Time to show you the DIY budget-friendly kitchen makeover we did at my Mom’s place! It is so full of really easy fixes and easy-on-the-wallet DIY projects.
We ran into some small problems along the way, like backsplash tile which never showed up and peel and stick flooring which refuses to stay stuck. Mom has this weird aversion to backsplash tile, so she was thrilled by the former problem – but kind of bummed by the latter. There’s also still a little more we’d like to do in here: after 20+ years, my Dad finally installed the under cabinet lighting but we still need to paint and install the corresponding trim. We’d also like to add more art above the coffee station and we’re on the hunt for the perfect rug – although my Mom had a cute rag rug already that works well for now.
These little details will be ironed out over the months to come because Mom and I are both fans of slow (read: we’re broke) design, but I didn’t want to make you wait any longer because I’ve teased you with this DIY budget-friendly kitchen makeover since the summer!
So let’s get to it! Here’s a look at the before:
Mom’s kitchen, which she renovated in the 1980s, looked super cute at one time, with a light and bright mint green, peach and white color combo. She really made the best of a small, dark kitchen on a budget – a classic, all white kitchen still looks good today. But the wallpaper had long ago peeled off the walls, the vinyl flooring was discolored from the glue, the laminate counters were chipped, and the melamine cabinets had started to bubble (one reason I avoid melamine like the plague). Her light fixture was missing (long story), the faucet was dented (an even longer story), and the fluorescent light fixture about the sink was just a naked bulb. Plus it was SO cluttered and messy, because it’s difficult to care about keeping a space orderly when it looks shabby. Mom was always complaining about a lack of counter space to actually cook in here, plus a too large dining table – the only space to eat in the house – really made the kitchen cramped.
The kitchen is really in need of a major reno, but that’s not in the cards for my parents right now, so Mom and I rolled up our sleeves and made magic happen with a DIY budget-friendly kitchen makeover. There’s nothing a little paint, elbow grease, and de-cluttering can’t fix!
Here’s a look at the kitchen today:
Pictures don’t accurately capture how cozy and fresh this kitchen feels now – it just glows, thanks to the soft pink walls and touches of brushed gold. Here’s a closer look at everything we did:
The Painted Melamine Cabinets:
The first thing we did in this budget-friendly kitchen makeover was paint the melamine kitchen cabinets with Rust-Oleum’s Cabinet Transformations Kit (in Winter Fog, un-glazed) which adheres SO well – even on melamine – with no sanding required. If you look close, you can still see some flaws where the melamine was bubbling, but it looks so much better than before! It’s also a great way for Mom to experiment with a darker cabinet color, something she’s been contemplating for the real reno. I took photos in different lighting conditions, and you can see how sometimes it reads more pink and sometimes more golden – it’s such a pretty wall color/cabinetry combo.
The Pale Pink Walls:
We painted the yellow walls a soft pink (Behr’s Shea) because out of all of the paint swatches we considered (numbering in the hundreds, I’m sure), this soft pink looked the freshest and cheeriest under all lighting conditions. It really brightened the room – even more than white – which was essential for this dark kitchen. We replaced the baseboard because we found baseboard identical to the to 1950s baseboard elsewhere in the house, but we left the door and window trim. After an afternoon of caulking (my favorite job), we painted out the trim to match the walls for a seamless look. Just wall paint and new trim paint this the space feel 100x fresher.
The Refinished Laminate Counters:
To keep things bright, we refinished Mom’s laminate counters in a glittering white! They were in really rough shape, with chips, stains, and missing pieces. The laminate was even de-laminating from the MDF base. Click here for the tutorial because I shared some great tips for repairing the laminate counters: we glued back the laminate and where pieces were missing, I built them back up with a mold-able epoxy compound. Then we used Rust-Oleum’s Countertop Transformations Mica (in white) and the counters are now a sparkly white:
It’s difficult to photograph, but they just sparkle like crazy when the sun shines in.
The Refinished Brass Cabinet Hardware:
I already shared the tutorial for how we refinished Mom’s shiny brass knobs – they look so fresh with their new brushed brass look. Plus we saved a bundle not having the buy new hardware.
The New Sink + Faucet:
Although we tried to work with what we had for this budget-friendly kitchen makeover, Mom did have to buy a new window (she had to replace all of the windows on the main floor) plus a new sink because her old white acrylic one was just too awful. We picked up an inexpensive stainless sink to complement her new Pfister Tamera faucet, generously provided by Pfister. The faucet is something she can use again when she renovates for real (or she can donate it to me for my fish room makeover!).
The DIY Tulip Table + Art:
Lacking a dining room in the small, post-war home my great-grandfather built, we always ate in the kitchen the way my great-grandparents did. In the 1980s and 90s, we had a small round table with drop down leaves so it could nestle close to the wall. In the 2000s my Mom bought new living room furniture and a dining room table in a much nicer teak wood, but it was a bit too big for daily use. It was challenging to maneuver around it and once Hubby became a permanent fixture, dinner for four was a tight squeeze. I finally encouraged my Mom to move the dining table to the living room, where there is space, and to put a much smaller tulip table in the kitchen for tea time or brunch for two. I already shared the makeover of my old tulip table – and the top my father-in-law helped me hack.
