Jan 27, 2024

Unexpected Items That Could Instantly Upgrade Your Kitchen

If you spend a lot of time cooking, eating, and entertaining, you might consider your kitchen one of the most important rooms in your home. Depending on your style, the usual kitchen decorating tips can leave you feeling uninspired and wishing for something more unique. If so, unexpected decor items — items you'd expect to find in other rooms — might find the perfect home in your kitchen. An item like a table lamp, mirror, or loveseat may be the unconventional decor item that your favorite room is missing.

As the central hub for nourishing yourself and spending time with loved ones, your kitchen should reflect your style while also being well-suited for your needs. They are often decorated with function in mind, and while that's an important aspect, it can make some feel rather bland. Unexpected decor items can make the space come across as more lively. Whether you're looking for unique decorating ideas or you want to bring more function to your kitchen, there's an unexpected kitchen decor idea on this list that can suit your home. Make your kitchen feel all the more distinctive with these non-traditional elements.

In other high-traffic rooms like living rooms and bedrooms, we tend to utilize a variety of lighting, including overhead lights, floor lamps, and table lamps. Why not in the kitchen? Overhead lighting is practical but can feel stark, especially if you don't have a light dimmer. The idea of the kitchen table lamp has really found its footing on TikTok, which helped propel the trend into the mainstream.

It took off so quickly because it created layers of lighting, transforming the space from strictly utilitarian to a place to relax. As Noorein Kapoor, founder of Noorein Kapoor Design, explained to Living Etc., "The key to making [a] room cozy with lighting is through layering that illuminates all four corners to create balance and a pleasant atmosphere." While most people are placing them on the kitchen counter, you can also add them to an island, dining table, or side table. Besides transforming the kitchen's mood, table lamps can help illuminate dark spots, particularly under cabinets where overhead lighting might not reach. Lastly, a lamp can also provide a softer, diffused light, perfect for those early mornings or late evenings when you don't want to use the overhead lights.

Artwork adds style and character to any wall, but we're more accustomed to seeing it on living room and bedroom walls instead of in the kitchen. You can display art in a kitchen in a few ways: Hang artwork on the wall, either alone or grouped as a gallery wall, or display it in frames on your open shelves or countertops. If you want to go very non-traditional, you can even display artwork on or above your kitchen cabinets. While it may feel intuitive to stick with food-themed art, choosing more distinctive paintings, like vintage or modern pieces, can make this decor tip more unexpected. That's the beautiful thing about art — your options are endless.

One gorgeous way to implement this decor concept is with a gallery wall. Above a kitchen table or breakfast nook is a particularly nice spot, adding visual interest where you spend time with loved ones. You can choose an eclectic mix of prints thrown together in a creative layout, or go a more minimalist route with simpler prints spaced neatly apart. Symmetrical or non-symmetrical and with an array of framing options, gallery walls are a place to play with creativity. Just keep one tip in mind to keep it cohesive: Try to repeat your color palette across at least two or three pieces of art. Having a familiar tone across your gallery wall can really pull it all together.

Washable rugs and runners have really changed the game when it comes to decorating indoors. The rise of affordable and stylish options makes it easier to justify having them in high-traffic and mess-prone areas like the kitchen. When spills happen (which is pretty much inevitable), cleaning a washable rug is as easy as throwing it in the washing machine. These rugs are often made of durable polyester and come in various colors, patterns, and sizes.

There are a few tips you can keep in mind when choosing a kitchen rug. First, a low-pile or flatweave choice is best, since these are easier to clean. To better hide stains (even if you choose a washable one), choose a darker color and opt for a patterned design. Rugs look beautiful in an open-concept kitchen, while runners are popular for the floor space between the kitchen island and counters. When it comes to sizing, keep at least three inches of exposed floor around the edge of a rug and nearby cabinets or islands. Of course, you'll also want to choose a size that can fit in your washing machine for cleaning. Lastly, to prevent slips and falls, a non-slip pad is a good choice to add under your rug. A thick pad can also dampen sounds and make it more comfortable to stand in the kitchen for long periods.

A chandelier instantly makes a room feel more glamorous and put-together. While you'll usually find them in the entryway or dining room, there's also a place for chandeliers in the kitchen. A larger chandelier can be the eye-catching decorative centerpiece of a kitchen, or you can install multiple smaller versions for elegant but functional lighting. Common kitchen placements include over the kitchen island or dining table, but you can also place one in the middle of the kitchen or over the sink.

Chandeliers come in a range of designs to suit different decor styles, including modern, industrial, farmhouse, and rustic options. Since it's such an eye-catching piece, you'll want to choose one that you love the look of, but there are other aspects to consider as well. It's also important to consider the lighting function. Uplight chandeliers direct the light toward the ceiling, while ambient chandeliers have a soft, diffused light. Both of these types are a good choice for ambient lighting. Downlight chandeliers direct the light downwards, so they're suitable for task lighting, which can be particularly useful over a kitchen island. Placement also matters in a kitchen. If installed over a kitchen island or dining table, the chandelier should sit at least 30 inches above the counter or table surface. This height should be tall enough to prevent the chandelier from obstructing your view or shining its light directly into your guest's eyes.

