Actually Doable Kitchen Hacks & DIYs

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on February 1, 2021

Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I tackled a DIY project that seemed easy. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. It was so complicated, in fact, we had to hire a handyman to come in and help us see it through. Aside from injuring our pride, it also cost us more money than we had planned to spend. But it did provide us with a lesson: before you just “go for it” with a DIY project, make sure it’s within your skillset (and make sure you have a handyman on speed dial). 

Or, you could just follow these tried-and-true, designer-approved hacks to freshen up your kitchen in no time, leaving your pride – and your wallet – intact!

“Refinish” Your Cabinets

“When we think of a remodel, the dollar signs flash before our eyes, and we throw our hands up,” says Havenly designer Vivian Torres, who updated her Denver kitchen with a DIY mindset and a whole lot of love. Instead, she suggests updating kitchen cabinetry in a way that doesn’t break the bank. IKEA’s Sektion cabinets are an affordable, highly configurable place to start. Bonus: opt for an unfinished style so you can customize the color through paint (Vivian chose Oxford Gray by Benjamin Moore in the photo pictured here) and hardware, such as brass knobs. 

Floating Shelves for All the Heart Eyes

If cabinets are a little to pro-level for you, open shelving is an easier idea that offers storage and style at once. “They’re super easy to install, whether you source materials through your local hardware store, or check out Semihandmade for finished products,” says Vivian, who suggests moving an upper cabinet to make room for a floating shelf instead. All that’s left to do? Show off your pretty cooking wares — and your styling skills.

IKEA kitchen cabinets

Customize with Paint and Hardware

I can attest to the impact (and ease) of this particular DIY project, having recently swapped outdated, busy knobs and pulls in my kitchen for simple, sleek black handles. I went from wanting all new cabinets to actually liking the look, all for under about $60. Remember, if your cabinets have existing pulls, be sure to choose new hardware that’s the same length to avoid unsightly drilled holes!

Painting cabinets a bold, fun color can also instantly transform your space affordably — check out this DIY project for more inspiration.

benjamin moore paint grades explained

Go Big with Backsplash

There are so many ways to swap out the backsplash, from removing and replacing tiles to adding a peel-and-stick option to even painting them. You’ll be amazed at what a fresh backdrop can do to reinvigorate your space.

Update Lighting with Stylish Pendants 

Lighting is often seen as the jewelry of any room, and the rule applies to kitchens. Consider freshening up can or spotlights with a sleek, simple pendant, or a trio of pendants depending on the size of your space. Don’t sleep on task lighting either — a miniature table lamp styled just so can look elegant and cozy on a kitchen counter.

Create a Cozy Breakfast Nook 

Vivian’s next idea to reinvigorate your kitchen — no matter the size — is to add a breakfast nook. “Just because you have a small kitchen or dining nook doesn’t mean that it can’t be comfortable, personal, and beautiful,” Vivian says. By adding a DIY breakfast nook, you’ll create a small-space solution brimming with style. “The L-shape maximizes seating around a small bistro table and also offers space-saving storage,” Vivian shares.

Again, it’s IKEA to the rescue here. Vivian used three horizontal Sektion wall cabinets and filled in the remaining corner gap with fiberboard (sometimes known as MDF) she had cut to size at Home Depot. Paint and brass handles create an elevated, custom aesthetic, as do an upholstered cushion, a fun mix of pillows, and a cozy throw. “It’s perfect for cuddling up to that morning cup of joe,” Vivian says.  

Never Stop Styling

This designer-approved hack lets you get creative with your counter space. “Counter styling goes a long way,” says Havenly Managing Editor Heather Goerzen. While the items you incorporate will depend on your kitchen’s style, space, and functional needs, you can find products that are beautiful and practical, such as glass oil and vinegar dispensers, potted herbs, and cutting boards (Heather suggests stacking and layering them for extra panache). Another easy, affordable DIY? Fresh produce. Place apples, citrus, and even savory options like onions or potatoes in a woven basket or marble bowl. “Baskets and bowls with fresh produce are always a designer staple,” Heather says. 

White Kitchen Cabinets

Don’t Forget a Runner

Your kitchen probably has tile or wood floors, but you can bring a touch of softness and style with a runner. Whether you opt for a coastal look with jute or something patterned and boho, a floor covering adds an element of texture and visual intrigue to your space.

teal kitchen

Need more designer-approved kitchen ideas? Hire your own designer to create a bespoke look for your space — get started with our Havenly style quiz.

Words by Sara Watson