Projects & Improvements

Before and After: A Daring Paint Job and Fresh Tile Revive This Tiny, Tired Kitchen

published Apr 17, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Studio Apartment
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Kitchen and entry area of studio apartment. No furnishings, dated wood cabinets
Credit: Dana McMahan

Maybe it’s possible to dream up a new space out of thin air, but I don’t know how that works. Every place I go is a source of inspiration, and I consider everything fair game for turning up in a later design. That’s especially true of any travel destination I visit. When I went to Marrakesh many years ago, I fell in love with the vibrant colors, flickering lanterns, and bold patterns, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. I decided to use them as inspiration for this studio apartment renovation project in the building I own with my BFF/business partner.

Credit: Dana McMahan

One major piece of this reno was the kitchen. This was a real-deal cook space, if a bit small, but it started off looking pretty bleak thanks to the gray vinyl floors and dingy walls. In a 200-square-foot studio, it was an immediate focal point, so I wanted to make a good one. The cabinets were in good shape but the orangey wood color felt dated.

Credit: Diane Deaton Street

The most important change I made in this kitchen — and the whole studio — was paint. I wanted a jewel box in pink, offset with black trim. The painter thought I was kidding when I asked him to paint the ceiling the same pink as the walls, but he was a believer by the time it was done! Painting the cabinets the same black as the trim helped them pop against that light pink wall (and helped make the counter look a little less dingy, too). The dark color is dramatic, but black built-ins are a classic and can work with a variety of design styles. Removing a couple of the upper cabinet doors to create open shelving gives a space to show off cute dishes and decor.

Credit: Diane Deaton Street

We scrapped the grayish-brownish stick-on floor tiles, opting instead for durable porcelain in an Arabesque pattern. The small kitchen is the perfect place to show off an intricate pattern like this. Overhead, we also took out the dreaded boob light and installed a pendant light with an Arabesque-like design that complements the floors.

Credit: Diane Deaton Street

All the appliances needed was a good scrub to revive their white finish. We also added some additional magnetized storage to the side of the fridge to help corral essentials like paper towels and pot holders. Now, the kitchen is a focal point for all the right reasons. Even with its teeny size, it still makes a big impression.

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