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A $3,000 Kitchen Makeover Challenge

These days I’m spending a lot of time in my kitchen. My old, disgusting, literally falling apart kitchen. It wasn’t in great shape when we moved in, and I had to admit that we haven’t really helped the situation over the last year (by ripping out random cabinets, cutting the power on one side of the kitchen, and closing up the entrance to the kitchen from the master bedroom, but never plastering and painting the wall).

When we first bought the house I had naive dreams of renovating the kitchen right after finishing round one of renovations (which I thought would only take two months). Well, here we are more than a year in, and we still don’t have a master bathroom or closet system, let alone a renovated kitchen.

please note that the house had TWO fridges when we toured it…

But recently we featured a home tour where the owners really focused on “making it work.” They didn’t renovate their home, opting to just updated it using paint, wallpaper, and a lot of hard work. I was IMPRESSED and decided that if they could implement that concept on their entire house, I could implement it in my kitchen.

Needless to say, I think my kitchen will need a little more than paint and elbow grease. But there certainly have to be budget ways I can update my kitchen to make it an enjoyable space to spend time in while we save up money – and emotional energy – to tackle a full-on kitchen renovation in 2-20 years.


First, I need to decide what “breaking the bank” meant to me (and Mac). My kitchen really needs some TLC to even be sanitary – The grout in the counters is falling apart making it a hotbed for stuck food and bacteria, and there are more than a few holes in the walls that need to be properly sealed in order to keep “things” out. So, I’m not just focusing on aesthetics. I need to tackle functionality as well.

After doing some soul searching and research, I’ve decided that for this kitchen update I’m setting a budget of $3000 for myself.

Sure, $3k doesn’t sound as budget as, say, $300. But versus a full-on renovation, $3k is budget. A full gut and renovation of a kitchen can easily cost upwards of $20k (That was Velinda’s Kitchen Budget and she DIY’d almost all of it). So I feel like $3k is a tight enough budget that it will force me to get creative, while also allowing me to make big enough changes to actually improve not only the appearance of the kitchen, but the functionality. But how am I going to stay within that $3k budget (give or take)?

  • Keep the cabinets I already have – I can not summon the emotional energy or budget to figure out a complete cabinet plan right now. It sounds like an impossible puzzle and even using only pre-made Ikea cabinets, the cost is just a little out of reach.
  • No new appliances – The ones we have (that came with the house!) work fine for now. When we get new cabinets maybe we’ll be able to think about adding a dishwasher or getting a pretty fridge or stove.
  • DIY – No hiring out for this project, it all needs my dad and I can do together. And yes, the free labor will definitely bring down the cost.
  • Using Leftover Material – I’ll get to this later . . . .


If you know me, then you know I’m impulsive, pull triggers quickly, and change my mind equally as fast. It’s like design whiplash, and Mac should honestly be canonized for putting up with me. One day last week I impulsively texted my dad (who, along with my brother, did most of the renovation work on the rest of our house – neither of them are contractors by the way, both just handy and adept at figuring things out) all my big ideas for this kitchen “update” in one mega long text, to which he simply responded, “I’ll come over tomorrow and we’ll talk.”

The next day he showed up with a tape measure, three deli sandwiches, and more optimism than I’m used to from him. I think he’s excited to have a project to work on. And over one lunch break we brainstormed and came up with a solid plan of attack (and have been texting back and forth non-stop about it ever since).


I do not like the tile on the floor of the kitchen. But if you like it, you’re not alone! Both Jess, Julie, and Mac’s mom really like the flooring. It’s not bad tile, it’s just not my style. So I’ve got three options when it comes to flooring:

  • Design around the existing flooring – This would be the most difficult, but most interesting road to go down.
  • Rip out the existing tile and put down new tile – This sounds like the most expensive option because it would involve purchasing tile.
  • Rip out the existing tile and use extra leftover hardwood flooring – I really overbought on the hardwood almost a year ago and still have a hefty amount just chilling in the garage.

Well, I don’t think it’s hard for everyone to guess which option I’m going with. BUT IT’S THE HARDWOOD ONE. We’re going down this route for two reasons – 1.) It will cost us lots of time and labor BUT zero extra monies – I’ve already spent the money and at this point I can’t return the extra flooring (but it would have cost me about $400, which would still keep me in budget), and 2.) I think I could be really happy with hardwood floors in the kitchen permanently, so laying the majority of it now means this is huge step we’re removing from the full kitchen renovation down the road.


The next big hurdle was deciding what to do with the counters. Not only is the tile ooogly, but the grout is disintegrating and disgusting. So, something needs to change. I came up with two ideas:

  • Repair the grout and epoxy paint the tile – I’ve watched a ton of videos of this being done and it looks successful.
  • Rip out the tile counters and replace with readymade wood counters, and epoxy paint the backsplash.

Both of these options sound somewhat labor-intensive and time-consuming, but we’re leaning towards the wood counter/painted backsplash option. Again, this is a project I would need my dad’s help with, but I think it’s going to be a more functional and aesthetically pleasing outcome.

anyone else have 4 appliances they use daily on their counter?

My dad actually built custom wood counters for my parent’s kitchen, and Jess installed a DIY wood counter in her apartment kitchen. But I found these really nice looking, pre-made butcher block counters that my dad thinks will work nicely. Dad approved!

I am REALLY excited to have all wood counters, guys. I do a lot of bread baking, noodle making, and veggie chopping, so these counters will be a very welcome addition to the kitchen.


Finally a project I can conquer on my own! The plan for the cabinets is simple – deep clean, sand, repaint, and replace hardware. My dad even came up with the plan of beveling the edges to give them a fresher look. The only question is WHAT COLOR PAINT? Do I go light? Do I got dark? Do I go dark on the bottom, light on the top and the walls? I am in true agony over this decision.


