Su Casa member Hihowareya is looking for suggestions on updating her kitchen. She is taking down the wallpaper and trying to decide on paint colors. The cabinets, she says, will have to stay, but she is considering new hardware. New flooring is also an option, but she needs something pet-friendly; she's considering cork. And, she's putting in a new island with a stainless steel bar sink and a butcher block countertop. I have a few suggestions for Hihowareya, and I'm sure she'd love to hear yours, so
It looks you have a big project on your hands! First of all, I'm glad we're on the same page about the wallpaper. It has to go.
Since you can't replace the cabinets, I recommend painting them. Remove all the doors and the hardware. Then paint the frame and the doors in a semi-gloss white; you can't go wrong with something like Benjamin Moore's Decorator's White. This will brighten and update the room at the same time. And, kitchen messes wipe clean quite easily on semi-gloss.
I do suggest that you replace the hardware; the brass is pretty dated. Something like the Rock Candy handles used by Su Casa member Citygal would look fantastic. But I understand that the cost of new hardware can add up quickly, especially with so many cabinets. So, hunt for hardware in bulk, on eBay, and at architectural salvage shops first. You might even ask a local contractor if he can salvage any hardware for you. Also head to your local hardware store and check out the prices on basic handles in a more contemporary finish like stainless steel. If all else fails, spray paint or have your handles powdercoated.
Your blue countertops are definitely dated as well. I'd recommend replacing them with granite or quartz. It's an investment, but it's a change (unlike paint) that will increase the value of your house. So, it's worth it. Butcher block or concrete countertops are also great options that are more affordable but also contemporary.
Installing cork flooring is a wonderful idea because it's a sustainable material. You might also try bamboo flooring. You can save big bucks by doing all the installation work yourself. You can also install hardwood floors and take extra steps to protect them with additional layers of varnish and/or an area rug.
With all of this said and done, you'll have a lot of flexibility with your paint colors. White cabinets in particular go with anything. I recommend choosing your paint color to complement the colors in the adjoining rooms, or if you're stuck, you can't go wrong with an all-white kitchen! Or, you might try some contemporary wallpaper in the kitchen. Just don't worry about trying to match the colors to your appliances, because once they're on their last legs (which they may be) you'll have to replace them anyway.
Hope that helps!