Before & After: A Bright, Affordable DIY Kitchen Update

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I’ve waited a long time to write this post, and am thrilled to finally share about our DIY kitchen remodel! My husband and I live in a 1910 craftsman style parsonage in small town Iowa. Ben is the pastor at our church, and we have been incredibly blessed to live in this home! Our church owns and maintains the house, so we only make small changes and updates. We are fortunate that the church and previous ministers have maintained this house very well, so we have only made minor decor changes to suit our preferences. (painting the walls and updating a few light fixtures).

This house is full of beautiful, original wood trim, built-ins, and doors from 1910. But the kitchen was expanded and remodeled sometime in the 1980’s. The dark wood cupboards had normal wear and tear, and the off white linoleum floors had seen better days. The church gave us a small budget to “redo” the kitchen, and I wanted to keep the cost as low as possible. We don’t need new appliances or fixtures or flooring, so I found creative ways to brighten and update the room without spending much money. I read every article out there about painting kitchen cupboards, and decided to go for it!

Here are some before photos of our kitchen. There is only one window above the sink, which didn’t provide much natural light. The dark cupboards sucked any brightness out of the room, and the white floors gave off a hospital vibe that I did not love. The walls used to be a warm terra cotta color, so the newer white paint still had some orange undertones.

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I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for the cupboards, and would stand behind that decision over and over. A lot of companies are starting to produce “chalk paint”, but Annie Sloan invented it! I bought my paint from an online stockist, The Purple Painted Lady. They delivered my paint quickly and safely, and included a packet of helpful resources and instructions. I referenced this packet many times throughout the process. I used one quart of Pure White to do two coats on the upper cabinets, and one quart of Duck Egg Blue to do two coats on the lowers. Chalk paint is unique because it requires minimal surface prep. The traditional method of painting cabinets requires taking off the hardware and doors, sanding all surfaces, priming, and painting multiple coats. With chalk paint, you remove the hardware, leave the doors on, and don’t need to use primer!

You do need to degrease the cabinets really, really well with a degreasing soap. (I used Dawn). This step is SO important. Please please please do not skip this step or rush through it. If there are any grease spots on your cabinets, the grease will show through the paint no matter how many coats you apply! After scrubbing our cabinets multiple times, I still had a few small spots show through on the uppers. This brings me to my number one tip for a DIY kitchen remodel.

Approach your DIY remodel with realistic expectations.

I did not have perfect, new cabinets before they were painted. They had stains and scratches and wear and tear. While I was painting, I was disappointed that my cabinets didn’t magically look brand new and blemish free. How silly of me! If you start with an old kitchen, you will still have an old kitchen! But don’t let this discourage you from putting in the hard work to give it an update. When you get really, really close and examine the cabinets, they have some imperfections. But do you ever really meticulously examine your cabinets? I know I don’t! Being in our kitchen is so much more pleasant now. It is bright and colorful and full of light. If I could go back, I would still definitely decide to paint the cabinets! So if you’re considering it, but are afraid of the results, just do it! It is the most affordable way to dramatically change the look and feel of your kitchen.

Now that I’ve exhausted the topic of cabinet painting, here is the finished product!

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In the “before” photos, every light in the kitchen was on and it still felt like a cave. The “after” photos were taken at the same time of day with NO lights turned on! It is kind of unbelievable what a difference some paint can make in a room. In addition to painting the cupboards, I painted the window frame above the sink, the trim, the backsplash, the soffit, and all of the walls. It felt silly to paint white over white, but the fresh, bright new paint made a huge difference in the brightness of the room.

We considered replacing the floors with a wood-like vinyl, but the $350 price tag was too steep for a cosmetic change. Our floors are in fine condition, so we opted for a giant, colorful rug instead. It adds major coziness to the kitchen.

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(A peak at the beautiful wood trim on the outside of the kitchen. I didn’t paint any original wood. Everything in the kitchen was from the 1980’s remodel.)

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(I was tempted to take everything off the sides and top of the fridge so that it looked cleaner and more magazine-esque. But I didn’t, because my house has stuff in it. I have stuff on my fridge, and I’m okay with that. I wish more Pinterest posts showed real kitchens with real stuff in them! So there is our stuff. Magnetic poetry, photos, and a card from my grandma.)

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(The framed photo is a collage of coffee bags from our favorite places!)

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The other major update we made was the cupboard hardware. The doors used to have large handles in the very middle of the panel. They reminded me of door knockers. The previous family must have taken them off (good call) because there were only holes in each door, and one handle on the laundry chute. The drawers had old handles that weren’t in great condition. I removed all of the hardware and filled the holes on the doors with wood filler before painting.  The hardware I wanted would have cost a small fortune (about $10 a handle… not joking). After months of searching, I found almost exactly the same style on Amazon for about $1 a piece. I used a $50 Amazon gift card from our wedding, so the total for 20 knobs and 20 handles came out to $3.53. I was so happy about that!