There are several other changes that we’ll be making as well:

  • The biggest one is removing the door from the back wall, refurbishing the window (which is original to the house), and centering the window to the room. This won’t cost us much (just some plaster and dry wall), but will take our time and labor.
  • Swap out the overhead light fixtures, light switches, and electrical plates – Easy and affordable.
  • Add a proper standing pantry to replace the Ikea wood shelves – I’ve already found the perfect piece.
  • Install floating shelves on some empty walls space – I’d love having somewhere to put a few of my most used cooking books.
  • Get a new sink (and install a garbage disposal!) – I actually already found a gently used version of this cast iron sink on Craigslist that I’m so excited to install.
  • Find a permanent home for the cat’s litter box that isn’t right underneath the kitchen pantry.

“So if you’re doing all of this, what would a full kitchen renovation down the road constitute?,” a few of you may be asking. Well, all new cabinets for a start. In my dreams I’m able to design the custom cabinet layout of my dreams with a broom closet, all sorts of organizing solutions, and built-in pantry. I’d love to possibly move the sink to the back wall, under a window. And reconfigure a lot of the electrical. I’m sure the layout of the kitchen could be improved. And I’d like new appliances (an oven with a proofing drawer please). And a pretty tile backsplash! ANYWAYS, there are many, many things I’d like to do in a full on renovation. But this will certainly get us going, and help us down the road! Getting the window centered and the majority of the hard wood flooring laid now will be huge.

That’s the plan! I’m really excited to get moving on this, and I think my dad is too. So what is this all going to look like? Stay tuned next week, because I’ve put together way too many design mood boards and I’m ready for your input. Until then, who else is getting themselves into what they thought was going to be a small “quarantine” project that’s already started snowballing out of control?


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132 thoughts on “A $3,000 Kitchen Makeover Challenge

  1. Hi! What an awesome project to do with your dad!

    I have a similar-sized kitchen renovated on a budget with family help. It wasn’t grody, but had terrible space layout (12″ deep countertops and a stove behind a door). We were originally saving up for a renovation when my fancy-kitchen-contractor brother-in-law was like “this sucks guys, pick a weekend next month and buy some Ikea cabinets”. We spent about $2,000 (cabinets, new range hood, lots of wood/electrical supply stuff, cheap subway tile backsplash) and learned just how fast a pro can work (4 days for the whole project!!).

    Two notes about wood and water (this is going to sound like the bad witch, I’m melting!):

    I have butcher block countertop on the entire side of my kitchen next to the stove, and I LOVE it. However, I have seen some butcher block counters next to sinks in an Airbnb and my co-working space, and it’s really hard to avoid water damage. If we ever renovate the sink side of the kitchen, I will probably budget for stone or composite material. Ours is <16 sq ft so shouldn't cost too much.

    I have hardwood floors in my kitchen, installed by the previous owner. They now have some water damage after about 8 years. The little bit around the sink is pretty mild; the heavier damage is near some French doors that leak in torrential downpours. It's not so bad that it makes me year my hair out, but it's definitely visible.

    There's a good chance wood will be fine until your 2-20 year reno though, especially if you are diligent about wiping up spills, using a rug/floor mat, and are okay with slight weathering.

    1. I have wooden worktops in my kitchen (Iroko) and the guy who installed them told me I’d never stop them getting water damaged by the sink – but that was 7 years ago and they’re still fine and I am not careful with them. I put three coats of Danish oil on them, and perhaps twice since then we’ve scrubbed them down with steel wool and topped up the oil with a rag. They’re due another coat soon but they’re solid wood and the only thing that’s marked is the oil coating is wearing thin around the sink where it gets wiped most and they’ll be good as new when re-oiled. I’d highly recommend oil over any kind of varnish as it is so easy to touch up – in theory I could just add a bit more oil on the bits that need it with a cloth rather than bothering doing the whole worktop, but I think it’s good for it and it brings out the grain in the wood beautifully.

      My kitchen floor is wood too, the original wooden floorboards from when the place was built 120 years ago, and we sanded and oiled them about 6 years ago and there’s no sign of any water damage since then and nor had they ever been destroyed in the century and more leading up to that before they were polished to be on display (I’m guessing previous owners had lino and when we moved in the floor was carpeted – gross!). I don’t know if hardwood means what we’d call engineered wood in the UK though, rather than solid wood? Engineered wood floors tend to be a thin layer of real wood laminated on to plywood and they’re less sturdy. But if you do get to choose your barrier, I really recommend oil as you can touch it up if you think it needs it (have never touched up any of our floors though!) and dog paw scratches don’t stand out the way they do on varnish.

      1. We have hardwood floors in our kitchen, and the house is approaching 20 years old next year. When we moved in 6 years ago, the hardwood already had pretty significant damage, I think from a combo of everyday wear and tear in a kitchen and the previous owner’s dogs. The spots with the worst water damage are right in front of the fridge (I assume this is mostly spilled water/ice from the dispenser), right around the dishwasher, and where the dogs’ food and water bowls were. We also caused some damage where our cats’ food and water bowls were – I thought by putting down a plastic place mat we would protect the wood from water, but instead, spills would get under the mat and then not dry out. I think a lot of the problem is that the floors are just builder grade oak, so the wood and finish aren’t as durable. I think the 100 year old wood floors are just a higher quality wood because it tends to be old growth, with tighter grain! They’re also the kind that came pre-stained and were just snapped together – if you have wood installed, then stained and poly-ed, then the gaps between boards get filled, whereas ours still have those tiny cracks for water to seep in and cause damage. I’ve also heard that water-based poly is a lot more durable over time – so if you have the choice, go for that! I love having wood floors in the kitchen, but I’m tired of the caution we have to use with ours. We’ll probably have them refinished before too long.

      2. You’re hardwood success stories are giving me hope! What we have in terms of flooring is pre-finished solid hardwood – so it’s solid hardwood, but already comes cut tongue and groove and varnished on top.

