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2 Budget-Conscious Kitchen Renovations, 2 Different Styles, 2 Friends In 2 Washingtons

I’ve always heard people say that “kitchens and bathrooms sell houses” but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone quantify that. When looking for our home, admittedly, a lot of the ones that we passed on were because of these spaces, but especially the kitchens! If the kitchens didn’t wow us — or at least have the potential to wow us, I wanted no parts of it. So I get it.

As soon as I saw our new house, I could see my future kitchen — a tweak here, a tweak there, and it would be perfect for us. I actually sketched on scrap paper, with our realtor, my ideas and she confirmed that it was totally doable & worth it. We made an offer that night.

But here’s what no one tells you when they’re telling you how valuable it is to update your itch — how much time and money (and anxiety) can go into creating a kitchen that’ll make you go “wow!”. We knew early on that we had no desire to break down a bunch of walls, relocate plumbing, and go through all the tv-worthy-drama of a reno; but we also wanted to make sure we got the most bang for our buck to get the kitchen of our dreams. What would be our kitchen reno sweet spot? To make sure I’d achieve major design impact without breaking the bank or the walls, I made a few well-calculated design decisions with my design bestie Rashida Banks — based in the other Washington (she’s in DC and I’m in Seattle) who’s also planning a mini reno for her kitchen! With a few bi-coastal Zoom chats, we began strategizing ways that we could get our kitchens to their fullest potentials while keeping costs & stress down. And the best part? You guys get to follow along with BOTH of us as we figure out this wild ride. We’ll be sharing our conversations, our struggles, our “aha moments” and naturally, our final reveals–plus you’ll get to see two kitchens get totally transformed from two similar but different perspectives. You’re welcome.

photos by mariah texidor

Now you’ll hear from the both of us and what we are tackling and our individual plans…


When we started house hunting, my husband and I were pretty clear on a few things, including the kind of kitchen we wanted. Every home we considered, we kept in mind how close to (or far away from) the existing kitchen was from the kitchen we wanted. I would look at listing photos & assess whether or not the kitchen would be worth the work. We’re not crazy about walls but we’re also not “open concept” everything folk, and this kitchen was the perfect sweet spot. To get the look and feel we’d want, a gut renovation wouldn’t be necessary and we could make a huge impact with minimal reno.


Hi Everyone…Rashida here! I can’t believe after 7 years of living in our home, we’re finally tackling the kitchen. You would think the red floor grout would have pushed me to pick up the sledge hammer the day we moved in, but we were just so happy to have a place we call home. Trust me if I could have a sit down with the person who decided to make the grout the same color as the cabinets, they would have some explaining to do. Did you run out of white grout? And what’s with the marble threshold?? Questions that need answers.

Now, I would be the first to say that our kitchen isn’t in terrible shape. The layout and flow of our kitchen is what I love most. There was once a wall where the island stands, separating the kitchen and dining space. Removing it was a good call. I’m sure the person who decided on that, was NOT the same person who decided on red grout (as you can tell, the floor grout is the thing I hate the most). The cabinets are a classic shaker style, which I like, but the cherry finish reminds of kitchens from 2006, and we’re in 2020 so it’s time for a change. But that’s it folks! Those are the only two things I like about our kitchen.

Design Problem


The kitchen is flanked by the dining room & an eat-in area. Since we don’t need both, removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room — a non load bearing wall — and updating the cabinets would extend the floorplan and create a true galley kitchen with more than enough space & storage. Instead of keeping the two peninsulas, we’d add a wall of cabinets to replace the eat-in area, maximizing the kitchen’s overall footprint, while still having the dining room as a place for family meals.

In addition to the flow & function of the space, we also wanted to make style updates that would reflect our family. While the current cabinets were clearly fairly new, the deep brown cabinets & beige countertops are not our jam. Even less our jam? The boob lights & ceiling combo happening overhead. 

