Renovating a kitchen: design, costs and tips

Thomas Bott

“We need a new kitchen!” Many homeowners can’t help feeling dizzy when they first hear this sentence. What a lot of effort! How much is that going to cost? But there’s no need to worry: just because your kitchen is a few years old, doesn’t mean it has to be replaced completely. Most of the time, the basic substance is still completely acceptable. The room simply needs a more modern look, fresh cabinet fronts and new appliances. Find out here what you should consider when renovating and refurbishing your kitchen.

A young couple empties the dishwasher in their kitchen.
© Getty Images

In this article

New color for the walls

A fresh coat of paint instantly gives the room a completely new look with relatively little effort. The choice of colors is extremely important, especially in the kitchen. If they are too dark, small rooms seem even smaller. We therefore recommend light colors. Kitchen walls are usually kept plain white, but another light color can bring the room to life. If the kitchen does not cover all the walls, painting a free wall with a strong color is an option. The situation is similar with tiles. Here too, you should choose light-colored models. Tiles in a different color can be scattered as a contrast. The old tiles can be glued or painted over. Replacing the old ones is of course also possible but involves quite a lot of work. A tip on the type of material: smooth tiles may not please everyone, but they are much easier to clean. If you still want some structure, it’s worth adding a splashguard in the stove area.

A fresh look for cabinet fronts

The fronts of the cabinets are the hallmark of every kitchen. They take up most of the surface and are therefore visually very dominant. The fronts also determine the style of the entire room. We advise restraint here: decorative elements can be attractive, but they can also quickly go out of fashion, and you may soon tire of bold colors. Many house and apartment owners therefore opt for smooth fronts in white or muted colors.

Old kitchen fronts can be modernized with a new coat of paint. What matters is the supporting surface. Fresh color applied directly works particularly well on wood. More heavily treated surfaces should be sanded down first. Alternatively, simply gluing the fronts can be a possibility – this is also much faster. Suitable materials are foil, decorative fabric or non-woven wallpaper.
Completely replacing the fronts is possible, but expensive. Kitchens are usually made to measure. Adapting new cabinet doors and drawers is therefore not easy.

Handles as design details

If you are changing the fronts of the kitchen unit anyway, it’s worth replacing the handles at the same time. And even kitchen cabinets with old fronts will benefit from the new look that different handles bring. Specialist shops stock a large selection: from simple plastic handles to precious metals, anything is possible. However, it’s important to make sure that the holes will still fit the replacement handles, as the spacing can vary greatly. Filling old holes and drilling new ones can be time-consuming and in the worst-case scenario can also damage the fronts. That’s why it’s a good idea to take one of the old handles with you to your local retailer.

View of a bright kitchen with white cabinets, wood countertops and black industrial lamps hanging from the ceiling.

Even just a change of handles can give kitchen cabinets a whole new look. This allows a kitchen to be customized, even at a later date.

A more modern worktop

Countertops are virtually all the same shape. However, it’s a different story when it comes to the surface and color. Natural wood looks or light colors used to be very popular. Nowadays, countertops are often kept dark and have inconspicuous patterns. The natural appearance of marble will probably never go out of fashion, but slabs are also expensive. Depending on the type of marble and the thickness of the slab, the price per square meter can quickly reach 500 francs or more. Artificial stone, plastic, stainless steel or even glass can be used instead.

Installing new kitchen appliances

Outdated technology has numerous disadvantages in the kitchen. The devices are generally inefficient, driving up energy consumption. They also lag behind newer devices in terms of performance. We therefore recommend replacing them. A modern stove offers many different functions to help you prepare your dishes to perfection. Induction stoves are particularly flexible when it comes to positioning pots and pans; a gas stove is popular with many chefs because it allows the temperature to be controlled much more directly.

When renovating a kitchen, it’s a good idea to add extra furniture to the room. Supplementary cupboards provide more storage space. Additional work surfaces can be created against the walls or by means of a cooking island. This can also be a good option for smaller kitchens.

Back to basics: reconfiguring your kitchen

If you want to make a clean break and replace all the old elements when renovating your kitchen, you can’t really do without the help of a kitchen planner. Experts in kitchen studios or furniture stores have the best tools and are familiar with the common stumbling blocks faced when planning a kitchen. They can also help with the selection of materials.

But before you consult a kitchen planner, you should start by asking yourself a few questions. What kind of kitchen are you looking for in the first place? Is it a self-contained room or should it be a combined kitchen/living room? There are specific difficulties associated with this option, for example to prevent excess odors. In addition, more elements have to be freestanding because there are usually fewer walls against which to place kitchen cabinets and other furniture.

And maybe you’re already thinking about the type of fridge you would like. A built-in refrigerator fits perfectly into the kitchen with its paneled front but offers less space. A freestanding version offers plenty of space for your food. A tip: spacious side-by-side models, in which the refrigerator compartment and freezer compartment are next to each other, are very much in vogue.

A freestanding refrigerator in pastel blue.

Freestanding refrigerators not only offer a lot of space, but their look also makes them a real highlight in the kitchen.

The cost of renovating a kitchen

Of course, the cost of a newly fitted kitchen always depends on your requirements. House and apartment owners will want to know an approximate price before they start planning. We generally calculate this as follows: the renovation of a smaller kitchen by a tradesman costs between 10,000 and 15,000 francs, including new appliances, while we estimate that the cost for medium to large kitchens can be as high as 35,000 francs.

What your future dream kitchen could look like

Of course there are many design options for kitchens, but they can be roughly categorized into a few styles. Discover what these look like below:

The classic style

The classic kitchen has inconspicuous fronts, simple handles and a clear structure. The appliances are mostly stainless steel, as is the sink. This style does not yield to any trends, but is entirely designed for cooking.

A classic dining table in a modern kitchen.

A modern kitchen is easily combined with a classic interior and vice versa.

The modern style

Minimalism is the credo of the modern kitchen. The cabinet fronts are usually lacquered, preferably glossy. There is hardly any color, handles disappear. Wooden paneling can provide an optical balance. This style should also be mainly functional.

The designer kitchen

This style is all about creativity. Floating kitchen units, an artistically designed extractor hood, partly open kitchen cabinets and high-quality materials are just a few examples. Here the focus is on the look.

An open-design kitchen/living room in bright, friendly colors.

Modern kitchens are often designed as open spaces merged with the living area. The trend is towards designer kitchens that are not only functional, but also representative of the style and taste of their owners.

The country house kitchen

The country house style never seems to go out of fashion – and therefore also looks good in the kitchen. It is the opposite to minimalism. A country house kitchen should be cozy and radiate warmth. Decorative elements, colors and lots of wood make sure of that.

A country house kitchen with lots of wood as well as metal handles and fittings in gold.

In the country house kitchen, decorations and natural wood are dominant. The style is timeless.

Conclusion: kitchen renovation – it’s worth the effort

A kitchen is much more than just a functional room. It can also be a meeting place where the whole family feels comfortable. This makes renovation worthwhile, even if the costs may be high. We advise you not to economize on kitchen appliances in particular. After all, hardly anything in the household is used as frequently as the stove or the dishwasher.

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