        1. I also am embarking on a DIY hardwood install, and was told by the sales rep to consider unfinished hardwood over prefinished for wet areas. The on-site finish will seal off the cracks/seams between pieces of wood, and water will have a harder time penetrating. Since you’re installing in a potentially wet area, you might consider sanding/re-sealing or look into a top-coat once installed.

      1. We also used Waterlox on our butcher block countertops about 2 years ago, and they still look just gorgeous! Maybe a little more work initially, but at least we don’t have to oil them every month or two.

      2. I used watch butcher block oil and havre been extremely happy with it. It is food grade.

    2. Wow, you’re Ikea cabinet story is compelling…SHOULD WE JUST DO THE WHOLE THING NOW?!

  2. What is behind that door to outside?
    Do you not let your cat outside (I’m assuming since you have a litter box you do not.) what if you built your cat a caged in catio in the other side of that wall, and you kept the litter box (or a whole litter garden) out there. You can still remove the door but leave a cat flap. No more litter box in your kitchen. Your cat must hate having to poop so close to where it’s food bowls are and I’m sure you do not enjoy having a cat poop where you are cooking.

    Cabinets dark for sure.

    1. Indoor only! Out there is just a narrow cement walkway. Unfornuately we can’t build any sort of cat outdoor playpen because we have outdoor cats too and they don’t get along 🙁

  3. I just want to say that I have wood floors in my kitchen and I love them! Much easier to stand on, no disjointed flooring materials, and if you don’t let puddles sit on them they hold up great.

    1. Agree. We have wood floors throughout our house, including the kitchens and bath. I cook all the time and we have a toddler who loves to help wash dishes…and I accidentally flooded the kitchen once by leaving the tap running. But still, the wood floors have not suffered from water damage. I agree that they are much more comfortable for standing while cooking.

    2. Same here. Plus the trick to protecting your wood floors in front of the sink is to put down an indoor/outdoor runner.

    3. Just another chime in that we also have solid hardwood floors in the kitchen and have had no problems. We wipe up water spills but, seriously that’s something we’d be doing anyway. I was warned all day long about hardwood floors and the honed marble counters (we seal) but we’ve not had issues with either and we have kids and a dog. They are the two things I love most about my house.

    4. We also have original hardwood floors from 1945 in our kitchen and they are still gorgeous, no water damage! It will look beautiful!!

  4. Your reno plan is really great. I love the idea of working with what you have. Vintage kitchens are charming and timeless. My granite countertops, modern maple cabinetry and sleek stainless appliances look stupid in my 1906 cottage. The renovated kitchen was a selling point when we bought the place back in 1997. Ha! One of my neighbors painted her black fridge that is similar to yours. Her cabinets are painted white and the fridge blends in better. I think it’s called appliance paint? Are you replacing the vent hood? You can find something on sale (Mem Day or July 4th) or on re-sell sites for well under $300 that would look nice.

    1. We actually have a hand-me-down range hood from one of Mac’s coworkers that is stainless steel and will match our stove better. Our hope is that we’ll be able to instal it!

    2. “My granite countertops, modern maple cabinetry and sleek stainless appliances look stupid in my 1906 cottage.” THIS. My nearly exact situation.

  5. Great idea ! Everyone dream to cook with beautiful modular kitchen with lighting but sometime its out of budget, but this article helps to renovation of kitchen in budget.

  6. Can’t wait to follow your fun project! Go for the tile backsplash NOW! I have DIY’d some tile and a backsplash is easiest application and doesn’t take much tile either. Grab your handy dad and rent a little portable wet saw and you’ll be done in two days. This is a very enjoyable and inexpensive DIY, very high on the cost vs reward ratio!

  7. yes, I love that you’re tackling this! Please do yourself a favor and get rid of those tile counters. No matter how you update them, they will always be a magnet for dirt and food scraps. You’ll be so much happier with a counter made of one piece! Sending lots of good vibes your way for this mini-reno.

  8. I vote for dark cabinets, preferably black. Your appliances are a given and both black, light cabinets provide too much contrast and instantly make your appliances a “feature”!

      1. Fwiw, our place came with black appliances and we also painted our cabinets bc they were an orange toned wood. We painted them white and I still think it works well the appliances. Black might be a lot in a small space, especially depending on how dark the space is. But I get it if you’re over white kitchens and want to do something more daring – it is a design blog, after all.

  9. Could you purge and potentially rip out all the upper cabinets for open shelving? And maybe reconfigure the leftover to make a huge completely enclosed pantry where your shelf is now I think you can also buy cabinet faces from Home Depot like they have a whole line that make them look completely brand new if you wanted the pantry to look a little different design wise.

    1. Yes! I was just thinking open shelving in here would make it look so much more open. Even just on one side.

    2. 100% yes to getting rid of the uppers and replacing with open shelving, this would help SO much!

    3. Another vote for open shelving! And new cabinet doors would be less expensive without having to do the uppers! Or add some thick trim to make a shaker style door if you’re into that.

  10. Aw, when you mentioned the “no-reno” house I thought you were going to make smaller changes and keep things quirky lol. For example, use dark blue grout on the existing countertops, paint the uppers white (or whatever to match your walls) and the bottom cabinets dark blue, and then find an oriental rug with red and blue in it to tone down the floor.

    I think you’ve got some good ideas, though, even if it won’t be weird for the sake of entertaining your readers 😉 Especially if you have the leftover flooring that is 100% the right choice.

    Can you make a cat box cabinet thing in the tv room, under the shelves? I probably would have put it in the second bedroom’s bathroom by default, and maybe add some of those cat holes so I wouldn’t have to worry about the doors being shut (e.g.

    I love what you’ve done with the rest of the place, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

    1. Your plan for a quirky kitchen sounds very cute! I wish I could try it, just for the sake of entertainment, haha. I THINK I have an idea for the litter box.

