Nine Instant Impact Upgrades That Will Transform Your Kitchen

And you can do them all yourself!

Home Decor DIY kitchen


In partnership with Surex

Between taking conference calls at the breakfast bar-turned-boardroom table and finding inventive uses for all those dried beans you bought back in March, chances are you’re spending more time than ever in your kitchen. If it’s your dream kitchen, congratulations! If it’s not, this also means more time with that outdated backsplash and all the things you’d love to change about your space. The good news? You just might have time right now to make a few minor cosmetic kitchen upgrades yourself. Yes, that’s right: you.

We asked two interior design experts—Gillian Segal of Gillian Segal Design and Tiffany Piotrowski of Tiffany Leigh Design—to share their favourite easy, and impactful, kitchen updates. Here’s what they told us.

Paint the walls

This is a go-to move when you’re looking to update a space—and for good reason. “Paint is a designer’s best friend,” says Segal. “It’s often the most cost-effective and dramatic way to transform any space.” When in doubt, “white it out,” she recommends, adding that a coat of white paint is the ultimate safe approach to clean up and refresh a room. In terms of a specific white, she loves Benjamin Moore’s “Steam,” a warm-but-not-yellow shade which she has used throughout her own home. She’s also a big fan of colourful kitchens, and recommends steel blue or olive green hues for an on-trend update.

Upgrade your most-used tools

“I believe the things you use every day in your kitchen should be as beautiful as they are functional,” says Piotrowski. “I’m talking about ditching your brightly coloured plastic sponges and scrubbers for wood and natural bristle dish brushes.” She also recommends trading your plastic dish soap bottle for a glass refillable pump (with clear soap) and investing in natural linen dish towels or a vintage crock filled with wooden spoons by the stove. “If the items you have out on a daily basis are beautiful, your kitchen will always look styled,” she says.

Swap out your lighting

It may seem intimidating, but switching out a fixture is quite straightforward, as this tutorial demonstrates. According to Segal, those few minutes up a ladder can have one of the biggest impacts on a space. “I always say that lighting is the jewelry of the home. It’s one of my favourite places to invest because of the drama and ambience it brings, and because it’s out of reach of kids, it also sees minimal wear and tear.” Segal is currently favouring statement kitchen pendants that play with natural textures like rope or bamboo, or feature metal twisted into fluid, sculptural shapes. “If you are still living with the builder-basic ‘boob-lights,’ track lights, or less-than-thrilling pendants, you can do better,” adds Piotrowski.

Switch up your drapes

“Window coverings are always one of the first things I suggest in any project,” says Segal. That’s because they add texture and can actually make a space feel bigger because they emphasize vertical lines. Piotrowski recommends opting for custom draperies if you can. “Because they’re fitted exactly to your required height and fullness, custom draperies instantly make a room feel more finished and high end,” she explains. “I’d compare it to a tailored suit versus an off-the-rack suit. One is fine, but the other is better.” Not in the budget? “Look for panels with rings and hooks, and avoid grommets or pocket rods.”

Upgrade your faucet

This seems intimidating, but really, it isn’t. “I’ve done it and you can too,” says Piotrowksi, who takes advantage of the wide variety of home renovation YouTube tutorials available when she’s tackling her own home DIY projects. (“Just make sure to turn your water off first,” she cautions.) In terms of finishes, Piotrowski loves matte black at the moment, while Segal is into unlacquered brass, which develops a characterful patina over time.

Install new cabinet hardware

Upgrading your cupboard hardware is one of the quickest and easiest transformations you can make—all you need is a screwdriver and some patience. And don’t be scared to mix and match matte and shiny detailing. “People often ask me if it’s okay to mix finishes in a space and I always tell them ‘yes!’ I love this layered look because it feels curated and not too ‘matchy matchy’.”

Marie Kondo your cupboards and drawers

Organizing your cupboards is the cheapest and easiest way to improve the way you feel about your kitchen. “It will add a lot of function to your space as well,” says Piotrowski. This is the time to be ruthless, so bid farewell to old Tupperware, gadgets you never use and definitely that graveyard of wires and chargers in your junk drawer.

Install open shelving

Open shelves in a kitchen are a huge trend at the moment, and both experts are fans. “I try to incorporate at least some open shelving in every kitchen I design,” says Piotrowksi. “They make it feel less utilitarian and more connected to the rest of the living space.” She prefers floating shelves, but for beginners, she recommends trying brackets for easier installation. “Look for some that add visual interest, such as vintage brass brackets,” she says, adding that it’s important to have the right drill bit if you’re installing into tile.

Play stylist with your shelves and counters

Once your shelves are up, then comes the fun part: styling them. “Curate an interesting mix of objects,” says Segal, who recommends using items you already have, like dishes, glassware, ceramics, cookbooks and even a framed print or two. “Make sure to spread things out and leave some negative space. Overcrowding the shelves will lead to a chaotic and crowded feel.” Your accessorizing shouldn’t end there: Throughout the room, look to add what Piotrowski calls “touches of warmth”—some wooden cutting boards stacked against a wall, a cozy runner underfoot. You’ll appreciate it every time you look up from a conference call.