Before and After: An Awkward 94-Square-Foot Kitchen Is Now Much More Functional

published Oct 13, 2021
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About this before & after
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Before: Small dated kitchen with brown cabinets
Credit: Nuria McNeal

Although some kitchen redos might seem easy and straightforward from the outside, it’s no secret that these large-scale renovations involving appliances, plumbing, tile, cabinetry, and countertops are costly, complicated, and time-consuming.

If you’re in the midst of a kitchen overhaul, you might become impatient while the work takes over cook space and then your main level and then your whole life. (Don’t worry, Apartment Therapy’s got you covered with tips for home renos that aren’t quick *or* easy, and specifically, how to set up a workable makeshift kitchen while yours is being renovated.)

Credit: Nuria McNeal

Unfortunately for Nuria McNeal, complications with her contractor made her kitchen project one that seemed to drag on forever, but she — with the help of her husband, Matt, and her dad, Terry — took matters into her own hands and gained some DIY knowledge in the process.

Credit: Nuria McNeal

When Nuria and Matt moved in, the kitchen footprint in their 1940s home was original to the decade: small, U-shaped, and closed-off from the rest of the house. “The blank side of the fridge was the first thing you saw when you came in, and the sink was in the corner, and each side of it was pretty small,” Nuria explains.

Nuria and Matt liked the charm of the existing old-school tile work, but when they tried to remove it to save, it cracked because it was applied with cement the first time around.

Credit: Nuria McNeal

And there were two other major problems the couple needed to fix: the cabinets and counters. “The wood cabinets were falling apart, and one side of the countertop was about one inch higher than the other side,” Nuria says.

They hired professionals to do the electrical, plumbing, and drywall work, but they ended up doing the cabinet, microwave, and backsplash installs themselves to save time. “The project should have taken only two months, but issues with the GC dragged it much longer,” Nuria says.

Credit: Nuria McNeal

She’s proud of how much hands-on work she and Matt and Terry put into the project. “Everything is just a little off or crooked, but considering we are not professional carpenters or tilers, we are still proud of the result,” she says. “The layout and look is perfect for our family.”

Credit: Nuria McNeal

The kitchen was just 94 square feet before, but now, with a few layout changes, it feels — and actually is — larger. The fridge was moved to the other side of the room, so it no longer gets in the way when coming down the stairs. In addition, Nuria and Matt decided to remove the existing doors and open the walls to open up the space.

Credit: Nuria McNeal

Their new, sleek cabinets are from IKEA, and the blue and white backsplash that matches perfectly is DIY. “I wanted something white with random accents, but I couldn’t find a pattern like my vision, and what was close was too expensive.” Nuria says. “I researched about painting the blue accents myself, but thought of a more temporary solution until I found the composition I like.” 

Credit: Nuria McNeal

Her temporary solution? Cutting blue trapezoid accents from vinyl adhesive-backed sheets and arranging them on plain white tiles from Wayfair. It’s a designer look for a fraction of the cost and it’s renter-friendly; a win-win for future DIYers craving custom tile.

Complete with floating shelves, a new (centered) sink, and cool geometric pendant lights, Nuria’s new kitchen combines style and function. “I love how we accomplished making the kitchen efficient and feel much bigger than it was,” Nuria says.