How to update an outdated small kitchen — what to ditch and 7 tricks to transform your tiny space

Say goodbye to drab and hello to fab by learning how to update an outdated small kitchen

Learning how to update an outdated small kitchen is always useful. Here is a white small kitchen with light wooden cupboards, white cabinets with a silver microwave within it, a sink, and a white rectangular kitchen
(Image credit: Steph Everett)

You may want to find out how to update an outdated small kitchen if you've looked around yours and felt it needs a refresh.

It's easy to bring it into the modern day with the right techniques. We've spoken with interior designers to find out what you can do, from fresh coats of paint to layering luscious lighting.

Using these small kitchen ideas to revamp your place will make it a much more inviting place to cook up a storm and entertain guests.

How to update an outdated small kitchen

When learning how to design a small kitchen, knowing how to bring an outdated one into the present is useful to do if you aren't decorating a room from scratch.

We have also scouted out buys to help you do this throughout, wherever our experts have recommended certain products.

1. Ditch drab surfaces, try repainting

A white small kitchen with light wooden cupboards, white cabinets with a silver microwave within it, a sink, and a white rectangular kitchen island with three black circular wooden stools underneath it

(Image credit: Steph Everett)

If you own your apartment or home, grabbing a brush and going for one of the best paint colors for small kitchens will give the space a major boost.

“Going with a warm white or off-white can give your cabinets a fresh look that is still neutral,” explains Amanda Wiss, design expert and founder of Urban Staging and Urban Clarity.

A picture of Amanda Wiss, a woman wearing a purple top in front of gray shelves
Amanda Wiss

Amanda Wiss is a design expert and founder of Urban Clarity, a home organizing company. She is also the founder of home staging studio Urban Staging, whose design-savvy team gets homes market ready, which often includes updating small kitchens.

By doing this, Amanda says the walls will change color slightly as the sunlight passes through, giving your kitchen several different feelings throughout the day.

2. Maximize space in your kitchen island

A kitchen with a teal blue splashback and kitchen island which has a black granite surface and sink, two cream bar chairs and three hanging pendant lights above it

(Image credit: Tosti Design Inc / Brady Architectural Photography)

Once you’ve figured out where to put kitchen island in a small kitchen, you can use this addition to enhance your kitchen functionally as well as stylishly.

“The best way to make the most out of your small kitchen is to maximize the utility of the kitchen island,” says Ayten Nadeau, founder and principal designer of i-Ten Designs.

A picture of Ayten Nadeau, a woman with a blonde bob wearing a white puffed shirt and white jeans leaning on a white counter sitting down, with a black counter in the background
Ayten Nadeau

Ayten Nadeau is the founder and principal designer of i-Ten Designs based in Raleigh North Carolina. Her interior and architecture studio is infused with global perspectives for clients who are looking for unique and discerning spaces and rooms, from living rooms to kitchens.

She explains, “Kitchen islands are a great place to place the dishwasher, microwave, and sink.”

You could even integrate one of the best kitchen trash cans into this. For example, this Amazon Basics Trash Can has over 28,000 five-star reviews.

3. Replace old hardware with stylish ones

A kitchen corner with a marble panel, a white wall shelf with a trailing plant and plates, a white surfaces with cookbooks, a bowl of small green fruit and a container of wooden utensils, and a dark gray drawer

(Image credit: @mcclark_bespoke_kitchens and @snookphotograph)

When it comes to adding sparkle to your kitchen, one of the best ways to make a small space look luxe is by removing dusty handles and replacing them with new shiny ones. The Brass and Marble door knob from Anthropologie is gorgeous and comes highly rated by happy shoppers. We also can't resist the set of two Nena Flower Knobs from Anthropologie, which are a perfect pair for cabinets.

“Replacing old hardware of cabinets and drawers with contemporary handles or knobs is an easy and very impactful way to update this room,” says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky is an interior design expert and founder of Arsight, which has twice been honored as finalists in the international SBID Awards and acknowledged in the NYCxDESIGN Awards. He has a decade of extensive and global residential and commercial interior design experience and has refreshed countless kitchens within this time.

He adds, “It is similar to adding jewelry to an outfit, in the sense it can make something feel new without going through expensive renovations.”

We’re into these stunning Amerdeco Brushed Brass Cabinet Pulls on Amazon, which you can get in various sizes.

