9 small but effective changes to make to your kitchen to freshen it up for the New Year

Resolve to make the minor tweaks that will make a major difference to your kitchen this New Year

modern rustic kitchen with marble backsplash and dark blue cabinets
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan/Photography Julie Soefer)

Like the idea of revitalizing a room for the New Year without the disruption and expense of a remodel? Don't we all. And there are plenty of small changes you can make to your kitchen that have a big impact, so you can start the year with a refreshed design.

Here at H&G, we love the projects that transform rooms entirely, but we also know that kitchen ideas don’t have to involve large-scale changes to be effective. Minor tweaks can give the room a new look and feel that’s just what’s required at New Year.

Here, we’ve put together the expert-recommended tactics that will give the kitchen a makeover and a fresh new feel this January.

Small changes that make a big difference to a kitchen

What better New Year project than refreshing the kitchen? A little effort can bring big benefits since this is the space where every member of the family spends time daily, and likely a room you also share with guests.

These ideas all involve far less upheaval and expense than a kitchen remodel although they do vary in scope. Choose one or more depending on the time available, budget, and how much of a revamp the room needs.

1.Bring in natural elements

kitchen with white units and rattan stools

(Image credit: Sara Tramp)

Make the kitchen a more welcoming space. ‘Adding just a touch of natural material like rattan or wicker can bring warmth and texture,’ says Shawn Zar, interior designer and furniture expert at Superior Seating. 

‘Consider a new set of rattan bar stools as kitchen island seating, or a wicker fruit basket on the counter. It’s a subtle nod to the natural trend and doesn‘t require a big commitment.’

2. Go bold with the backsplash

A backsplash idea for kitchens with blue cabinets and pink tiles

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

Think backsplash ideas to make a huge difference to a kitchen. ‘Use a vibrant backsplash,’ says interior designer Artem Kropovinsky. ‘The color or pattern that can be introduced to the kitchen can transform the entire look and feel of the place.’

You can actually retile a backsplash yourself if you trust your DIY skills so it can be a very budget-friendly way to update a kitchen. Just ensure you pick a design that's going to change the feel of the space and introduce something new, whether that's a different kitchen color, a texture or a shape. 

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky boasts extensive global design experience spanning a decade. With a commitment to sustainability and authenticity, Artem, alongside his dedicated team, undertakes projects both in the US and internationally, earning recognition through prestigious design awards. Artem is the founder of Arsight, an esteemed global design firm known for its expertise in residential and commercial interior design.

3. Swap appliances for something more aesthetically pleasing

traditional kitchen with blue kitchen island cabinets

(Image credit: Future)

The appliances kept on the kitchen countertop can make an impact for all the right reasons. ‘Freshen up appliances and ensure they are all matching colors,’ recommends Lindsey Harn of Christie’s International Real Estate. ‘If possible, matching brands is helpful, too.’ The best places to buy appliances will make finding new designs quick and easy. 

Be sure not to overfill counters, though. Select what’s used most to keep out on display when you’re organizing kitchen appliances.

4. Add a statement light

Blue and green devol kitchen with a chandelier

(Image credit: deVOL)

It’s worth focusing on kitchen lighting to give the room a New Year new lease of life – especially if the current design is all about function with style taking a back seat. ‘Lighting is often overlooked but it can completely change the ambiance,’ says Shawn Zar. ‘Replace an old fixture with something bold and beautiful. It's an instant upgrade that catches the eye.’

Don’t forget it has the potential to lower bills, too, if you’re swapping from an older design. ‘Energy efficient modern lighting improves functionality while setting proper ambiance,’ says Artem Kropovinsky.

5. Introduce plants

Pink and dark blue deVOL kitchen

(Image credit: deVOL)

Make the kitchen a space for growing this New Year. ‘This helps purify air and bring some freshness into the kitchen,’ says Artem Kropovinsky. The best kitchen plants might also provide fresh ingredients for cooking and add natural color, shape, and texture to the decor. 

The key is to have them at different levels to create more impact. A single houseplant on a shelf can just look a bit forlorn. You want plenty adding texture at ground level, at eye level and even above. And bring in a mix of shapes and colors too.

6. Reface cabinets

painted kitchen cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Little Greene)

This change does require a bit more work than some of our other options, but it’s minor compared to a kitchen remodel and will have a transformational effect.

‘Cabinet refacing is a smart solution for sturdy cabinets that look dated,’ explains Erin Davis, lead designer at Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, Oregon. ‘For the most inexpensive remedy, simply paint the cabinets. 

‘For 2024 kitchen trends, think warmer “cozy” neutrals like creamy off-whites, camels, rich browns, sienna and spicy earth tones (yes, they are back), mustards, coppery tones and golds. 

‘Taupe is still very popular as are mushroom and stone colors. Warmer grays are still popular, but not as much as the last few years. Since people are spending more time at home, decorating with neutrals offers a more livable palette and are easy to decorate around. If your budget allows for more wiggle room, choose a lasting wood for elegance and drama.’

What’s more, you don’t need to get a pro in if you paint kitchen cabinets or stain kitchen cabinets yourself.

7. Switch around hardware

brown kitchen cabinets with checked floor tiles

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

There’s an alternative to refacing that can give the room a new look, though. ‘Change hardware,’ suggests Artem Kropovinsky. ‘If you want to jazz up your kitchen, then you can install some new doors or handles and pulls.’ 

Installing kitchen cabinet handles is another kitchen change you can DIY successfully, too. Again, like with changing any kitchen tiles make sure you pick a design that's decidedly different from your current style so you really notice the change. 

8. Refresh any soft furnishings

Banquette seating with red cushions and dining table

(Image credit: Fanny Rådvik)

Is yours a kitchen diner? Family gather on banquette seating? Think new fabrics for a small change that refreshes the room. ‘If you have seating in your kitchen, new cushions or upholstery can brighten the space,’ says Shawn Zar. ‘Choose durable, wipeable fabrics in modern patterns or colors for a quick and practical update.’

Likewise for any kitchen window treatments, if you have curtains or blinds switching them out with make a difference. Think about the seasons, as we go into the warmer months choose something lighter both in color and in fabric. 

9. Add character with artwork

deVOL kitchens exposed brick opening shelving gallery wall

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

The kitchen often isn’t a room where artwork is displayed but because it's a space for entertaining, socializing and relaxing, as well as cooking, it is at the heart of a home and deserves a little attention lavished on kitchen art ideas this New Year.  

The result? ‘Character can be brought into the space through unique pieces or other decorative items,’ says Artem Kropovinsky. And you can actually update your kitchen without buying anything new by shopping your own home for artwork you already have. 


How do I freshen the inside of kitchen cabinets?

Kitchen cabinets can develop unpleasant odors when jars or bottles leak. Be sure to get into the habits of people with nice-smelling kitchens by cleaning them regularly: it’s easy not to see a small spill on a high-up shelf. Use a mild dish soap solution for wiping and don’t replace anything until the cabinet is dry. If the smell persists, put a bowl of baking soda inside to absorb the unpleasant whiff before replacing the contents.

Wall paint is an alternative to our small changes for a room update, so be sure to opt for designer-approved kitchen wall color ideas for a chic finish. Updating to sell rather than refreshing for yourself? Avoid the dated kitchen features that put home buyers off before marketing your home.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.