Last year, my husband and I purchased our first home. It’s a beautiful Craftsman bungalow that was built in the early 20th century with original hardwood floors and a recent remodel under its wing to boot. We hit the absolute jackpot and we know it. It’s been immaculately kept up for its age and really requires no major work (knock on wood). However, the house isn’t exactly us. Thanks to the remodel several years ago, the finishes were pretty basic and impersonal. The home was clearly remodeled to sell, and it’s evident in the all-gray-everything that dominates the house. So, I set out on a mission to breathe a bit of life (and a lot of color) back into the space. We still have a long way to go before we’re anywhere near done, but we have finished one room and I’m so excited to finally reveal it: the kitchen.
If I could, I’d snap my fingers and turn my home into the cozy, moody, vintage-y space of my Pinterest board dreams. Unfortunately, that isn’t in the cards—or my budget. When I first set out on this kitchen makeover, I envisioned a nearly top-to-bottom remodel but quickly realized that was neither feasible nor necessary. Instead, I worked with the space and budget I had to create a kitchen that literally makes me smile every time I see it. Without further ado, here’s how I took my kitchen from pretty basic (but still beautiful!) to totally me:
1. I swapped out the hardware
This super affordable swap made an instant impact on the kitchen that I honestly wasn’t expecting. The black hardware we had was nice, but it didn’t match the style I was going for. I really love the look of gold finishes (nearly every kitchen I have saved on Pinterest has brass hardware), so I knew that’s what I needed to go with.
I started by swapping out the cabinet knobs and drawer pulls. This is such a great way to instantly make cabinets look a little more custom because you can find affordable yet still quality options from places like Wayfair, where I found these. I then purchased a new faucet for the sink, which was by far the most expensive part of this phase of the project. However, I turned some of my credit card points into a Home Depot gift card and it covered the entire cost. That said, if I didn’t have those points, I still would have splurged on our faucet. It’s going to be in our home for years and years to come, so the investment is definitely worth it.
2. I used wallpaper and paint to make a statement
I spent an inhuman amount of time envisioning myself sipping on my morning coffees from this nook while we were in escrow. While my initial plan was to wallpaper the whole back part of the kitchen and add a built-in nook, I quickly realized two things. One: That was going to be quite pricey, and two: I was not willing to make those major commitments this soon into owning the home. I think where we ended up is the perfect balance. It feels custom and special but none of it is permanent.
I fell in love with this Rifle Paper Co. wallpaper, but my husband thought it might be too busy for the space. We ultimately settled on the idea of using the wallpaper to make a large mural in the kitchen. This works because if we ever get sick of it or want a change of pace, it’ll be super easy to swap out. The wallpaper is plastered onto a very thin sheet of hardboard from Home Depot that my husband nailed into the wall using a nail gun (don’t worry, I helped—I did the actual wallpapering part). We built the frame using molding pieces I painted to match the wall (which is Benjamin Moore’s Van Courtland Blue, by the way).
Furnishing this area took many months to get right, and not because I didn’t have a vision (believe me, I did). However, with an entire house to furnish and decorate, I’m trying to be as cost-effective as possible. In this case, that meant scouring Facebook Marketplace for months until I found the pieces I needed. The rug and black chairs were new purchases, but the table and bench came from Facebook Marketplace. I’m probably most proud of the antique bench find at the moment because it was completely free. I went to the fabric store and purchased a dark green fabric to cover up the floral one that it came with, and voilá! The perfect bench for the nook.
3. I brought color in with a new backsplash
This is by far the priciest upgrade we made, but it made the biggest impact and I was still able to make this project work within our budget. I really wanted to bring color into the kitchen but was worried about overwhelming the space. Plus, getting the cabinets painted like I originally planned (this is not a DIY I trust myself with) in addition to the backsplash (which was always on the chopping block) would’ve put this project way over our budget. However, changing the backsplash alone ended up being the perfect infusion of color I was searching for.
In order to save money, I went with a local tile company that ended up being much more affordable than a major retailer. I then found a great contractor in our area at a reasonable rate. We’re so happy with how this project turned out that we’re going to work with them on future projects throughout the house, too!
4. I added details to bring the kitchen to life
While all the projects and new furniture majorly impacted the overall look of the kitchen, the little details are what really brought it to life. To start, we swapped the blinds over the sink with linen curtains and hung a tiny plaque that reads “La Cuisine” above the window. For the countertop, I sourced a cute vintage lamp from—you guessed it—Facebook Marketplace, and I try to keep the glass vase on the table (a two-dollar Goodwill find) filled with fresh flowers.
Like the rest of the house, the kitchen is full of antiques I’ve sourced from various places and little tchotchkes we’ve picked up throughout life (in addition to a few Amazon purchases, of course). They all come together to create a space that feels like home in a way that the kitchen simply didn’t before.