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When making design decisions for the kitchen, I initially leaned towards a minimal, modern vibe with all neutral elements. I was thinking of white uppers and black lowers, with modern accents and not much color. But as I browsed Pinterest for inspiration, I undoubtedly gravitated towards bright kitchens with a lot of color- specifically that perfect shade of blue green. I can’t deny it, it is and will always be my favorite color. I decided to be true to my own style instead of what is currently trendy, and I am so glad that I did.

I wholeheartedly believe that nothing you truly love will ever go out of style.

So when you are designing a new space, keep in mind your personal preferences and tastes instead of relying on Pinterest to tell you what’s trendy. Look to the rest of your home, and even your wardrobe for inspiration. Some people say that hardware is the jewelry of the kitchen, which makes sense to me because all of my jewelry is simple and gold! It would make sense that I’m drawn to simple gold hardware!

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(The kitchen windowsill is my favorite place to display my favorite tiny things and plants.)

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I love using Mrs.Meyer’s seasonal cleaning products in my kitchen! I found the lemon scent here.

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I’ll share more details in a post next week about the cost breakdown, material sources, and the process I used to paint the cabinets. I also have a few tips and tricks to share if you are about to undertake a kitchen remodel of your own!

Thanks for following along with me as I seek to make this house our home! If you enjoyed reading this post, use the link below to share on Pinterest.

Thanks for reading!

With love,

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Sources:

Hardware. from Amazon

knobshandle

Rug. from Wayfair

our kitchen rug

Duck Egg Blue Chalk Paint from The Purple Painted Lady

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Pure White Chalk Paint from The Purple Painted Lady

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Annie Sloan Clear Wax from The Purple Painted Lady

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Ultimate Waxing Brush from The Purple Painted Lady

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Mrs.Meyer’s Soap

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57 thoughts on “Before & After: A Bright, Affordable DIY Kitchen Update

  1. Dear Avery,
    God Bless you and your husband in your new home. You are certainly inspirational! Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.
    Pam

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  2. Found my way here from your post on Apartment Therapy – so glad I clicked through to see more of this lovely kitchen. First – hooray for Iowa girls! I moved away from Iowa, where I was born and lived all my life, a couple years ago. My family and a good chunk of my heart are still there. Second – holy moly, that rug. It is a stunner. I agree with some of the comments on AT about potential worries about spills/grease, but really, that rug makes the kitchen. And I lived in an apartment for several years with carpet and I had no issues whatsoever. You just catch spills right away and give it a good vacuum fairly often, easy peasy. Plus, there’s always scotchgard, lol. Third – I am in love with that small section of butcher block countertop! How amazing would that be if it were all over! I am a bit obsessed with the warmth butcher block counters add to a kitchen, especially nicely worn in ones.

    Such a great transformation; thanks for sharing. And now I’m off to peruse the rest of your blog! 🙂

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  3. I love, love, love you “new!” kitchen. The colors are just beautiful and it’s so bright and cheerful, especially adding the lovely rug. I have to say that we have a “very small” galley kitchen with barely enough room for two of us to move around at the same time. I so envy you that large room and with a window! We don’t even have a window. 😦 Our cupboards are white and all white appliances but even so you must turn a light on… Thank you so much for showing us your makeover!!

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  4. Very nice! Your new kitchen has a nice, fresh feel to it. I appreciate the advice about the paint and the prep work. I’m planning to re-do our kitchen with a low-budget upgrade (ours is a starter home; even if we had the budget, it would be ridiculous to invest a lot of money on the job); your tips are helpful. (Our kitchen looks like the kitchen in every apartment I’ve lived in, just larger.)

    The rug was sure a clever idea.

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      1. I’m missing something….! lol Why do you paint over the hinges??? BEAUTIFUL kitchen, BEAUTIFUL!!!

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      2. Has the paint on the hinges held up or have they chipped/peeled away?

        Also – How much time would you estimate this all took you? Take out the time to do all the research (which you’ve done for us already – thanks!), just the part of actually doing the work once you knew what you were going to do.

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    1. Hi! So far the chalk paint is holding up great! Any water spills wipe right off. We havent spilled anything else on them, but I imagine they would wipe off just as easily as water! The clear wax sealer creates barrier over the paint, so the water never soaks in. It just kind of sits on top of the wood until I wipe it off.

