Before and After: The “IKEA Fairy” Transforms a Lackluster Kitchen into a Timeless Cook Space
Little changes can do a lot to boost the look of your surroundings — after all, it’s hard to argue with the transformative power of a new paint color, or even just fresh hardware. But there are other times when little changes just don’t feel like enough. That’s how homeowner Kori Hale (@kori.hale) was feeling about her Brooklyn apartment’s kitchen.
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When she moved in, the orangey wood cabinets were accompanied by a cream-toned square tile with a floral pattern at seemingly random places throughout. “I hated my original kitchen backsplash tile so much that I did a DIY sticky tile over it to pacify my overall disgust, though I was still left craving more,” Kori says. (That’s what you can see above — it’s a glass-look mosaic pattern in gray.)
“Then I thought that by installing a new microwave over my old dusty stove, it would somehow make me like the kitchen more, but it didn’t,” Kori says of relocating the microwave off the counter. Unfortunately, even with these little swaps, Kori still felt stuck in a kitchen that she didn’t like.
So, “more than four years of suffering with a lackluster, borderline terrible kitchen, I knew it was finally time for a massive change,” she says. “I needed to revive what was supposed to be the heartbeat of the home, which had unfortunately lost its engaging culinary pulse a long time ago.”
Kori knew she didn’t want to spend a ton of money on her transformation. “I knew I had to be all in to achieve the kitchen of my champagne dreams, on my Brooklyn bodega budget,” she says. So she hired a pro contractor who was in budget, and tapped one of money-savers’ favorite home stores — IKEA — for the materials.
Over three weeks, Kori’s contractor (her “IKEA fairy,” as she calls them) worked their magic. After removing the old cabinets and counters, they reconfigured the layout to fit in a dishwasher (a NYC luxury!). They also discovered a less-than-pleasant surprise: the electrical wiring for Kori’s old range wasn’t up to code, so it had to be replaced before she could bring in her new one.
Even so, the redo came together in about three weeks. Some key features of the “after” that made it more functional and practical for Kori, even with its small square footage: making the cabinets taller to take advantage of vertical space, and adding a new island in for storage, food prep, and even meals.
For her new cabinets, Kori chose a light gray color and a classic paneled design (it’s the ever dependable IKEA SEKTION style); paired with gold hardware, the cabinets look both current and timeless. And instead of the old stick-on backsplash, she upgraded to the real-deal ceramic mosaic tile in a white and gray palette and a herringbone design. The lighter tones — in the cabinets, backsplash, and countertops — help the whole kitchen feel brighter and bigger. Also adding to that bright, open vibe? Lots of new lighting, including recessed lights, pendant lights over the island, and under-cabinet lights.
The new cook space is a far cry from the old “lackluster, borderline terrible kitchen” Kori was living with before. “I’m most proud of the overall look,” Kori says, adding that the only thing she might have changed was moving the island a bit farther away from the refrigerator. Otherwise, though, she says it’s the kitchen of her dreams — both beautiful and functional for her lifestyle.
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