A kitchen gets so much use and abuse, it's easy for even the most coordinated room to lose its luster. Take a step back and pretend you're walking into someone else's kitchen. What do you like? What would you change? What looks worn and past its prime? Your cabinets might look quite different with a modest investment in new hardware. How about replacing the wallpaper in the backsplash area with tile? Are your light fixtures from another decade?
Examine your window treatments. Opt for something lighter and brighter or just different. Between cabinets and appliances, kitchens have very hard visual lines. More fabric around the windows and coordinated chair pads may be just the ticket to warming up and softening the kitchen.
And yes-that old countertop can be painted (as described above with a good primer, topcoat, and lots of polyurethane), though you will sacrifice some durability. But if you're looking for fresh new colors, painting old Formica or similar surfaces might be the answer.
Approach each area with an open mind and a fresh eye and you may find you already have much of what's needed for turning a decorating nightmare into a "dream room."