Do you recognize the art? It’s my 1960s cat print from the townhouse! The brushed gold frame, muted pink color palette, and retro vibe are perfect in here.
The Table Top Lamp:
I feel like out of everything in this budget-friendly kitchen makeover, this might need the most explaining? My Mom LOATHES overhead lighting – especially fluorescent lighting – which is why her naked bulb situation made her cringe. Eventually, she started using a lamp at the table so she could turn off the overhead lighting during dinner. When the dining table moved, the lamp moved with it so Mom stole this little brown vintage Lotte lamp from me for the tulip table. The scale is adorable and the retro look is perfect. It might seem odd, but it really is nice to have this little lamp on when I come over for tea and gossip. Even though her overhead lighting situation has greatly improved (with a light fixture – how novel), having this little lamp feels cozy, especially with the days getting so much shorter.
The Coffee Station:
My parents have an elaborate, professional-grade coffee making set up, which they scored for a decent price because they knew someone who owned a coffee shop. It really commandeered my Mom’s minimal kitchen prep space, though. Between the coffee maker and the microwave -and all of the random stuff piled up on the counter – she had no spot to work. I suggested she try living without the microwave (I don’t have one and never, ever miss it), reorganize a little to find room in her cabinets for the dry goods she stored on the counter, and move the coffee stuff to this little cubby (which originally housed the tiny 1950s fridge). All of the coffee stuff is together now – along with a vintage cookie jar picked up for a quarter (my Mummu has the exact same one) – and out of the way. I couldn’t help make my Mom’s kitchen any bigger during this budget-friendly kitchen makeover, but moving the coffee machine and microwave, and de-cluttering a little, have tripled her counter space, making the kitchen way more functional for her.
The Peel and Stick Tile Floor:
Mom and I were SO excited about this peel and stick tile floor, which brought together all of the colors: the blush pink walls, the grey cabinets, the burnt orange tweed chairs and the warm brown wood tones. But it refuses to stay stuck in some spots! We’re so incredibly frustrated and currently chatting with the distributor but I’m not sure they can fix it. We might need to replace it, which we’re really disappointed about. On the plus side, when Mom tackles a renovation for good, now we know that a busier pattern can work, even though her kitchen is small – we were so terrified to commit to anything not white, because that’s what was there for so long.
The Odds + Sods:
In addition to refinishing the cabinetry, counters, replacing and repairing trim, painting the walls and trim and laying down new flooring, we also did some little things. Mom’s naked bulb ceiling fixture was replaced by a fixture she already had. It had wobbled, so she hadn’t put it up, but Hubby took it apart, fixed it, and it looks perfect! We cut a new sheet of plexi for the fluorescent light fixture and, using a simple bracket, installed that so the light over the sink is no longer a bulb. Her kitchen door was painted grey to match the cabinets and a door knob was finally installed. Hubby and I also built a cute pink and gold dog bowl stand for when Szuka visits.
There you have it – Mom’s DIY budget-friendly kitchen makeover!
Mom is thrilled with how the kitchen looks now and it’s sparked a wave of updates and decluttering in the house – we just found the perfect mid-century mod inspired fabric on clearance, so the living room is getting a refresh too (starting with cute new pillows and sheers).
DIY PROJECTS FOR BUDGET-FRIENDLY KITCHEN MAKEOVER
Wall Color: Behr Shea
Cabinet Paint: Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations in Winter Fog
Brush Gold Knobs: DIY (Similar)
Counter Paint: Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations Mica in White
Faucet: Pfister Tamera Pull Down
Tulip Table: Vintage (Similar)
Teak Chairs: Vintage (Similar)
Gold Tweed Fabric: Fabricland (Similar)
Lotte Lamp: Vintage (Similar)
Cat Print: Vintage
Pink Hairpin Leg Dog Bowl Stand: DIY
Pink McCoy Planters: Vintage (Similar)
Glass Fruit Bowl: Iittala
House Cookie Jar: Vintage (Similar)
Yixing Clay Tea Pot: Similar
Pink Linen Napkins: Similar
Coffee Machine: Pasquini
We found, foraged, and hacked a lot of what went into my Mom’s kitchen, but I tried to track down some accessories with the same retro vibe and gold, grey and pink color palette – including some things we pined for and have bookmarked for the real deal reno, like this INSANELY gorgeous gold flushmount light fixture we can’t stop drooling over:
Huge thanks to Pfister for providing the faucet and Rust-Oleum for providing the Cabinet Transformations and Countertop Transformations kits as well as the spray paint for the tulip table and DIY dog bowl stand!