Before and After: This $500 Kitchen Redo Is All About Cheerful Vintage Charm

published Mar 7, 2021
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Before: Kitchen with wooden cabinets stained blue

Preserving an old house’s vintage charm while also updating it to be more practical (and aesthetic) can be a tricky tightrope to walk. If you’re looking for inspiration, take a peek at this kitchen redo from Baltimore residents Kacie and Caitie Moon. “Our Baltimore rancher was built in the 1940s, owned and lived in by one woman for decades,” Kacie says. “It looked like a time capsule when we bought it — tan carpet, brown wainscoting, muted walls, fussy curtains, and gold chandeliers.”

The kitchen was no exception, with an all-blue color scheme that Kacie says made them feel claustrophobic whenever they cooked. “We’re a big fan of bold colors — the rest of our house is orange, green, and deep teal — but the blue was just hard to play with,” Kacie says. “And there was so much!”

The only places there wasn’t blue? The counters and backsplash, which were cream laminate, and the tan floor.

But the kitchen did have a lot going for it. Aside from the stained blue color, the original cabinets were well made, having been built and installed by a local company in the 1940s. The square footage was generous, too. Kacie and Caitie decided on a revamp that would play to the kitchen’s advantages while also bringing in some modern styling.

After painting the walls a retro mustard yellow, Kacie and Caitie liked the color so much that they decided that’s what they’d work around. They removed all the doors and painted the cabinets with cabinet paint, using white for the uppers and gray for the lowers. “It took at least three coats each side to cover up the blue,” Kacie says. Once the cabinets were painted, they installed new, more modern nickel hardware.

Caitie is a woodworker and has made most of the furniture in their house, which came in clutch in the kitchen remodel. “She had a vision for gorgeous butcher block counters,” Kacie says, and the raw materials to make them cost under $300.

While the smaller pieces were easy to cut and install, fitting the largest slab in between the other pieces proved to be a challenge, Kacie says. “It had to be exact and fit into place snuggly. We must have carried it in and out a dozen times to keep sanding off a fraction of an inch,” she says. “If we could do it again, we’d make it 1/8th inch smaller and put a shim against the wall to push the smaller pieces in.”

Kacie, who is a painter, handled the stain, which she made with a mix of tones to create a rich brown that still let the wood grain shine through. “We wanted the counters to be the darkest element in the kitchen — not too mid-toned which would clash with the yellow,” Kacie says. They applied eight coats of polyurethane to finish to protect the wood countertop from water damage, and installed a new subway tile backsplash as well as a fresh sink and faucet, too.

Peel-and-stick tile in a delicate geometric pattern instantly upgraded the old tan floors without having to spend a ton of money.

“While it took a lot of time and woman-power, in the end, we were able to create a bright, friendly, contemporary kitchen for under $500,” Kacie says. That includes everything but the new kitchen appliances (a dishwasher and range).

The mostly white-and-gray kitchen feels bright but not cold, which is something that was important to Kacie and Caitie. “We didn’t compromise on the colorful, earthy character of the rest of our house,” Kacie says.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.