5 ways to update your builder grade kitchen

*This is a sponsored post, all thoughts and opinions my own!*

Both of our houses have had 1990 dream kitchens/bathrooms. You know the type: oak cabinets, gray speckled formica countertops, and ugly hardware or no hardware.

With all of that orange it took all my strength to not jump right on the All White Everything trend as a knee jerk reaction to so much honey oak! But with the input of my color- and dark-wood-loving husband, we discovered that a mixture of styles can give your home a lot of timeless personality!

DIY White & Blue Inexpensive Kitchen Update! Click here for the BEFORE & AFTER!
DIY Gray Kitchen Tutorial, click here for the BEFORE & AFTER!

With that, here are my top 5 ways to class up your kitchen if you live in a builder grade twilight zone.

5 quick updates to do this winter:

Although a classic home can have a myriad of colors, there are some basic essential upgrades that I believe are best kept neutral.

1 – Stone countertops

A little paint and fresh counters can definitely modernize a kitchen! You don’t always need to spend $30-100K on new cabinets if they’re still in great shape! Just updating the counters can be enough to help you love your kitchen again and get it looking as good as the kitchen above! 

Stone, quartz, or other types of solid surface counters always add sheen and elegance to the two most important room in a house– the kitchen! Laminate counters don’t carry a lot of practicality now that you can get granite and quartz for good prices!! Yes, they often come with a slightly higher price than old school laminate, but in my opinion, that cost is never too high to deter you from the payback of having the real deal. Not to mention that you should be able to make most of your money back if you sell! In fact, back when I was selling countertops people would often want estimates in granite and lamintate, thinking Laminate would always be TONS less expensive, but most often laminate was just a few hundred dollars less & so not worth the savings in the end.

I recently discovered Premier Surfaces Minneapolis Countertops, which is a countertop company with locations in the Twin Cities area (they have tons of other locations too if you’re from somewhere else)!!! I just talked with a super nice saleswoman who said they have nice granite options that start in the $40/square foot range and quartz that starts in the $55 range!!! Pricing includes: 1) free installation, 2) a free sink, and 3) an edge upgrade! Why am I telling you that? Because after selling countertops, I know those 3 things are often hidden costs and they can add an extra thousand dollars onto your project if you’re not careful!!

PSA: They can make your bathrooms look GORGEOUS too!!! See! ^^

2- Natural accents

Plants, wooden or stone features, and loads of natural light are some of the best ways to make a space feel classic. Premier Surfaces Minneapolis also carries a selection of wood or tile materials for accent walls or floors!

A quick diy could get you gorgeous, cozy results!

3 – Ample lighting

Don’t keep that ugly track lighting or inconspicuous can lights over your island! Instead, think about adding a chandelier or something more interesting like pictured above

For our kitchen, we ended up choosing a black and gold fixture with a 4-light pendant because then we didn’t need to pay an electrician to add extra wires to do multiple pendants. And you know what? I love how it turned out! It’s WAY more stylish, still practical and inexpensive!

Oh, and I also added a pendant molding to make it that much more special!

Here are a few similar budget-friendly options I’m loving:

4 – Cozy neutral accessories

Your kitchen doesn’t need to look like a show home in order for it to look nice with just these few updates! Look how her countertops are stone, but she keeps everything else basic. The neutrals here help make things look intentionally antique and cozy.

5 – Add texture

source: Home Bunch
source:architectural digest

Source unknown

source: unknown

As an artist I think about texture in two ways: actual & visual. There are a few places that I personally love to add texture, either in how it looks, how it feels, or both! The marble looking backsplash above (left) is more visually textured, whereas the brick backsplash examples are both visually and actually textured.

The backsplash is a relatively inexpensive textural addition and it can bring your kitchen from average to gorgeous in a few weeknights worth of work if you’re a DIYer like myself!

Synthesizing your design plan:

If you’re thinking of fixing up your ugly kitchen like I did, a great place to start synthesizing your design plan is on Pinterest, but then you’ll need to take a step back and look at your kitchen realistically. Ask yourself, what will it actually take to get my kitchen looking how I want? Do I have the budget for a complete redo, new countertops, or just a little paint (for now)?

Now let’s do an exercise. Look back over the images above (or in your Pinterest board) and see if you can find a pattern. What do you notice in the following categories?

  1. Which countertop color or material do you love?
  2. Do you like things ultra modern or do you notice any natural accents?
  3. Do you see lighting that makes your heart sing? 🙂 If not, keep looking or check out my options above if you haven’t already!
  4. Are there neutral accessories or accents? Even black or gray?
  5. Consider your ideal textures in your kitchen, even if it means you decide you want most things high gloss & smooth.

Now ask yourself, which images on this post look most cozy to you? How many neutral/natural accents are there? This may help you as you plan your kitchen!

