This NYC Kitchen Got a French Countryside-Inspired Makeover (The Cabinets Look New!)

published Jun 3, 2024
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About this before & after
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Rental Friendly

Whether you live in a sprawling open-concept home or a studio apartment, the kitchen is often truly the heart of your home. And sometimes it can be the focal point, too, when you can see it no matter where you are in your space. 

That was certainly true for Claudia Williams (@byclaudiawilliams) in her 125-year-old New York brownstone studio. “Since this is a studio, you see the kitchen from every other place in the apartment,” Claudia says. “I wanted the space to stand on its own and have just as much charm as the rest of the studio.” 

Before, it was “truly just your average New York kitchen — the landlord special, if you will!” she says. At first, she toyed with painting her cabinets, but instead she decided to lean into the warm tone and create a warm, antique vibe throughout.

Peel-and-stick adds wood tones to the countertops.

One of the biggest difference-makers in Claudia’s kitchen redo was creating a more cohesive color palette. She covered the gray speckled counters from before with a brown faux wood peel-and-stick contact paper, and it was only $15. 

“It took a lot of trial and error to find the right ‘wood’ but also to apply it in a seamless way,” Claudia says. “Air bubbles are no joke!”

Claudia also warmed up the kitchen by painting the walls Benjamin Moore’s Mannequin Cream, although she says down the line she might change the paint color. 

The chandelier and island were DIY projects.

The chandelier overhead and the island in the corner add a bit of color and pattern to the space while still keeping with Claudia’s mostly neutral, warm vision. 

“The addition of a DIY skirted island adds a bit of that French countryside character I love,” Claudia says. She built it with the help of her friend Connor. It cost around $100, and Claudia learned to stain wood for the project. “The piece on top of the DIY island was a boring light wood before,” she says.

And her friend Shea helped her create the fabric-covered chandelier, which was a $75 DIY project. “I fell in love with a skirted fabric chandelier on Pinterest a while back, and Shea said ‘I can make that!’” Claudia writes on Instagram. “And that’s what we did using a tablecloth I sourced online, an old sconce shade, some wire, and wood.”

Everything in the kitchen is small-space-savvy. 

Claudia says her proudest accomplishment from her kitchen redo is that it adds function and maximizes the small space. “Everything you see is decorative, but also functional,” Claudia says. “The peg shelf serves as storage, while the skirted kitchen island gives more counter space and hides my waste bins.” 

Everything is rental-friendly, too, given that the artwork is hung on the tile with Command hooks that hold nails, and everything else can be swapped back if and when Claudia decides to leave the studio. “I’d say everything cost me under $200,” Claudia says, adding that much of the decor she already owned. 

She encourages other renters to make small changes to personalize their kitchen, too. “Don’t wait! Set a weekend aside, and just go for it,” she says.