Is Your Kitchen Outdated?

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated August 30, 2021
Updated kitchen with microwave in cabinetry
David Papazian / Corbis via Getty Images

Modernizing an outdated kitchen is easy to do if you know exactly which design trends are making it feel old

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Stepping into an outdated kitchen can feel like opening a time capsule. Some kitchen trends are obviously from a different era, like those dark, clunky cabinets and the decades-old appliances. But other elements—like lighting and subtle wear and tear—can have just as much of an aging impact even if they aren’t as conspicuous. Use this guide to find out what’s dating your kitchen and the simple ways to give it an update that will suit your modern needs.

Your Microwave Is Over the Stove

No trend makes a kitchen feel like a 90s sitcom faster than a microwave above the range. Today, many homeowners instead give this appliance its own cabinet to keep it out of sight. Doing this also has the added bonus of freeing the space above the oven for a high-quality ventilation system, though you can also reserve it for design purposes if you aren’t an avid cook.

Your Backsplash Is Too Short

Short backsplashes that only reach about 6 to 8 inches above the countertops are another sure sign that your kitchen is from another time. In addition to being old-fashioned, this once popular trend is also not nearly as effective or protective as a taller alternative. Installing a new kitchen backsplash can cost as little as $500 depending on the materials you’ve selected and will make your space feel younger almost immediately.

Your Cabinets Are Dark and Ornate

Clunky, dark wood cupboards can both darken and age a kitchen. But that doesn’t mean you have to completely do away with what you have—why would you want to if they’re perfectly acceptable? Refacing or repainting your cabinets will inject them with life at a fraction of what it would cost to replace them entirely. 

You can hire a professional cabinet refacing pro to reduce your workload, but this is one project that’s especially easy to DIY. All it takes is a weekend of work to transform your kitchen cabinets into something completely new. Or, if they aren’t in great shape, remove them and opt for open shelving instead.

Your Appliances Are Mismatched

Simple and spacious kitchen with matching appliances
PC Photography / istock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

A brand new fridge won’t make your kitchen look more modern if your oven is from the 70s and your dishwasher is from the 90s. Mismatched appliances can make a space feel more confusing than chic and retro. When an older appliance breaks, take the opportunity to swap it in for a newer model that fits more cohesively with the rest of the elements in your kitchen. For example, If you already have a lot of stainless steel, pick appliances made with this same material to create a seamless flow.

You Have Tiled Countertops

In addition to being a pain to clean, the grouting in most tiled countertops can make your kitchen look way older than it actually is. Overhauling your kitchen countertops can be a pricey project, but there are affordable ways to work with what you have. Try using a brightly colored permanent marker to fill in the grout lines. Doing this will add a design flair to your existing countertops and make maintenance easier. Can’t stand the tile but can’t afford to redo it either? Stick-on decals are an affordable alternative that’s available in many different styles. 

The Floor Is Worn Out

Kitchens see a lot of foot traffic through the years, and old-school flooring trends like linoleum and wood-look tile aren’t great at hiding their age. On the other hand, hardwood and ceramic tile floors are longer-lasting and timeless. If retiling your kitchen floors is out of your budget, laying down water- and stain-proof rugs is a great temporary way to switch it up without having to spend a lot. 

There Isn’t Enough Light

Poorly lit and outdated kitchens often go hand in hand, thanks to dark kitchen cabinets and vintage fluorescent lights. Many older kitchens relied on just one or two overhead light sources, which, while strong, weren’t enough to actually brighten the entire space. Under-the-cabinet, recessed lights are a great quick fix for this problem because they don’t cost a lot to install and will illuminate your working station like never before. 

Your Kitchen Takes an Eternity to Clean

If it feels like your kitchen is never clean no matter how much you rub and scrub, this is another sign that it’s outdated. No amount of all-purpose cleaner will make dull and scratched hardware like doorknobs and handles appear as polished and fresh as you want them to look. Luckily, these items are relatively easy and inexpensive to swap out for newer models. Take the opportunity to try out a more contemporary kitchen design trend. Skip the polished nickel of yore for a brushed bronze or stainless steel. Along with being more modern, these two options are also easier to maintain.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.