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Kitchen Before and After: From dark & dank to light & bright

Lizzie Bennett
March 16, 2019

Well, after many many months from start to finish, I finally have a wonderful, clean, bright kitchen! It started off as "kitchen jail" with posts all around, wallpaper everywhere (including inside cabinets) and smelled.. not good. We then made a lot of changes to get it to be more liveable (for me), all the while planning and budgeting for the real thing.

The real thing involved going down to studs, putting in new drywall and adding insulation, tearing out the laminate floors and the 2 layers of tile underneath to replace with LVP, getting all electrical up to code, installing a hood vent (which involved some customization by a sheet metal specialist), installing recessed lights, re-framing and replacing the window (and the stucco on the exterior side), having a gas line installed to change from electric cooktop + in-wall oven to a regular gas range, replacing all cabinets with IKEA cabinets, replacing laminate countertops with quartz, replacing the penny round stone-of-some-kind backsplash with ceramic tiles, replacing all appliances. The end result came in just under $30k.

BEFORE: Dark, unspeakably inefficient, frustrating to work in and look at.

BEFORE: Yes, those are cedar shingles on the side of the perfectly useless 30-in height lower cabinet.

A quick shot of the very low-budget "good enough" work we did: it mostly involved "getting rid of the ugly" and painting whatever was left. YES, we hired regular painters to paint over wood. The cabinets weren't high-quality, smelled rancid and looked incredibly unappealing to me. They did a great job, it brightened things up tremendously and was good enough until there was enough budget to do a *real* renovation.

INTERIM: we were still moving in, so it looks a little junky


AFTER: Night view, before the hood vent was installed, but after my new dining set arrived.

Side-by-side of dining area

Side-by-side of kitchen area

Comments (40)

  • Patti

    Beautiful transformation! Love the pops of blue as well as your back splash. The interim redo was also a nice improvement over the old. Job well done! Congrats, and enjoy.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Patti
  • Bridget Goldsack
    Wow! It's hard to believe that's the same room. Great job!
    Lizzie Bennett thanked Bridget Goldsack
  • girlnamedgalez8a

    Very nice! You should be very happy with your new kitchen. Enjoy!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked girlnamedgalez8a
  • Lizzie Bennett

    Thank you for the compliments!

    @Patti - yes, that's my favorite shade of blue and that backsplash takes a quick wipe of the sponge and it's clean & shiny again! ;)

    @Bridget - OMG, right?!

    @girl - yes, we're super happy with it - thank you!

  • Pam A

    Wow, you did SO well on a small budget (esp for a room that large). It looks great, so much better to work in a happy place.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Pam A
  • stillpitpat

    Wow, it looks great! Love the blue!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked stillpitpat
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @Pam A - yes, we kept the budget (relatively) low by working with the contractor - we have a good working relationship, so he agreed to do this as a side-job on weekends. So, for lower labor cost (than if we'd hired his contracting company), but for more time (which we knew going in, and were fine with). And, not buying name-brand quartz or high-end appliances helped: just Whirlpool & Maytag here. :)

  • mxk3

    Looks very nice! Love the turquoise chairs!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked mxk3
  • Kendrah

    Love the interim pics the most! So classic and retro looking. Nice to see a white fridge.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Kendrah
  • PRO
    Lizzie Bennett thanked Retail therapy/ Al Shakour
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @Kendrah - unfortunately, the old fridge wasn't really white - more of an "almond" color :(

  • cat_mom

    Terrific job!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked cat_mom
  • desertsteph

    that's great! I love your new dinette set. what an impressive change.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked desertsteph
  • PRO

    Great job! HUGE improvement! You must be thrilled!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Anglophilia
  • sundowner

    It's a huge difference and just beautiful! This is what people need to see when they say they want colored tile to liven things up. Your limited touches of color make this space lovely.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked sundowner
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @sundowner - thank you so much! Since the plan is to stay in this house forever, I tried to think long term: what will I not hate in 10 years? 20 years? I really love the the neutral palette right now - in a decade or so that may not be case, but I know I won't hate it. And - soft goods and little bits of decor here and there can be changed out easily. Plus, I know how to re-upholster chairs, so if years down the line I get sick of it, I can just re-do them. ;)

  • desertsteph

    I know how to re-upholster chairs

    I need you to move close to me and redo my sofa and a few chairs. all from my MILs house. she died in 1978 and they were old then.

  • Lizzie Bennett

    @desertsteph - haha! Sofas are definitely beyond me - but chairs are pretty easy, once you get the hang of it.

