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How To Make Your Kitchen Look And Feel Better With These Easy Decor Swaps

Jenny Han once wrote, “Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.” As a true blue Gemini (my birthday is actually today if you can believe it) I couldn’t agree more. Summer is where it is at. It’s the only time of year that you’ll see me happily chopping veggies for a summer salad and humming to myself as if I am in a silly little rom-com. For me, summer is, against all odds, the one time of year I really enjoy being in the kitchen. It’s truly magic because any other time of year I actually avoid being in the kitchen at all costs, hating the act of even turning on the stove to make an over-easy egg. But since summer is officially here, I am in the kitchen more (hold for applause) and it really got me thinking…How can I enjoy this time more and potentially learn to enjoy cooking once fall is around the corner? The answer I found is simple. I need my kitchen to look better. You know the saying “look good feel good”? Well, surely if my kitchen looked a little prettier, I’d feel good about spending more time in there, and in turn, become an amazing cook overnight. It’s SCIENCE.

As a renter, I am nowhere near renovating territory, but the goal is to make the kitchen look better, not perfect. I (and you!) can style and decorate a kitchen so it looks good despite dated tile and overhead lighting that is unfortunately here to stay. How you ask?? That’s what past EHD projects are here for, so we can study and learn from the best. So are you ready for some styling tricks that are guaranteed to make your kitchen look better? Me. too. Let’s get into it.

SWAP: Use A Rug Instead Of A Mat

design and photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by emily bowser | from: sara’s galley kitchen “update” turned into a Full renovation (and the result is well worth the wait)

I remember when I finally got the right rug for my living room. It instantly changed the look and feel of the room and made it feel more complete. Do you mind if I say that rugs are like a good pair of shoes?? Because just like shoes can make an outfit, a rug can really pull together a room. So, while a waterproof kitchen mat totally works, you can replace that mat with a durable rug and just like that your kitchen has a new pair of shiny shoes!

The kitchen gets a lot of traffic and life teaches you that spills do in fact happen, so you should opt for a forgiving color and pattern. We suggest vintage Persian rugs because they have a perfect, worn-in look which can help hide stains and general wear and tear. There are also really great non-vintage options like this one that can eliminate the fear of total destruction and make your kitchen look (you guessed it) so much better. Rug tape is also key so that you can keep the rug from sliding around, and a rug pad underneath will make your feet feel like they are stepping on a soft buttery cloud (which is much deserved when washing dishes).

design by velinda hellen design | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: velinda’s first freelance client reveal: molding the ‘builder-grade budget’ + where they saved & splurged

I love the above kitchen by Velinda Hellen Design for so many reasons and that rug choice is one of them. They chose a rug that incorporates the cabinet colors and other accent colors that pulls in the decor from the rest of the room. If you have colored cabinets, adding a rug is a nice way to accent that color to make them pop even more.

Here are some great vintage-inspired options but for real vintage rugs head here.

1. Hand-knotted Brown Rug | 2. Julianne Hand Tufted Rug | 3. Kamran Hazel Rug

SWAP: Replace Your Regular Fruit Bowl With A Footed Bowl

design and photo by sara ligorria-tramp | styled by emily bowser | from: sara’s galley kitchen “update” turned into a Full renovation (and the result is well worth the wait)

If you have the space for a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter, it’s a great way to add color and depth (I love using lemons and oranges). A low bowl is still cute and will get the job done, but we highly suggest a footed bowl because it will add height and a more interesting shape. A regular bowl can sometimes look like a bowl that’s been left on the counter for unknown reasons until you see the fruit in it, whereas a footed bowl always looks intentional. In the above kitchen, Sara went with a wooden footed bowl which adds height, texture, and warmth. A triple whammy!

design by velinda hellen design | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: velinda’s first freelance client reveal: molding the ‘builder-grade budget’ + where they saved & splurged

I’ll award bonus points if you go with a marble-footed bowl like the one in the above kitchen designed by Velinda Hellen Design. Indeed, the great thing about these bowls is there are so many sizes, shapes, and textures to choose from. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Corbin Footed Bowl | 2. Lotta Pedestal Bowl | 3. 10.1oz Rubberwood Pedestal Serving Bowl

BONUS TIP: Don’t Forget To Style The Space Above Your Cabinets

design by orlando soria | photo by zeke ruelas | from: the casa soria kitchen reveal (+ 5 things i would have done differently if it were my kitchen

