Posted by: mick | August 25, 2012

budget kitchen updates

When we moved into our house, I knew I wanted to update the kitchen.  It was in okay condition, but it was super dark; the original cabinets were a dull natural wood color, there was a gross soffit blocking out light, all of the woodwork was a dark taupe complimented by slightly lighter taupe walls, and the original knobs were super gross.  It had lots of potential, but it was really dingy.  The previous homeowners had redone the floors in a neutral greige tile and had installed grey corian counters, so we had some upgrades, but the rest was super dark and in desperate need of something brighter.

So, the day we closed, I started dismantling the cabinets for an upgrade.  We primed and painted them all, giving them a nice glossy white finish, and we spray painted all of the hardware a matte black.  The results were still a little bit country (We wanted to replace the hardware, but holy crap is that expensive!), but for about $100 or less, it made a huge difference.  We quickly set out to paint the walls, but just as quickly discovered that the previous owners painted over wallpaper.  Whilst trying to remove it, it became apparent that they actually wall-papered over plaster board that wasn’t sealed properly, which meant that our removal put giant dents in the wall.  Completely destroyed, we called it a day and saved up to have some professionals come in in the fall.  They patched the walls and removed the soffit (which turned out to be just plywood that had wallpaper on it.  WTF.), and it was a bit of an improvement.  Because of some previous water damage, though, we had to use some super duper heavy duty primer on the ceilings, and it was too cold at that point to open the windows for proper ventilation, so we lived with the kitchen as-was for several months.

Cut to a few weeks ago, when one day I’d had enough.  While J was out back chopping wood, I got out the primer, got everything out of the kitchen, and got to work.  J was insanely busy that week with meetings, so I primed and painted the. entire. kitchen. on my own.  Here’s what I did: patched the drywall holes in the ceiling, primed the entire ceiling and the walls above the chair rail, painted the ceiling a light aqua, painted the walls and cabinet backs in the same light grey as the living room (Olympic’s Thin Ice, which has had us singing this for over a year), and painted the chair rail and below the same glossy white as the cabinets.

Then, J and I installed the new track lighting over the sink, he hung the new modern ceiling fan, and the new “chandelier” (aka warehouse lighting from Lowe’s).  It took a little over a week, but I took two days off due to meetings.  When we had family visit the following weekend, we spent a ton of time in the kitchen, and none of us could get over how bright it was.  Even just the white woodwork and trim reflects a ton more light than the old muddy water color, and cooking in there is an infinitely more pleasant experience.

Of course, J and I knew that we wanted to add a bit more color, and we decided early on that yellow and red would be our accent colors to warm up the very cool palette.  We already have my yellow dinette set, my red Le Creuset dutch oven, and some vintage red canisters I bought myself for my birthday two years ago, and we found some adorable chevron fabric with those colors plus aqua and dark teal to make some curtains.  So, I spent a day last week getting some ready for the front and side windows (we left the dutch door uncovered for some light), and the room looks a lot brighter.  I really loved the light of the open front window, but we live across from a school so the curtains are necessary for privacy’s sake.  We keep them open all day, though, and we still get lots of light.

Then, we decided to do our little “art” project for the empty small wall that faces the window.  We went had ordered four square gallery frames from Blick last year, and then we headed to the craft store and picked out lots of different scrap-book paper options with which to fill them.  I definitely squealed when I spotted the kitchen pattern; it’s the perfect color combo!  We decided to do different patterns for the other two to mix it up, so one is a yellow polka dot while the other looks like corkboard.  We put them in the frames, hung them up, and now we’ve got four adorable white boards!  They’re great for making note of things like grocery needs or the dates of flea and tick meds (Yes, our lives are insanely glamorous), but we’ve also been having fun leaving each other little notes.  They make me smile whenever I walk by, and I love that they weren’t only really cheap, but they also will be fun to customize for holidays or just whenever we feel like it.  For less than a dollar apiece, we can have a whole new look!

So that’s it for us for a while, I think, but between the kitchen and the living room upgrades, our first floor is finally looking more like us!



  1. I am loving the vintage-industrial pendant lamp!

  2. I’m honored that you used the entirely misleading “we” for so much of this. I just did grunt electrical work – the vision was all you.

  3. swoon. looks fantastic! can’t wait to see it in person!

  4. It looks amazing!

  5. Not only does it look amazing, it IS amazing! Great job, Mick (and you too, Jason!) Really, it is a very modern transformation and who knew that painting the ceiling that cool blue would be the clincher! Loved it.

  6. Wow, it looks great! I’m swooning over your blue ceiling. I’m sure it was well worth all the effort that went in to it. You also have the same kitchen layout as I do!

  7. It turned out just beautifully! I love how the white cabinets pop, and the ceiling hue is gorgeous. My parents used to have that same hardware on their cabinets (which were kind of a gross stained oak from the 70s) before they redid their kitchen. I can’t believe how great they look in contrast with the white. This looks like a great space to cook, bake, eat, and visit.

  8. Oh, wow! This looks like an amazing upgrade! And I love, love, LOVE the aqua ceiling.

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