The 10 Best Kitchen Redos of 2021, from Budget DIYs to Major Renovations

published Dec 10, 2021
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About this before & after
Home Type
N/A
Project Type
Kitchen
Style
Modern
Skill Level
DIY
Professional
Rental Friendly
No
Before: Bare kitchen with dark wood cabinets
Credit: Alyssa Murphy

Dated kitchens have a way of making an entire house feel dragged down. Thankfully, there are so many ways to push the unsightly details of this neglected space from an otherwise picturesque home. Peel-and-stick surfaces do wonders, for instance, whether they’re on walls, backsplashes, or countertops. Even the slightest change to a floor plan in order to make it more cohesive can better connect to a living space. And, of course, no one can deny the power of a single can of paint in its ability to make anything look totally different. 

As we witnessed the many kitchens that made it into the pages of our before-and-after archives this year, these 10 managed to stick in our minds because of the sheer grit and imagination that took place. Revisit the 10 best kitchen redos of 2021 to experience these reveals once more, and see how a fresh idea can suddenly make this room feel modern. From a traditional kitchen that retools an awkward corner into mid-century breakfast bar or a brown-colored enclave that gets refreshed with a checkerboard print, these renovations will show you how to rethink your kitchen if it’s dragging the rest of your home down. If anything, let this flashback serve as a reminder that there can always be a second act. All it takes is some planning, a little help, and a big push of creativity. 

1. A Kitchen That Isn’t Afraid of an Unappreciated Shade

Artist and interior designer Andrea Granger had clients with a brown, tan, and dark Indiana kitchen that was in serious need of a bright upgrade. Her interpretation of “bright upgrade,” however, was far from typical — and that’s what makes it so much fun. Granger painted the cabinets and island in a coat of Sherwin Williams’s “Plum Dandy,” and the purple shade coordinates beautifully with the warm woods and woven textures throughout the rest of the space. Another win? She also installed a black-and-white hexagon tile as the backsplash for another brush with boldness, and it just works.

2. A Kitchen That Got a Bright Overhaul for $1,700

When Kyle Ortiz and his wife Amanda moved into their California home, they thought the kitchen was nice, but it wasn’t their style. The espresso-colored cabinetry, stacked-stone countertops, and beige walls felt a little too removed from their tastes, and they were hoping to DIY changes that were much more functional. Over the course of about 10 weeks, and with a tight budget of $1,700, Kyle painted the lower cabinets a warm pine, the walls a bright white, and installed floating shelves that make the space feel larger. With a pendant light above the island and a contrasting appliance garage, this kitchen now feels entirely their own. 

3. A Minimalist Kitchen That Came From Complicated Beginnings

At some point before Lauren and her husband Kameron moved into their Chicago condo, a previous owner decided to do a pretty esoteric renovation: make a bedroom out of a dining room. The consequences resulted in a choppy layout, to say the least, but it also complicated a kitchen that was already stuck in 1990s style. The couple wanted a layout that was much more streamlined, with modern features firmly placed in this era. The renovation flipped the orientation of the kitchen and dining space, making it feel brighter and bigger, and then adhered to a minimalist palette of all-over white accented with a black. In the end, their approach is much more of a crowd-pleaser. 

4. A Mid-Century Kitchen That Returns to Its Stylish, Mod-Inspired Roots

Suzanna Smith loved her 1963 midcentury home, but for seven years, she waited patiently for the chance to overhaul its out-of-place traditional kitchen. Drab brown cabinets, decaying countertops, and an oversized ceiling fan made the area feel dark and crowded, and she knew something complementing the rest of the home would be a much better fit. She served as her own general contractor for the renovation, which included refacing the original cabinets, installing new subway tiles, and refiguring a half-wall into a breakfast bar. Now that the kitchen fits with its surroundings, Smith loves her property even more. 

5. A Few Coats of Paint Took This Brown Kitchen From Blah to Brightness

If there was one word to describe Nedra Davis’s original kitchen, it would be this: brown. The color was on the cabinets, floors, backsplash, and countertops, creating a one-note tune of “blah” that didn’t get close to the bright and airy kitchen Davis had wanted. So, after hiring pros to demo the backsplash and install new electricity, she painted the cabinets a mossy green and used a marble epoxy on the countertops. Then, she carefully painted a white and tan checkerboard pattern on the floors, and finished everything off with gold accents. Now the kitchen is exactly what she had in mind. 

6. A Dated Blue Kitchen Is Reimagined With Mustard Yellow Walls

Kacie and Caitie Moon loved the character of their 1940s Baltimore home, but the all-over blue of the kitchen was a bit much. They liked the well-built cabinets and the room’s overall size, but thought an earthier palette would serve them better. They painted the walls a throwback mustard yellow, and the cabinets a soothing white and gray. Peel-and-stick flooring in a geometric pattern added more interest, while dark butcher block countertops brought in texture. Their kitchen exemplifies old meets new, but in a way that’s entirely their own.

7. A Dizzying Zigzag Backsplash Gets Paired Down in a Mint Kitchen

When interior designer Courtney Batten and her husband bought a 1956 mid-century ranch home in Dallas, the kitchen had just been flipped by an investor — but those design choices weren’t flattering. A busy zigzag pattern in the backsplash was the most obvious offender, and so they decided to do their own upgrades before they completely moved in. Courtney and her husband painted the cabinets a soft mint green, and added gold hardware for some shine. And when she painted the backsplash white to match the walls, the kitchen suddenly felt like it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, it was pretty great. 

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8. A Mid-Century Kitchen That Took Five Years to Get Just Right

Katie and her family made the tricky layout of their cramped kitchen work for five years thanks to a few IKEA storage solutions. But nothing would work quite as well as a renovation, so they saved up until professionals could come to the rescue. Katie wanted a larger floor plan — which was accomplished by nixing an unused door — and midcentury style that came in the forms of geometric tiles and colorful wallpaper. New cabinets reach to the ceiling for more storage, and the adjoining dining area feels much more connected to the room. It may have taken a while, but this kitchen was worth the wait!

Credit: Alyssa Murphy
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9. A Small Apartment Kitchen Becomes a Bevy of Small-Space Design Tricks

When Alyssa Murphy moved unexpectedly, she found herself contending with a cramped and damaged kitchen that left very much to be desired. She had never painted cabinets in her life, but she went for it — and their new white coat made them look brand new next to marble contact paper on the countertops. She used peel-and-stick subway tile for the backsplash, and Spanish-style ones for the floor. And finally, to separate the room a bit from the rest of her home, she built a bookcase for storage and a makeshift wall. All of this was paired with a new light fixture and open cabinetry, making this move a showcase of Alyssa’s untapped and impressive DIY skills. 

10. A Cramped Kitchen Gets a New Layout to Store More Appliances

Jelyka Pedersen and her husband had already used a can of paint and peel-and-stick tile on their kitchen backsplash, but it didn’t make up for the fact that they still didn’t have enough square footage. So they decided to do a full renovation of their cook space, complete with custom cabinets, a fresh layout, and a black-white-and-wood palette. The new configuration gave them much more room to prep food using their many appliances, while also providing a larger sink and space to eat. The new kitchen feels like the one they’d wanted all along, as soon as they were ready to take the leap.