Mirrors can add a lot to your home decor. They can make a room feel more open and give the illusion of more space. You can incorporate mirrors in a few creative ways in the kitchen. You can mount one on a wall, put a freestanding mirror in a corner, install a mirrored backsplash, or place a mirror over the kitchen sink. The mirror size and placement can affect how it looks in the room. Larger mirrors will reflect more of the kitchen, so they'll work particularly well to make a room feel spacious (a major bonus for small kitchens). Big mirrors can be a pricey purchase, so if you're crafty, you can DIY a large mirror for less.

Smaller mirrors can also make a space feel roomier if placed strategically. Consider the view that it will reflect. For example, placing a mirror across from a window will reflect your window's view, which is a lovely way to bring a peek of the outdoors in. This type of placement is also excellent for brightening a kitchen. As interior designer Anna Franklin explains to Homes and Gardens, "To maximize light, position mirrors in areas where natural light shines to reflect the light to more dimly lit areas." We particularly enjoy this example photo, with a stylized mirror over the kitchen sink that gives the illusion of a sink window.

Apart from the occasional rug or runner, kitchens can be lacking in textured decorations. It makes sense why people want to avoid soft textures in a kitchen — soft items tend to be harder to clean than hard, smooth surfaces. But just like in other areas of your home, soft and fluffy accessories can bring so much coziness to your kitchen. Throw blankets, sheepskins, and plush cushions can add a ton of warmth, both in terms of your kitchen's appearance and creating plush surfaces for you to cuddle up in while sipping your morning coffee. One of the easiest ways to incorporate soft fabric pieces in the kitchen is in your seating, like tossing a throw blanket across the back of a counter chair or placing plush cushions on a breakfast nook bench.

Some of the same rules for choosing a kitchen rug apply to choosing other soft kitchen textiles. You'll want to select easy-to-clean fabrics. Low-pile and machine-washable items simplify cleaning, while dark and patterned designs are less likely to show stains. However, since blankets and cushions are less likely to fall victim to spills than a rug, you can disregard these tips altogether. For example, the white and high-pile sheepskin chair covers in this photo look too beautiful to pass up, even if they might be challenging to clean.

Picture lights are a dramatic accent lighting option that makes your artwork and photos look like they're in a gallery. These lights cast a wide beam of light to illuminate framed pictures from above. The light is usually adjustable, so you can direct the angle where it's needed. Intended to pull attention to images or other decor pieces, they can create a striking effect in a kitchen. They come in hardwired, plug-in, and battery-powered options to suit different setups.

One common use for picture lights is to illuminate a wall-mounted artwork, but you can also use them to light up a shelf, bookcase, mirror, or display cabinet. As a general rule of thumb, place one at the middle point above the picture or area you're trying to light. Angling the light at a 30 to 35-degree angle can help light evenly and avoid glare if you're illuminating a framed picture. Picture lights don't just need to be decorative and can have a functional use instead, lighting up a small area with soft task lighting. For example, you can use a picture light over a coffee or tea area during early mornings when you don't want to switch on the bright overhead lights.

Another way to bring texture into your kitchen is by adding a couch. Yes, that's right, a living room couch in your kitchen. The key factor is to choose one that doesn't overwhelm the space — it shouldn't be the focal point. Besides making a kitchen look cozy, a kitchen couch also practical. It's a comfortable spot to enjoy a morning cup of tea, and it's an inviting seat for guests when you're entertaining. You can choose to replace a breakfast nook bench with a couch or place a freestanding one where you have an open space.

To avoid taking up too much kitchen space, you'll likely want to choose a small couch, like a loveseat. A plain couch in a neutral color will look less intrusive than a patterned and bold one, though the latter might still be a good choice if you want to make a statement. However, a more minimalist design and uncluttered styling is better; overstuffed couches with lots of cushions and throw blankets might look too busy in a kitchen. Also, consider choosing a sofa with washable, removable covers, which will help make clean-up easy if there are spills.

If you have an overflowing collection of recipe books, why not add a bookcase? It is another one of those decor items that make a kitchen feel homier — more like a living space rather than just a cooking space. Plus, it doesn't need only to hold kitchen-related books. You can use it to store your regular books, of course, as well as dishes, cookware, condiments, spices, and other kitchen bits and bobs.

A bookcase is an easier-to-install and renter-friendly alternative to wall-mounted shelving. It's perfect for those who like the look of open shelving in the kitchen but don't have the means to install them. In small kitchens, a tall, narrow shelving unit can help you take full advantage of vertical wall space. Not enough room to squeeze it in? See if you can incorporate it into the kitchen island. Custom-made islands can have built-in open shelving, which looks unique and provides the perfect spot for your cookbook collection.

Interior designer and HGTV host Leanne Ford is the inspiration behind our last unexpected kitchen decorating tip, which is to opt for a dining table instead of a kitchen island. Islands are so common that it probably didn't even cross your mind to forego one. But believe it or not, a dining table can be even more practical and look beautiful.

In many homes, kitchens aren't just a place for cooking but also a place to entertain guests, eat and relax, and study and do homework. A spot to sit at a dining table is better equipped for these tasks than a kitchen island. Plus, a table can be a safer choice for anyone with accessibility needs. They give you a place to sit while doing your food prep, and since they're lower to the ground, they're easier to use for many wheelchair users. Since it's such a centerpiece in the kitchen, you'll want to choose a dining table that you really love. An ornate vintage table is a gorgeous choice (and one that Ford mentions on Instagram.) But if you want a more modern look, a plainer contemporary table will work too.