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Sara’s Kitchen Renovation – The Unused (& Budget) Design Plans


My kitchen has been a bit of a roller coaster. It started as a super simple budget “facelift”, that rocketed to a full-fledged renovation project. What stage is it at now? It’s still in the works, but has been put on a minor hold while my dad builds a fence in our backyard and I drag my feet on ordering cabinets. And while I thought I had a design plan nailed down a few weeks ago, I’ve had a few changes of heart since then. Maybe. Who knows. Honestly, there have been so many different design plans and mood boards that I couldn’t count them if I tried.

But today I’m sharing a few of my favorite initial design plans for the budget kitchen update that could have been. Why? Because I still love them, and even if they aren’t coming to life, they might inspire someone else who also happens to have red and white kitchen floor tile. I KNOW YOU’RE OUT THERE!

These design boards are a mix of initial design babies, along with some fine-tuning to make them fully realized (and not just paint swatches on top of floor tile cut outs, on top of a photo of my kitchen – sometimes Photoshop files get really rough and you never let anyone see them, just like a diary).

But first, a quick reminder of what my kitchen looks like now, and my initial plans. My dream budget plans included keeping the cabinets but painting them and swapping out their hardware, pulling off the old tile counters and putting down affordable butcher block, adding a standing pantry, and designing around the red and white tile floors. Hilariously, I’ve put off ordering cabinets for so long that my dad might not have time to renovate our kitchen before he has to go back to work, so I may end up with one of these kitchens anyways! The irony of life.

I don’t actually hate the color of the cabinets next to the red and white tile floor the way they are now. It’s really the gross counter tile, beige/yellow wall, and contrasting white trim that makes everything feel like a circus. So for my first design, I picked a soft green paint color for the cabinets that is pretty similar to the color they are now. Definitely more sage than mint, but not too far off.

And for this design, I kept it all neutral because I’m just a pretty neutral gal (which is hilarious because my mama is NOT. Don’t worry, I’m currently trying to convince her to let me MOTO her TV room so I can show you guys that bright orange room so many of you wanted a peek of when you saw in this post). So I thought a neutral window treatment, some classic brass hardware (knob & ceiling light), and piece of pretty neutral art would softly tie it all together. Not gonna lie, still really into this one.

But then there’s Mac (my partner in almost everything, except design aesthetic it seems), and I knew he’d really like to see a dark option. So for design #2 I choose a black paint for the bottom cabinets, while sticking with white for the uppers and the wall. I brought in some more industrial reclaimed wood shelves, and a darker window treatment to round out the moodier vibe. I’ve since learned, from many comments on my last post, that dark cabinets are not the friend of an avid baker, because flower dust will. Get. Everywhere. Sorry Mac.

BTW that Ikea standing cabinet looks ideal, and I’m really sad I don’t get to have it in my kitchen after all (because we’ll rip out all the existing cabinets and install new cabinets that actually fit the space perfectly). But if you’re looking for something that’s pantry up top, storage down below, I would look into it. I especially love the white and wood contrast.

Onto design plan #3. Overall this one was supposed to be more of a “French country” vibe, but ended up feeling a little too “red, white, and blue“. I do really like that simple window treatment though! And those two pieces of art (which I know are really hard to see on this board), might have to find another place in my house because I love them. They’re line drawings of two areas in Barcelona, which I visited two years ago, and have the most magical memories from.

OH! And let’s talk about that pegboard shelf. I really wanted to add some wall shelving to my kitchen, but before I went all “full renovation” on the space, I really only had one area where shelving could go. I loved the idea of this pegboard because it meant I could customize the shelving to my needs over and over. Plus the light wood color would compliment the wood counters.

Lastly, option #4, where I went more earthy. For the lower cabinets I tried out a darker, mossy green, paired with a natural woven window shade. And, of course, a vintage oil painting because every room in my house needs one. They soothe me. This might be the one Mac and I agree on most – it has darker, but not darkest paint, some black accents (light fixture and knob), and still has a more neutral vibe.

Even though the chances of any of these kitchens coming to life are slim (unless my dad makes a run for it back to New York this summer to “work” and I am left to my own devices – quickly Googles “how to trap dad at home so he doesn’t leave the state and instead renovates your kitchen”), I thought you might like taking a peek behind the curtain to what the kitchen design plan could have looked like. And if you’re on your own kitchen update journey, maybe you could find a bit of inspiration.

