Before and After: There’s Only One Minor Regret After This $10K Kitchen Remodel

published Sep 2, 2018
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(Image credit: Emma Rupp)

This kitchen was super cute and cozy, with beautiful whitewashed hardwood cabinets, bright, cheerful curtains, and platters that coordinate with the yellow paint. But it had been 14 years since this kitchen had gotten a tuneup, and its owner was ready for a fresh look.

First, here’s how Emma Rupp described the kitchen and the initial update:

Original wood cabinets, tile counters, and range/hood. We’d sanded and whitewashed the orange wood cabinets and painted the walls when we moved in in 2004. Our realtor gave us his old fridge as a closing gift, at some point we replaced the original Tappan wall oven when it finally conked out on us in the midst of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The floors were linoleum and we replaced those with hardwood back when we moved in.

Those are all major, excellent changes. So what’s the next style evolution?

(Image credit: Emma Rupp)

It’s so pretty. Even with the shiny new stainless steel appliances and a lot of white paint, this kitchen still retains its feeling of coziness. Those gleaming floors add an incredible amount of warmth and beauty, especially since they no longer have to compete with the wood cabinets. And if you’re concerned this kitchen is too white, the next “after” photo might make you fall in love with this makeover.

(Image credit: Emma Rupp)

This was already seriously cute, but Emma was ready for a change—and not just for aesthetic reasons:

After living with the initial ‘refresh’ since 2004, it was time to make some changes. The old Tappan cooktop was rusted through and the hood was so old and dirty I had to shove paper towels in the vent to stop 50 years of cooking goo dropping onto the range! The cheap wall oven (the only one that would fit into the original hole) kept breaking and heated up the top cabinet and our old gifted fridge had seen better days. The old ’50s tile countertops were cracked and no amount of scrubbing could get them clean it seemed. Although the cabinets are solid wood they were not very functional and had lots of wasted space where things got piled up and never seen again. Also the kitchen doesn’t get much light so it was really dark and gloomy despite the yellow paint. I was ready for something lighter, brighter, and more functional four our family of four plus three cats!

(Image credit: Emma Rupp)

If you love the bright look of a white kitchen—like a white chef’s coat, it will dramatically reveal whether or not it’s clean—but want a little more color and action, a wallpapered accent wall is a great way to go. Choose a paper with an easy-to-clean surface, and consider removable wallpaper whether or not you’re a renter. These lemons are so lively and cheerful, and they cast a sunny glow over the rest of the kitchen. Thanks to the tiled backsplashes and the wallpaper, this predominantly white kitchen has a lot of texture and visual interest.

I am happy to report that Emma loves the new kitchen:

I love how functional the kitchen is now, I have double the storage and room to spare. The space is so much brighter now and my lemon wallpaper makes me happy every day! Having a dishwasher is all I ever dreamed of and the novelty still hasn’t worn off, the new double convection ovens are a dream to have and they don’t melt the chocolate I keep in the cupboard above. I think if I were to do things differently I’d probably get a better faucet as the one we have isn’t the best quality but was the only one in our budget that was a wall mount, and I’d probably spring for a brand-new cooktop as this one although cheap has a few quirks I could do without.

After such a big investment it can be incredibly disappointing to have regrets, but both the faucet and the cooktop seem like they would be fairly easy to replace years down the line when the budget allows.

(Image credit: Emma Rupp)

Emma really worked a miracle on these cabinets; they were described as orange, but thanks to the earlier whitewash job, they have a really cool gray look. I can see why they wanted to paint the cabinets white—that’s what I would have done—but this whitewashed look is fantastic. And it’s easy to see why Emma was so determined to keep them:

I decided to work with the cabinets as they were solid wood, well-made and fit the space. I removed all the doors and attached a wood trim to make them more of the Shaker style I love, and spent many hours sanding, wood filling and painting them with my paint sprayer. My patient and very handy husband made slide-out drawers for all of the cabinets and built a new pantry around the fridge. He also built out the original soffit (I think we’re the only people to add a soffit instead of removing!) We tiled the backsplash and side wall and had quartz countertops installed. We hired an electrician to put in ceiling lights and install a new fan (we don’t have A/C and really need a fan). That and the countertops and wallpaper were the only thing we hired out, everything else we did ourselves.

I liked my previous set up with the IKEA islands and shelves so decided to keep that as is, I thought about adding more cabinets but figured we could do that later if we wanted too.

I waited for sales and bought the fridge, dishwasher, hood, and wall oven, and got the cooktop on Craigslist. My husband modified the cabinets to give me the dishwasher I’d been dreaming of for 14 years and installed the apron front sink. All in all the project cost around $10K, including all the appliances and tools we ended up having to buy. I started back in May of last year and we finally were ‘done’ the day before Thanksgiving.

(Image credit: Emma Rupp)

I love black hardware in a white kitchen, especially here, where it helps unify the black ovens and cooktop with the rest of the room; the black-and-white rug is also a good touch, linking the black-and-white decor with the wood floor. The open shelving is just enough to display favorite dishes, with plenty of closed cabinets for tupperware and other not quite display-worthy essentials.

After completing two kitchen upgrades, Emma has some advice to share:

Don’t be afraid to work with what you have if a brand-new kitchen isn’t in your budget! We didn’t do everything at once and paid for things with cash as we went along, so that helped take the sting out of paying for everything. Also living through the mess/construction isn’t fun but totally doable if you clean up as much as you can at the end of the day and take a break now and again.

Thank you, Emma!