From time to time, I hear from people who want to update their kitchens without renovating, because they either intend to sell their home within a year or so or they simply wish to save money. The simplest solution to achieve a brand new look is with paint, paint, paint, and more paint. Here's how.
Paint your appliances: Thomas' Liquid Stainless Steel can transform your white or, my personal favorite, almond appliances to a more contemporary stainless steel look. They also provide a small amount of dark film to adhere to your display to complete the look.
Paint your cabinets: Benjamin Moore ADVANCE product line can be applied to your cabinets in a number of methods (roller, spray, brush) in any of the multitude of colors in their fan deck. Color is back in style for cabinets -- particularly gray, blue, green, and black -- so feel free to try a color instead of white. Be sure to prep in advance with a thorough sanding. A client sent me a photo recently while their cabinet makeover (painted in a warm gray) was in progress. What an amazing improvement!
Paint your hardware: Krylon and Rustoleum spray paints have a number of metallic finishes in order to update your look. Antique brass and copper are particularly trendy right now.
Paint your countertops: Rustoleum Countertop Transformations provides a granite-like look without the granite price tag. From personal experience, I recommend using a darker shade (such as Charcoal or Onyx) if your current laminate counters tend to absorb and show stains. They have a range of solid color options as well, but I find that it's worth a little bit of extra money to get a higher end look. Note: the counter takes three days to dry. If you want to try it, perhaps book a long weekend trip out of town?
In the case of all of these paint projects, be sure to prime, take it slow, paint several layers of thin coats (as opposed to laying it on thick), and allow plenty of time to dry between coats.
In addition to paint, items you can change in the kitchen without major sledgehammer action include flooring, backsplash, lighting, and window treatments. Whether you use a pro or you DIY, make sure to plan ahead and select all of your products before getting to work so that all of your colors and finishes work together nicely.
Then go back to doing what you do best in the kitchen: cooking, baking, entertaining, and just feeling right at home.