Thinking of giving your tired, dated kitchen a fresh new look but cringing at the thought of a daunting, expensive full renovation? I’ve got good news – you can completely transform your kitchen’s style with a partial remodel focused on just a few key areas. Get ready to finally have the gorgeous, functional kitchen of your dreams…on a budget!

With strategic, high-impact updates like installing a statement-making backsplash, refacing your cabinets, or adding a kitchen island, you can rejuvenate your space without the mess and chaos of knocking down walls. Smaller-scale remodels are more manageable and affordable. By keeping your existing layout and making savvy design choices, you can reinvent your kitchen in a fraction of the time and cost. But there are things you need to know before you hire a kitchen and bath contractor

In this guide, we’ll explore smart, creative upgrades to consider for your partial kitchen remodel. You’ll discover ways to add major style, functionality, and flair through backsplashes, islands, countertops, lighting, storage, and more. With proper planning and design, you can craft a fresh, beautiful new kitchen tailored to your needs – without taking on a full gut renovation. Get ready for inspiring, achievable ideas to make your dream kitchen a reality! A stylish, revamped cooking space awaits you.

2 toned cabinets, with dark blue backsplash

Backsplash Updates

One of the easiest makeovers is installing a new backsplash. Tiled backsplashes deliver serious visual impact without having to replace cabinets or countertops, which is a major undertaking. Backsplashes are like jewelry for your kitchen – an opportunity to add personality, color, and interest.

Subway Tile Backsplash

For a timeless yet versatile option, white subway tiles are a winning choice. Their classic rectangular shape and clean white color instantly brighten up the space. Subways look great paired with any cabinetry and counters. Feel free to get creative by mixing in bolder accent tiles for pops of color and texture.

Stone or Marble Backsplash

If you’re looking to create a high-end, elegant vibe, consider a backsplash of natural stone like marble or travertine. The organic veining and patterns add luxurious depth and complexity. Travertine and marble come in a diverse color palette so you can select a hue that enhances your existing decor. Keep the rest of the design relatively simple so the gorgeous stone can shine as a focal point.

Glass or Metal

For a touch of bold style, glass or metal backsplashes add an eye-catching sheen and reflectiveness. From clear and frosted glass to iridescent stone glass, the options are endless. Copper metal tiles or stainless steel inject an urban, industrial edge. Feel free to get creative mixing metal finishes like satin brass, copper penny, and silver for dramatic contrast.

Mosaic Tile

Lastly, don’t overlook mosaic tiles. Tiny individual mosaic pieces form colorful patterns, images, or geometric designs for an artistic, custom-crafted look. Use mosaic sparingly as an accent behind the stove or sink. Or create a whole mosaic backsplash scene – maybe florals or nature-inspired. Just be sure to keep grout lines to a minimum for the cleanest aesthetic.

Elegant kitchen design with long kitchen island

Kitchen Island Additions

Adding a kitchen island is one of the best ways to expand counter and storage space in your existing layout. Islands serve many functions, from food prep to casual dining. Here are some island ideas for a kitchen remodel:

  • Freestanding islands don’t connect to walls or existing cabinetry. Great for open floor plans, they allow traffic flow around all sides. Opt for a movable cart-style island for smaller kitchens.
  • Peninsula islands attach to one wall so traffic can pass on three sides. Provide ample room around it – at least 42-48 inches – to prevent a cramped feel.
  • Prep islands offer a dedicated area for chopping, mixing, and cooking support. Include electrical outlets to operate appliances, plus ample surface area.
  • Dining islands serve as an eat-in dining space. Design it high enough to tuck bar stools or chairs underneath.
  • Storage islands maximize organization with drawer, cabinet, and shelving space. Great for small appliances, utensils, pans, and pantry overflow.

When designing your island, carefully consider the cabinetry, countertop material, seating, lighting, and accessories. Integrate style details like corbels, legs, and back panels to match your decor.

White kitchen with black countertop

Countertop Transformations

Upgrading countertops makes a huge impact. New countertops modernize the space, complement your cabinetry, and enhance workspace ergonomics. Consider these popular options:

Granite countertops

Granite countertops add natural beauty with striking veins, speckles, and movement. Granite resists scratches, stains, and heat. The high-end material feels luxe and suits traditional to contemporary decor. Dark granite countertops like black and brown are timeless. For a pop of color, choose blue, red, or green granite.

Quartz countertops

Low-maintenance quartz blends natural quartz with resins for an elegant stone-like look. Available in many colors and patterns, like white, gray, and black speckled. Quartz is nonporous, so it won’t stain and is easy to clean. More affordable than natural stone but mimics the same aesthetic.


Gorgeous marble countertops have timeless character and uniqueness with the natural gray and white veining patterns. Marble requires sealing to prevent stains and etching. Use in low-traffic spots, avoiding direct food prep areas. Adds a dramatic touch to any kitchen.