For more design inspiration, check out Premier Surfaces Kitchen & Bath galleries on their website or follow me on Pinterest and check out my home decor and kitchen update pages!



decor inspo: blue island and mantel

mantel copy

Compromise. It’s part of what makes the world go ’round. At least it feels that way.

Beckett and I have very different taste so when we moved into our new house and I started talking about painting the old ugly oak cabinets he immediately wanted dark colors. He prefers black, dark brown, deep hues of burgundy, and bright blue. His design aesthetic is sometimes modern, sometimes traditional.

I like things brighter, lighter, and a little luxe. I like the clean feel of a white room, but I’m not in love with the 2016 all white everything trend, but I like things bright. I like a little color mixed with unexpected accents.

The mantel and kitchen is our mix– our perfectly imperfect home decor balance.

A lot of work went into getting the kitchen to this point and it’s still far from done.
If you have a house that needs a little help like I did, maybe this list will help give you ideas of where to start.

Order of projects to DIY an ugly kitchen into 2017:

  1. scrape the popcorn ceiling
  2. paint the ceiling (mine is taupe).
  3. mark cabinet doors so you now where they go
  4. take off the hinges (and label them… I made the mistake of not labeling and it took me hours to get the hinges back to normal since not all of them were exactly the same… it was a pain in the you-know-what)
  5. take off cabinet hardware (that I added soon after we moved in because it drives me nuts to not have drawer pulls).
  6. clean doors and lightly sand
  7. use bonding primer to prime doors
  8. tape off the floors and walls
  9. prime, and paint the frames of the cabinets with your enamel paint (that just means its semi- or gloss paint).
  10. paint the cabinet doors with 2 coats of your paint.
  11. let dry for one day.
  12. add hardware back on
  13. paint walls and built-ins in living room/kitchen area.
  14. tile over existing fireplace tile.
  15. paint mantel and kitchen island blue!
  16. add “shiplap” to the kitchen island to give it some interest/texture.
  17. wallpaper above mantle.
  18. replace repulsive kitchen light fixture.

blue kitchen island with white peremeter cabinets diy shiplap copy

Still on my list:

  • get new counters
  • upgrade faucet
  • fix garbage can pull out (it opens randomly and I can’t figure out why!)
  • resurface the kitchen table.
  • add corbels to the island as a countertop support.
  • replace appliances when they die (and that could be sooner than we hope). 😐
    arrange roses copy

    Beckett got me these beautiful roses and I couldn’t help but take a picture to show them & him off <3 thank you, babe!

When the whole project is done I’ll post a before and after, sound good?

Until then, let me know if you have any questions about what type of paint to use or other questions related to my projects!



Beastly to Beautiful: Our Kitchen Reveal

kitchen-before-update-for-reveal-from-ugly-oak-cabinets-to-painted-beautiful-grey-kitchen-cabinets-diy-copy-copyWe bought our house two years ago because we loved the woodsy backyard, the 3200 sq. feet, the five bedrooms, and the potential we saw. But we certainly did not buy it for the kitchen. In fact, I despised that room since the moment we moved in.

We’ve been talking about moving lately. Just because. And one thing I decided I really didn’t want to do was to remodel the kitchen only to move out RIGHT away and have no time to enjoy it. I’m so thankful that I get to enjoy our new space, whether we stay here for 1 month or another 2 years!

So, after a whole month of working like crazy and trying to save everything I could in the kitchen, everything came together and looks amazing. It’s crazy how different it looks and feels. We have so much more space and storage. The room is bright and inviting and easy to maneuver even with two cooks


In my mind, these pictures don’t do the former set up justice for how terrible it truly was. The dishwasher used to almost hit the island when we opened it. It was so cramped. It was what, well, basically everyone would call a “one cook kitchen.” Now there’s room to walk around because added more cupboards and moved the island, stove and microwave over 1′ each!

I also added wainscoting panels to the island and stained it a darker color.

To open things up on the windowless wall, I took out the pantry. That left room for us to scoot the island over. I love how the open shelves turned out along this wall.

To make up for lost pantry space we added in new, skinnier pantries and a coffee bar on an empty wall (opposite the stove).


We kept the kitchen sink and faucet. I had to have my handy, (formerly) little brother Steven come over and help me unhook the plumbing. I am terrified of plumbing things. But he helped me and showed me how to hook it back up so I was able to reinstall it myself.

Thank you Steven!kitchen-before-and-after-oak-cabinet-makeover-paint-ugly-cabinets-grey-kitchen-remodel-diy-3

We didn’t have anywhere to hang aprons before so this is my little apron corner. To make this I used some old wood I had sitting around, added hooks, and screwed it into the studs! I love it!

And that’s all for now, Folks!

But before I go change a stinky diaper, I need to thank my husband. Without his support and help, none of this could have happened!

Babe, if it weren’t for you I would have cried every day, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to freak you out. I also didn’t want you to think I couldn’t finish what I started! 🙂