Last year, Mallory blew all of our minds by posing the very brave question “what do you do with the space above your kitchen cabinets?” It is a space that is oft forgotten about but it can be a great place to display collections, art, beautiful bowls, books, plants, you name it. I have definitely noticed that my kitchen gets the least amount of styling attention but in reality, there are so many fun ways to (say it with me) style, play, every day in your kitchen. If you have less counter space but an ample amount of space above your cabinets, don’t skip this styling hack.

photos by tessa neustadt | from: emily’s kitchen reveal

Another great thing about above the cabinet styling is it will draw your eye up and make your kitchen look bigger. It can also simply act as storage space if you put a wicker or wooden basket up there like Emily did in her Glendale kitchen. That’s what we like to call style and function, my friends.

SWAP: Hang A Mirror In Place Of Art

design by jess bunge for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’ kitchen reveal

You probably know by now that you shouldn’t skip art in the kitchen. In fact, one of Emily’s favorite unexpected styling hacks is to hang art over a tile backsplash (you can learn more about that here). But if you want to change it up a bit or if you simply have a killer wall mirror you want to display, why not hang it in the kitchen? It’s unexpected and can help a darker kitchen feel brighter or make a small kitchen seem bigger.

design by with love from kat | via domino

We love a leaning art moment and lo and behold, a leaning mirror looks just as good (if not better). If you want to try the mirror look here are some great picks:

1. Asymmetrical Mirror | 2. Moroccan Mirror | 3. Peruvian Wall Mirror

BONUS TIP: Use A Tray For Everyday Cooking Items

design by velinda hellen design | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the 3 best ways to save $$$ on your kitchen reno (+ our ehd alumns’ first reveal as a new boutique team)

We are big advocates for trays in every room. Have a coffee table? Put a tray on it! Your dresser is looking a little dull? Put a tray on it! Similarly, if you want your kitchen counter to look nicer and spark some joy, a tray can really help get you there. Minimalists might disagree, but we like having our olive oil, salt, and pepper out because they are used so often. This can appear messy and cluttered but a tray can make it look styled and intentional. Another trick? Put your olive oil in a clear glass decanter and watch magic happen before your eyes as your kitchen counters look instantly more chic.

photo by zeke ruelas | from: modern deco kitchen reveal

Again, a tray can make everyday items look styled and sophisticated. If each of the above items were simply placed on the counter near each other someone might think “hey, how about putting some stuff away??”. But with a tray in place, it is clear that those items are exactly where they should be. Also, how incredible is that oil decanter? I am drooling.

If you are looking for a pretty tray, here are some great ones:

SWAP: Add Greenery With Fresh Herbs Instead Of Cut Flowers

design by cassandra laValle | photo by ellie lillstrom | from: cassandra laValle’s basement kitchen reveal

Plants will liven up any room but in the kitchen specifically, fresh herbal plants add a hint of greenery and are very useful to have on hand. Having a mini indoor garden of fresh herbs will make your kitchen feel good too. Imagine this: you are making a homemade pesto sauce and you simply pluck from your fresh basil plant to create the delicious concoction?? That’s heaven.

SWAP: Ditch Always Using Your Overhead Lights And Get A Cute Lamp

design and photo by tessa neustadt | from: the reveal you didn’t know you were waiting for

Remember when I alluded that I have very dated ceiling lighting in my kitchen that is unfortunately here to stay? Well cat’s fully out of the bag because it’s true. We have very aggressive looking track lighting that I am not the biggest fan of. So it goes. What I did to mitigate this was add a cute lamp to distract and it really did help with the look and overall feel. The track lighting is harsh and bright but our lamp gives off a calmer, more subtle light which I love. A lamp is a cute accessory and can help soften the light in the room if that’s what you are going for.

design by laura stephens | via domino

How great is that lamp?? If that shot doesn’t make the case for lamps in the kitchen I don’t know what will.