  • schulzc532
    Cute. Love the 1950s table. We went with Ikea for cabinets as well (haters going to hate) and we love them.
    Lizzie Bennett thanked schulzc532
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @schulz - I will never hate drawers in drawers or soft-close everything! :)

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    Nice job and I appreciate all your design thinking. Hope you enjoy for many years to come.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Flo Mangan
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @Flo - thank you so much! You just made me think of all the "discussions" I had with the contractor about making sure everything was straight, flat, flush and square - or, at least 3 of those things, depending on what we were talking about. The house was built in '58, and I didn't understand half of the stuff that was built into that kitchen (cedar shingles, quarter round, balustrades, corbels everywhere); though we didn't go for 100% MCM, I felt like there are things you can do to honor the time period without getting kitschy.

  • PRO
    Door Corner

    Wow! Gorgeous transformation! Love the backsplash and the pet station too! Good work. Very bright and modern.

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Door Corner
  • PRO
    M&R Custom Millwork Inc

    Looks Great! Love the backsplash & flooring!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked M&R Custom Millwork Inc
  • pippabean.

    Ditto to what schulzc532 said, above.

    What a happy space! Enjoy it for many, many years.


    Lizzie Bennett thanked pippabean.
  • PRO
    Pearl Remodeling

    What a makeover, well done!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Pearl Remodeling
  • felizlady
    Fresh and bright! I would add colorful curtains which include your blue. Maybe you would consider painting the bottom area of the bkfst bar in the same blue as the back door. And don’t overlook the color that can be added with framed art.
    Lizzie Bennett thanked felizlady
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @felizlady - thank you for the suggestions. That window is up for replacement sometime this year, and we'll likely get white cellular shades there (to go with window at the sink). The peninsula is high-gloss white, so can't really be painted. All "permanent" fixtures are neutral on purpose, so I can change colors of soft goods/decor down the line if needed. There's really no place in the kitchen or dining area for framed art (I have an "art wall" in the living room for all art, which I'm picky about) and I'm not inclined to put framed art in the kitchen - I've included a photo of the one wall where one might put some framed art, but it's currently in use as a "perching/feeding" wall for the cats ;) But thank you for the suggestions - I appreciate that not everyone is into the minimalism of this kitchen, but we couldn't be more thrilled with it.

  • fifamom

    it looks fabulous!! love the retro table.. i had a red one for over 5 years and just got rid of it because it was falling apart and we redid our kitchen.. I think you did an amazing job!! enjoy it.. we are almost done with our reno as well..

    Lizzie Bennett thanked fifamom
  • pdjh
    Beautiful transformation! Love the pops of blue! We lived through this same kind of renovation a year ago. We’re enjoying our white with pops of blue too-and especially enjoying not washing dishes in the bathtub! Great job! A modern, yet classic look!
    Lizzie Bennett thanked pdjh
  • Laura Villar

    Beautiful Love the new cab!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Laura Villar
  • THOR, Son of ODIN

    Interesting how most of the color was removed.

    above photo without color:

  • PRO
    123 Remodeling Inc.

    Amazing work on your kitchen transformation. It looks very modern and stunning!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked 123 Remodeling Inc.
  • PRO
    OTM Designs & Remodeling Inc.

    Great transformation!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked OTM Designs & Remodeling Inc.
  • PRO
    Lizzie Bennett thanked Scott Hall Remodeling
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @Laura Villar - yes, painted white first, then changed them all out. They got replaced because I literally had 2 drawers total in that entire kitchen; a lot of the doors didn't close; they'd had each cabinet lined with wallpaper and by the time I stripped it all out (30 or 40 years later), it smelled to high heaven; the peninsula had cabinets that were only 30" high - so couldn't work there, and it had no overhang - so you couldn't sit there, either. And many of the cabs were way too deep and extremely frustrating to get anything into or out of. So, yes - they absolutely had to go. ;)

  • Laura Villar


    Lizzie Bennett thanked Laura Villar
  • PRO
    Norwood Architects

    Awesome transformation! Love the color scheme!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Norwood Architects
  • Lorena G.

    I will concur with everyone else and say you had a great end result. Love the retro look even though it's not really my style. However, THAT BLUE on the door... <3 I would love to know what paint color that is!

    Lizzie Bennett thanked Lorena G.
  • Lizzie Bennett

    @Lorena - it's Sherwin-Williams "Watery" https://www.sherwin-williams.com/homeowners/color/find-and-explore-colors/paint-colors-by-family/SW6478-watery#/6478/?s=coordinatingColors&p=PS0

    The online photos don't do it justice: it's DREAMY in person! :)

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