Istanbul Apartment Makeover

Last month, Ben and I had the incredible opportunity to visit his parents in Istanbul, Turkey. Ben’s dad, Robert, works for the international division of a construction company based in Colorado Springs. He manages projects overseas on behalf of American contractors. Most of his projects are in Europe and the Middle East, so Robert and Sondra recently moved to Istanbul. We stayed with them in their apartment overlooking the Bosphorus, which is a body of water that separates the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. The city is spread out across both continents, and his parents live on the Asian side. This is the view from their 14th floor apartment and their building is only a few blocks from the coast. Istanbul is an incredibly dense city, so being next to the water was refreshing.


Their apartment was pre-furnished by their landlord. Ben’s mom, Sondra, made the incredibly smart decision to ask for neutral furnishings. This gave us a blank canvas to work with, which made decorating less of a challenge and more of an adventure! We sourced items from IKEA, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and their own home. Their living room was our main focus. It receives tons of natural light from the wall of windows that overlook the sea. Here are some “before” shots.

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Since we had a great neutral palette as our background, I knew we needed to introduce color and texture. Turkey is known for their kilim rugs and pillows. “Kilim” is a term that refers to flatweave, no-pile rugs. Kilim rugs are typically woven exclusively with wool, but some kilims can be woven with wool+cotton blends, or wool+silk blends. The fibers used to weave kilims can be dyed with natural vegetable dyes or chemical dyes. The natural dyes are more durable, and less prone to fade over time. Their colors are more muted and earthy, and usually cost more because of the skill and materials required to make them.

We went to The Grand Bazaar to shop for kilim pillows. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a place unlike anything I’ve ever seen. After entering through a small gate and going through security, you are instantly surrounded by crowds of people and shops of every kind. Turkish shopkeepers sell carpets, pillows, scarves, spices, ceramics, and clothing. The tiny storefronts line a maze of hallways that are easy to get lost in even if you know where you’re going. Everywhere you turn, there are sights and sounds and smells that draw you in.



(Photo credit: Pinterest)

Ben’s mom, Sondra, picked out four beautiful kilim pillow covers. Kilim pillows are made from old kilim rugs. Kilim merchants may have a few pillows that came from the same rug, but each cover is one of a kind. We bought the pillow inserts during our trip to IKEA, where we also found some furniture and art. Before, there was a floor lamp next to the gray wingback chair. We replaced it with an end table and table lamp from IKEA to provide more table space.


Here is a reminder of what this space looked like before, and what it looks like now!



What previously felt like a hotel room now feels like a cozy Turkish-inspired home. When sourcing our decorative pieces, we focused on adding color and layering textures. This helped to give the totally gray space some warmth, coziness, and layers of visual interest. The woven wicker end table brings in a contrasting texture between the two shades of gray velvet. The wicker texture is echoed by the jute placemat on the coffee table. If you look closely, the coffee table and TV stand are the exact same piece of furniture! These were provided by the landlord, but also came from IKEA. We put the placemat, a few books, and a fake plant on the table to set it apart from the TV stand and break up the all-white surface. Sondra and Robert travel for extended periods of time, so adding real plants to this space would not have been a wise move. We added two small fake plants that still bring warmth and an organic quality to the space (and will never die even when they leave!)


The wicker table, gold lamp, and peachy tones of the pillow bring warmth to the gray chair and white walls. Because the room itself contained primarily cooler colors, I introduced warmer colors in the decorative pieces to bring balance.


Robert and Sondra already owned the books that I used in this room. The tiny floral book is a wedding photo album from me and Ben!



After adding the main pieces that we sourced from IKEA and the Grand Bazaar, I walked around their home looking for other ordinary pieces that could be used decoratively. Their many language books made a great base for this plant. Sondra bought the navy cream pitcher on a trip to Romania. We filled it with pink flowers from a flower stand down the street from their house.




Sondra chose kilim covers that look beautiful on their own, but look even better together!


The large blank wall over the couch needed a large scale piece of art. Putting a tiny canvas on that large wall would have looked odd. Robert and Sondra chose the wall art from IKEA. It is a large canvas with a photo of Amsterdam, which they have visited many times! Most people put photos of foreign cities in their homes because they like the way they look. But Ben’s parents have photos of foreign cities in their home because they have travelled to all of those places! Instead of looking at the photo and saying “Wow, that place looks neat!”, Ben’s parents can look at this photo and say, “Remember when we went there on our honeymoon and were robbed?!?” Sondra said that they “have always loved water and the canals of Amsterdam. Bicycles and The Netherlands go together so having the bicycle be the one point of color seems perfect. We were robbed in Amsterdam but obviously that hasn’t left us with bad memories of it!”

