DIY Kitchen Makeover (Without the Renovation)

We asked one home blogger how she made her dream kitchen a reality without spending a fortune or tearing the house down.

Kitchen Makeover

You don’t always need to rip your kitchen apart to give it a makeover. When blogger and DIYer Brenda McDevitt decided to update her kitchen, she knew that a dramatic new look could be achieved using only paint and ingenuity.

Inspiration struck Brenda as she was wandering the internet. “I was considering white cabinets,” she remembers, “but when I came across beautiful ‘cottage’ blue cabinets featured on the Better Homes and Gardens website, I knew that that color was more suited to our little stone house.”And with that, she was off to Sherwin Williams to look at paint colors.

Slideshow: Dream It, Do It: Kitchen Makeover

Brenda’s kitchen transformation involved a few different dimensions. The cabinets were removed, washed, prepped, primed and painted. A new dishwasher cover, built of beadboard, was painted to match the cabinets and epoxied to the washer. Chalkboard refrigerator panels, made from plywood, were painted with chalkboard paint, trimmed with molding, and attached to the fridge with heavy duty magnets. A Roman shade, sewed by Brenda, was added along with newly primed and painted hardware. Put it all together and Brenda had a brand new kitchen—with little to no construction necessary.

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Eventually she plans to replace her countertops with darkly stained butcher block, but even without it, the remodel was clearly a success. We asked her a few questions about her kitchen makeover to learn more about her process.

1. How long did it take you, from start to finish?
Projects in our house don’t usually get our full attention from start to finish. It’s not uncommon for days (even weeks) to go by with no progress. This project was no exception and took approximately 40 hours over two months to complete.

2. Was there anything/any part in the process you were worried about before starting?
My biggest concerns prior to starting this project were finding the right paint color and how well the painted cabinets would hold up to wear and tear (caused by four children and two adults). It ended up taking me weeks to pick a paint color for the cabinets. I didn’t want to have any reservations about the color; I wanted to love it. 

I normally advise myself (and others) that if you don’t love a paint color that you’ve chosen for your walls, just paint it again. There is so much more involved in painting kitchen cabinets, though. I absolutely didn’t want to have to re-paint just because I was unhappy with my color. I was also worried about the longevity of the paint job. Our kitchen is in use constantly. I wanted to be sure that the finish was durable.

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3. Did you encounter any unforeseen problems over the course of your project?
I encountered two unexpected challenges during the project: finding the best tool for a smooth paint finish and securing the chalkboard panels to the refrigerator.

I didn’t use a paint sprayer, which would likely have given me a very smooth finish. I used a regular foam roller for both priming and painting. The roller that I used created a bumpy finish that is noticeable on several of the cabinet doors. When I noticed the uneven finish after priming, I thought that I would be able to sand it down before painting, or that the self-leveling paint I chose would correct most of the roughness. While both of these solutions worked a little, the problem wasn’t 100% corrected, and I’m not entirely happy with the finish on a couple of the doors. I eventually used a high-quality brush and was much happier with the finish, despite the brush marks.

Securely attaching the chalkboard panels to our refrigerator was another challenge.

My intention was to attach the panels to the refrigerator with magnets. I knew that I could also attach them with epoxy, but I wanted a less permanent option. I removed the original handles from the fridge and screwed gate handles into the chalkboard panels. Whatever method I chose had to be strong enough to hold the panels in place whenever the doors were pulled open. 

The magnets that I initially bought were barely strong enough to hold the panels on the doors (not nearly strong enough to hold them in place while opening the doors). After a little research I found extremely strong magnets from K&J Magnetics that attach to the panels with screws and keep the doors in place, even when the door is pulled open.

4. What was the easiest or most enjoyable part of the makeover?
My favorite part of the makeover was designing treatments for the dishwasher and the refrigerator. I love to find solutions to design dilemmas—in this case, how to update my white appliances so they would enhance the makeover rather than detract from it. 

The hardest?
The hardest part of the makeover was creating a smooth paint finish on the cabinets. After I was finished with painting, I found a recommendation for a foam roller specifically designed for door and cabinet painting. Live and learn! I mentioned that I eventually started to use a brush, and was much happier with the results. Our home is old-ish, and we have many vintage pieces that are worn and aged. So in a strange way I felt as though the brush strokes on the cabinets fit the overall style of our home.

5. Any advice to someone thinking of doing a similar project? What about to home remodelers in general?
The advice I would give someone considering a similar kitchen makeover (or any DIY project) is to be patient. Take as long as you need to choose a color. Unless you’re using a sprayer, remove only a few cabinet doors at a time. It’s much easier to tackle the project in sections. Take time to research the best tools for the job. Be willing to accept that some things may have to wait. There are two projects that didn’t get done with this makeover—a new countertop and backsplash. We’ll tackle those in Phase 2!

6. What’s next for you?
Our next project (already in progress!) involves making better use of the space attached to our kitchen. It was built as an entryway, but we don’t use it as the main entry. It will serve many purposes when we’re finished—office, pantry, storage and entry among them. 

Completed DIY kitchen makeover

Browse our gallery Dream It, Do It: Kitchen Makeover for additional info and photos from this project.

Brenda McDevitt, based near Pittsburgh, PA, takes on budget-friendly home improvement projects of all types and publishes the DIY-theme blog Cottage 4C.