Kitchen Makeover

     The kitchen is the heart of the home.  My family spends so much time in our kitchen; from cooking and packing lunches to art projects and dancing, we do it all in the kitchen.  Since we spend so much time in this space, it is really important to us that it is not only functional but also beautiful.  Functionally, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our kitchen when we bought our house.  Everything was brand new, we had plenty of space, and the layout was functional.  This finishes however, were not what we were dreaming of.  Instead of just accepting our space as it was, we decided to makeover our kitchen and turn it into the beautiful space that we knew it had the potential to become.  If you are unhappy with the way that your kitchen looks, and want to know how we transformed our kitchen from dark and basic to bright and beautiful, you have come to the right place.  First of all, lets take a look at what our kitchen looked like originally, and what it looks like now.  

Kitchen Before and After.jpg

That's a pretty big transformation, right?  Want to hear the best part about it? We completed this kitchen makeover for under $1,000 and it was all relatively easy! The majority of this project can be completed by someone who doesn't have any previous D.I.Y. experience.  Let's get started and I will lead you through what we did to make our kitchen dreams come true.  

Why makeover a new kitchen?

     When we bought our house, we were thrilled that the kitchen was much larger than the kitchen at our last house.  Our tiny townhouse kitchen was the perfect size when we purchased it in our early 20's with no kids.  Once we had our daughter the cabinets began to overflow with toddler dishes and snacks.  By the time we had our son it was clear that we couldn't pull off a tiny kitchen for much longer without this Momma losing her mind.  Moving to a new and bigger house allowed us to finally feel like we weren't constantly in danger of overflowing, especially in the kitchen.  At the same time, our new kitchen still left us with a whole lot to be desired.  Our house was brand new when we purchased it, but since it was a spec house all of the finishes had already been selected.  Everything was new and looked pretty good, but it still left us feeling like this space was a missed opportunity.  We purchased our house knowing that there would be a lot of things that we would change in the process of changing it from a "house" to "our home" and we were really excited about that.  With every project that we undertake, our home becomes an even more cherished part of our life.  

Here is our kitchen before the makeover. Plenty of space for us, but very simple and the space was much darker than we wanted it to be.

Here is our kitchen before the makeover. Plenty of space for us, but very simple and the space was much darker than we wanted it to be.

     Even though we are no strangers to DIY projects and have all of the necessary skills to transform the space into something much more in line with our taste (my husband Putter used to design and build houses), we were still a bit intimidated by the project.  While we have a good amount of experience, we had never actually painted cabinets or tiled a backsplash.  We didn't let that concern us though, knowing that as long as we did our research it would turn out great.  Practically speaking, our biggest concern for the project was the budget.  Exactly how much money did we want to put into a space that was brand new? So for about a year we would send each other pictures of beautifully done kitchens, talk about "some day when we do a kitchen makeover", and dream about the potential for this space.  We had no clue when we would actually tackle the project, but it was on the list of changes that we wanted to make in our house.

     Then one day my parents laid down the major guilt trip about how they have NEVER had the grandkids over for a weekend, and I finally gave in.  Giving up control over our two little ones (ages 2 and 4) who both have food allergies is not something that I take lightly.  That's why they have never been out of my care for more than a few hours at a time, and certainly never over night at someone else's house.  I finally gave in though, because this was an experience that I desired both for my kids and for my parents.  My kids are their only grandkids, and they really do take excellent care of them.  Since we have never had an entire weekend available to work on a house project, we decided to make the most of our time and tackle the kitchen.  We would never be able to tackle such a big and messy project with the kids home, so it seemed like the perfect time.  

The Plan:


     We decided that we would paint the cabinets, buy new cabinet hardware, install a backsplash, remove two cabinets and install open shelves in their place, and update the lighting.  Since we had already been dreaming about this space for a long time, it didn't take us long to select all of the finishes and gather all of the supplies that we would need.  Honestly, we didn't have to look very long or make any big concessions to keep this project budget friendly, despite the long list of changes.  We made sure to order/purchase all of our supplies ahead of time so that we wouldn't waste any of our precious kid-free time looking for supplies.   

Step 1: Cabinet and trim removal- Our first step was removing the two cabinets on either side of the sink that we planned to replace with open shelving.  Once we took these down, we knew that there was no going back!  Next we took the trim off of the kitchen window and replaced it with a more detailed trim piece.  We plan to do this to all of the windows and doors in our house when we paint all of the trim white, but that's a project for another weekend!

Step 2: Cabinet painting- I knew that there would be a lot of prep work before I could start painting the cabinets, so I spent a few evenings before we officially started the project getting everything prepared.  This included removing the cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware, taking everything out of the cabinets, and lots of sanding.  After sanding I made sure the get the cabinets clean and dust free before priming them. Now it was time for the fun part, priming and painting the cabinets.  Even though we used a one coat coverage paint, it took one coat of primer and 2 coats of paint to achieve our desired coverage.  We chose Behr Marquee paint in the color "Flannel Gray" with a satin finish because it is the best paint available at Home Depot, and we wanted to make sure that we took every step necessary to get the best possible finish.  We went with a satin finish so that the cabinets would be easy to wipe clean, but not super shiny.  For the full materials list and project information for cabinet painting, see my post on Painting Kitchen Cabinets.

The priming and painting part of the project took a long time! I was super thankful for the painting space in our unfinished basement, it was the perfect spot to paint 21 cabinet doors.  