The small series of turquoise maps under the clock echo the turquoise pots for the plants. Instead of being “matchy matchy”, tying similar colors and textures across one room provides a sense of unity. Robert had the great idea to add two more identical clocks to this corner and set each time to the different time zones they live in (Istanbul, Des Moines, and Colorado Springs).

We also added the round mirror above the TV. They had a lot of wall space, and using a mirror was a great way to fill the blank space without being overwhelming.


(Ben’s cute parents!)


What previously felt like a hotel room now feels like a cozy Turkish-inspired home. We also brought in some new pieces for the connected dining room. Sondra picked out simple and minimal white dishes. We added more jute placemats and a minimal gray tablecloth.


The trivet under the flower vase and the bowl full of candy are both Turkish ceramics from The Grand Bazaar! When decorating a space, I love to source the client’s own home and surrounding areas. Decorating is an opportunity to reflect the family that lives in the home and the environment in which they live. Instead of just looking to what is trendy, I love to look for what is personal and unique to the family. For Robert and Sondra’s Istanbul apartment, this meant Turkish textiles and unique pieces from their adventures around the world.

Nothing beats shopping the Grand Bazaar, but if you would like to introduce some Cozy Turkish Mod to your home, here is a round-up of kilim pillows you can purchase without buying a plane ticket first.

cozy turkish mod

1. $52 + 2. $30

3. $40  + 4. $40 + 5. $20

6. $18 +  7. $46 + 8. $44

Thanks for reading! This is my favorite design I’ve ever helped with, and I’ve loved including Turkish textiles in my own home! Thank you, Robert and Sondra, for allowing me to help you make your Turkish home a little more homey! I’ll include more photos from our trip at the very end of this post.

If you would like help styling a room in your home, I would love to assist you! You can send me a message through this contact form. We can decide which design package would best fit your needs. (I offer e-styling packages if a home visit isn’t feasible!) Thank you for reading and supporting Holland Avenue Home. Until next time, Güle Güle! (Goodbye!)

With love, 

cozy turkish mod ad



Here is a slideshow of more pictures from our trip!

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Before & After: A Bright, Affordable DIY Kitchen Update

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*Update* I recently wrote a post about how this project looks two years later! You can read all about it and find answers to frequently asked questions in the post below. I’ve also installed subway tile since this original post.

Chalk Painted Kitchen Cabinets Two Years Later

If you’re finding me for the first time through this post, welcome to my home on the internet! I’m Avery and I live in a charming 1910 Craftsman style parsonage in rural Iowa with my husband, Ben. You can learn more about me here, and see some of my previous design work in my Basement Family Game Room, High Style, Low Budget Sunroom from the Spring 2019 One Room Challenge, and Creating a Cozy Home Library. My design style is warm, whimsical, and collected. I love sharing real-life home inspiration for people like me who want big style with a tiny budget. You can follow along with my homemaking adventures and thrifting trips & tips on the Holland Avenue Home Instagram.

I 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 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!


In the “before” photos, every light in the kitchen was on and it still felt like a cave. The “after” photos were taken around 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.


(A peek 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.)


(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.)

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!


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!



(I’m jumping forward now from 2016 to 2020 through the power of technology. Welcome to the future. I still adore my kitchen. Here are a few updated photos of the kitchen after installing subway tile, refining my personal style 😉 , and switching out the 9×12 behemoth of a rug for something smaller. But not because we spilled anything on it- don’t worry- the rug is better than ever. I just wanted something antique with a little more soul.)

I repurposed this Antique Table as a Kitchen Island, and it adds so much warmth and charm to my kitchen. (I also seriously upped my photography skills, which is fun for me to see!)

I gave our sad pantry a Low Budget Pantry Makeover with Leftover Paint and $20 of Organization Supplies.

Want more details about the cost breakdown, material sources, and the process I used to paint the cabinets? Check out my $200 Kitchen Update: Sources and Process post. And DON’T FORGET to check out my Chalk Painted Kitchen Cabinets Two Years Later update. I answer your most frequently asked questions since this original post was published four years ago, and share all of my best tips and tricks for tackling a kitchen project of your own!

Be sure to follow Holland Avenue Home on Instagram for daily snapshots of life and encouragement towards thoughtful homemaking. Want to join the Holland Avenue Home community? Sign up for my Newsletter, then hop over to Facebook and join the Thoughtful Homemakers group for project inspiration, an encouraging community, and behind the scenes of Holland Avenue!

With love,

avery- signature

Don’t forget to save this post on Pinterest!

Want to see some more affordable transformations?

Check out my Basement Family Game RoomOne Room Challenge High Style, Low Budget Sunroom , and Creating a Cozy Home Library for more inspiration!


Hardware. from Amazon


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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