadent cooking and entertaining.


Images – Kitchen Makeovers Without The Renovation:,,,,,

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