Butcher Block

Butcher block offers a warm, natural look and feel. The sturdy end-grain construction stands up well to heavy chopping. The butcher block requires oiling to protect and maintain the wood. Great for adding a rustic, traditional, or cottage look.

Laminate and Wood countertops

Affordable laminate countertops mimic stone, solid surfaces, wood, and other materials. Easy DIY installation options make laminate a budget-friendly choice. Scratches can be tricky to repair. New matte finishes create a more realistic look. Great temporary solution for rental properties.

Elegant kitchen with white cabinets, black countertop, and wood flooring

Cabinet Refresh Ideas

Your existing cabinet layout might be fine, but the exteriors could likely use a refresh. Luckily there are easy, affordable ways to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them.

Painted Cabinets

Painting tired wood cabinets is an inexpensive way to revitalize the look. Gray, black, navy and white cabinets feel fresh and current. Use high-quality primer and cabinet paint for a durable finish. For extra character, try two-toned cabinets, vertical stripes, or different uppers and lowers.

According to Consumer Reports, minor kitchen updates like painting cabinets, and adding new lighting and hardware can make a noticeable difference.

Stained Cabinets

Re-staining can update the color of wood cabinets or give them an intentionally worn, distressed character. Consider lighter stains like walnut, maple, or birch for a more modern, airy look. Espresso and darker stains still create a sophisticated style.

Refacing Cabinets

Cabinet refacing entails replacing old doors and drawer fronts with new recessed panel doors. This gives worn cabinets a whole new look with minimal fuss. Many homeowners also replace cabinet hardware like knobs and pulls during the refacing process.

Open Shelving

Removing the doors of upper cabinets creates fun open shelves. Show off your pretty dishware and give the kitchen a lighter, airier feel. Use as-is with existing cabinet boxes or add new shelving. Make sure everything is organized before going doorless.

Glass Cabinet Doors

Swapping solid doors for glass cabinet doors opens up the space visually and creates an airy vibe. Glass upper doors illuminate the contents of cabinets. For lower cabinets, use frosted or textured glass for privacy. Accent with natural light inside cabinets to create a gallery effect.

White kitchen cabinets with built-in appliances

Appliance Improvements

Replacing major appliances makes the kitchen feel fresh and current. If your appliances are dated or nonfunctional, upgrading them is a smart move.


An updated refrigerator improves organization, efficiency, and aesthetics. Look for ENERGY STAR-rated models. Integrated panel-ready options blend the fridge seamlessly with cabinetry. Opt for bottom-freezer or French door styles to suit your needs.


Newer ranges and ovens often have better performance, more accurate temperatures, and useful features like convection baking. Gas ranges offer more responsive temperature control for serious cooks. Sleek stainless steel appliances suit contemporary kitchens.


Look for low water and energy-use dishwashers with noise insulation for quiet operation. Top control models have hidden control panels to streamline the exterior. Choose stainless steel or panel-ready dishwashers to match adjacent cabinetry.

Sink and Faucet

A new sink and faucet freshen up the kitchen’s focal point. Undermount sinks create a seamless transition from countertop to sink. Deep single bowls offer versatility. For the faucet, look for high-efficiency and low-flow options with handy pull-down spray heads.

More Updates to Consider

Round out your partial kitchen remodel with these additional refinements:

  • New modern or industrial-style light fixtures
  • Sleek recessed lighting to brighten tasks
  • Stylish new hardware like pulls, knobs, and handles
  • Crown molding was added to cabinets for a finished look
  • Extra storage space like pull-out shelves and vertical drawer organizers
  • Wall paint or use removable wallpaper to refresh the backdrop
  • Updated flooring like wood plank tile or luxury vinyl plank (LVP)

Design Tips for Partial Kitchen Remodels

Careful planning is key to executing a stellar partial kitchen remodel. Keep these tips in mind:

Set a budget and stick to it.

Determine must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. Carefully break down the costs for materials, labor, permitting fees, and any other expenses to set a realistic budget for your kitchen remodel. Prioritize changes like installing a fresh backsplash, replacing countertops, or refacing cabinets that will have the biggest visual impact. Be sure to allocate some extra cushion for any unforeseen expenses that can pop up throughout a kitchen remodel project.

Make a plan.

Decide which areas of your kitchen remodel to tackle first and scope out the project phases. Before demolition begins, make all your design decisions including the layout, finishes, fixtures, and other materials you want to use.

Carefully plan the workflow and timeline to minimize downtime without a fully functioning kitchen throughout the remodeling process. Identify any structural changes like moving walls or electrical upgrades that need to happen so those can be incorporated into the schedule.

Hire professionals.

