10 of the Best Kitchen Makeovers We Saw in 2022, from Rental-Friendly to Gut Reno

published Dec 14, 2022
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
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Rental Friendly
Before: Kitchen with brown floors and brown cabinets
Credit: Kristy Kay

Even for intrepid DIYers, upgrading a kitchen can be a daunting task. Given that plumbing and electrical, appliances and cabinets, and countertops and furnishings all converge here, a kitchen redo can feel like a true test of skills and endurance.

But even though a kitchen renovation comes with a big list of to-dos, it also comes with big rewards — and we have proof. Apartment Therapy has featured tons of kitchen before and after submissions this year that tackle decades-old flooring, dulled paint jobs, dirty countertops, and many other less-than-desirable attributes, only to unveil beautiful results in the end. And while they’ve all been impressive in their own rights, a few have stood out as favorites. Here, our 10 top kitchen makeovers we saw in 2022.

1. An Early 2000s Kitchen Keeps Its Cabinets in This $2,000 Scandi-Industrial Revamp

It was easy to see why Jessica Preteroti (@nestbyjess) and her husband wanted to redo their kitchen: Their orange-tinted, ultra-’90s cabinets made the space feel like a time capsule. The finish had to go, of course, but the cabinets were still in good enough condition to be saved. So the couple held on to the lower ones, installed upper floating shelves, built a new range hood, put in a swirly backsplash, and hung fresh pendants — yep, they did a lot of work. “I was on a strict timeline, so I scheduled out the renovation to the hour,” Jessica says. Most of the Scandi-inspired project was done over 10 days, and the total cost came in at about $2,000. 

2. A Small 1940s Duplex’s Kitchen Gets a Smart New Layout and a Fresh Look to Match

Jenna Marlar’s (@cozy.happy.home) kitchen is part of a duplex built in 1949, and naturally, it had seen better days. Besides being much too small for a modern lifestyle, it also had permanently dirty vinyl floors, green laminate countertops, and a serious need for more storage. She and her husband, Luke, hired professionals to remove a wall and cabinetry, as well as install new subfloor and drywall. “We were removing everything to the studs and starting from scratch,” Jenna says. The result is bright and decidedly of-the-moment, complete with a white-on-wood palette and Instagrammable details. 

3. A Bizarre Beige Kitchen Makes a Total Change After a One-Month, $1,600 Redo

Homeowner and fiber artist Megan MacDonald’s (@modernknots_) kitchen was full of head-scratching features. “There were a lot of questions that were unanswered on the WHY for a lot of things,” Megan says of the beige cook space. “There was floor tile cemented together as a countertop. The hinges and handles looked like they were reused from an old kitchen. They were very rusty and worn down. There was also this random cabinet door with a window on only one side … very strange.” She and her husband spent a month DIYing solutions to make the space feel more in line their tastes, including repainting the cabinets, installing faux butcher block countertops, and picking out a gold-toned faucet.

4. An ’80s Kitchen’s Overhaul Gives It a “Modern Eclectic,” Retro-Meets-Scandi Vibe

In Jessica (@jessicaldesign) and Jon Hudson’s home, the kitchen had to have been at the pinnacle of style when it was done in 1981. But now? The dark brown cabinets, light brown countertops, and square-tiled floors were decidedly dated. “This was our first kitchen we owned, so I wanted to take a few bold moves and decided on a teal cabinet and this lovely vintage flower tile backsplash,” she says. In all, Jessica and Jon added color, personality, and a whole lot of new features — with installation help from the pros — during this renovation.

5. A Dated ’70s Rental Kitchen Gets a $180 Boho-Style Redo

Lisa Kasprzok (@knots.and.pots.home) says her 1970s rental kitchen was “dark, dirty, and dingy” when she moved in — qualities that didn’t exactly inspire her to spend more time in the space. But a few rental-friendly upgrades completely changed all that. Peel-and-stick was Lisa’s friend in this makeover; she used peel-and-stick with a faux maple wood design for the counters and peel-and-stick subway tile for the walls. Lisa also used landlord-approved neutral tones for a fresh paint job, added gold hardware, and even created custom (reversible) arches for her open cabinets.

6. A 1950s Kitchen Gets a $5,000 Refresh (But Keeps Its Charming Retro Cabinets)

Marty Shaw’s kitchen may have been modernized in 2018, but that didn’t mean its 1952 features didn’t shine through. “It was kind of cool and retro, with the original gray Formica countertops and old farm sink,” Marty’s girlfriend, Emily (@emeliabird) says. But once their own refrigerator died and a new one couldn’t fit the space, the entire kitchen was overhauled with butcher block countertops, a subway tile backsplash, and a totally trendy shade of green.

7. A $3,000 Vintage-Inspired Redo Gives This Tiny LA Kitchen a Big New Look

Jacqueline Hall was looking to change her L.A. kitchen after a breakup, because as she puts it, “you can’t cry on freshly painted cabinets!” The 1930s-built space had yellow-tinged walls and a lack of prep space, which she remedied thanks to the help of loved ones and a handyman (including her grandparents, too). The finished kitchen provides a fresh start courtesy of a black-and-white tiled floor, newly-painted white cabinets, a classic pendant, and an expressive gallery wall. 

8. A Bold, Retro-Inspired Paint Color Reinvigorates an Off-White Kitchen

Sophie McGehee’s home is known as “The Colorblock House,” and that moniker was fitting everything but its kitchen. The house was built in 1965, and its cook space was purely utilitarian: white cabinets, beige walls, and a cramped layout. “As much as I just wanted this to be a simple DIY where I painted the cabinets and gave everything a minor ‘facelift,’ I realized that wasn’t going to cut it, and we were going to need to start from scratch,” Sophie says. She brought on an architect pal and a professional construction company to help her, and the results feature bright teal cabinets, a graphic backsplash, and a retro refrigerator.

9. A $500 Peel-and-Stick Makeover Totally Transforms a “Dark and Dingy” Kitchen

Kristy Kay (@kristysketch) and her partner had a kitchen that was dark, dingy, and dated — nearly everything in it was decades old and brown. They decided to lean heavily into peel-and-stick patterns to cover up this problem, and spent $500 and three weeks making it happen. Now the kitchen floor has a bright orange print with cabinets to match, plus an accentuated ceiling that deserves its own round of applause. “The colors bring me joy, and the way the light filters through the curtains in the afternoon makes me smile… it feels very true to us while still honoring its roots as a 1950s-60s kitchen,” Kristy says.

Credit: Spacecrafting Photography
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10. A Tiny, Dated Kitchen Gets a Layout Overhaul in a Fresh Black-and-White Palette

There’s a lot you can do to maximize the usable square footage in a small kitchen, but sometimes you really just need to knock out a wall and go big. Designer Jennifer Davis (@davisinteriorsmn) knew that was the case in her own home’s cook space, which started out at just 7.5 feet by 12 feet. But removing the wall that divided the kitchen from the formal dining area gave Jennifer a lot more room to play with, and allowed her to add in a giant island and lots of storage. The cool black-and-white color scheme is just icing on the cake.