Here are some lovely options:

1. Polyresin Mini Table Lamp with Circle Base | 2. Scrunch Table Lamp | 3. Seta Wicker Table Lamp

BONUS TIP: Create Some Open Shelving

design by jess bunge for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’ kitchen reveal

I will likely never stop talking about this hack by Jess. She took the cabinets off in her rental kitchen to create some open shelving. It’s so innovative and is something pretty much anyone can do which is why it’s my favorite trick. All you need to do is take off the hinges, sand and paint over the holes and what you’ll end up with is a place to display all your pretty cups, bowls, and even tiny pieces of art. It’s low risk and will give your kitchen a custom look for so much less.

design by corre marie | styled by velinda hellen | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the new design rules

If you want to keep your closed cabinet space because your dishes aren’t all display-worthy (same here) then you can always consider adding a few ready-made shelves. In general, it’s nice to have a mix of open and closed storage because it can make the space feel more airy and create visual interest.

Here are some shelving options we love:

1. Luciana Wavy Wall Shelf | 2. Marble Wall-Mounted Shelf | 3. Linear Raw Mango Wood Shelf 2FT

9. Treat Yourself With New Hand Towels

design by jess and tyler marés | photo by jess marés | from: a diy kitchen renovation in two parts

At the very least, if you just want to make a small but effective difference in your kitchen new hand towels can do wonders. Is your kitchen feeling a little bland? Get some colorful floral towels like the above kitchen to bring in some pattern and a pop of color. If your current towels are a little dingy and sad (same here) replacing them with fresh new ones might just spark a newfound love for washing and drying dishes (ha!). And old hand towles are great cleaning rags so dont throw them away! Here are some fun options:

1. Pienet Elokuun Varjot Kitchen Towel | 2. Baker Stripe Dish Towels, Set of 4 | 3. Dusen Dusen Set of Striped Hand Towels and Washcloth

Now that’s a wrap ladies and gentlemen. I am off to go chop some veggies, throw them in a bowl, and call it a salad. I hope you now feel confident and prepared to make your kitchen look not just better, but feel GOOD. Because honey, you deserve it not only this summer but all the seasons to come. Happy Monday! xx

Opener Image Credit: Design by Velinda Hellen Design | Lead Designers: Grace De Asis &  Julie Rose \ Styling by Emily Bowser | Photo by Sara Ligorria Tramp

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1 year ago

Oh man, Ryann, super solid content for an early Monday morning. You’ve got my creative energy flowing and while it’s always fun to buy a few new pieces, your styling tips work just as well with beloved things that many of us already have on hand in another room or stashed away somewhere. I’m inspired to go play!

1 year ago

I love all of these ideas – especially the one about lamps. Even though we recently had recessed lighting installed in our kitchen, 9 times out of 10 I don’t like using it because it’s too much light. I look forward to the evenings when I can start turning on the lamps in our kitchen (I have 3 at this point). We recently had to set one of our floor lamps in the kitchen because we were painting the room it was normally in, and I was suprised by how much I liked it there. I’m not sure I will put it back now because it casts such a warm, cozy glow in the evenings and you don’t even need to take up counter space in order to use it.

🥰 Rusty
1 year ago

Lovely duvely, Ryann!
I’m short on counter space and storage, and my kitchen is currently fug-ly!! haha!

I’m looking at installing a rod underneath my upper cabinets to hang things – thanx to Sara’s kitchen reveal. Only mine will likely be from IKEA. Cheerful bang for my buck!

Love the rugs, stiiiiiiill looking for one that suits my kitchen … that is afordable (aka: @$60 or less).

I’m a bit concerned about storing olive oil in a clear glass decanter. It should be kept out of light (hence the dark bottles you buy it in) or it can go rancid quickly.

1 year ago

Just a vote for the Ruggable washable rugs. I have dropped some serious stuff on there and it always comes out. I am not a fan of the tile in our kitchen and the rug covers a good bit of it and really changes the look of the room. (I have the one Ryann linked, in Coral.)

1 year ago
Reply to  MC

Agree! Ours is from Tumble (smaller, better curated selection than Ruggable IMO). It gets such heavy traffic in the kitchen with us and two kids (and being near the back door), but still looks great. It would be nasty by now if we couldn’t wash it. We got a runner and it covers enough of our bland, beige builder grade tile to make the kitchen look so much better.

Roberta Davis
1 year ago

Nice ideas, all in one place! Thanks!

