Before and After: Boring Cabinets Become the Coffee Station Dreams Are Made of in a $2,000 Redo

published Jan 21, 2023
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About this before & after
Before: a counter with a wood plank on top of white cabinets

Built-in bars in kitchens and dining rooms are a total asset, but sometimes, they can feel a bit randomly-placed or unfinished. In one example, a homeowner added wall paneling, shelving, and artwork to make her dining room’s bar area feel a bit more complete, and in another, a homeowner converted a built-in desk-slash-countertop-space she never used into statement-making storage in her dining area.

A third example to add to the list: Crystal and Scott Ransons’ (@theransonshome) dining room bar feature, which went from too-small to totally grand. One of Crystal and Scott’s first DIYs in their home was adding the store-bought white cabinets, a discount slab of granite on top, and the mini fridge. “That space served its purpose and we loved it for years,” Crystal says. But over time, she adds, it became a catchall for junk, and she was bothered by the fact that the counters and cabinets didn’t match the rest of her kitchen.

Crystal wanted to up the storage in the corner and make it match her darker kitchen island. After she and Scott saved up the funds in their home projects budget, they made it happen in a two-month, $2,000 project.

“We built everything ourselves besides the glass for the shelves and doors,” Crystal says of the project. The work that went into making it happen was pretty involved. The couple started by adding electrical outlets for the hidden appliances on the cabinets and wiring for the sconce light and installing flooring under the cabinets where none existed. They also sanded, primed, and painted the existing cabinets (to which they added new doors and drawer fronts) in an effort to match the kitchen. (They chose Behr’s Limousine Leather for the task.) Crystal and Scott also built tall cabinets to sit on top of a new quartz counter and added in a new beadboard backsplash.

Adding the upper storage was difficult for a few reasons, Crystal says. “Building doors for glass was a first,” she says — she and Scott hired pros to cut the glass — but also she had to sand and repaint the cabinets a couple times because she kept getting “flashing” (an effect where paint has unevenness and bright, shiny spots due to inconsistent dry times or tools used).

Measuring was also tedious, Crystal says. “This was a very difficult project just for the fact there was so much measuring for how to have the top cabinets line up with the lowers, how to have clearance on the wall side for the doors to open, and how to build a sliding tray that would sit up enough to hide appliance and light cords,” she explains.

But, she says, the project taught the couple a lot. “It showed us a lot of new techniques we can apply in future builds,” she says. The sliding trays, although difficult to measure, are now her favorite detail of her new buffet. “It took a lot of visual mockup for my husband to see my vision for those, and once he built one, I was happy to see it was just the way I envisioned!” Crystal says.

Crystal adds that if you don’t have woodworking savvy like Scott — or the time to cut your own lumber — the project could also be done with a combination of big-box cabinetry. (For example, you could use this $157 set of cabinets from Menards, the countertop of your choice, and a couple of glass-fronted IKEA BILLYs to get a similar look.) You would just have to “use plywood or some sort of smooth panel or bead board to cover the sides and seams of the cabinets,” Crystal adds.

Crystal finished off her cabinetry in the corner with coffee cups, china, cutting boards, and artwork for decor, plus a new wall sconce. “I love how this is now a functional coffee bar but also a cabinet I can finally display our wedding china in,” Crystal says. “I am just proud of this entire project.”