Before and After DIY The Scenery House

Our Two Weekend, $600 Kitchen Facelift

March 26, 2018

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kitchen facelift oak cabinets neutral pinterest

We started the year with some pretty optimistic ideas about what big projects we could tackle this year – I even made a lofty 2018 project plan post about it. A new kitchen was a front-runner for our big-budget project for the year, but we soon realized the kitchen we want just isn’t in the cards for 2018. We let ourselves be bummed about it for 24 hours and then set to thinking about how we could give our current kitchen a facelift so we could make it more liveable for the next year. Because we do want to redo the whole thing SOMEDAY, we didn’t want to put too much time/effort/money/sweat into it to turn around and tear it all out in a year or two. I also didn’t want to make it SO liveable that we would put off a remodel indefinitely. With all this in mind, we set the following guidelines for ourselves:

Project Guidelines

  • <$700 total spend
  • No renovations/knocking things down/removing cabinets
  • No painting the cabinets
  • Let’s stick to things we can order with quick, free shipping or things we can pick up locally
  • Let’s get this done in a weekend or two

The Kitchen: Before

kitchen facelift before outdated giant fan

the worst kitchen fan with fronds

Oh yeah. Take in that fan.

honey oak kitchen cabinets coffee nook before

At the end of the kitchen is an extra space that Andy uses as a coffee nook.

oak cabinets with leaf hardware

Leaf hardware!

The biggest issues we have with our kitchen are not fixable under the guidelines we set – we don’t care for the aggressively honey oak cabinets, the shape of the upper cabinets, the Ubatuba granite countertops, the faucet, the curvey ornate wood business above the sink, the vented microwave that is not actually vented properly and also is hung upsettingly low above the stove and a fridge door that opens into a wall. *Deep breath* we’ve accepted that these things are beyond our control… for the time being.

So what the heck can you do?

  • Remove what’s left of the wallpaper border I ripped down over a year ago (don’t worry, I’ll show you)
  • Finally, dispose of the dead stink bug that’s been stuck in the corner by the ceiling for maybe a year and also shame ourselves about it on the internet so we don’t let that happen again
  • Paint!
  • Replace the outlets/switches with white (not almond/ivory) ones
  • Get a nice rug to really tie the room together
  • Style those shelves, good heavens, Emily
  • Recaulk the backsplash

Let’s get to it!

Weekend 1

Ok, well before we get to the first weekend, I told you I’d show you the wallpaper border looked like when we moved in.

kitchen facelift aggressive wallpaper border

kitchen facelift wallpaper border removed

I know. Of course. What a perfectly aggressive match for that fan. When I pulled the border off the wall, it left some paper behind and we just lived with it. It was an improvement. It also left behind a darker green painted border, leftover from when the kitchen was a darker shade of green.

Ok, back to weekend 1 of the great kitchen facelift!

how to remove wallpaper border

We used a wallpaper remover spray and a metal scraper to remove the paper backing. There was some adhesive still left so we went around a second time and cleaned it all with TSP substitute. I promise I did some of the scraping too, Andy just looks better doing it.

kitchen prepped for paint

Next, Andy removed the old light fixtures, leaving the recessed lighting (which I kind of didn’t realize we had because of THAT FAN.) Even with a ladder in it, the kitchen looks so much roomier sans palm leaf fan. Andy taped off the cabinets and hung plastic drop cloths to protect all the things. I patched areas where the plaster fell away with the border and cleaned up a messy patch job from when the A/C vent was installed. Then, I painted the ceiling Benjamin Moore’s Simply White from our paint stash.

After that it was just more painting. Cutting in, rolling on, just a lot of painting. And then more painting until we fell alseep, the whole weekend gone in a blur.

Weekend 2

I picked up my brush and climbed the ladder once again to finish painting the coffee nook and touched up other areas I missed in the kitchen. You may have noticed the chair rail in the coffee nook, which matched the orangey oak wood of the kitchen. Rather than tear it off (that’s demo, folks, and we said no demo!) I decided to paint it. This is my tiny attempt to be more like House of Brinson, ok?

