Before and After: This Maximalist Kitchen Makeover Features a Clever $8 Cabinet Hack

published Oct 22, 2023
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There are lots of ways to add color to a kitchen — whether that’s with vibrant dishware, colorful drawer pulls, polychromatic tile, or (of course) paint.

In this kitchen redo, Tamzin McGillen (@at_themcgillens) added color to the once-black and gray space over time. “We were thrilled with the amount of space,” Tamzin says. The actual footprint and square footage of the kitchen was “a dream come true,” she says, but “we very quickly discovered the space (whilst big) proved cold and uninviting.”

The kitchen upon move-in “was gray on gray,” Tamzin says. “There was no color or pattern, and the room did not reflect the happy, colorful home we had envisioned … quite frankly, we did wonder how on Earth we were going to be able to solve the problem, given it seemed to be a newly fitted kitchen, we couldn’t justify or afford a new kitchen of that size.” A more colorful kitchen came in stages.

 New hardware and a new backsplash kicked things off. 

Tamzin says adding new hardware to the cabinets (the T-bars pictured) “started a chain reaction of improvements.” After adding sleek and modern hardware from a local hardware store, Tamzin and her husband hired a tiler to remove the glass backsplash and replace it with gray and white star-patterned tiles

“This made a huge impact and transformed the space instantly,” Tamzin says. “The tiles are still one of my favorite features in the kitchen. They bring much-needed pattern and are timeless.”

Painting the cabinets was another game-changer. 

Perhaps the biggest and boldest change in the kitchen is the blue paint on the cabinets (color matched to The Little Greene Paint Company’s Hicks’ Blue), also a professional job. 

“Looking back, we could have done this ourselves, but it would have been a difficult process with a newborn and 2-year-old,” Tamzin says. “Sometimes the professionals are required, and it only took them two weeks to strip, prime, and spray the units, and the finish is next-level.”

The white paint on the walls — a crisper choice than the “murky, dull white” from before, as Tamzin describes it, is Valspar’s Whisper Softly.

Although the physical act of painting went quickly, choosing the blue color was the hardest part of the project, Tamzin says. “In the end we chose a bright blue that really changes the mood of the kitchen depending on the light; in the sunlight, the unit color really pops, and in the evening, it becomes more dark and cozy.”

DIY projects add even more color.

Tamzin did complete some DIY projects in the space to add personality and color, like hanging a gallery wall and adding artwork in unexpected places like over the range hood. One little detail she’s particularly proud of is the duct tape stripes she added to her glass-front cabinetry for a pop of pattern.

“I’m really pleased with the masking tape hack,” Tamzin says. “The pop of fluorescent pink has really elevated the scheme.” And best yet, it was only £6.50, or about $8. (Tamzin’s is from the U.K. but you can find similar from Amazon.)

The takeaway? It’s possible to modify what you have.

“I hope this project is a great demonstration of what can be achieved with paint and pattern,” Tamzin says. Down the line, she says she might change one section of the cabinets to a different color for even more polychromatic fun, and she might change the flooring from gray tile to warm wood, but for now, she’s pleased as punch with how the space suits her family’s personality. 

“I feel that despite getting professional help, we saved a lot of money having the units sprayed and adding tiles versus replacing an entire kitchen,” she says, adding that upcycling the existing features was far more budget- and environmentally-friendly.

“Of course we have had to compromise on the style of units, the layout, and more, but we have made it our own,” Tamzin says. “It really does feel brand-new. We spend so much time together in the kitchen baking, cooking, and dancing. It’s the perfect space for our family.”