I feel like this blog post is the cliff hanger ending of a Telenovela – Will she order the cabinets in time for her dad to renovate the kitchen? Or will she drag her feet so long that she has to update her kitchen by herself and choose one of these options instead? FIND OUT, next time on “Murder, Betrayal, & Affairs”! I mean, Style By Emily Henderson . . .

Opening Image Credit: Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson | Design by Studio Shamshiri | From: Architectural Digest

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Roberta Davis

I know the agony! I was about to schedule an appointment with a contractor to get a bid on 2 bathroom renovations when COVID hit. Now I don’t know if I want workers in my house for weeks. But the bathroom definitely needs help!

Order the cabinets!! 🙂


Option 4 with the shelves from Option 2
I like the tile floor.


Option 4 cabinet color, option3 window treatment and option1/2 light, pegboard, any art except 1


If you change the flooring for wood then option 3 color is so perfect

I was trying to see in the photos… are your top cabinets hanging on a bulkhead? My cabinets are in good shape, but it’s the bulkhead that makes my head hurt. I don’t want to do a full kitchen reno since my cabinets are good, but what to do about that bulkhead? Hmmm….


Love that you are keeping the floor!

I just really, really need to know what you do with the counters. 🙂 I like the black and gray/blue options because that particular soft green just doesn’t do it for me. And I like both of the upstairs light fixtures so so much! I can’t pick!


I love the process posts! I’ve redesigned my kitchen in my head and on Pinterest since moving in. Now that I’m finally planning to move forward, I need to go through all my iterations and really narrow it down. Seeing other ideas for materials and color schemes is fun!


WAIT no sources roundup at the bottom?! Where’s the oil painting from in Option #2?

I think #2 is my favorite, but I’d swap out the black paint for another dark color…


Credit for the first pic? I’d like to click through and see that kitchen.
And I’ll second the thought that black lower cabinets attract flour. We have white uppers and black lowers and it’s harder to keep them clean than I thought.

patricia blaettler

I think option #1 is just right. DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!


I mean, if you don’t pick Option #1, I just don’t know how to help you Sara. I LOVE IT. It feels so damn charming…the kind of design you’d see in the English countryside that makes you ache because it’s so warm, welcoming and feels like it’s been around forever but also feels fresh and new. It’s that je ne sais quoi that I mean…every designer?? wants to strike in a room. I’m done berating you about this, but happen to berate Mac if he needs a push, too. 🙂 Love you guys!


Hey! It’s Arlyn!!
Do “What Arlyn Says!”
Haha…couldn’t help it.


2 is most classic and timeless


Is it wrong to be completely smitten with option #1? I kinda love it.


If you guys ever crave to do a pegboard round up that would be amazing. I remember the playroom post where emily found that the DIY pegboard was probably more trouble than it was worth. Any other recs?


Julie – I had a fairly large pegboard in a very small student housing kitchen. It isn’t as useful as you might think. It can’t hold as many things as shelves would in the same area. I wouldn’t hang my pans because I don’t scrub the bottoms of them back to shining on the regular. And the pegboard hooks fall out often when in use. I would put up shelves or another cabinet over pegboard every time.


Ahhh very good to know. We are thinking of it in an office setting but I suspect the same insight applies. Maybe one of those form over function things. We are also thinking of an oversized cork board kinda thing. Anything to get the clutter up off the desk. Thank you for your response!!!


Option 3 or 4 look so good!


Go for #1!! Arlyn is right about this. And Emily is also right about the floors. If you’re doing a full reno, you can’t skip your flooring. You will be sorry down the road!

Wade Bostrom

I would almost just demo the floor and get it over with and walk around on the subfloor for a couple months. You would at least have the mindset of moving towards what you want. I have an all white kitchen I did last year but made it more rustic with the reclaimed lumber open shelving and a raw steel custom range hood so it is not so foo foo 🙂


Save yourself the money and go with option #1! It’s so soft and lovely.


Agreed!! I love 1! So elegant.


I have that Ikea cabinet in my living room. I love the way it looks but I’m not sure it is sturdy enough for a kitchen. The bottom drawer broke because the tablecloths I had in it were too heavy. Also, there is not as much storage in the drawers as I hoped. In retrospect, I wish I just did the regular bookcase with doors. It would have been less expensive and more useful.


I love option #3! I’m into dark colored cabinets. 🙂
Where is the curtain from in option #2?

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