Before and After: A Bland ’90s Kitchen Gets a Character-Packed DIY Redo for $7,000

published Mar 30, 2023
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Kitchen before renovation.
Credit: Tarah Baker

Sometimes, it takes a lot of time living in a space to realize it isn’t quite working for you, whether that means the style isn’t quite to your taste or the layout isn’t as functional as you need it to be. But other times, the thought hits you immediately — and before you even move in, you know a change is required.

Credit: Tarah Baker

Tarah Baker and her husband Cody fall into the latter camp. When the couple toured their 1920 Tudor, they loved that the house had a “warm and serene feel with soft whites, earth tones, and leather,” Tarah says. But the kitchen? It was not up to snuff.

Credit: Tarah Baker

“We knew immediately when we toured the house that the kitchen did not vibe,” Tarah says. Last updated in the 1990s or early 2000s, the laminate cabinets were peeling and the layout of the already tight space wasn’t practical. “With the upper cabinets plus the large double door refrigerator, the room was very tight with next to no counter space,” Tarah says.

She and Cody wanted to create a kitchen that fit the style of the rest of their home — something warm and inviting, and with a more functional layout that would maximize every square foot of space.

Credit: Tarah Baker

Tarah and Cody started their DIY redo by scrapping almost everything in the old kitchen. The cabinets were in poor shape, so they were trashed, but the couple was able to sell the too-large fridge and gave some other appliances to friends and family. The only piece of the old kitchen they kept was the pine flooring.

Crucial to their new kitchen design was a reimagined layout. The couple relocated the refrigerator to the opposite side of the kitchen to allow for more counter space around the new range. Skipping upper cabinets, and instead using open shelves, gives the illusion of taller ceilings; Tarah made up for some of that lost storage by adding concealed drawers in the lower cabinets from IKEA that the couple installed themselves. The process was easier than Tarah expected. “Once I did one or two, the process moved extremely quick,” she says.

Choosing butcher block counters over pricier stone freed up room in the budget for some splurges, like paneling to hide the dishwasher and refrigerator, which helps reduce visual clutter in the kitchen to give it a more streamlined look.

Credit: Tarah Baker

Tarah and Cody love the arched entryways in their 1920 Tudor, so they added a DIY detail to the kitchen that echoes that design. The arched recessed shelf next to the range adds tons of character, and is a practical storage space, too.

Another DIY detail worth noting is the beautiful custom range hood. “The custom hood vent was a first for us,” Tarah says. “Getting the angles right took a few tries but it finally came together as intended. We wanted it to be a subtle statement to keep with the warm and earthy vibes, but also provide function and an eye-catching piece.”

Credit: Tarah Baker

The redesigned kitchen is a harmonious blend of old and new. The arched detail, wood counters, and textured cream-toned walls (painted in Behr’s Off White) all complement the 100-year-old home’s roots without feeling stuffy or stuck in the past. “It feels warm and inviting,” Tarah says of her new cook space. “It has character but still feels so usable.” And when it comes to a kitchen, that usability is the most important part.