      1. If only photoshop was easier, then we could try out a bunch of weird stuff just for fun 🙂

    2. You may have just inspired me. I keep my litter box in the bathroom with an a gate the cat can go through and the dogs cannot, but bending down to unlatch it has always been a pain, especially after too much coffee….
      I’ve flirted with this idea for years, but had never got as far as looking to see what’s actually out there.

    3. I got excited when I thought the floors were going to be kept as well … I’m part of the “they’re quirky and amazing” camp 🙋🏻‍♀️. RIP 🤪

      Excited to see how it turns out!

  11. I hope you put a tiny fraction of your budget to replacing that plug-in vent above your range. I’m certain it’s not pulling it’s weight anymore as it looks not quite new.
    I also vote for dark cabinets, at least on the bottom.

  12. I have wood floors in my kitchen and love them, too. Easy to sweep, wash, and keep clean, too.

    As for paint color: I have old metal kitchen cabinets (they date from the origin of the house in 1947) and I’ve painted them (so far) white, pencil yellow, khaki green, and now they area a dark charcoal gray. And my favorite is the dark charcoal gray. Looks great with white walls and wood floors and then your accents can be any color you like.

    I must say, as hideous kitchens go, your kitchen is right up there. 😉 Can’t wait to see the “after” pic.

  13. I am really looking forward to following your story! A soft sage or sunny lemon yellow or boring cream would be great cabinet colors. Love your dad!

  14. Hi! I love these posts / projects. Constraints to budget often help creativity, which I love reading about. We just finished a low-ish budget reno and used the same Home Depot birch butcher block countertops, so I have a few tips!

    I personally loved the light color of the tops, so I wanted to stay as close to that as possible with a finish – but most oils and water-based finishes yellow the wood slightly. We found that mineral oil stayed closest to color, but pure Tung oil (not mixed with other oils) was a close second and provides better durability – also lower VOCs etc. General finishes has some good products if you’re going for water-based.

    Unfortunately, we had one of the tops split on us (when we were cutting for the sink drop-in), could have been a fluke, but probably good to be extra cautious and take photos before install in case you need HD to replace. Other than that, counters have been great and we got extra cutting boards out of the left overs.

    Also, not that you need more input, but I’d go dark on the cabinets. I debated for too long on this, and am so glad we went dark (for durability over anything). We used a spray gun (highly recommend), and Benjamin Moore’s Advance cabinet paint – they’ve held up very well.

    Good luck, and enjoy the added time with your dad 🙂

    1. Ooh, what spray gun did you use?? Did you like it? I want to do our cabinets and just started investigating options, and I noticed they range from not-cheap to super-expensive…

      1. Ha, good question. I went through a WHOLE slew of research, which can feel a bit overwhelming. My priority was fair price, but also something that worked well and didn’t create more hassle. I’ll say this: paint sprayers have a big learning curve. The most important factor in my experience is the type of paint and the viscosity (how much you’re thinning it) as well as cleaning well after each use. We found best luck with multi-purpose latex paint from SW, and then the advance paint for top coat (needed more thinning) with Floetrol to thin.

        We ended up with this guy and it worked well once we figured out the paint!

  15. Yes to working with what you have! If you like the concrete look, think about that vs. epoxy paint over the tile using Ardex feather finish or another similar product (there was just a big write up somewhere on Leanne Ford’s amazing bathroom Reno that used one of these products). We just did that treatment on my tile bathroom counters, which I HATED. It’s a huge pain but virtually free and I’m so happy with how it turned out!

      1. I had the same idea – why not do concrete on top of your tile counters? That could look so cool and then you could put the countertop $ towards a tile backsplash. Other question I have is what is in the space where the second fridge? Could you add a non-built in dishwasher and tie in the new countertops to cover it? I would imagine you would LOVE having a dishwasher even if it’s location is not perfect!

    1. Ashley from @thegoldhive did a concrete top on her counters. She is doing a full remodel now but her short term fixes on the original kitchen were pretty great and looked appropriate in her older home.

  16. Sara,

    Yes, to the hardwood floors! I agree with keeping epoxy to the backsplash based on my experience using it in a kitchen. It is too easy for the epoxy to be scratched and water to get underneath if used on counter.

    Can your handy Dad build in a cabinet where the second refrigerator once stood and where the brooms are located? With an electric outlet in that location, it appears it may be a good place for the microwave and get it off the counter unless you plan on getting a microwave/hood over the stove/oven (if it was me, I would prioritize the hood in your budget.)
    Or, having an appliance shelf behind cabinet doors where the second refrigerator once stood. Use the inside of the door to hang your brooms out of sight.

    I see open shelving to the left of the sink where there are three small doors- cookbooks, glasses, etc.

    Can your Dad enclose the refrigerator, also between the enclosure and the existing cabinet build open shelving or a place for wine?

    Dark cabinets below with lighter on top.

    I second getting your cat to do their business outside. This is the first sanitary thing I would do. 😉

    I look forward to seeing posts on your progress. In addition, what does one do to dress up cinder blocks to improve the view once you center the window?

    1. All amazing ideas and things to think about. As for the cinder block we’re planning on stuccoing the cinder and then planting crawling jasmine!

      1. Ah, the sweet scent of jasmine! BTW, when I mentioned hanging brooms, it was if you made that area more of a utility cabinet.

        The likelihood you will be living with this renovation for at least 10 years is high, especially living in CA.

        Best of luck and fun with this project!

  17. Love this! Did you cover backsplash? I don’t remember seeing it. Do not be afraid to paint that backsplash with floor grade paint (I think there’s no food safety issues when you seal with the right sealer?). The diamonds aren’t a bad shape, but a one color matte finish on the backsplash could make them look like cement tile. Win!

