Before and After: This ’90s Kitchen Gets a Playful $5,000 Update Bursting with Pattern and Color
There are lots of instant giveaways that your kitchen was built in the 1990s or early 2000s. Shiny oak cabinets, laminate counters, and brassy hardware are all tells. So are split-level raised bar countertops and cabinets that don’t stretch all the way to the ceiling, like designer Maggie Overby (@maggieoverbystudios) had in her kitchen.
While quality cabinetry and countertops from the ’90s or early aughts might still be in great condition, Maggie’s kitchen was “definitely starting to show its age,” she says.
The laminate cabinets were beginning to peel, the florescent lighting was too harsh and yellow-y, and the over-the-range microwave made that cooking space feel crowded. Maggie says the green counters, while not her personal style, were too expensive to replace.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the budget for a full gut remodel, so I needed to figure out a way to make them work with most of the bones I already had,” she says. “I knew with a few updates, it could at least feel modern and fun.”
She and her husband spent eight weeks on their kitchen reno, and aside from hiring an electrician to wire new lighting (wall sconces and aged brass pendants), the process was completely DIY and cost about $5,000.
Maggie and her husband removed the upper cabinetry that wasn’t ceiling height — plus the overhead microwave — and painted the base cabinets gray-blue (Sherwin-Williams’ Aqua Reservoir). Where the old cabinets used to be, the couple added open shelving; they also purchased a new cabinet to hide away the microwave.
To get the chunky wooden open shelving, Maggie cut pieces out of sheets of butcher block counter — a cost-effective way to find thick wooden shelving in the length she needed, she says.
She also used butcher block to refresh the raised bar. “The new waterfall edge top on the bar took the raised bar right into modern times,” she says.
Installing new tile was one of the most difficult steps of the reno for Maggie and her husband. “There are always little issues that arise that you have to make work,” she says. “When it came time to tiling behind the range, the tiles I was originally planning for were no longer available. That meant back to the drawing board. Once those were switched out for something else, it changed the plan for the bar front. I think the end result was even better than my original plan, but had I not been open to change I would not have ended up there.”
In addition to adding pattern through tiling, Maggie hung a lemon-printed wallpaper on the walls, and the mixing and matching ups the kitchen’s playful vibes while brightening up the space.
Maggie also lined the backs of her glass-front cabinets with a navy geometric wallpaper — a detail that makes the kitchen feel more eclectic yet intentionally designed.
“Don’t be afraid to go bold in the kitchen,” Maggie says. “We spend a lot of time in our kitchens, so why not make it an enjoyable place to be?”
Maggie says her kitchen is now a much happier space. “The old kitchen was so drab, and the florescent lighting felt institutional,” she says. “The new look with warm lighting, wood tones, and lots of colors feels so much more inviting. Now I actually want to spend time in the kitchen.”
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