Verify the credentials, licensing, insurance policies, and experience of any contractors you hire to ensure they are qualified to take on specialized work involved in your kitchen remodel. Thoroughly check reviews and references to evaluate the quality of previous jobs completed by the contractors you are considering.

Start with the backsplash and cabinets.

Visual updates here make the biggest impact in transforming the look of your existing kitchen during a remodel. Refacing or painting your existing cabinets early in the remodeling process lets you immediately see the dramatic effect this change can have on the kitchen’s look.

Reuse existing items.

Quality wood cabinets can often be refreshed at a fraction of the replacement cost by refinishing, refacing, or painting them. Make usable any existing countertops you wish to keep by carefully trimming or cutting them to fit the new layout or covering them with new countertop material.

Change finishes and hardware.

Dated cabinets can be affordably updated by changing their finish or staining to a fresh, modern color instead of replacing them. Swapping out old hardware like knobs, pulls, and hinges for new ones in satin nickel, black, or chrome finishes can give cabinets and drawers an instant facelift.

Add lighting.

Replacing outdated light fixtures is an easy upgrade that makes a noticeable difference in kitchen appearance and function. Increase task lighting by installing under-cabinet lights and pendant lights over key workstations. Incorporate accent lighting like track lighting or recessed lights to add drama.

Incorporate storage.

Add compartments and organizers wherever possible.

Maximize every inch by including storage upgrades in your remodel like extra drawers, pull-out cabinet shelves, pot racks, and lazy susans. Repurpose blind corner cabinets with swivel organizers.

Factor in functionality.

Ensure good workflow and adequate prep/dining space. When remodeling, evaluate how you use your current kitchen and how the layout could be improved.

Open up traffic flow by removing peninsulas or walls. Expand prep, sink, and cooking zones to accommodate simultaneous tasks. Incorporate multiple work triangles so more than one cook can work efficiently.

Unify aesthetics.

Coordinate new additions with existing elements for a cohesive style.

Visually tie the kitchen together by making sure new backsplashes, lighting, cabinetry, and other additions complement one another through coordinated finishes, materials, and style.

For example, if your existing countertops are marble, carry through that high-end look with polished chrome fixtures.


How can I give my galley kitchen a makeover on a budget?

For small galley kitchens, look for ways to maximize every inch of space during your makeover. Add stackable pull-out cabinets, multi-tiered shelving, and pegboards to utilize all wall space. Painting dated cabinets bright white helps lighten up the room. Extend counter space by adding a small rolling island. Repurpose budget materials like reclaimed wood to build open shelving for a rustic touch.

What’s the best way to update my kitchen with only one small window?

Having just one window can make a kitchen feel dark. To brighten it up, install perimeter cabinets with glass doors to allow light to pass through. Paint the existing window frame white to visually expand it. Add abundant task lighting like under-cabinet and pendant lights. Open up the space by removing the upper cabinets. Install a light, reflective backsplash that bounces light around.

How can I incorporate a farmhouse sink into my modern kitchen remodel?

The key is to strike the right balance between modern and rustic elements. Pair the farmhouse sink with clean-lined faucets, cabinets, and counters for a contemporary contrast. Skip ornate accessories and opt for simple metal pendant lights instead. Use a crisp subway tile or glass mesh backsplash to keep the look light and bright instead of heavy wood tones.

What’s the best way to refresh my kitchen’s dated dark cabinetry?

Dark wood cabinetry can feel oppressive over time. For an easy update, have them painted in a light, airy color like cloud white or pale gray. Or redo the wood stain to a lighter oak or maple tone. Switch out the old-fashioned hardware for minimalist black pulls and knobs. Add bright backsplashes and light fixtures. Glass cabinet doors also help lighten heavy, dark cabinetry.

How can I design a small kitchen for entertaining guests and comfortable seating?

In a compact kitchen, look for multifunctional pieces like an island with counter seating to provide a casual dining area. Store stools or folding chairs in an adjacent closet to pull out when needed. Built-in bench seating is great for small eat-in areas. Maximize corners with wrap-around banquettes. Ensure adequate walkways so multiple people can circulate comfortably.


Refreshing your kitchen doesn’t require a complete overhaul. With smart planning and strategic updates, you can give your existing kitchen a fresh new look. Focus on high-impact changes like backsplashes, islands, cabinet refacing, and countertop replacement to transform the space. Creative lighting enhancements, storage solutions, wall paint, and hardware updates take the remodel even further.

The result is a revived kitchen reflecting your unique style. You’ll gain beautiful new surfaces, fixtures, and layout improvements without the disruption or cost of full-scale demolition. Preserve what works in your current kitchen, refine what doesn’t, and realize your dream space. With the right partial remodel strategy, you can enjoy a practical, stylish, and inviting kitchen tailored to your needs.