  18. We redid our galley kitchen in our last house and found a really great deal on solid wood butcher block counters at IKEA of all places. They were less expensive than the Home Depot ones you linked to, so it might be worth checking out if you haven’t yet. I loved my wood counters. We made sure to keep them oiled and to wipe up any spills quickly so we never had to deal with water damage.

    Did you guys consider retiling the backsplash instead of the epoxy? It doesn’t seem like it is a lot of square footage and wouldn’t add a lot of expense. You might have decided against that though since you plan on a major overhaul down the road. I’m excited to see how your kitchen turns out!

    1. I did look at the Ikea counters! I just think we’re going to be doing a lot of cutting into the counters and I had read in some of the reviews that cutting the counters was difficult.

  19. Love the wood floor idea & working with what you have! One thing to think about would have the wood floors go up to the front of the cabinets or would you run them under? When you do a bigger reno down the line, if the flooring stops at front of cabinets it will limit your future layout. I spent almost a year working out our layout in the IKEA kitchen planner. While it can be overwhelming it was so worth it. 9 years since we did ours & still really happy with it. The IKEA cabinets have help up well to 5 kids. And you can’t beat all the interior organization possibilities- swoon! Looking forward to following your project!

    1. I’m really, REALLY tempted to just go all the way now and muster the energy and budget to do counters

      1. Hi Sara, my two cents here: lucky you to have a handy dad around! Your cabinets are going to look 100 percent better after you paint them and add upper shelves. Don’t replace them yet, and I vote that you paint at least the uppers white. You can add color and contrast in so many other ways. Lowers could look good in a dark color depending on wood stain color of countertops and floors. What about peel and stick tile, wallpaper or tile decals for backsplash?

  20. I’m so excited for this! I also live in a fixer-upper craftsman house and the kitchen is not top priority right now, so I’m hoping this will be inspirational for me! Luckily, the layout of my kitchen is good and we already have hardwood floors, but the cabinets and counters are terrible and there’s a lack of storage (previous owner removed upper cabinets and we haven’t added shelves or anything yet).

  21. This post could not have come at a better time! I’m contemplating a similar update in our ‘60s kitchen. I’m also in agony over the cabinet paint colour and am debating whether or not to keep our beige gold flecked Formica countertops. Decisions, decisions! Good luck!! Can’t wait to see your mood boards.

  22. Weighing in on hardwood floors in the kitchen. We ripped out our 1960s kitchen down to the studs in all six directions and installed hardwood floors (done by pros). We lived there 30 years and had the floors refinished once. They were still in fabulous condition when we moved out. Just swept and damp mopped them.

  23. Great ideas! If you’re wanting a vote, I’d say keep the tile floors, fun color on bottom cabinets, neutral on top cabinets and wall, butcher block counter tops. From what I can tell in the pics, I like the current hardware! Best of look in the remodel. I’m sure it’ll look great no matter what you decide to do.

  24. This seems like such a random question when tackling as much as you are, but where and what are you planning to do with the kitty litter tray? We’re renovating our kitchen soon and we also have this exact scenario and really dislike it, but can’t figure out where else to put it?!? Would love to know what your plans are!

  25. We epoxy painted the super nasty tile counters and backsplash in our kitchen and honestly it is one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. The epoxy is just gross, the fumes are intense, application is insanely time consuming, it’s nearly impossible to not have visible brush strokes, etc.

    I thought at least once it was done, we wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. But the counters never truly set. So they are full of dings now. If you leave cardboard (like say a box of crackers) on the counter and it is at all humid, ink and dye from the box will transfer to the counter. Like silly putty. But it’s your kitchen counter.

    I thought anything would be better than the 85 year old stained and cracked yellow ceramic tiles with poo brown tile border that I started with. I was so wrong. Don’t be me!

    1. THANK YOU for contributing this. I have ancient tile counters also, and have been wondering about epoxying them. Super valuable to hear someone’s real experiences! This makes me lean towards Ardex/concrete instead…

  26. I am in exactly the same boat – started in January with an eye towards spending $1k and then lifted my limit to $3K. Got a ton done up until we had to emergency reassemble it for shelter at home, but I am continuing to chip away at it. My game changer? Kinda the opposite of yours – I Painted a ruined wooden floor in a checkerboard pattern and it came out amazing!!

  27. Oh this will be a fun project to watch as it evolves, you have a lot of great possibilities and ideas! Just curious about removing the door, as I always think direct access to outdoors from the kitchen is a big plus, especially when you have plenty of room for outdoor dining. I can see that would leave more flexibility for future kitchen redesign options though…

  28. Sounds like a good plan! One thing that scares me is to see an electrical cord hanging over your gas burners. Can you move that outlet? Also, Lumber Liquidators has lots of wood countertops.

    I hope you can keep the window trim, or make the new trim look just like the old.

  29. Hi, I have a question! What happened to the cabinet above the fridge? It looks like it was there when you moved in, but now not anymore? Or was the fridge relocated when you closed the entrance to the bedroom or something? Anyway – doesn’t matter much I suppose.

    I second the commenter who said not to epoxy-paint the backsplash. I think it will be challenging to remove the tile counters without damaging the backsplash, and there are so many inexpensive (nice!) backsplash tiles you could replace with. Anna at Door Sixteen is sharing her kitchen reno, and she is using a horizontal-stacked subway tile that was $15/box (she only needed two, you might need four?). Just another idea.

    I also semi-agree with the other commenter who recommended putting the microwave and toaster in the pantry shelving and getting it off the counter. If you use the IKEA cabinet, you could cut a small hole in the back to allow the cords to run through. Although I would move the brooms elsewhere besides the inside of the cabinet to keep them away from microwave/toaster – maybe hang alongside between the cabinet and the side wall?

    You’re probably overwhelmed with advice, sorry! Last thing, I think this kitchen would be darling with a light backsplash and dark cabinets.

