DIY Kitchen Makeover {Reader Revamp}

This is a bit of something new on these pages. Ya see, sometimes I get emails from people and they’ve taken so much time and effort to write to me. It means so much. Especially when it’s something along the lines of, “Please help me not have an ugly kitchen!”

How can I say no?

Today we have Stephanie’s kitchen, and she emailed me about a month ago asking for some advice. So, I’m going to give her some ideas in this post, but I’m also hoping YOU will help her out. Sometimes a team of people can come up with way better ideas than one person.

Let’s help Stephanie! Here’s her email to me:

Dear Monica,

I LOVE your website and blog! Your tutorials are awesome. You have excellent taste! I have such a hard time imaging what the finished product with look like when I’m staring at ugly.

I’ve read your tutorial about staining your cabinets in your bathroom so many times. I’m really tempted to do this in my kitchen. I hate my kitchen, but I can’t afford to remodel it at this time. I was wondering if I could get your expert opinion on it. I’m sure you get bugged by people like me all the time, but I thought it might be worth a shot, because if you did reply, it would be awesome!

My appliances are black and the countertop is a very strange purple/grey color. I may just do a resurface kit for the countertops I found at Lowes or something. But can’t decide if the Java color of stain would look too dark on the cabinets next to the black fridge and oven or if I should do the Cherry color instead by General Finishes. I think I would add a tile backsplash and take off the two cupboards that have the ugly glass in them and just leave open shelves. Do you have any suggestions on color of the stain, tile, or paint?

I hope you are having a great day! Thank you for all of your tutorials that you put out there for us to read!

Thank you!!!


And here are the photos she sent along:



So here’s my super cheap plan.

I would definitely stain the cabinets the espresso color (if you’re new here, I have the tutorial right over here). I think although the appliances are black, it’ll work.

Now personally, I love glass cabinets, so rather than take them off I’d add in some battery operated LED lights. I have these under my cabinets in my office, and I adore them. I’ve had them over a year, and the batteries still haven’t gone out. Adding in some light immediately classes up the glass and adds some nice interest. Rather than hop on a chair to turn them on, I just poke them with a ruler or pen.

Next, I’d swap out the hardware. It looks like you might have a standard 3” hole-to-hole opening, so it should make finding new hardware super duper easy. I’d recommend something modern in a satin nickel finish:

Amerock TEN26201-G10 Essential'z Collection Pull Arch Center to Center, Satin Nickel,3-Inch, 10-Pack

From Amazon, $24 for 10.

Or if you’re more traditional, maybe something more along these lines:

Amerock BP53030-G10 Mulholland 3-Inch Center Pull, Satin Nickel

From Amazon, $2.51 each.

In that open wall area near the window, I might add some glass shelving (or these nice stainless steel ones would work) for herbs/cute kitchen canisters/decor. Ooh, ooh…how about these floating Umbra shelves for cookbooks?

And maybe a fun menu chalkboard that would cover up the phone jack (get one of those canvas type ones that will just fit right over it). What might also look good is a simple roman shade on the window.

Unlike Stephanie, I don’t find her countertops particularly hideous, so I would probably leave them alone. I’ve seen a few people try those countertop makeover kits…and it looks like crap. Just my 2-cents, but if I were you, rather than spend $100 to paint them, I’d save up for some new solid surface countertops in 2013 if you hate them that much.

A few other things:

-I would move the coffee maker over to where the basket of stuff is. You could always get a mail/wall organizer to put on that wall to keep it off the countertops. This leaves the area to the left and right of your stove free for prep space.

-If you put shelving on the open wall to the left of the sink, you can move those plants onto it and keep that area free for pretty soap bottles. Also, a roman shade, even if left mostly open, could make the kitchen a ton more cheery and sophisticated. Oh and chic!

-Finally, if you do decide to stain your cabinets, I would recommend painting the walls just a faint, faint gray. Perhaps something like Silverpoint by Sherwin Williams. It’ll instantly cool, calm and elevate your kitchen from drab oak to tall, dark and handsome espresso.

Total cost for my plan:

-$100ish for staining supplies

-$60ish for new pulls

-$30 for paint (walls)

-$10 for lights

-$150 for misc. accessories (shelves, décor, etc.)

-$50 for supplies (paint rollers, tarps, etc.)

Total: $350-$400

Total Time Commitment: 3 weekends, max

What would you tell Stephanie to do to her kitchen? I think her space is lovely and with just a few small tweaks could be a STUNNING kitchen. Help Stephanie out in the comments section with your advice or encouragement.

