Before and After: A Vintage Kitchen Gets a Glam $26,500 Redo Without Losing Its Charm

published Sep 15, 2021
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kitchen before renovation checkered floors
Credit: Katherine Nesbitt

When it comes to kitchen makeovers, many DIYers look for ways to redo their kitchen countertops, especially in older homes screaming for modern revamps. From contact paper hacks to full-blown remodels, countertop colors and finishes can make or break the look and feel of a kitchen.

That’s why DIYer Katherine Nesbitt felt like she had won the vintage kitchen lottery when she purchased her home in 2008. “I fell in love with this house because of the original tile counters in both the kitchen and the hall bathroom,” Katherine says. The house was built in the 1930s and still had the original yellow hexagon tile countertops. 

The cabinets, however, were in need of major work. In fact, the entire kitchen had been a work in progress since she moved in.

Credit: Katherine Nesbitt

“The old wooden drawers were on wooden tracks and were really hard to open and close,” Katherine says. “Neither the drawers or doors fully closed either, and the many layers of paint from over the years were chipping off and looked really worn down.” The previous owners had also removed a few of the cabinet doors, which Katherine wanted replaced for more functionality and to fit her aesthetic.

As for the checkerboard floor, she had replaced it with a neutral gray Marmoleum flooring four years ago, giving it a cleaner and more cohesive look going into the new cabinet project.

Credit: Katherine Nesbitt

So when it came time to upgrade the cabinets, preserving the original tile was a non-negotiable as she searched for a contractor to take on her project. “I knew that they don’t make the hexagon tile anymore and really didn’t want to lose the original counters,” Katherine says. “It was difficult finding a company that would take on the cabinet job. Most companies wanted to rip out all the cabinetry and start from scratch and try to recreate the tile counter.”

Katherine eventually found a contractor who was willing to take on the project and rebuild the cabinets within the counter frames, keeping the original countertops intact.

With the new cabinets installed, Katherine had one long quartz counter put in along the wall with the refrigerator, opting for a cohesive look rather than trying to add on to the partial hexagon countertop. She also swapped her IKEA island’s butcherblock for the same neutral quartz. 

Credit: Katherine Nesbitt

Next, she added recessed lighting and under-cabinet lights, which improve the overall ambiance of the kitchen and highlight the beauty of the original tile.

Many delays and setbacks later, the project ultimately took two and a half months to complete, with a total price tag of $26,500. It may not have been the smoothest process, but in the end, it all came together beautifully. “I’m happy that we were able to preserve the tile and keep the original character of the house,” she says. “The counters have lasted 70 years already — I really didn’t want to put in something new that I’d want to change in 10 years.”