      1. I was also thinking about how she (Anna from Door16) painted her kitchen floor tiles – they look great. We have hardwood in our kitchen and I love it, and I get you already have the materials, but since you’re planning on changing up cabinets and layouts later I might save the hardwood floors til then!

  30. Gotta say that while wood makes a pretty, inexpensive countertop, quartz is so much better for rolling out pie crust or cookies.

  31. Sara – have you been following Anna Dorfman’s kitchen update on Door Sixteen? Your kitchen reminds me of hers – I find it very inspiring. I love the creativity that comes when we honor what’s there – not to mention the environmentally friendly aspects of producing less waste and using less resources. My kitchen update is similar like the “making it work” home tour you did and 12 years later it’s still looking great and I still love it.

  32. Fun! It’s nice to see an update-instead-of-renovate project with real-life constraints on the internet.

    I think the floors are totally cute and appear to be in good condition, but they are definitely a statement floor. They make sense given the age of your house, but if you’ve got the hardwood lying around and the floors aren’t your style, I can see why you’d replace them. I would totally, 100% replace those counters. Tile countertops are just gross, you can make them less gross with a good grout scrub, but I think it’s worth your money to just scrap them altogether and get a functional countertop. I think a fun color on the cabinets would keep with the vintage-y style and brighten it. I actually don’t hate the color they are now (on my screen, it looks like a faded mint?).

    I would probably try to move the cat box out of the kitchen if I could. I know that’s not always an option in a small space – I, too, have had a kitchen litterbox before. But it’s better for both you and the cat if you can move it to a room that doesn’t get as much traffic – cats generally prefer to go in a quiet, private place (just like the rest of us I suppose).

  33. I’d love to know what you are replacing your overhead flush mount lights with. I have really awful wavy alien spaceship style track lighting in my kitchen. Someday I’d like to someday install can lighting on a dimmer in the ideal spots, but for now, I’d just like to update with some better flush mounts. But I’m having trouble figuring out what works in a kitchen and would provide adequate lighting.

  34. Hardwood floors are going to be such an improvement over tile. While I actually like the checkerboard tile, I hate standing on tile. I bake a lot, and my first house had tile kitchen floors, and it killed! I have hardwood floors in my kitchen now, and it’s so much better.

    My sister replaced counters with wood (I think it was from IKEA), and man, did it make a huge difference. That along with the floors and painted cabinets are going to really amazing transformation!

    I hope you get to do your full renovation sooner than me. We did a cosmetic fix-up of our kitchen when we moved in 13 years ago and are hoping to finally do a full renovation next spring. Admittedly, we opted to focus our budget on other areas over the years, and our kitchen was good enough (but oh, how I long for solid surface counters and better cabinet layout and organization).

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see the results!

  35. Looking forward to this kitchen refresh process. Me, I’m hip deep in a quarantine room update for my young daughters’ room. I’m spending very little thanks to marketplace scores and using leftover paint, baseboard, etc. It’s great to occupy me and something I’ve been wanting to do for a while!

  36. I strongly advise against epoxying the counters! I did this to my bathroom (good tile that was NOT my style) and it has not held up well even to the relatively light use of a bathroom floor and walls versus a counter. Unless I did something really wrong, you’ll have chips frustratingly quickly. I think on the backsplash you would be ok just thinking about how it would wear.

    I can’t wait to follow along on this one!

  37. It may be too much painting and some may think it blasphemy to paint tile but I would recommend it as a cheaper option! Racheal of @banyanbridges has done some awesome painted tile in bathrooms and such awesome designs! You could get super creative with it or just really simple but she has good tips for what paint to use and everything. You should check out her Instagram, she has a highlight “Painted floor” with all the info you need.

  38. I LOVE your plan – hardwood in the kitchen is the best, it looks great and is the most functional flooring.

    I have dressers in the same Hemnes line as the Ikea pantry you linked – they look great and have held up really well.

    One thing about epoxy on tile – we did that in our 70s bathrooms two years ago (had a professional do it) and it looked great for about a year before it started bubbling and chipping. Yuck.. It might be worth a shot, but you might have to redo it after a short time. If you can find the budget to get someone in to install a simple white subway tile, it’s probably under $400 and you won’t have to deal with bubbling epoxy.

  39. Fun! I love these kinds of posts and projects. We’re working on budget updating our kitchen as well and in the middle of the painting cabinets part of the process / going through the pain of updating exposed hinges to hidden ones (so much forstner bit drilling). It’s a lot of work, but it’s so very worth it. Goodbye ’90s golden oak! Hello soft, mushroomy colored goodness! 😄

  40. I love this project and look forward to following along! We successfully and relatively cheaply replaced our old countertops with Ikea’s thick butcher block tops treated with tung oil and they held up well and ended up being a feature to renters and, eventually, buyers when we had to sell that house. We worried that the wood countertops might be problematic near the sink, but we never experienced issues (even after a series of renters lived in the house over four years). The Ikea countertops were the most affordable we could find at the time, but they were good quality and easy to install (not warped, etc.). They also looked appropriate in our old bungalow home.

  41. Think about adding to the list new bask splash. If you shop around it will not cost you that much and it will have a big impact. I can almost guarantee that you will be living with this kitchen longer than you hope and you may as well like as much of it as you can.

  42. I can totally see the lower cabinets in a sagey/gray/green color with the wood countertops and then a lighter color up top to keep it airy.

    I do wish you could enlarge the window rather than just move it over. But that’s money that’s probably not in the budget.

    In lieu of the furniture for that vacant area, could your dad build floor to ceiling shelves instead? Maybe deeper on the lower half and shallower up top?

    1. Totally agree that a larger window would be amazing in here. Also, I am wondering if the lower cabinets could be a similar color to your TV room walls? Dark and moody could be great with the new hardwoods. Or you could do that tv room color at 75% or maybe even 50%. In a smaller house it might be a nice way to tie things together.