I tore out the old caulking between the countertop and backsplash on the sink side of the kitchen. It took forever. Andy recommended I try heating up sections with a hair dryer to make it easier to pry out and it worked so well. Just don’t heat it up too much or it’ll melt and come out in tiny globs rather than one nice strip.

Andy swapped out the old leaf hardware with the new hardware we ordered from Amazon. He also replaced the old ivory outlets and switches with crisp white ones. Because our house is old and the wiring is old and every person who has owned it has done a new dumb thing concerning electricity – this was a harder task than it should have been. Andy communicated with my dad and to solve the mysteries lying behind our faux GFCI outlets via several hand-drawn diagrams. I found the diagrams lying around the house and at our place of work and it was like that moment in movies where the lead character finds a secret room full of drawings and pictures for a dramatic reveal that someone they love is losing their mind. Anyway, with the help of my dad, the internet, and Andy’s persistence, we have outlets that work.

Enough about that, let’s look at our new and improved kitchen!

The Kitchen: After

Kitchen Facelift Oak Cabinets Classic Gray

Andy and I wanted a moody color in the coffee nook but definitely wanted to brighten up the kitchen. I didn’t want to go full on white on the walls, so we looked at a variety of light grays, but most looked too cool against the warm (too warm) white of the backsplash tile. We went with Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray on the kitchen walls and Benjamin Moore’s Wrought Iron in the coffee nook. Both ceilings are Benjamin Moore’s Simply White.

kitchen facelift oak cabinets classic gray walls

styled kitchen shelves plants wrought iron paint

The kitchen and coffee nook are separated by shelves. Before our facelift, these shelves were sorely neglected junk collectors. Now that our kitchen is much more pleasant to look at, I wanted to pretty up those shelves with books and plants. I’m excited to restyle this over and over again.

kitchen shelves plants sonos dark walls

Amazon Kitchen Pulls and Knobs

The new hardware is simple and classic.

Kitchen Counter Tool Caddy Eucalyptus Tea Towel Granite Countertops

The Coffee Nook – After

Coffee Nook Wrought Iron

Coffee Nook Plants Bodum Coffee Nook Storage Painted Chair Rail

I really love that painted chair rail.Coffee Nook Storage Leaded Glass Window


kitchen facelift moodboard

[ Ceilings – BM Simply White | Kitchen Walls – BM Classic Gray | Coffee Nook Walls – Wrought Iron | Light Fixtures – Discontinued (Similar) | Light Bulbs – Daylight Edison Bulbs  |Cabinet Pulls – Franklin Brass Pulls | Cabinet Knobs – Franklin Brass Knobs | Rug Runner – Edessa Tribal Medallion Rug ]

The Cost

  • Light Fixtures – $195.98
  • Light Bulbs – $9 ($27 for 6)
  • Rug – $83.85
  • Cabinet Hardware – $65.80
  • Paint – $84.00
  • Switches + Switch Plates – $60
  • Caulk, Drop Cloths, Misc Supplies – $100

Total Spend – $598.63

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  • Reply Kiki March 30, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Am I crazy for kind of liking that fan with palm fronds? Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen anything like that? Also, I really like your before (as well as your after) kitchen – I’ve seen so many places far, far worse – for instant mine! But reading on, I also realised that you had many reasons of doing what you did and you’re right – if it fits your present possibilities and if you spend, like me, a decent amount of your time in the kitchen, it should give you all the joy it can.
    It’s funny (again, to me, but I’m European and maybe we do see things differently), how much pride and space and colour you’ve given your ‘coffee nook’ – mine would contain a simple espresso machine, all the cups and saucers – voilà…. I do wish for you and Andy to take joy every time you’re found in your corner with a coffee in your hands and being able to sigh to each other: We did a great job. This makes us happy!
    Happy Easter too…. It’s a lovely house!

    • Reply thesweetbeast March 30, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks, Kiki! You’re not crazy! I think the fan could work in a different, much larger room. It really overwhelmed the space.

