1.Experiment with geometric tiles.
Tile offers a repeating pattern to your backsplash, floor, or counter no matter its shape — and that can make you think the quietest options (like rectangles and squares) are the safest. But in a solid or neutral hue, more playful patterns dial up your kitchen's decor without overwhelming the space.
"I stumbled across this backsplash (Swiss Cross by Ann Sacks) while searching for something that looked like subway tile, but wasn't," says Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design. "I was reluctant to introduce a new color pattern into this kitchen because the cabinets and counters are so strong, but I wanted a backsplash that held its own. The geometric lines complement the modern style of the kitchen — it's a traditional element with a contemporary twist."
2.Sneak pattern into a small space.
For most people, kitchens trend toward neutral territory — but too much beige, white, or gray is a missed opportunity for some lively pattern, which can make a kitchen feel more like home.
"Tile can coexist beautifully with solid surfaces," says designer Lindsay Pennington. "It adds a rustic element that takes an edge off modern kitchens. I adore Spanish and Moroccan tiles for their playful colors and sense of personality."
3.Choose heart-stealing hardware.
"Kitchen hardware is so important because it's the jewelry of the room," says designer Tamara Eaton. "I don't usually go too outside-of-the-box on cabinet finishes, but hardware that is sculpted or unusual is a nice element to introduce into a kitchen."
Warm brass hardware is "a timeless material, and feels crafted," she says. "Plus, you can control the patina by polishing it for a shiny look or letting it dull to a warm luster." If you're opting for steel, or have stainless steel appliances, keep the finish smudge-free with Weiman's Stainless Steel Wipes. They leave a brilliant, streak-free shine, and offer a protective coating that repels dust and dirt.
But no matter what material you choose, know that hardware's impact is certainly greater than the sum of its parts — it's important to choose a design and finish you really love.
4.Create a standout accent wall.
This design trick is the epitome of easy — no heavy-lifting, no new fixtures, just paint (on a single wall!). And yet the result is far greater than the effort you'll make to get it done.
"A bold wall color paired with white cabinetry can instantly breathe in some new life into a kitchen," says Karen Vidal of Design Vidal.
5.Make your eating area cozier.
Take a cue from your living room next time you want to redesign your eating areas — a banquette maximizes seating space, is comfy and inviting, and is also just plain fun.
"We love built-in banquettes in a kitchen," says Vidal. "They're an instant gathering space."
6.Make a statement with lighting.
Don't let your kitchen's lighting be an afterthought — your choice can influence the space's overall look and function. "Lighting changes really make a big impact, especially when you can play up the scale," says Jessica Davis of JL Design. In this kitchen, bold glass pendants fully illuminate the kitchen work area, but also become a decorative focal point.
Designer Warren Sheets enjoys using lighting in kitchens to send a subtle message. "I place lights in glass cabinet doors as well as under upper cabinets to light counter surfaces below," he says. "The right kind of light not only helps in food prep, but also encourages people to congregate in the kitchen."
7.Change out your counters.
If you've got room in your budget for just one big update in your kitchen, pick this one. "Most people consider cabinets to be the most visible thing in a kitchen, but it's actually the counters," says Liz Toombs of Polka Dot and Rosebud Interiors.
"A beautiful granite pattern or classic soapstone can transform a kitchen's look and make it a place where you're proud to have friends and family gather," she continues. "People are often afraid of granite because sealing is required, but once they're educated on the ease of the process, they become more comfortable with it."
Keeping sealed-stone countertops clean, bright and just like new is the easy part. Weiman's Granite Cleaner & Polish can help enhance the stone's natural color and veining while removing grease, stains, and watermarks. The all-in-one formula is designed to brighten faded stone and protect it against scratches, so your counters keep that "wow" factor, longer.
8.Paint your upper and lower cabinets different colors.
The kitchen might be the most functional space in your home, but you shouldn't leave it bare of artful accents. Hang up a piece of art, or capture a decor win by taking an artistic approach to your cabinetry colors.
"Painting uppers and lowers different shades is a huge trend right now," says Kylee Trunck, a designer at Havenly. The result feels surprisingly deliberate and chic — not mismatched.
9.Use unexpected (but functional) pieces
When Denise Sabia, the blogger behind The Painted Home, was designing her kitchen, she didn't resign her needs to traditional decor tropes. Instead, she tweaked inventive (and stylish!) items to work for her.
For instance, a light blue dresser with lots of storage became the perfect island. "It's unexpected and unique," Sabia says. "I love to add items with useful functions to kitchens — from hooks to towel bars to chalkboards. Don't be afraid to alter items to make them work for your life, not the life you see on TV."
10.Don't forget about the ceiling.
"People tend to overlook the importance of the ceiling in the kitchen," says designer Warren Sheets. "I remind my clients that ceilings can either absorb or reflect light back down — which is important for food preparation." The lighter the hue, the easier it might be to see that onion you're trying to chop.
But you'll also need to look down to ensure your kitchen is as light or as dark as you prefer: "The same can be said about flooring," says Sheets continues. "I'm not surprised at the recent excitement building around gray wood floors. These can make for a lighter, brighter kitchen and give the illusion of a bigger space. Plus, wood is far easier on your feet than stone floors."