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3 Most Useful Kitchen Updates You Probably Haven't Thought Of

Cristina is a Florida native and Realtor by trade. She enjoys writing about travel, real estate, and several other interesting topics.


Kitchens are one of the main rooms that we renovate and remodel to make a home look and feel updated. The big tickets usually updated include cabinets, flooring, counters, and appliances. And those are really important items; however, if you can't update your entire kitchen, there are a few ways to maximize your kitchen's efficiency and beauty.

Amazing storage options increase your kitchen's effectiveness while countertops and lighting can change a kitchen's entire look.


Pull-Out Cabinet Storage

It’s amazing to walk into a kitchen with tons of counter space, your favorite kitchen gadgets hanging out on smooth granite just waiting for you to use them. But not every kitchen can be blessed with long counters. Even a kitchen with limited counter space becomes more useful when you utilize your cabinets for extra storage. Lower cabinets are some of the most poorly utilized spaces in kitchens. No one wants to bend over to sort through dark and poorly organized cabinets, especially those huge corner cabinets that seem to swallow items in their far reaches. Eventually those spaces become graveyards for seldom-used items like pastry-decorating tubes and old juicers. This is where pull-out storage units massively transform your kitchen.

What Are Pull-Out Cabinet Storage Units?

If you’re not familiar with pull-out cabinet storage units, this is a feature with possibilities you may never have imagined. Pull-out cabinet storage turns the inside of your cabinet into pull-out bins, often resembling drawers or racks. Rather than bending down or getting on your knees to try to find something in the back of the cabinet, with pull-out storage you only need to pull out the shelf and grab what you need. These are a great way to increase the functionality of your kitchen cabinets and improve your kitchen organization. There are different kinds of pull-out options available; these are the main ones:

  • Trash bins: One of the original pull-out units was the trash can slide. These are still a great choice for families who need to hide their trash cans, i.e. your dog gets into it like mine does. While you can always just place the bin under the kitchen sink, it's nice to have a slide out to prevent the can from scratching and scraping your cabinet. Some trash bin pull-outs have space for only one bin while others have space for two, providing room for a recycling bin as well.
  • Internal drawers: With internal drawers, when you open the cabinet, you’re immediately find drawers hidden just inside the door. This pull-out option is handy for small items. The enclosed construction is pretty flexible and allows you to add things like dividers.
  • Pull-out racks: Metal racks are often less expensive than internal drawers, but they are better suited for larger items like pots, baking sheets, and pan lids. Pull-out racks come in a range of designs, some with more flexibility in organization than others. They’re a great option for all those awkward things which usually get tossed in the lower cabinets.

Sizing Cabinet Pull-Outs

When choosing your cabinet pull-outs, it's important to take clearance and hardware into consideration. With some units, you can lose several inches, and it may be tempting to choose a unit which is too big. Though it seems like you're losing space, keep in mind all of the efficiency and organization that you gain.

To properly size your unit, start by measuring the clear cabinet opening, which is the space between where the opening to your cabinet starts and where the door to the cabinet swings. If your door will move completely out of the way when opened, measure to the hinges. If it won’t, angle it so it intrudes as little as possible and measure from the open side to the door. Your final cabinet insert should be about an inch more narrow than the clear cabinet opening to allow for hardware. You’ll also want to measure the depth of the cabinet from the inside of the cabinet face to the back side of the unit. The goal is for the final depth to allow for the door to shut over your pull-out unit, concealing it completely.

Concrete counters add a modern look to any kitchen.

Concrete counters add a modern look to any kitchen.

Modern Countertop Materials for Your Kitchen

The countertops in your kitchen can make such a big difference in how your kitchen's overall look. One of the best ways to update a tired looking kitchen is with new counters. These days granite is new formica or laminate. However, there are many modern materials that can bring a beautiful look to your kitchen. Here are just a few options to consider if you really want to give things a modern look.


Stone surfaces, like granite and quartz, have been a favorite material for kitchen counters, but soapstone is a material which has gained popularity recently. It’s heat and stain resistant like granite, non-porous (and thus liquid resistant), and has a softer texture than many other stone surfaces. The only thing to watch out for with soapstone is that there are actually two different materials which are sometimes called soapstone. The first is talc, which won't going to give you the kind of countertop surface that you’re looking for. The soapstone you want for your counters is steatite. If you're shopping for soapstone, be sure to ask for the right kind. Fortunately, steatite is the most common kind of soapstone on the market.

