7 dream kitchen upgrades experts promise you won't regret

Looking for simple ways to update your kitchen? These dreamy (and easy) ideas are sure to inspire

Dream kitchen updates
(Image credit: Douglas Friedman/Matt Kisiday/GRT Architects)

The very term 'dream kitchen' sounds unachievable, but it needn't mean a full kitchen remodel or renovation. There are tweaks you can make to your current space that will transform it into your dream kitchen without having to totally overhaul it. 

Rather than seeing your dream kitchen as one whole space, break it down into elements – what does your dream kitchen flooring look like? What is the backsplash made of? What color is it? By seeing your dream as a list of smaller details, you'll be able to see how you can bring some of your dream kitchen ideas into your current space. 

We spoke with designers to get their advice on what relatively simple updates you can do to elevate your space and make your dream kitchen far more achievable. 

7 kitchen updates that will add style and value

When updating a kitchen without replacing it there are plenty of quick fixes (or far quicker than totally remodeling a kitchen anyway) that can give your kitchen a real refresh. From rethinking how you light the space, to adding in some of your dream kitchen colors, here's what the experts recommend focusing on if you want an upgrade.

1.Switch your sink and countertops

Blue kitchen with marble worktop

(Image credit: Matt Kisday/McQuaide Co)

Changing out your kitchen countertops will have a huge impact on the space. Think about how much visual space they take up. Apart from perhaps the color of your kitchen cabinets, the countertop is the next most noticeable element, so change that into a more luxurious material for a dream kitchen upgrade you definitely won't regret. 

You can maximize the impact of a striking stone, such as Arabescato Corchia, with an integrated apron-front sink. ‘It turns a necessary object into a sculptural centerpiece,’ says interior designer Kaitlin McQuaide. ‘While the raw beauty of a stone sink is undeniable and it will never rust or dent, marble is porous and requires re-sealing, so we tend to recommend them for light use.’ For daily use, consider a washing-up bowl or line the base in stainless steel. 

2. Give the flooring some attention

Kitchen with island and patterned tiles

(Image credit: Douglas Friedman/Ryan Street Architects/Studio Seiders)

When the kitchen flooring is on point, the rest will follow. In this simply structured kitchen by Studio Seiders and Ryan Street Architects, the strong, graphic floor certainly grabs attention. 

‘Decorative wood flooring is a great way to infuse character and dimension into a space while staying consistent with the feel of the rest of the house,’ says Emily Seiders, principal designer at Studio Seiders. ‘Choose one stain that matches the general wood flooring, then have fun with the pattern and colors from there.’

3. Change your space quickly with the right lighting

Dark kitchen with marble backsplash and LED lights

(Image credit: Laura Rupolo)

Don’t overlook the impact of perfectly pitched kitchen lighting. Shadow lighting can be a really easy way to literally change how you see your kitchen. As well as creating a relaxing feel, hidden LEDs can be used to show off materials, such as this striking Jade Onyx. 

Luxury kitchen specialist Extreme Design incorporates concealed lighting in its kitchens, especially in open-plan spaces. ‘Such kitchens should elevate in the evenings and become a beautiful backdrop to the interiors they sit within,’ explains creative director Marcello Cuconato.

4.Take your backsplash to the ceiling

Wooden and marble kitchen with statement marble splashback

(Image credit: Charles Yorke)

Soaring backsplash ideas are reaching new levels of sophistication. ‘Not only are they visually stunning, they also protect from splashes and stains that would typically mark traditional emulsion paints,’ says Jack Butterworth, creative manager at Charles Yorke

‘When planning this detail, try to source a backsplash material that is large enough to fabricate from a single slab and in the correct thickness to reduce joints and keep the weight low for a safer installation.’ Here, elegant filigree coving provides a neat stopping point as well as an extra decorative touch.

5. Mix and match materials to add depth and interest

Wooden kitchen with red tiled island

(Image credit: Nicole Franzen/GRT Architects)

Using flooring to zone an open-plan kitchen is an effective way to visually define the role of different areas and allows a switch in materials according to use. GRT Architects works this idea well in this scheme. 

‘The chequerboard tiling in saffron yellow and white is more practical in the kitchen. The colors were chosen to complement the surrounding wooden flooring,’ says partner Tal Schori. ‘We looked to create a feeling that the kitchen, while a “wet area”, had a sense of continuity with the adjacent dining room.’

6. Make the island a focal point

Kitchen with blue tiled island

(Image credit: Lindsay Brown/Annie Downing Interiors)

Add patterned tiles to the front elevation of a kitchen island unit for a pop of color and pattern. Go bold by matching the tiles to those on the backsplash or try a calmer aesthetic by restricting the statement tiles to below eye-level.

‘A tile-front island can serve as a fantastic focal point,’ says Annie Downing, designer, of Annie Downing Interiors. ‘It’s also the ultimate hack for a home with young children who tend to kick at the cabinetry.’

7. Bring in color in liveable ways

White kitchen with red accent cabinet

(Image credit: Salvesen Graham)

A vertical color switch gives a kitchen a more relaxed, freestanding look. The mustard yellow inside the breakfast cupboard in this space designed by Salvesen Graham is a delightful touch and a really simple dream kitchen update to try in your own space.

 ‘It’s hard to make a kitchen feel layered and interesting when most of the room is joinery, so we played with colors instead,’ recalls co-founder Nicole Salvesen. ‘The darker colored unit helps it to feel like a stand-alone piece. This is a great way to create different zones in a room with lots of cabinetry wrapped around the walls.'


How can you make a kitchen feel more luxurious?

The materials you bring into your kitchen can make the space feel more luxurious. Of course, marble will always elevate the space, but brass and really gorgeous textured woods can also give a kitchen that luxurious look. Focus on smaller elements to bring in a sense of luxury, such as a kitchen island worktop, the sink, and the backsplash.

What should a dream kitchen include?

This is personal and depends on what your style and priorities are for your kitchen design. An island is at the top of most people's dream kitchen list, as is a pantry, or if you are going for the ultimate dream kitchen, a back kitchen would be something to include. 

It doesn't just have to be the big things you switch out to upgrade your kitchen. You can update the smaller items too, such as upgrading kitchen items such as knife sets and chopping boards to up your cooking game and improve your overall experience in the kitchen. It is all about the small finishing touches, after all. 

Linda Clayton

Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.