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Before and After: A Timeless Update for a U-Shaped Kitchen

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Mike Groner)

This 1981 kitchen had some plumbing and cleanliness issues, in addition to the overall ’80s vibe that needed updating. Enjoy those turquoise countertops while you can because they are not long for this world.

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Reader Mike Groner shares some insight into the project:

When I purchased the condo in December 2015 not much had been touched since the building was originally built in 1981. The cabinets were all contractor grade from that period. The previous owner did add a dishwasher and opened-up the pass-through window to the living room.

Top two reasons (aside from the 1980s decor and functionality) to make a change were the problems with the corner sink and fake slate-looking tile countertop. The corner sink was impossible to function. You had to turn off the water before switching to the other sink or water would get everywhere. The green slate tiles could never look clean and the grout was even more of a nightmare to clean.

(Image credit: Mike Groner)

Oooh, blue! This kitchen has been upgraded with beautiful white countertops, delicate backsplash tiles, and gorgeous blue cabinetry. Blue can look so amazing in a kitchen—here’s a recent kitchen in a lighter blue and one in an even darker blue, and this one is great too—and this navy is particularly sophisticated. Combined with the white and wood, it has a bit of a nautical flair, which in my book is always welcome. The stainless steel appliances and hardware go nicely with the cool blue and white, and with the wood and terracotta elements that add warmth.

(Image credit: Mike Groner)

This is a great view of a kitchen that we don’t usually get. Mike has shared a bit about the renovation process:

The process took over a year from design to function. I originally painted the cabinets as a temporary fix two years ago, just to be able to live with it; but it became to difficult to function in once my girlfriend moved in, so we kicked it into high gear. I hired someone to help with the cabinet layout. The U-shaped kitchen was tough to avoid a lot of dead space in without some professional help. The only real setback was the December holidays as all of the trades took the month off. Originally we were ready to start in October, but it got pushed until mid-January.

It is very helpful to know that it can be completely impossible to get any work done during the holidays, and to schedule accordingly. Have any of you experienced similar blackout periods?

(Image credit: Mike Groner)

The navy, white, and wood components are all extremely elegant and adult, yet they work quite well with the more playful elements we’re seeing here, like the puppy skeleton pirate, the super-bright West Coast art, and the skateboard display. The vibrant blue and the interesting tile backsplash bridge the gap between restrained and whimsical.

We asked what Mike loves most about this makeover:

The functionality. We moved the sink from the corner which feels like it doubled the counter space. We also raised the bar where the pass-through window is located, which separates the space and keeps the mess in the kitchen.

And what Mike would have done differently:

I would have done all of the renovations prior to moving in. Instead I did only the floors and cottage cheese ceilings and then did other projects one by one over the next two years, with the kitchen being the last, which was the hardest and longest to live through.

(Image credit: Mike Groner)

Mike has some simple but crucial advice for everyone embarking on a DIY adventure:

Do as much as possible before moving in. Don’t overthink every tiny detail.

Thank you, Mike Groner!