A Dated, “Very ’80s” Kitchen Gets a Striking No-Demo Makeover

published Apr 6, 2024
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80s style kitchen with wood cabinets before remodel

Historic homes often come with some charming, one-of-a-kind elements and some rather dated features. When homeowners Heath and Samantha Mitchell (@rainbowhomereno) moved into their cottage-style home in Sydney, Australia, they loved the charming historic details. The colors in the kitchen, though? Not so much. 

“Our ‘before’ kitchen had golden timber-look cabinetry, yellowing tiles and walls, and a dark gray speckled benchtop,” Samantha said. “The handles and knobs were black and gothic-like, and there were even black dragon fixtures at the entry. It was very ’80s and a bit lifeless.” 

The historic stained glass windows above the cabinets were the one detail in the kitchen the couple absolutely loved. So in the spirit of updating their home, Samantha and Heath wanted to renovate their kitchen while still celebrating its original rustic details.

Without a contractor or any major construction, the couple made a huge kitchen transformation. Here’s how they turned their outdated kitchen into a drama-infused space that nods to the home’s historical background. 

Paint, Paint, and More Paint

Initially, the couple thought addressing the cabinet color would be enough to breathe new life into the kitchen. However, they quickly realized the room would need a bit more work. 

“Our delusional spirit thought painting the cabinets would be a ‘quick and easy’ task to give the kitchen a new look,” Samantha says. “But then we noticed how yellow the cream tiles were and that the color options we were fond of weren’t going to look any good unless we updated them and the benchtop, too. Safe to say the ‘quick and easy’ task spiraled into many different cosmetic updates.”

The couple broke out their paint brushes and started painting the ceiling, window frame, and cornices white to liven up the space. “It’s such a focal point as you look into the kitchen and really makes it lighter, brighter, and airy,” Samantha says of the updated window frame. 

Next, they embarked on a DIY project: painting their tiles a brighter white. For inspiration (and instructions), they looked to none other than YouTube and found some videos that provided clear directions on how to get a smooth finish, prep the tiles and paint them, which they did with a Dulux paint. 

The next task was painting the cabinets, which Samantha was excited about as a budget-friendly option for transforming a space. The pair started by removing the cabinetry, sanding them, and adding several primer coats. After removing cabinets to install a dishwasher, they had two extra doors, which came in handy when testing paint samples. 

“Choosing the right paint color felt very important and took us weeks. We started off being torn between navy and green, decided on green (but which green?!), and then had to decide if we’d go green all over or a combo of green and white,” Samantha writes. In the end, they chose British Paint’s Webster Park, a deep teal. 

Swap Out the Hardware

Even a change as minimal as new hardware can make a space feel totally different. Samantha and Heath chose modern brass fixtures to complement their new teal-colored cabinets. It’s also a bonus that this was the easiest and simplest step, which gave high rewards for minimal effort. 

Update the Countertops

At first, the couple considered painting their countertops white, but it seemed “too stark and plain.” So, looking for (faux) texture, they landed on a marble-inspired contact paper for their counters. Samantha says the update will do for now, but they’re still contemplating installing new counters in the future.

Along the way, the couple ran into plenty of roadblocks, like breaking two stained glass panels (Samantha says she can still hear the heart-shattering sound of the glass breaking) and deciding to eventually update the counters. However, at least for now, they created a stunning transformation that adds drama and lightness to the space while letting the stained glass windows shine as the focal point. 

The kitchen isn’t the only room Samantha and Heath have transformed in their home. To see more from the DIY pros, explore the full home tour on Apartment Therapy

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Before & After: Striking Teal Cabinets Add Fun and Drama to This “Lifeless ’80s” Kitchen