  43. Hi! I love the idea of working with what you having and maybe being a little playful? To that end, I think some color on the cabinets would be awesome. We put wood floors in our kitchen & are super happy, but I’m not sure I’d do wood floors and wood countertops? Will using the wood flooring now be a problem if you change the cabinet layout in a later renovation?
    For counter-tops, I’d also suggest considering diy-ing concrete or buying remnant pieces that fabricators have left over. My BIL did his own concrete counters & they turned out great (though heavy 😬). Oh! Even if you do wood counters, a marble remnant in one area would feel super custom and be great for baking. In terms of back splash, I 100% agree with other people about taking yours out if you can. There are some really inexpensive tile options & it would give you a lot more flexibility for the design.

    I’m excited to see what you end up with!

  44. Have you considered an approach to the renovation as “half now, half later” instead of “renovation one, then renovation two”?

    First half would be the wood floors and rip out all of the cabinets, backsplash, and counters. Repair the drywall, and install only the lower cabinets of your new plan (we just did Ikea ourselves and are very pleased! The cabinets themselves aren’t custom, but the variety of inserts really makes everything function great. Lower drawers are a huge improvement over lower cabinets!). The first half of the reno also gets new counters. Counters can be changed easily any time in the future, so you can go cheap (Ikea) for the first half and replace later during the second half. Where uppers will go someday, just paint or wallpaper the wall and add upper shelves.

    Later, the second half of your kitchen renovation can be any electric work, upper cabinets, and backsplash.

  45. I’m so excited to see this unfold! The part about your dad being excited to work with you on a quarantine project really tugged are my heartstrings. I would love to do something like this with my dad!

    1. He and I always get carried away, haha. And then Mac and my brother are stuck fufilling my design dreams on the labor end.

  46. So excited to follow along! I sometimes want to do a mini kitchen remodel myself, but it sounds too overwhelming with young kids. So much life happens in the kitchen and it deserves to be a place that works well and makes you happy! I’ll be cheering you on!!

  47. I’m so excited to follow along! You’ll do great! My only comment is to consider the depth of the ikea pantry cabinet you found- I love ikea and have a similar cabinet that I thought would work for pantry items but it is very shallow. I agree with the comments about potentially hiding the microwave in the pantry and even the brooms. Good luck!!

  48. Sounds like a plan! I’m sure it will look much better when you and your dad are done. I would definitely go light, as in white, in a small space, especially since you’ll have hardwood floors and butcher block counter tops. Also, I’d remove the upper cabinets to make it look more open. I really hope you remove all of that tile and do something like white planking for the backsplash.

  49. A wonderful project – I’ll be watching for every step and episode!! A recommendation for an over-the-range microwave/hood – I know that these are considered “wrong” right now — but in a small kitchen (like mine) – can be really handy – and do add another lighting option! And yes – check the depth of the Ikea cabinet – a too-shallow depth can be really difficult – especially if you hope to store small appliances in it! And another BIG vote for open shelving above the counters!! And good lighting like puck lights (especially under the new shelving or cabinets) is important!

  50. This has been one of my FAVORITE posts yet! I love the idea of mini, approachable renovations that’s doable and realistic, especially in this time.

    Doing the same to my basement bathroom which was fully finished when we put the offer on our house – but inspection found mold. So bye bye vanity (and all the flooring and drywall in the rest of the basement). We put in a new one with a smaller footprint, only to realize the tile didn’t go all the way across the floor. Well, that’s how it was till the beginning of quarantine.
    I’m trying to do the bathroom under 1K. Just new tile, paint I had already, add some shelves. Reinstall toilet and vanity.

    1. Between this morning when we posted this and this afternoon when I’ve read all the comments and been talking to Julie (our designer) all day, I may have spiraled into “full on renovation” mode *face palm*. It’s just really hard when I have Julie actively offering to help figure out all the cabinets, my dad around to do all the labor, and the whole process started! WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF? Hahaha xx

      1. Totally hear you! I’m soooo jazzed for this project and to cheer you and your dad on!

        I love the idea a few comments up- using this as phase one. Then you can let julie design, your dad install and you can pick what you love while still going closer to budget rather than full reno cost. For example, when we did our little kitchen at our suuuuper tiny beach condo, we did butcher block counters from lumber liquidators instead of remnant quartz because the quartz from buying to install was 5 times as expensive. We used ikea cabinets and I love them and they are so reasonable. I think your cabinets would be beautiful painted (Dark bottom – sage mushroom grey/green/light top) but if they’re janky at all, you might consider the ikea bottom/open shelving on top option for this phase 1.

        Good luck!

        I would love if you post as you go so we can stay right there with you. And if you find yourself getting carried away, but the money part is stressing you, keep the inspiration post accessible at all times! Her kitchen (Emily, I think?)was gorgeous with so many replicable ideas!

  51. Girrrl don’t worry about things not being done yet! When my bf and I moved to our home last July the house was flipped and really nice, but there wasn’t ANYTHING (not even a clothes rod) in either closet and no toilet paper holders! We JUST installed our closet shelves and organization, so I feel you!

  52. This is going to be such a great before and after. Can’t wait.

    This is just a suggestion, but it might be nice to frame out the fridge with piece of wood when you replace your countertop. The wood wouldn’t cost a lot, could be painted to match your cabinets and it’d be nicer to see than the side of your fridge… Maybe fill in the gap between the wood and the wall cabinets with small open shelving to put greenery on?

  53. I think your ideas are all on point for the space. If it were me, I’d definitely look for spots to add some open shelves. Paint really depends on your light and personal preferences. I’m really loving the darker (or mid tone) on bottom/light on top kitchen paint scheme. My bottom cabinets always get dirty quicker than the top and I do like having some lighter surfaces on those bulky cabinets bouncing light around.
    Good luck with this project! I will be watching for inspiration as we have a similar one coming up.