Have a reader revamp you’d love my help with? Email me with the subject line “Reader Revamp Series” and briefly tell me how much I rock, how much your space sucks and a rough budget target plus about 3-5 photos. 🙂



  1. Kelli
    October 23, 2012 / 2:16 pm

    I agree with all your suggestions. The only thing I would add if it were my kitchen is to change out those awful tan electrical sockets/switches, which we just finished in our house. Of course, that's opening up a big can of worms, since you'd want them to match throughout the house. And if you don't feel comfortable DIYing (which is actually pretty simple), it could get pricey quick.

  2. Renee
    October 23, 2012 / 5:37 pm

    I love your sugestions to the reader!! I suffer from not-enough-wall-cabinets syndrome, so that sticks out to me. I would replace the doors for solid ones to hide the mess in a cabinet by the stove. If that feels out, frosting them could help hide yet keep the modern feel the glass provides. Happy renovating!!

  3. Renee
    October 23, 2012 / 5:38 pm

    I love your sugestions to the reader!! I suffer from not-enough-wall-cabinets syndrome, so that sticks out to me. I would replace the doors for solid ones to hide the mess in a cabinet by the stove. If that feels out, frosting them could help hide yet keep the modern feel the glass provides. Happy renovating!!

  4. The Wicks
    October 24, 2012 / 10:16 pm

    How about shelves from the cabinets over to the window? Looks like there is enough wall space to do so above the sink. Just three or so of them . . . good place for cookbooks and a few knickknacks. Floating ones would help modernize the kitchen and they aren't that hard to do. If you don't do shelves, I would definitely do an art piece or something to fill up that big empty space – but I think shelves are your best bet. . I think the glass cabinets are fine – the glass is just 80's feeling. I'd live with it for now and eventually replace it with pebbled glass or something a bit more opaque. For now, I don't know how well it work, but you MIGHT see about finding some nice scrapbook paper and putting it inside the cabinet. That way you could add a neat pattern to the kitchen while gaining privacy.I think the formica could work if you pull a grey tone from it and paint the walls. It would go with the more modern look of darker cabinets.Definitely new fixtures! If you want to go really cheap, you might try spray painting the existing ones. Oil-rubbed bronze or satin nickel are popular.I think a roman shade (J.C. Penny has some pretty inexpensive ones and I found them to have the most variety of "standard" sizes). You could also just put up a simple valance if you like the view.

  5. Tracy Jones
    October 26, 2012 / 6:39 pm

    I just refinished by counters with a kit from My counters literally look like granite. They are smooth and shiny no dimples. Waaaaay better than the kit at lowes and it was $80. I love the floating shelf and stainless pulls.

  6. Stephanie Blaue
    November 8, 2012 / 6:58 pm

    Monica- THANK YOU SO MUCH for responding to my email and putting this on your blog. I’m totally in awe of you and so grateful! I ordered the pulls and lights today from Amazon that you suggested, and I picked up the stain over lunch today. I found a Roman Shade on that I think I will use (It’s the Savannah III Roman Shade). I’m going to a glass factory tonight to talk to them about replacing the cabinet glass (thank you for the suggestion Renee!). Thank you Tracy for the suggestion on the countertop- I have looked at their website, and it looks really cool and definitely reasonable.I plan on doing the cabinets first, and then painting and doing the outlets. Thank you everyone for the suggestions in the comments. If you haven’t commented and you’re reading this, please do! I am so excited to get started! ~Stephanie

  7. bluerosegirl
    November 10, 2012 / 7:26 am

    I had also thought of frosting the glass before I read the other comments. You could still do light behind the glass to brighten up the kitchen (especially with the soon-to-be-dark cabinets and black appliances) but still hide what is in the cupboards. Have fun whatever you do and share your finished kitchen!

  8. Jessica
    January 2, 2013 / 7:23 pm

    This might be a little late, but I have a suggestion for your glass doors! A couple of people mentioned replacing the glass with decorative glass, frosting it, etc, but that could get expensive. Go to Lowe's or Home Depot websites and do a search for 'decorative window film'. They have some great options and it's really easy to apply and change out! We put some on our front door glass for privacy – we loved the light, but not the neighbor's prying eyes 🙂 Good luck!!Would love to see some pictures when you're done.

  9. pomroytimesfive
    February 13, 2013 / 6:42 am

    Are there any pictures of the finished kitchen? I too have dark appliances and oak cabinets.. looking for a change.

  10. Cairn
    July 29, 2013 / 3:51 am

    I would love to see the finished project as well. Might be the motivation I need to make a change!