How to update a kitchen without buying anything new - refresh your space with these clever tricks

Spending less doesn't mean sacrificing style - here's how to make your kitchen feel brand new on a budget

Kitchen with light green painted kitchen cabinetry and open shelving, decorated with cookbooks, crockery, and spices
(Image credit: Future/Matt Williams)

If you're feeling a bit fed up with your kitchen, whether it be the colour, cabinet style or general aesthetic, you might think you need to undertake a hefty (and pricy) renovation to give it a new lease of life. But for many, this just isn't in the budget, so instead we need to look towards how to update a kitchen without buying anything new - to save your bank balance and take on a sustainable approach. 

Budget kitchen ideas are essential for helping to stay on track when upgrading your cooking space. It's the heart of the home so of course you want it to be stylish, but buying new accessories and renovating often isn't practical. So how can you give your kitchen a spruce up without spending money? 

We've spoken to secondhand shopping experts for their top tips, including nifty DIY tricks you can complete in a weekend. 

How to update a kitchen without buying anything new

A kitchen is where you start your day with a cup of coffee, spend your in-between moments pottering around and end with a big meal and clean, so it's not surprising that it can start to feel tired and uninspiring fast. But a kitchen renovation is costly and oftentimes unnecessary - you might find that all you need is a small style update to achieve a chic modern kitchen idea.

'When it comes to giving your kitchen an upgrade, you really don’t need to break the bank. Opting to shop pre-loved is a great way to discover unique pieces that can refresh the space, all whilst supporting circularity and keeping costs down,' says Rachel Miles, head of home and garden, eBay UK.

1. Shop your home

Kitchen with light green painted kitchen cabinetry and open shelving, decorated with cookbooks, crockery, and spices

(Image credit: Future PLC/Caroline Mardon)

Knowing how to shop your home will save you so much money on new accessories, and repurpose existing items from different rooms. It's easy to get bored of decor when it's been in the same place for months (or years) on end, but switching up where it's situated will help you see it in a new light. 

Whether you keep a stock cupboard with excess crockery and accessories to zhuzh up open shelving or you decide to swap the art from your living room to your kitchen, moving homeware about will update your kitchen instantly. It requires a bit of trial and error though - you might not like where you first place something so don't be afraid to play about with styling.   

'Art prints are a simple way to refresh your space, you can find affordable, printable options from small businesses on Etsy or for a no-spend option I recommend swapping existing artwork from other areas in the home and giving it a new lease of life in your kitchen,' says Dayna Isom Johnson, trend expert at Etsy

Dayna Isom Johnson
Dayna Isom Johnson

Dayna Isom Johnson is the trend expert for Etsy and a judge on the NBC primetime series ‘Making It’. As part of her role at Etsy, Dayna is responsible for keeping her finger on the pulse of the hottest trends on the market. She is in constant pursuit of new and unique finds on Etsy in an effort to unearth the latest and greatest designs, up-and-coming Etsy shops, and sellers with exciting stories.

2. Declutter

Walk in larder in modern farmhouse kitchen

(Image credit: Future/Kasia Fiszer)

Sometimes the feeling of boredom with an interior is the feeling of being overwhelmed. When we're living in our spaces and using them daily a lot of clutter can amount which can leave a room looking drab and poorly styled. 

What you might need to make a kitchen feel brand new is a big declutter. We love the 'hushing your home' method which involves removing everything from a space and gradually adding items back over a week so you can determine what you miss and love. 

If your open shelving and worktops are feeling too busy, this is a great way of streamlining the things you reach for. When it comes to knowing how to organise kitchen cabinets and pantries, however, pulling everything out and giving them a good scrub will make your kitchen feel much fresher. 

3. Make use of old paint

Kitchen with green wall panelling behind butler sink

(Image credit: Future/Maxwell Attenborough)

If you're a DIY fan, you're bound to have some leftover paint lying around from an old project. Making use of leftover cans for a simple paint idea can make your kitchen feel lifted and stylish (especially if your shade of choice is a current paint trend).  

Whether you want to switch up the shade of a photo frame, zhuzh the base of a lamp sitting on your worktop or even change the shade of a cabinet (if you have a lot of paint), putting your paintbrush to work is a fast way to inject more personality into a kitchen.  

If you've repainted your kitchen cabinets in the past, you might even find that a quick lick of paint is the touch-up it needed to look brand new. 

4. One in, one out

Kitchen with white marble worktops and open shelving

(Image credit: Future/Matt Williams)

If you've already moved some decor around your home and you're still feeling unsatisfied with how your kitchen looks, you might be getting itchy feet to buy something new.   

To keep clutter to a minimum and to keep spending down, however, we advise a one-in, one-out approach. If there's something that has caught your eye, consider putting an old piece of dinnerware or glasses covered in dust on a resale site such as eBay to fund a new purchase. This way you're engaging in the circular economy and ensuring your kitchen styling costs you nothing.  

'From funky coloured glasses and plates to vintage candle holders and one-of-a-kind centrepieces, eBay really is a treasure trove of pre-loved products waiting to be found,' adds Rachel.

'Plus, if you don’t want to spend anything, you can always sell your old kitchen dinnerware and use the money you’ve made to cover the costs of what you’re planning on buying.'

5. Venture into the garden

Rustic kitchen with white worktops and table lamp.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Feeling frustrated at the appearance of your kitchen but not sure why? What you might need is a bouquet, or the best indoor plants, to add life to the space. 

'An affordable and easy way to elevate your space is to add greenery, whether you want to grow your own or buy a pre-grown pot, plants are a great way to bring life to the heart of the home,' adds Dayna. A kitchen is one of the most-used rooms in the home, so seeing fresh flowers on display or admiring how well your herbs are growing is bound to help you ignore the clutter and chaos of everyday living.  

This kitchen update requires no spending either. All you need to do is step outside into your garden and see what you can pluck to showcase in your cooking space. And if you don't have a private outdoor space, foraging will allow you to start an indoor planter for free.  

6. Restain wood

Dark grey modern kitchen with pale worktop and boho style zellige tiled wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Just like with leftover paint cans, if you're a keen DIYer then you most likely have some unfinished cans of wood stain hanging about in your garage. Now's the time to make use of them to give your kitchen a much-needed update.  

Whether you have wood worktops that are looking a little bit worn, rustic shelving even a farmhouse table that has been bleached by the sun, restaining the surfaces will have a huge impact on how a kitchen looks. Plus, different wood tones are constantly coming in and out of fashion so it's a simple way to make a cooking space look more on-trend. 

7. Freshen up metals

Dark kitchen cabinets with gold handles and beige walls

(Image credit: Future PLC / Fiona Walker-Arnott)

A kitchen should be built to last, so opting for surfaces that just need a little bit of care now and then will help you to update your kitchen at home, on a budget. Cabinet handles are a great example of this as the metal can be polished to bring it back to life. 

If you have chrome handles, polishing them will add shine back to your kitchen especially if you have cup or bar styles which are more visually imposing. Brass has been on-trend for years and doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so if you want to give it a new look for the next trend cycle then applying a patina (just like Jenna Lyon's hack) will give it a perfectly lived-in aesthetic.

There are so many ways to update a kitchen without buying anything new - you just have to get a little bit creative. Using what you already have is great practice for creating a sustainable home and working with existing decor to form a new look is one of the best ways to hone your design skills. 

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).