For context, we bought the home from the original owners from nearly 40 years ago, so a lot of the style choices don’t surprise us, but we’re of a different generation and want that reflected in our home. As two 30-something millennials, the only thing in the kitchen that reflects us — stylistically — are the black stainless steel appliances that were clearly a recent upgrade. We want the rest of the kitchen to be as chic & sleek as the appliances.

left photo: design by shauna beltramo | right photo: design by justin sachs, photo by chris veith, via kountry kraft
via semihandmade


So what’s changing, you ask? EVERYTHING. I wrote out my “If I could have my way” list, and surprisingly most things are doable. This will not be a full-on gut job, just an invasive facelift. Right now, our kitchen feels heavy and dated with the cherry cabinets. I want to freshen it up and make it feel brighter and bigger but still cozy. A lot of my inspiration pictures that I’ve collected over the years have creamy white cabinets, something black, brass hardware, light countertops with veining, wood tones and just an overall classic cafe cottage feel.

design by andrea zappone | photo by elizabeth haynes

Design Plan


To keep costs low, there’s some work we’re going to do ourselves, while the bulk of the heavy lifting will be hired out to a contractor to make sure we get everything done right and done once. So once the wall is removed — by a pro! — we’ll be installing new cabinets, countertops, backsplash, hardware, plumbing, and lighting. Whew…that’s a mouthful. 

What I’m looking forward to most is having the dining room entirely open to the kitchen, which will drastically change (for the better) the way we use the entire area. Keeping the load-bearing wall saves us money & creates a privacy barrier from the front of the house, where the living room is, to the back wall in the kitchen. 

As I mentioned, the previous owners left us with some very spiffy new black stainless steel appliances that we absolutely plan on keeping, but as for everything else — they can go. Although, full disclosure, the white beadboard has grown on me and may stay… maybe! (it’s hard to see in the before photos but it’s in the “eati-in” area)

We wanted to make sure the new finishes we chose reflected both of our personal styles while still keeping the charming vibes of the house that we fell in love with. I made decision choices that would feel custom without sacrificing any of the home’s innate charm. 

We’re not design purists but I am also cognizant of how certain design choices can feel out of place. With the cabinets being the largest change, we went with a shaker style that could feel like it belonged there all along. I wanted something that had the same construction of our new IKEA Besta door fronts from Semihandmade — that’s in the media room aka a new reveal coming your way soon! Who knew that my new media fronts would actually be a foreshadowing for the kitchen design — neutral contrasts, clean lines, classic design — with an exciting new product launch that I get to share with y’all… later lol.    

Keeping the palette neutral with the cabinets & countertops let me play with a few design options — be it some bold backsplash or blinged-out lighting — but you’ll have to wait and see what ends up having the most star power because the way these COVID delays are setup, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. But here’s the moodboard as of now:

1. Kitchen Inspo Source | 2. Sink | 3. Pendant | 4. Faucet | 5. Countertop | 6. Fridge | 7. Cabinet Fronts | 8. Pulls | 9. Flooring (came with house) | 10. Wall Tile | 11. Wall Paint | 12. Ceiling Paint


So here’s the plan: We’re not getting rid of the cabinets, instead, we’re going to paint them ourselves (QUICK! Someone talk me out of it). And since the cabinets don’t go up to the ceiling, I’m going to use a paint trick that I learned working at Benjamin Moore to make them feel like they do. We will get rid of that silly cabinet that sits over the island, and replace it with open shelving. We actually use that cabinet a lot, but I have some storage solutions up my sleeve that will make up for the loss. We’re also going to jazz up the hardware for something in the brass family.

The backsplash and tile on the island just make me dizzy, so it will be switched out to a beautiful stone layered in a subway tile format, that’s less busy. And by the way, you’ll see me write and hear me say “island” but I know it’s a peninsula…(just feels weird to say). Speaking of the “island”, we’re going to add a waterfall edge. A quartz waterfall edge to be exact, which I’m over the moon about. It’s a design detail that really modernizes a kitchen. So bye bye granite countertops also from 2006.

There are many things about the kitchen facelift that I’m excited about, but nothing brings me more joy than to rip out the floors. The floors will be replaced with a beautiful natural black stone. This will be the dramatic element for the kitchen. I always like my space to feature one “drama” element; the detail that stands out and contrasts with the rest of the finishes.