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    1. Hi, Whitney! Believe it or not… Walmart! They are part of the Pioneer Woman collection. I think they look like Anthropologie though! I believe they were $3 or $4 each. They still have the blue ones and the white with red flowers. The ones with more earthy tones were part of a fall collection, so I don’t think those are available anymore. But I’m looking forward to seeing what she has for spring! 🙂

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  5. I love your kitchen- I am thinking of using chalk paint on some doors and woodwork in my old farmhouse- do you have an opinion? I’ve not worked with it before. My woodwork is painted now and constantly chipping.

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  6. Hello Whitney!
    Your updated kitchen is adorable and inspirational! I’m motivated to do something similar with my kitchen! Question are the insides of the cabinets painted as well?? I have an 80’s kitchen that looks so very similar and I just love how it brightened up the entire room!
    Thank you so much for sharing your masterpiece!
    Juliana

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    1. Thank you, Juliana! The insides of the cabinets are not painted. I painted the insides of the cabinets I took the doors off of. But I left the rest of them wood!
      I would love to see your before and afters if you decide to do it!

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  7. Gorgeous transformation Avery. Since so many folks are looking to follow in your creative foot steps, I hope it’s ok to share where they can find Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan. Annie’s paint is only available in small brick and mortar shops she calls stockists and they can be found at http://www.anniesloan.com or http://www.unfolded.com.
    Thank you for inspiring everyone with your beautiful kitchen.
    Cindy

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  8. The biggest question I always have about painted cabinets is how well they wear over time. How are yours doing? Also, do you have to redo the wax every few months or years? Love how bright and cheerful your kitchen is! It looks so joyful!

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    1. Thank you, Jean! Mine are doing great! We have splattered water on them a few times and it wipes right off. I have read about redoing the wax, but it hasnt been long enough to come close to that. So far they are holding up really, really well!

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  9. Thanks for sharing! I have been wanting to paint my cabinets since I moved in! This looks like a goodnight option for me! Thank you!!

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  10. Hi…..Beautiful…..I saw the pictures on Annie Sloan FB page. The post said the colors you used was Pure White and Duck Egg Blue. Is the Duck Egg Blue a mixture? It looks mint green. I am ready to do a bathroom cabinet and this is the color I am looking for.

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  11. OMG!! I have the same cabinets!! Right down to the doorknockers!! . Def going to try!! I wish I could send you a pic!

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      1. If you wanted to do the cabinet update and purchase the exact same area rug, then yes. I shared the “under $250” so that people would know how much it would cost to do the exact same structural updates. I included the area rug and its cost in my post about my process and sources. I didn’t expect this post to go viral, or else I would have included the rug for those that don’t read my blog! Sorry if that was misleading! I rounded up to $250, which includes all paint, supplies, and hardware. (My actual cost was about $170 for the cabinets because I used a gift card to purchase the hardware)

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  12. Love the makeover, but especially loved the commentary about not striving for “magazine” perfection. I live in a rental apt that’s seen better days & I have to work with the same dings & dents you described. It really helps to have a realistic mindset from the get go – it’s gonna be as good as it can be & better than it was. Thanks for the reminder!

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  13. Perfect timing for me to read this article. I’ve been looking at purchasing a beach cottage and the kitchen cabinets always need updating. I love the look that you have created here, with the bottom’s being a different color than the tops. And, thank you for being honest and telling us that they will not turn out perfect. This makes me feel better, as my projects never turn out perfect! Thank goodness, I like imperfect. For me, it’s called “lived in”.

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  14. Beautiful!! It’s such a huge difference… and I love how you didn’t go crazy styling it in the “after” so you could still see the “before”. This is inspiration to paint some ugly ’80s cabinets if ever there was one! 🙂 By the way… small town Iowa, no way!! Iowa bloggers are a rarity. I live in Stuart, where are you?

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  15. I love this! I’ve been putting off painting my cabinets for about two years for fear I’ll regret it. Do two quarts of the chalk paint easily cover all those cabinets twice? Is it very thin paint? Thanks!

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  16. Love, love your kitchen make-over! We too have a very dark kitchen ( our layout is very similar to yours) and I have been contemplating painting the cupboards since the day we moved in :D. I actually bought the Annie Sloan paint in duck egg to do our island because I found a colander in that color and fell in love with it. ( The paint was bought last summer and still hasn’t been opened:{ ). Seeing your AMAZING kitchen might just push me into starting…but it is a daunting task…
    And p.s. I think the rug in your kitchen is a GREAT and daring move and I applaud you for thinking outside of the box!

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  17. The best kitchen renovation I’ve been seen! It’s so lovely, pretty. The kitchen is very colourful, affordable to do it by my self. I’ll try it when I feel bored with my kitchen. Fabolous DIY Kitchen Update Tips!! Thanks.

    Like

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