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Easy Kitchen Updates

Easy DIY Kitchen with Painted countertops, subway tile backsplash, and refinished cabinets

Easy Kitchen DIY Updates


I know I already said that a majority of my first posts would be before & after posts of our first home. The kitchen is actually the last room we finished (for obvious reasons… it’s stressful, it’s expensive & it’s exhausting, plus not being able to use your kitchen is awful!) But, I figured it was the biggest transformation and that’s probably the best place to start. This is our precious first home. These photos are before we even moved in and I was excitedly snapping pics with my phone. Hopefully you can see the charming potential we fell in love with.

It was built in 1972 and was so perfect for us.  We knew the minute we saw the house with our wonderful realtor, after seeing 11 houses that day, this was the one! We actually only looked at old fixer-uppers not only for the investment and ‘flip’ potential, but also for the character, yard, and little details that new cookie-cutter homes didn’t have.  It needed LOTS of updates & we were excited. Our wedding was a few months away, I was on summer break from law school, about to start my second year and we had hardly any extra money but lots of love and energy. So, we went to work with the help of our family and best friends. I’m shocked they still hang out with us after the work we put them through!

First, I’ll share some before photos. Brace yourself.


(Also, sorry, this post is long. Because I did not do these projects with the idea of blogging in my head, there was no great way for me to show before/afters except for going room by room. The rest of the rooms aren’t this intense)

You think we are crazy don’t you? All of our friends did. I’ll kind of run through a list of the projects we wanted to tackle. Note: We didn’t get to all of these but after weighing the pros/cons with the budget, we made the decisions we thought would have the biggest impact to future buyers (and not on our budget!).

  • Remove wallpaper
  • Replace appliances with stainless steel
  • New countertops, preferably granite
  • New flooring, preferably hardwood
  • Remove upper cabinets looking into the eat-in part of the kitchen for better flow
  • Replace cabinets and hardware
  • Add backsplash
  • Replace light fixtures
  • Ideally, remove wall into living room AND dining room for a more open concept
  • The list goes on.. and on.. and on…


Wallpaper was our first obvious project because a) it was really bad & b) it didn’t cost a lot.  Just time, sweat, tears, and I’m sure our first real argument because we were both just exhausted. Oh, and our air conditioner got struck by lightening the week we started doing this. In 100 degree July NC weather. AWFUL. But, we did it.

We used this wallpaper removal kit and just dove right in with a squad of about 10 people. It took at least a week to remove all of the wallpaper in the entire house. The worst was the kitchen. Underneath the wallpaper, was ANOTHER layer of glue and wallpaper. Anyway, with patience, friends, and a little hard work, and a few pizza/beer parties, we survived and the kitchen was SO much better already. Oh & we painted underneath the chair rail a bright white.

In the after photo, you can see my bright and bold kitchen wall color. This was my favorite color in the whole house, I even did it in the dining room. It was a valspar brand in ‘green tea’ and I was obsessed with the mix of modern chartreuse with with my old antiques and blue and white collection. I know the people who bought our house ended up painting everything neutral but while we lived there, I loved the bright happy colors. We did have to sand down and prime the walls before painting – a crucial step for painting after removing wallpaper.


This was easy, just expensive. We waited for great deals and saved up to buy the appliances we wanted. So glad we splurged on extending the gas line and getting the stainless gas range. We were very happy with our appliances. I will say, if you have an old home, MEASURE YOUR DOORS! Our first fridge we purchased did not fit through our doorway – even with the hardware removed on both the door frame & the fridge. We had to settle for a much smaller side by side stainless fridge instead of the very nice french door one I originally had delivered to the house but no big deal, we had another fridge in the laundry room for my hubby’s beer fridge and a stocked freezer!


Most of you won’t believe this. A lot the buyers who came in our home didn’t. I PAINTED our countertops. Granite just did NOT make sense for the price we wanted to spend – we knew we’d be selling & we wanted the highest price we could get without pricing our house too high for the neighborhood (and without digging into our remodeling budget too much). Other than being outdated and ugly, our countertops were in great condition. My girlfriend Sarah joked constantly about how much she’d miss our hideous countertops, I think I even shocked her with how great they turned out.

After some online research, I decided to go with the White Diamond Giani Granite (link above) for the bright white updated look I was going for. I think I spent about $75 and it came with all of the supplies needed. We already had lots of drop cloths – everything we needed was in the kit! The instructions are self explanatory and there were several videos to help. This made SUCH a big difference and I wish we would’ve done it sooner. It held up perfectly & the hardest part was honestly the prep and dry-time. I cannot recommend it enough!


My husband installed ALL of our new flooring in the entire downstairs of our house. Yay, B! I’ll show the rest of the house in future posts. We went with a very affordable laminate flooring by Allen+Roth at Lowes during one of their flooring promo’s, the dark color looked very updated and nice with our furniture and made the whole house look more modern. It had the underlayment attached and came hand-scratched so our 2 black labs couldn’t possibly scratch it up. It held up SO nicely and we can’t recommend it to our friends enough. One of our best purchases! I’m not sure how much $ we spent on flooring room by room because we did the entire downstairs. I want to say it was less than $2.00 per square foot.