Now to enhance the function of the kitchen. We have a pantry (yes it’s small), but a pantry nonetheless. Right now it’s not being utilized to its full capacity. There’s a lot of wasted volume. So I will have my contractor transform that pantry to a pull out pantry where I can utilize the entire space and see everything. The last functional thing I’m changing is moving the microwave to the island and adding a range hood in its place for better ventilation. One, I love that look better, and two, it actually vents the air and food smells outside rather than recirculating through the house.

Here’s the moodboard to help you visualize.

1. Cabinet Inspo Source | 2. Countertops | 3. Pendant | 4. Window | 5. Door | 6. Faucet | 7. Sink | 8. Backsplash Tile | 9. Handle Hardware | 10. Stool | 11. Floor Tile | 12. Runner | 13. Wall Paint | 14. Cabinet Paint | 15. Nook Paint

Albie here to finish us up!

With this being our largest undertaking as both new and seasoned homeowners, we are equally excited and nervous — definitely keeping our fingers crossed for a fun and bump free ride (let’s hope right?). The decision to do a reno of any size isn’t easy, and to be honest, we’re just gonna officially dub these invasive facelifts because that is a lot less anxiety-inducing. In any case, a project of this size means juggling a lot of design decisions — did we mention we’re the project managers for each of our transformations? Having our husbands as sounding boards helps — A LOT — but having each other to lean on, especially creatively, is gold. It guarantees that one or both of us isn’t in a corner wishing I never touched the red grout and beige counters. As design besties, we already turn to one another for everything from a new vendor to a project hashtag. P.S. feel free to drop your suggestions for our kitchens. And if you have any kitchen renovation questions (or advice) don’t be shy. We’re going to be sharing our woes and wins and candid conversations as we navigate our kitchen upgrades, culminating in the final reveal here on the EHD blog; but don’t forget to check in on us on the gram at @albieknows & @rashida.banks.

Opening Image Credits: Left Photo – Photo Design by Studio McGee
| Right Photo – via Semihandmade

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3 years ago

Albie, I LOVE your voice, the way you write, your style! So unique and fresh! 🙂 Thank you!

3 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Thank you so very very much!

3 years ago

I am installing my floors to my kitchen and finishing the backsplash over Christmas break in my kitchen renovation. We also did an invasive facelift. Good luck ladies! It’s fun.
Hot tip: set your temporary kitchen up in a way that isn’t haphazard. You won’t be moved into your kitchen for a while and you’ll need to easily make food. We had no sink for three weeks and we used disposable plates and only ate out twice in that time. I’m feeling very smug about it!

3 years ago
Reply to  Mara

Thanks for that — great tips!!! We’ve def been plotting how our displacement will look.

3 years ago

Albie, I love the new layout!! Smart new design! Good luck, ladies! Cheering you on!

3 years ago

Rashida!! I live in DC too, with basically the same kitchen layout, and the same inspiration, so I am crazy excited to see how your reno turns out!

You probably know this having worked at BM but word to the wise: Spray those cabinets, don’t use a brush! Also, will you be moving or extending the depth of your island/peninsula? I think that small strip of tile on the seating side of the island is weird even without the marble. It feels like that side should be all hardwood because the island is the demarcation line between the two rooms/two styles of flooring.

3 years ago
Reply to  Tanya

Hey fellow Washingtonian! I’m definitely spraying the cabinets. I’m using Ben Moores Advance Paint formula. It’s the best for cabinets. And it self-levels. And as far as the strip of tile goes, you bring up a very valid point that I need to address. I have a few options to consider, and the strip of tile in that area is not one of them. Thank you for that valuable input!

3 years ago
Reply to  Rashida

I agree on making the island deeper – if you’ve got enough space in whatever room that is that’s next to your kitchen, you could have the end of the island line up with the wood to tile transition so that the stools are completely on the wood. You could even probably rebuild the cabinet boxes to be deeper – those look like uppers (simple carpentry – DIY or hire out cheap) while reusing the door fronts so they match, so that you have more storage space. Win win! You’d need to spend more on countertop material, especially with the waterfall edge, but I think it would be worth it! I also find on an island that it’s nice to have a countertop deep enough for people to sit there and snack/eat on one side while you still have room for cooking on the other.