Leathered Granite

Granite has been popular as a counter surface for years. As a porous material, though, you have to be careful with spills. Leathered granite solves this problem while giving the classic stone a modern update as well. The surface of the granite is slightly roughed by diamond-tipped brushes, enhancing the stone’s natural color. This also cuts back on some of the shine and closes those infamous pores. The end result is a durable stone countertop with a unique look and a slight texture that really does feel similar to leather.

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Engineered Quartz

Like granite, quartz has been used as a countertop material for years. So what’s the deal with engineered quartz? Unlike traditional quartz countertops, these are made with ground quartz mixed with resins to create a very hard and natural-looking surface. Colors can be added to create tints to match a wide range of decorating styles, a plus if you love bold color in your kitchen. Engineered quartz resists staining, corrosion, and damage from most cleaners. The major drawback to engineered quartz is that it can be damaged by heat just like traditional quartz can.

Solid Surface Acrylics

Solid surface countertops include well-known brands such as Corian and Swanstone. These kinds of countertops mix acrylics with resin to create a stain-resistant surface available in a wide range of colors. Solid surface acrylics can be sanded to repair scratches or other small bits of damage. Perhaps more importantly, the man-made nature of these countertops means that they can be easily customized to meet the specific needs of your home. Their main drawback is that they tend to be vulnerable to heat damage, given that they are still made of plastic.


Over the last several years, concrete countertops have become increasingly popular in modern kitchens. They can be made on-site to ensure that they match your unique kitchen perfectly, and their dense nature means your countertops can take a beating without suffering much damage. Textures, acid-stained colors, and other design elements can be added to the countertops during the creation process. Additionally, additives or sealants significantly reduce the porosity of the concrete. The biggest drawback to concrete at the moment is that it can crack. Modern engineering methods have reduced cracking from happening, and if it does, most concrete counters can be repaired on-site.


Top Lighting Options for your Kitchen

While mood lighting might be a thing in some rooms in the home, great lighting is so important in rooms such as the kitchen and bathrooms. When you’re in the kitchen, good lighting makes things like prepping and cooking much easier. Bad lighting causes shadows, strains your eyes, makes cleaning difficult, and can even be dangerous when cutting things such as vegetables. Fortunately, there are lots of good lighting options available for your kitchen. Here are some of the best ones to consider.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is one popular options for kitchens and is useful if you have a low ceiling in your kitchen. With recessed lighting, you can have multiple light sources while avoiding a large hanging fixture or trying to hide a long, ugly fluorescent light. Recessed lighting can also be used to accent other light fixtures as well, giving you more light when and where you need it while only taking up a small space in the ceiling.

Under-Cabinet Lights

Cabinets, of course, are a must in the kitchen, but they can also block light if you have lots of them or just have one central light fixture. Under-cabinet lighting solves this problem by providing easy to access lighting when and where you need it. Use the same concept to install lighting under stove hoods or other overhead spaces.

Track Lighting

Hear me out! Track lighting usually brings to mind the clunky lights of the 1980s and 1990s, but today's track lights might be a viable solution for your kitchen. Track lights can be moved and positioned to provide lighting where you need it the most. Plus, their adaptability means you don't have to install a ton of light fixtures.

Oversized Light Fixtures

If your decorating style runs to big and bold, consider an oversized light fixture. These kinds of fixtures don't just provide enough lighting for your kitchen. Designed to stand out and draw eyes, an oversized light fixture becomes as much a part of your lighting solutions as they are a part of your decorating style.

Pendant Lighting

For a kitchen with high ceilings, consider pendant lighting. This type of light fixture is popularly seen over a bar or open counter area and adds a touch of elegance to your home. These fixtures are suspended from the ceiling by cables or pipes, bringing the light closer to where you’ll be working without the need for stronger bulbs or harsher light. There are so many styles for the pendants in pendant lighting, making it easy to customize your look and bring your decorating style to this kitchen lighting option.

Tube Lighting

A lot of people think that tube lighting is ugly and out of place in the home, but modern tube lights have come a long way from old fluorescent lights. Many of them are now LED lights, which provide consistent lighting at a fraction of the energy cost. The tubes and enclosures themselves have also evolved, offering stylish accents that illuminate while still adding to the overall look of your home.


Whether you plan to update your kitchen because it's time or because you plan to sell your home soon, three major components of the kitchen can make a world of difference. Adding cabinet storage, upgrading countertops, and updating light fixtures makes any kitchen look newer instantly and can make your kitchen more organized and efficient. With the right options chosen, these updates can add value and eye-pleasing aesthetics to your kitchen without the need to renovate the entire thing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Cristina Vanthul

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