For budget reasons, we also did not remove the upper cabinets. We didn’t even get new cabinets. I discovered Cabinet Enamel paint and after 2 days of light sanding, cleaning, and rolling on (only 2 coats!), this was another GREAT project I wish I had done sooner because it didn’t cost much at all, just time and the paint. This is the paint I used. I got it in the brightest white they could get and only needed one gallon for all of the cabinets in the entire kitchen and it was about $50. There are lots of other methods out there for refinishing cabinets but this was so easy and made such a difference. The cabinets were much more durable after. Easier to clean too! I used a cabinet roller and followed the dry times listed on the instructions.

I’ve heard good things about this too:



Our old house just wasn’t built for todays modern-sized things. This organizer is great at helping you maximize your cabinet interior.

For hardware, for the first year or so, I just spray painted the outdated brass with a brushed nickel spray paint…
BUT then discovered how cheap and great quality hardware is on Amazon! DO THIS. Don’t waste the time painting or money on spray paint if you can afford it. I wish I would’ve done this sooner.


I ordered these & it made such a difference for not a lot of money – definitely do this!



We DID remove the weird arch country-looking thing above the sink. We also replaced the tube-light that was underneath the arch thingy with a pendant that coordinated with the chandelier in the eat-in part of the room . This made it look so much more modern. Lighting was a very affordable brand from Lowes – we went with the Alexa collection. While it wasn’t exactly my style, it was a good light for potential buyers & they were a great price. I really wanted under-cabinet lighting but didn’t want to pay the price — so I ordered battery-powered motion detector under-cabinet lighting from amazon that worked great for what I wanted. The lights are turned on in the after photos but I don’t have an actual photo of the ones we used or of them being mounted. I mounted them with sticky 3M squares that came with them. The one complaint – they DID take a lot of batteries and they did not last very long but I made sure they were on when buyers came to look at the house.

Lighting Collection

If this had been my dream kitchen I would’ve gone with a light that was more ‘me’ and less buyer-friendly. Something like this


Transform your home with under cabinet lighting by PureOptics LED!



I did this myself, too! I did this AFTER the countertops were done, just FIY. I think it would’ve been fine to do it before though. We went with a bright white subway tile that was already in sheets for easy installation. While there are a few ways to do this, I preferred the easiest and least messy (by the time I did the backsplash, I had an almost one year old running around so I did this between naps!). To adhere the backsplash tiles onto the wall, I used the adhesive paper instead of the mud. It worked perfect for me!  I actually put the adhesive paper up (on the wall side) during the day. Then that night, I peeled away the tile side of the paper and stuck on the tiles. I grouted the next morning (about 8 hours later) while the baby still slept!

I had to use a little tile cutter that I purchased at Lowes to trim tiles that needed to fit around corners or edges – it felt like a real game of Tetris but it was so worth it! I chose bright white grout to finish off the bright white kitchen.  I watched a few youtube videos and read a couple DIY blogs to figure out the best way to finish off the grout.

we used this adhesive tile mat instead of the messy mud.

Total, this project cost about $200.

If you are renting or don’t want all of the work, I’d suggest something like this these stick-ons:

Woah, I feel like I’ve shared enough about this room. If you have questions about any of the process or items we chose, I’m happy to answer questions and help you along the way.




Some of my décor/accents:

Love accenting with blue & white, you’ll soon realize I over do everything. This  cookie jar is similar.
For house staging, I used a glass jar for artificial fruit, try to go as real-looking as possible like these lemons. This is a good faux apple for displaying & it’s true to size. Also love this glass pedestal jar for countertop décor.

Above: Got lots of questions about my pineapple decanter – love it because it blends in perfectly with my anitques & it was super affordable :); the blue & white monogram platter (this is similar, I love palms).


I just stumbled across the dish towels on Amazon, they’re already in my shopping cart. SO cute!

Cutest kitchen mat ever!?

Isn’t it so much better?  We did this in stages as the budget allowed but it was SO worth it.

If I had a very small window of time and budget, I think the top things I would’ve done are:

1. wallpaper removal + paint (maybe $100 on removal kit + paint, total)

2. cabinet paint ($50)

3. counter top paint ($75)

Those made SUCH a big different for such little money & fairly easy, too! Our realtor told us the kitchen updates were the reason our house sold after being on the market for SIX hours.


kitchen remodel for under $300 you can finish in one weekend to increase your resale value before staging your home
easy and cheap kitchen remodel on a budget you can finish in one weekend - perfect for resale value and house staging
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  • Reply Margaret

    What a magnificent kitchen updates! We remodeled our kitchen about 2 years ago. Time to renovate bathrooms. We’re going DIY this time. Thanks so much for sharing your project.

    April 30, 2018 at 7:23 am
  • Reply kitchen remodelers in Pembroke Pines

    Thanks For the Awesome info.

    January 28, 2019 at 9:04 am
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