  54. We just renovated a small mid century ranch house and it looked so much worse than your kitchen! It even had a washing machine space! However, we put in solid oak flooring, varathaned it, and it feels and looks warm, gorgeous! No problem as long as you mop up spills. Indeed, get rid of the sagging electrical cord and plug operating the stove fan! Yikes! If possible, at some point consider purchasing a topless stove that looks more like a built-in; and also a counter-depth refrigerator, a sleek, more custom look. Another idea: when constructing open cabinets, consider using a handsome, warm wood (we used Douglas fir) instead of paint. I can hardly wait to see what you do with this challenging renovation!

  55. Sara, I just wanted to let you know that my garbage disposal comment was in no way meant to offend you. It’s a similar thing to drying our clothes outside instead of in a dryer. I guess it’s a nod to Mother Earth. Clearly, I must’ve offended you and I apologise.

    I look forward to your blog posts, because you explain things so well, you’re so funny and real, plus your topicx are so interesting. Rusty 😶

  56. So excited to see your progress! I check this blog daily and almost never comment… but this feels like the renovation I’ve been waiting for 🙂 I love your style and it’s going to look so good, Sara!

  57. I love your ideas! Your kitchen is going to look so much better. Have you considered peel-and-stick tile for your backsplash? I wanted something quick and inexpensive for a Phase I update for our kitchen, which had a painted backsplash (with a cheap flat finish!) when we bought our house. People don’t believe me when I tell them that’s what the backsplash is. It made a huge difference and was really easy to do!

  58. I would so add a dishwasher. You are worth it and you have the space. Consider Maybe keeping your open wood shelving and adding different baskets, that way it would contain things and you would have easy access to items, it would save a lot of money too. What about a bead board backsplash or peel and stick tile? White cabinets are timeless, but I think that anything light would work. Can you move the kitty litter somewhere else? I hate the idea of it in the cooking area. What about camouflaging it as a piece of furniture somewhere else? I redid cabinets like the ones you have. I cleaned the hardware up by boiling it, painted the hardware black and bought wrought iron pulls and knobs. It turned out great. I used sponge 6 inch roller to prevent brush stroke lines. It is a lot of work. If you could find a piece of granite to put around your sink it might look really nice. When I did my downstairs kitchen I did not want a seam and the span of the wood countertop wasn’t enough. I put honed black granite and it looks great next to the wood near the sink.

  59. It’s JM again. Listen. It just dawned on me: I have a brand NEW butcher block board counter top you may have! It’s left over from our recent kitchen/renovation, and we won’t need it at all. It measures 25×46″, and is
    1 1/2 ” thick. It’s our gift to you. Just let me know if you would like to have it.

  60. I’m so excited to see what you do with this!! I have a VERY similar rental kitchen that I am tragically not able to update. Our tile grout situation was nearly identical to yours, except for some reason they put THICK spacers in between all the tiles so I’m really unsure of how it would look to epoxy the whole thing, if I were allowed to. I did use Grout Renew to take the grout color from dark brown to a creamy white, which made a huge difference in the overall look of the kitchen, but it only lasted about 6 months before the grout started crumbling again. (Mostly in the always wet spots by the sink, no matter how hard I try to keep it dry!) Long story short, I will be following along very closely to see if I can steal any of these ideas and convince my landlord to spruce things up!! 🙂

  61. This is pretty much my kitchen! My husband and I bought our house nearly a year ago and needed to update before we could move in (it had previously been a rental and definitely needed some love). Since we didn’t have the budget for a true renovation, I decided to make some budget-friendly updates to hold us over. We went with laminate wood floors, Ikea butcher block counters, painted the cabinets white, and replaced the hardware. In fact, I painted the whole house white for a clean look (Sherwin Williams Snowbound), The counters have held up great, even around the sink, and we have pretty much the exact sink that you are looking at. It was easy to install since it was a drop in and looks great with the wooden counters. I was initially worried about how wood floors and wood counters would look together, but honestly, anything would have looked better than the before situation (read nasty laminate counters and layers upon layers of vinyl flooring!) I have loved all of your reveal posts so far and use the images for inspiration for the rest of my home. I can’t wait to see how your kitchen turns out!

  62. Congratulations on you project! And thank you for sharing your journey with us! I love all of your ideas and they will make a huge impact. I do have one suggestion regarding your backsplash….Instead of painting your existing tile (which of course would be a big improvement), you might want to consider ripping it out and installing tile yourself. My kitchen is about the same size as yours and we did a mini renovation last year. One of the biggest impacts is the backsplash, and it was surprisingly cheap. We did carrara marble subway tile from Home Depot, and with the tile, grout, and everything it was less than $300. Such a huge impact for not a lot of money!

  63. I don’t mind the look of tile counters, but I just hate the function, or LACK of function. And no matter how tidy a person you are, the grout gets grody. I’ll never have anything other than solid surface ( forwhich butcher block qualifies, for me) ever again.

    I can’t wait to see the results. You seem to be on the right track!

  64. I can’t wait to see what you do. Have you seen Door Sixteen’s kitchen reno? It’s similar but with new appliances it’s a higher budget.

  65. we recently redid the kitchen in our 60 year old lake home and used the super cheap solid wood countertops from Lowes. I used Waterlox, exactly how instructed (boy those people are SERIOUS) and it is holding up great. Cheap and new which is what we needed!

  66. This is great. Also what I did with my old house. I did a 3k or so reno 2 years after I bought my house…new countertop (corian), backsplash, lighting, sink, and faucet. I also repainted cabs and put on new hardware.

    Just last year, 9 years after being in my house (and knowing how I wanted my kitchen situated), I spent about 18k for a new kitchen. Got custom cabs with built in bosch fridge. Redid my pantry (since I had none). I did keep my counter tops, sink, and faucet from before, but did have to get a new backsplash.

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