1 year ago

Lots of nice ideas here. Using a tray to corral cooking essentials is my favorite, followed closely by pretty hand/dish towels. Even if you don’t have enough light to grow herbs in your kitchen, freshly cutting your supermarket basil and putting it in a glass of water will keep it perky and pretty for quite a while. I also love the idea of removing cabinet doors as a way to audition an open-shelving situation. Me? Someday, I might dare!
Olive oil in a clear glass bottle? Maybe do that for what you’ll use in a few days. Your storage bottle should be kept away from light and heat.
Footed fruit bowl? Maybe look for a footed basket instead. I’ve found most fruit benefits from the air circulation afforded by a basket rather than a bowl.
Pretty as they are, I’m not a fan of rugs in a kitchen, unless really needed for back/leg pain. I mop my kitchen floors frequently and don’t want to deal with moving rugs or getting them wet every time. I’m sure I’m in the minority there!

1 year ago

Open shelving– for renters who go through annual or even semi-annual inspections, taking off cabinet doors without approval are most often a no-no, even though “ugh” cabinets are often one of the worst aspects of renting (that and flooring!!) Plus, while they look nice if neatly arranged–like in photo shoots–unless there is adequate storage elsewhere and one loves to dust, totally impractical. Otherwise, these are very nice ideas, especially for those who rent.

1 year ago

Happy Birthday, Ryann! Wishing you the brightest of birthday days as you brighten the EHD readers’ days! 🎈

1 year ago

Happy Birthday Ryann!! 🙂

Love your tips, the photos you selected to illustrate those tips, and the linked items you chose, thanks Ryann!!

I bought a small, black wrought iron lamp at my local Goodwill store a few years ago to light up a dark corner of my small kitchen counter. I added it after seeing a lamp in a kitchen here on EHD and realized that would be a great solution to a dark corner – it is and I love it!

1 year ago

I have a tiny kitchen with no windows. I do have space for styling above my cabinets and they are artfully done with baskets (and giant boxes of Cheerios and Raisin Bran Crunch). Okay, maybe not so styled. I have two watercolors collected while traveling and a small chalk board I never actually write anything on. I could do better.

1 year ago

Absolutely love these kinds of posts. I cook a lot, have a small zoo in my house, and have a toddler and preteen. I have 2 cotton flat weave rugs decorative that I alternate and wash the dirty ones. There is a thick rug pad with a nonslip side k use with it. The flat weave rugs say they arent washable, but I havent had issue in years of doing it besides some shrinking.

1 year ago

Lots of good and creative (and doable!) ideas here – thanks and happy birthday!

1 year ago

Lots of great colorful ideas. Thanks.

1 year ago

Great ideas (except if you take your cupboard doors off please save all hardware and carefully store the doors- we’ve had several renters ruin cupboards by doing sloppy paint or losing parts)
I do the tray trick except mine is a small wooden lazy susan. (Weird name/super useful)
Also, similar to a footed bowl I use an heirloom cake stand with a large shallow bowl or basket. Sometimes to put a second smaller bowl on counter level as well (like right now we have lots of tasty nectarines) and the two heights make the pile look better.
We also do a trick in our cupboard- my husband DIYed a set in shelf for me on feet to maximize shelf storage. Our large plates fit perfectly underneath and the medium and small sizes sit comfortably on top. Efficient and cute!

1 year ago
Reply to  Lisa

Nice to have a landlord’s perspective! I also use a marble lazy susan tray on my counter for salts, etc. and use vintage cake stands to hold smaller items within my cupboard. I also sometimes use a vintage 3-tiered display tray for smaller fruits to display. When it’s not in use it’s looking cute above my cabinets! Just remember – the more stuff you have styled on top of your cabinets, the more stuff you have to clean periodically. It gets nasty up there! I can’t imagine having a wicker lamp in my kitchen – how would one clean that?! Even with a fan my kitchen gets a layer of oily dust on everything.
I would love if you would link a tutorial on how to convert a lamp to a cordless battery-operated lamp for the kitchen. I don’t see how that cute black lamp with the purple & white striped shade could possibly be plugged in on the countertop – does it just hang off the side of the cabinet and it’s photoshopped out?

1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea

They just remove the outlets for the photo. Here is the other side of the kitchen with outlet: and without:comment image

Jeffrey C
1 year ago

Great tips, but I wouldn’t necessarily put “taking off cabinet doors to create open shelving” under the innovative category. It is an excellent idea, but a pretty basic one that doesn’t require a lot of fresh or bold thinking, qualities that I believe innovation should be reserved for whenever possible.