4. Ditch mess, add clever storage

A white kitchen wall with two wooden shelves with white decor and flowers on the top one, glass canisters with grains and coffee grounds on the next, and a wooden chopping block with orange mugs and a French press on the counter

(Image credit: ProCook)

Finding out the best small kitchen storage ideas will help give yours a sleek finish, thanks to keeping all your different items neatly stashed away.

“One way you can do this is by adding in open shelving to allow more room to store dishes, while also putting them on display,” explains Amanda Foster, interior designer and founder of Foster Decor.

If you're able to mount items on the wall and have the space to do so, you could try a multi-functional item such as the Manchester plate rack from Pottery Barn.

A picture of Amanda Foster, a woman in a black shirt with cobalt blue trousers sitting on the floor with a black side table with a spider plant on it to her left
Amanda Foster

Amanda Foster is an award-winning, accredited (BA in Interior design) Californians international Designer and interior designer, who specializes in creating bold, vibrant and colorful spaces throughout the home. Known for thinking outside the box and with edgy designs, Amanda works with home owners to create a space to truly reflect their personalities. 

When doing this, Amanda advises adding shelves which go all the way up to the ceiling, with items you rarely use at the top and more frequently used at eye level. This The Twillery Co. Storage Rack from Wayfair is a bold option.

You could even DIY your own shelves to ensure they fit as beautifully in the kitchen as possible.

For those who really can’t keep items off their countertops, you can always go for aesthetic kitchen storage containers (these Vtopmart Storage Jars from Amazon are simple yet chic) for an Insta-style finish.

5. Draw focus upwards

A kitchen with white cabinets and surfaces, a silver fridge, hood, and oven, and a marble white kitchen island with a silver tap, navy blue base, and a silver oven integrated in it

(Image credit: Ayten Nadeau / Amber Robinson Photography)

Instead of trying too hard to distract from the size with lots of decor, simply go for an eye-catching light piece for an elegant finish.

Amanda Foster explains, “A lot of times in apartment living you can’t change things like the countertops or appliances, but you can add lighting to create a focal point.”

“This will not only help you brighten up your small kitchen, making it appear larger, but could also be a bold statement piece lighting fixture,” she adds.

Amanda says to get creative with these, such as adding a mini chandelier (how stunning is this Highland Dunes Dickinson Chandelier from Wayfair?) or even a disco ball (we think this Disco Ball Ice Bucket from Urban Outfitters would get any party started) to your kitchen.

6. Bring in organic touches

A kitchen with white cabinets along the top wall and bottom shelves, a kitchen island with a wooden surface and dark brown wooden stools, a brick accent wall with a curved wooden chair underneath it

(Image credit: Steph Everett)

Even if you want to go for a modern look, adding touches of warmth will make the space feel lived in and refreshed.

Amanda Wiss says, “Add in some warm, organic touches, like the best indoor plants or wood in the form of cutting boards and open shelves.”

By incorporating these in, you can create little vignettes across your kitchen which add to the design without getting in your way.

7. Add a pop of color

A kitchen with ream cabinets, a turquoise blue tiled splashback, a black granite surface with a fruit bowl and books, and a larger black granite surface with a sink and a silver fridge to the left

(Image credit: Tosti Design Inc / Brady Architectural Photography)

We do love minimalist small kitchen ideas, but if you want to add a splash of personality, you can’t go wrong with a little color.

“Add some color to the space, be it through the cabinet, backsplash, or countertops,” says Samantha Tosti, principal designer and co-founder of Tosti Design Inc.

A picture of Samantha Tosti, a woman with a brown bob wearing a champagne colored sparkly top and dark brown leather skirt smiling
Samantha Tosti

Samantha Tosti is the principal designer and co-founder of boutique design firm Tosti Design Inc. She is passionate about integrating functional layouts with a variety of unique objects and materials to create a comfortable home that improves with age.  

She elaborates, “A way to ensure the color you choose will bring you happiness for years to come is to take stock of the pieces in your home you love, such as your favorite art pieces or pottery, and start to pull a color in from that.”

Choosing colors that resonate you love will make your small kitchen a joyful place to be in and are the foundation of dopamine decor.

Whether you want to go for a few quick finishing touches or go all-out with a makeover, there are plenty of gorgeous ways to bring your outdated kitchen into the present.

If you have other rooms in the home you want to zhuzh up, you might also want to find out how to update an outdated small bathroom, so you can get the spa vibes back on track.

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.