3 years ago

I’m excited to watch both of these projects!

3 years ago

This is going to be such a joy for us all to watch unfold. Thank you! I know renos are not anywhere as easy as they look on a blog…so thank you for sharing.

3 years ago

Love this! Albie, the black tile backsplash is such an exciting choice. I’d be concerned the framed tile would be a cleaning issue and the matte black along with black cabinets and black appliances would turn the space into a black hole but I know you’re a pro so I’m excited to see it come together!

3 years ago
Reply to  Sheila

Hey Sheila! So the frame is inset in, not out, like a typical beveled tile which helps a ton with cleaning — they’re basically baby shaker cabinets lol the attraction of the black on black in my kitchen is that we get an abundance of natural light in there! like soooo much lol

3 years ago

Rashida your house (and pups) are fabulous. You should consider getting rid of your gas range. Or at the very least, replace the microwave over it with a REAL range hood that vents outside and promise to use it religiously e.v.e.r.y time the gas is on.

UCLA Study –

•Gas appliances emit a wide range of air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides including nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and formaldehyde, which have been linked to various acute and chronic health effects, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.
• Increases in indoor air pollutant concentrations can be driven by insufficient ventilation . Surveys show that less than 35% of California residents use range hoods when cooking — and many homes in the U .S . are lacking range hoods or ventilation altogether.

3 years ago
Reply to  Kj

Hi KJ!

Thank you for that info! We are moving the microwave and adding a range hood to vent outside. I honestly wasn’t thinking about air quality, it was more so because I like that look more. But I’m so happy I decided to move it now that I know more about the pollutants gas ranges emit. ☺️ Thanks again for that info!

3 years ago

The thought of picking a place in Brooklyn for its kitchen makes me lol. We picked this place because it met our minimum requirements, we like the neighborhood, and we qualified for a big enough mortgage! (And then the NYC housing gods blessed us with their good graces and allowed it to happen)

Eventually we’ll redo the kitchen to optimize its functionality. And aesthetically we’ll probably make a cherry-to-modern-classic switch very similar to Rashida’s!

Props to y’all for the bravery to 1) reno/redo your kitchens in the first place, and 2) do it during a pandemic! (I barely had the energy to finish painting the living room.) I love your inspo pictures and can’t wait to see updates on your journeys 😀

3 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

And 3) putting it on a blog for the world to see!
Niw THAT requires stainless steel….knickers!!!! 🤣

i can’t wait to see how these turn out! i want to do a semi-invasive refresh coming up soon in our kitchen, so looking to see how yours turns out. can’t decide on painting our wood cabinets or not. eek!

3 years ago

Hello from a fellow Seattlelite! Can’t wait to see the final results and love the new flow of the kitchen.

3 years ago

Gah! Major kitchen reno envy going on here!!! I get to keep the lovely old (tiny) house, but will have to learn to love the 1950 kitchen! Seriously, it was ‘new’ in 1950! It’s in great shape, but really…not so functional. I need pot drawers n things, not crawling on the floor to see in the bottom of a cupboard. I had drsams for an IKEA kitchen, people. I didn’t need expensive…but a reno is no longer possible. I’ll have the house, which us the main thing, but no spare money for anything to be redone, except a very small decked back porch coz the stairs are also 1950 and dangerous (this’ll be a DIY with my brother and a couple of others). Ooooh, the drwams I had (and mood biard and plans with the cut out cabinets, etc.) She wasn’t fancy, nor big, but she wouldv’e made life so much easier and pleasant. The best I can hope for is to paint the cupboards and maybe remove a door on an upper for a semblance of ‘open’ shelf?! *sigh* Albie, your changed floor plan makes so much more sense! I can really *hear* your ideas and like your plans.… Read more »

3 years ago
Reply to  Rusty

You could put drawer inserts into the cupboards. I bought a cupboard but realised a drawer for all the Tupperware and stuff would be more useful. I couldn’t change the cabinets but could put in some drawers. I left the doors and took out the shelves. Much more functional.

3 years ago

Albie! I live in Seattle too and my Kitchen reno starts in May. I am soo excited to follow along with this series. Best of luck!