Step 3: Subway tile backsplash- While I was busy painting, Putter was installing our subway tile backsplash.  The tiling process was a lot like the painting process. It took a lot of work, but it was not difficult.  This was mostly due to the size of our backsplash, as we really wanted to make an impact and decided to take the tile all the way up to the ceiling on the wall behind the sink.   After Putter had finished setting all of the tile, we teamed up to tackle the grout.  We selected a dark grout because we love the look of a contrasting grout.  He was in charge of applying the grout, and I followed behind him to wipe off the excess with a sponge.  And wipe, and wipe, and wipe some more.  My arms did get a little bit tired at this point, but it was totally worth it!  We listened to an audio book to help pass the time, so it really wasn't that bad.  


Step 4: New Hardware and Lighting- By the time that we finished grouting, the cabinets were completely dry and we were able to reinstall all of the doors and drawers.  This part was SO exciting because we finally felt like we could see the finish line.  We used the same mounting hardware that the cabinets had originally, but we replaced the knobs with a combination of new knobs and pulls.  We decided to go with dark knobs and drawer pulls to compliment the dark grout.  This little detail made a big difference.  Our old brushed nickel knobs would have gotten completely lost on the newly painted cabinets.  At this point all of our lighting had arrived from Amazon (gosh I love Amazon prime), so we swapped out our builder basic lighting for these lights over the island, and this one over the sink.  The lights that we installed over the island actually came with a decorative metal accent that sits on the top of the glass part, but we didn't like that part and it was super easy to take off.  

Step 5: Caulking- Once all of the grouting was complete, it was time to do some caulking to finish off the tile.  We used white caulk and did all of the seams (around the window, where the cabinets and tile meet, and where the ceiling/granite meet the tile.  

Step 6: Painting trim- Since we decided to replace the window trim, we needed to paint that too.  I primed the trim when I was priming the cabinet boxes, but waited to paint it until we were done grouting just incase that process was really messy.  For this I used Behr Ultra Premium Plus paint in the color "Nimbus Cloud" in an eggshell finish.  This is one of my favorite white paints!  After prepping the surrounding area with painters tape I got to work and applied two coats of paint.  By this time I had picked up the kids from Grandpa & Grandma's house, and despite my requests for "a little space" my daughter stood under me as I did a variety of yoga moves over the kitchen sink until every little part was painted.  While this made things a bit more difficult, I won't deny that I missed her while she was gone and it was nice to have her right there with me.  Both kids joined in on the prep work before I painted the trim, although they need a bit more practice before I cut them loose on any D.I.Y.'s around the house!


Step 7: Floating Shelves- When we removed the cabinets on either side of the kitchen window, it wasn't because we had way too much cabinet space (is that even a thing?), but rather that we wanted to create a brighter, more open feeling space.  We decided to use a hidden bracket rather than a visible one, and are so happy with the look that this gave us.  Putter took a 2x12 board, ripped off the rounded edges, and cut it into 16" long pieces.  After sanding the shelves, notching them out so that they would sit flush, and dry fitting them onto their mounting hardware I was able to start the staining process.  We used Pre-stain Conditioner, Water Based Antique Oak stain, and High Performance top coat, all from General Finishes.  These are all water based which makes cleaning up a breeze (plus they don't have the terrible smell of oil-based stain)! Once the top coat was dry we were able to install the shelves onto their mounting hardware.  Finally, our project was complete! After adding a few simple items to the shelves, we sat back to marvel an how much we were able to accomplish.  If you don't have a table saw and some general woodworking experience, I suggest purchasing a floating shelf kit that fits your space, like this mix and match option from World Market.  This will simplify the process and still give you a similar look.  

Time to Celebrate

     All of the late nights and hard work aside, seeing our kitchen make this transformation in under 2 weeks time (two weekends and some late weeknights) was well worth it! Plus, the project came in around $700 making it super budget friendly!  We still have a few things to finish up in this space, most importantly picking out new blinds.  We haven't quite figured out what we would like to go with, so stay tuned!  See below for the story about why we couldn't simply rehang the original blinds in the kitchen window.  

Blinds + Candle + Preschooler = one close call

When we purchased our house we bought and installed some simple cordless cellular blinds for every window in the house.  We would have rehung the blinds that we already had in the kitchen window had it not been for a little accident...and by little accident I mean my 4 year old daughter started them on fire.  My husband loves to have a candle burning, and we thought that the kitchen window sill would be a safe place to burn one.  Our kids get into everything, but they have never climbed up on the kitchen countertops.  We thought this made the kitchen window an ideal spot.  However, Miss P. apparently didn't like that the afternoon sun was shining in her eyes so she climbed up and closed the blinds-right into the candle.  I was just a few yards away and didn't even notice.  It was little man's birthday and I was busy getting the house prepared for our guests to arrive.  The smell must have come on gradually because I didn't even notice it.  When Putter came in from shoveling the drive way and smelled what was now a very strong smoke smell we were able to put out the fire right before it got the the fabric part of the blinds.  Needless to say we had a good talk about fire safety and now only burn candles when the kids are sleeping.  Ooof! Anyways, since we need new blinds anyways, we decided that we want to go with something special in this spot.     

Enjoying the Journey

     During this project and always, I was so thankful to have my husband Putter by my side.  He is so knowledgeable and is always willing to learn new skills to make our projects turn out great. (Did I mention that we have never painted cabinets, tiled, or build floating shelves before?)  I know that home improvement projects have a tendency to get couples arguing, but we can honestly say that we enjoy each others company during projects like this and look forward to the next project!  We also look forward to all of the birthday parties and holiday celebrations that we will host in our new space!   

I hope that this has inspired you to tackle your kitchen project too!