      We really do love it so much more now and it brings us a lot more joy :)

  • Reply Vanessa April 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    I have to throw in, about the oak cabinets – although they are in so many houses and so many people are sick of them for the yellowy color, they are SOLID. I just pulled them out of my last little flip, dragged them (slowly) out to the curb and replaced them with cabinets that are half the weight and sturdiness. Prettier yes, stronger no. I am starting to look at them a little differently now. I’d like to try to keep the next set I encounter. It’s just a thought.

    All of your updates look wonderful.

    • Reply thesweetbeast April 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you! And that’s so true about oak cabinets! Wood cabinets will always be stronger and last longer than man-made material cabinets. When a client’s kitchen flooded due to a burst pipe, we were able to save the cabinets because they were solid wood and could dry out, while composite materials would have warped/fallen apart.

      I hope that we can do wood cabinets when we replace these but they are so $$$, for good reason!

  • Reply Beezus April 10, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    I like the oak! I hope you don’t totally rip it out in your entire house. It has so much more character than painted, especially white, fixtures, and looks great with some of the moodier coloured walls you’ve picked!

    • Reply thesweetbeast April 10, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      Thank you! I love the original unpainted trim throughout our house and won’t be removing or painting any out any of it! The kitchen was redone at some point (the cabinets are from the 80s) and while the doors are wood, the cabinet bases are composite. Neither are in great shape and haven’t been treated super well over the years – they look better in the photos than real life! If we redo the cabinets I think we will do wood doors again, and I’d like to reincorporate some of the original shaker-style wall cabinets that have been saved in our basement. Whatever we do, it will more true to the house (and the way we use the kitchen) than what’s in there now.

  • Reply Kat April 12, 2018 at 9:54 am

    I love your kitchen improvements! It looks so good! And I love posts like this – I’m planning to do a kitchen refresh and this has me itching to just go and do it already! I’m fairly new to your blog, and I’m so glad I found it. I’m just loving it. Keep up the good work!

    • Reply thesweetbeast April 12, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Thank you! Get at it, girl! You can do it and you’ll be so much happier afterward. I’m so happy to not apologize for our kitchen every time we have someone new over. Thanks for the blog love, I’m glad you’re here!

  • Reply Hilary L Hahn April 27, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    That palm frond fan was literally cracking me up! Beautiful work.

    • Reply thesweetbeast May 1, 2018 at 1:38 pm

      Haha it was WILD. It is out of our lives now and in a new home where it is loved and appreciated.

      Thank you!

  • Reply Kathy Hoover February 19, 2020 at 12:35 am

    What brand and name of hardwood floor covering did you use with the oak cabinets? I love it. Getting ready to spend major money on hardwood throughout home with the honey oak cabinets and trim. I feel nauseated just thinking about choosing the wrong color.

    • Reply thesweetbeast February 19, 2020 at 7:53 am

      Hi! We had our home’s original hardwood flooring refinished and stained with Bona’s Early American stain. It’s a few shades lighter thank the cabs and trim so we think it works really well with it!

  • Reply Diane March 23, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    What color of blue did you use?

  • Reply Katherine Hoover March 23, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    I used Sherman Williams Rainwashed. Love love love it. Used in master bath and master bedroom. Calm and relaxed feeling.

  • Reply Cathy May 10, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    I have always been scared to use gray with oak but it looks husband will not let me paint cabinets so I am going to paint walls and see how it goes.

  • Reply Loryl May 30, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    We had that crazy “Bridge”for lack of a better word between our cabinets over the sink and we built our house! Cabinet makers just did that back int he nineties. We removed it when we did a facelift to our kitchen about 10 years ago. My husband then put molding above the cabinets on each side. So much better and he said it was an easy fix. Love what you have done and your color choices

  • Reply Sarah March 27, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    We also have honey oak cabinets, and I’ve been looking for a way to refresh the kitchen… but WITHOUT doing any demo! This is terrific inspiration, thank you :)

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