3 years ago

I cannot WAIT to see both of these ladies in action! I loved reading about their plans and “hearing” their voices through the text. Looking forward to see all of this develop.

3 years ago
Reply to  Olaniyi


3 years ago

This is exciting and inspiring- can’t wait to see how these kitchens turn out, and the work along the way!

Roberta Davis
3 years ago

Boob lights! omg. I have these all over my new house and I hate them. Your kitchens, as they are today, are “not bad” but from what I can see, the new ones will be spectacular! I love them both! Have fun, and good luck on getting it done without major hassles.

3 years ago

I’m so excited to see how these go!! My partner and I have been in our house for 6 months now, and the kitchen was the big sticking point for him to get on board with the house. It’s pretty atrocious and we have plans to gut it, but I love the notion that not every kitchen needs to be gutted, some just need a facelift (even an invasive facelift)!

Also, like another commenter said, you both have great writing ‘voices’. I can’t wait for the next update!

3 years ago

Super excited about both these transformations! I love seeing kitchens redone.

Rashida – I think someone must have had a mishmash of leftover tiles. They really mixed it up in your place! I love how you’ll make it clean and classic looking. And painting cabinets is a great way to reuse.

3 years ago

Can’t wait to see how these projects go!!

3 years ago

Very excited to follow along both “face lists”. If I could give one piece of advice from my own kitchen mini-Reno, it is DO NOT install black floors or countertops. The black shows every.single.speck of dust all the time. You wipe them and 2 seconds later they look dirty again. I wish I had my ugly, old, white Formica counters back instead of my beautiful (for one second) black quartz. Yes, it really is that bad.

3 years ago
Reply to  Arli

I agree!
A friend bought a divine house…with black counters and floor.
BIG MISTAKE! They show every tiny thing! Even a drop of water when it dries! Ugh!

3 years ago

I didn’t know that Albie was in Seattle! So, excited to watch her progress and find some local sources. And Rashida Banks, too?! I’m hooked already

3 years ago

Rashida’s kitchen plans are the stuff of my dreams. Thank you both for sharing! I can’t wait to see it all happen.

3 years ago

Hi Rashida!

I have the same cherry cabinets, plus a green travertine countertop. BLECH! I am holding my breath for your reno — I can’t wait to see a successful 90s/early00s transformation.

Is there a link or a photo for the BM design trick to use paint to make the cabinets go all the way up? Sadly, I too suffer from this!

Thank you and looking forward to your next update!

3 years ago

Boob lights! Hahahahah

Brandy J
3 years ago

Can’t wait to follow along with these transformations!

3 years ago

This was a great post! Can’t wait to see the final results!

3 years ago

The tag line for budget-conscious kitchen renovations got me, but there wasn’t much discussion (any?) of budget from either Albie or Rashida. That said, I’m really looking forward to watching the process from you both! So exciting!

3 years ago
Reply to  Andrenna

This is really a nice and informative information especially for a budget renovations. I was really appreciate how you discuss it one by one.

Abby Wolner
3 years ago

I’m so excited to see these kitchens progress! I wonder why they don’t get their own posts?

3 years ago


Absolutely love your choices. I would pick every single one, especially the rug and the pendant. I would, however, think twice about the black tile flooring. I understand why you incorporated it into your design. But in less than 10 years, you (or the next buyer) is going to wonder why you selected such distinctive flooring. Funny how bold design decisions can become quickly dated. And tile is not fun or easy to remove.

Really looking forward to this design journey ladies. Great concept.

3 years ago

I’m excited to see both spaces transform! And I will dream of a day when I too can make mood boards for an invasive facelift!

3 years ago

Albie – something you didn’t mention but the mood board says you are keeping the floor that exists… Tearing out a wall you are going to need to patch in flooring where the wall was removed – and possibly also where you are taking out cabinets (the floor may not extend under those cabinets!)

3 years ago

So excited for both your renovations, as the mood boards look so good!

Rashida, would love to know more about how you plan to paint the cabinets. Not many people have the knowledge (or courage!) to go down that route ad do it well, and given your background with Benjamin Moore, any tips you can share would be great!