Before and After: A Dated Kitchen’s Wallet-Friendly Upgrades Tone Down the Brown

published Dec 4, 2023
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Brown can be an incredibly chic color choice in home decor, and brown kitchen cabinets are even making a bit of a comeback. But when everything is brown, especially an orange-y brown, and especially in a kitchen, the color palette can skew a bit dated. 

In homeowner Nancy Berté’s (@naberte) 1912 farmhouse, the kitchen was part of an add-on that came much later, and everything was “way too brown,” Nancy says. The kitchen didn’t have a charming 1912 look; instead, it looked way more 1970s and 1980s, with orangey oak cabinets paired with terracotta floors.

“I could not afford total renovation — removing and replacing floor tile, countertops, and cabinets,” Nancy says. “I figured the biggest bang for the buck within budget would be the cabinet fronts.”

Credit: Nancy Berte
Credit: Nancy Berte

Aqua blue cabinets add nice contrast to the terracotta floors. 

Nancy did some prep herself and then worked with a professional to help her transform her cabinets. She removed the crown molding, and paint pros removed the doors and drawer fronts, spray painted the remaining cabinet boxes in place, and replaced the doors with Shaker-style doors painted in an unexpected seafoam hue (Sherwin-Williams’ Quietude). “It’s a smooth, low-gloss finish that has not given me any problems at all, even when I scrub down after a spill has dried on it.” Nancy says. “It was worth the cost to have it done right.”

In addition to painting the cabinets, the professionals also painted a spice rack that Nancy had made previously in the same shade. While Nancy loved the color from the get-go, it was a shade that some of her friends and family (and the pros) weren’t on board with at first. 

“I tried a few sample colors and had a couple people say, ‘Are you SURE you want that color?’” she recalls. “So I was delighted when it worked out. The workers were surprised and liked the outcome, too.”

Nancy says the new color provides a pop and a nice contrast to the other surfaces in the space. “The fun blue-green color livens the room up and breaks up the brown monotony!” she says. “The color alone just makes me feel good when I walk in the room.”

Credit: Nancy Berte
Credit: Nancy Berte

Matte black hardware adds a contemporary edge.

New cabinet handles and drawer pulls also helped bring the cabinets into the 2020s; they’re from Wayfair and included in the project’s $7,600 total. Nancy also chose a sleek new black faucet to replace the chrome one from before.

Credit: Nancy Berte
Credit: Nancy Berte

Fresh paint and peel-and-stick provide a brand-new backdrop.

Two last DIY moments for Nancy complete the kitchen makeover: painting the walls in a neutral color and adding colorful peel-and-stick wallpaper above the oven. Nancy says her floral peel-and-stick choice is “fun and much cheaper than tiling” — plus, it’s totally removable if it gets dirty or if Nancy wants to switch up patterns down the line. 

In fact, one of Nancy’s favorite parts of the redo as a whole is how she was able to work with the existing surfaces she had and come up with cost-friendly solutions, like the “touch of whim with the backsplash above the stove.” 

In fact, the whole kitchen’s lighter and brighter color scheme makes it a much cheerier place to be. “It’s a happy place now,” Nancy says.