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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Small dated kitchen help

lila29February 7, 2013
We recently bought a small house and we would like to spruce up the kitchen. New cabinets are not in the budget, but we'd like to replace the counter and sink, and remove the horrible wood backplash. I would love to paint the cabinets white as well.
I desperately need advice as this is our first home and we have no experience at all. I like a clean, cottage look.
Any advice would be lovely!
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Congratulations on your first house. How old is the house? Will you be installing a dishwasher when you replace the sink and countertop?

Photos of the other three sides of the kitchen would be helpful. Photos of the floor and lighting, too.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:54AM
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There are so few cabinets that I'm not sure where I would put a dishwasher. Here are some other photos.
    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:16AM
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Urbana ~ Designer Ellen Crystal
is this your only eating area? If not consider incorporating a large island with casual seating along end & one long side. An island can have a plumbed in DW if you have access to the basement & can reroute plumbing & drain lines. (professional only) Overall size of island should allow for min 36 walkway. 42 across from stove & fridge. If there is room consider some tall shallow pantries on the empty wall. Even two cabinets here will increase your storage. purchase a micro hood fan so you don't have to take up counter space by your clean up sink. definitely replace counter and likely refresh kitchen by painting cabinets. you could pick a light neutral... antique white, soft grey or pale yellow. island cabinet can be accent colour & material-deep red, charcoal, black. It all depends on whether you are going modern or cottage look. You'll have to do some research on your "style" for which Houzz is a great resource. Right now your kitchen is so simple you can go either direction depending on your finish choices. Change out handles for a more modern look. Good thing is you can do most of this in stages. Lights under uppers and if you do the island, a larger drop pendant over would be attractive to provide a focal point. A few pot lights would work too in the general perimeter of kitchen area. Senior Designer~Urbana
1 Like    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:24AM
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You can either sand, prime, and paint them using general use products or you can look for a specific cabinet refinishing kit at your local home center. One thing for sure: do not skimp on the sanding and priming. Those cabinets appear to have a very high gloss finish. Paint will not stick to that very well. You'll need to spend a lot of time sanding to kill that gloss finish and the get a really good base of primer down to give the paint something to stick to. If you don't own an orbital sander, it would be a wise investment. Also, plan on taking the doors off and drawers out. Here is the Rust-Oleum product with a how-to video: http://cabinets.rustoleumtransformations.com/
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:29AM
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Risner Cabinetry
Hello lila29,

Congrats on the new house. You have plenty of opportunities here without replacing the cabinets. Here are some suggestions:

1. Go find some discounted trim pieces for the doors and drawers (wider the better). The flat panel door works in your favor. Look at mission style doors. Very easy to copy the designs and all you have to do is nail on the trim. Add a light rail and crown. WARNING, make sure you do all your sanding prior to adding the trim.

2. Add a compact dishwasher, they are 18" wide and can be easy adapted to the cabinet to the right. Water lines and drain line can be taken from the sink cabinet. Will require a dedicated surge protected plug to be added. (Note, DW can always be added later.)

3. I suggest painting the cabinets with a off white or beige color. Add some mocha glaze to bring out the features of your new trim. When glazing, you start with white or very light color. Spread the glaze everywhere and wipe away. This will tint the the white too to a darker finish. After you glaze and you want it darker, you have to spray it with a sealer, tint the sealer. Start light and if you still want it darker, tint the sealer coat each time. Check with your local Sherwin Williams for products.

4. Check out discount warehouses or craiglist for granite. A tropical brown or mocha flavor will look very nice with this. But your options are limited to your budget. Granite is cheap right now, but you have to find an installer. Most times, you can find standard size depth and you cut to size. Cutting is easy, you can buy a cheap saw at Home Depot. The hole cutting is tricky but it can be easy.

5. Add a tile back splash. Something interesting with patterns. Tile cutting is easy and can be fun too. Make sure it goes down to the counter top.

6. Some tile for the floor, natural colors are readily available and can be found on craigslist or your local discount warehouse.

7. Accent pieces are as desired. Shades can be updated and the hardware on the cabinets.

8. I like the island idea. Not sure if it would fit or be useful compared to the table for sitting. If there's another room for dining, I would suggest a nice armoire antique that can be found at a garage sale. This will open the room some more.

9. Add some lighting. Either some can lights or something closer to the ceiling. Track lighting and anything hanging from the ceiling will close in on you when you are in a small kitchen (not calling your kitchen small :) It's a clean design thing but you may need a ceiling fan. Your choice. Closer to the ceiling will make it feel more spacious.

Sounds like a lot but you can do it in stages or all at once. Collect the materials over a period of time will save you money in the long run because you are not pressed to buy at full retail. Watch craigslist for incidental materials like backboard for the tile, thin set, screws, etc. There is always left over material being sold on there. Just know what is a good deal by looking it up on web sites. Ebay is another good place, but find local deals because shipping can be costly. Hopefully you have a handy person to help you, especially if they have the tools. If not, find some friends and buy the pizza and beer! It's cheaper than buying or renting tools. Good luck with your project!
    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:13AM
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I would choose an off white for your cabinets. Look around on houzz at some of the pictures. The creamy/ off white ones look so pretty (to me). Good luck!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:21AM
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Granite Grannies
1. @Risner Cabinetry's ideas are all good except for the advice to try to find cheap granite somewhere like craigslist. Please do not try this. We get the call every now and then from people who have bought granite that way and have it sitting in their garage needing to be cut. Even if you can find granite the right size and someone to cut it, you'll likely have extra seams and a pattern that doesn't line up. Not to mention, most of the time these customers end up spending (at the end of the day) the same for cheap, patchworked granite that they would have for a nice, quality stone if they would have just come to us first. The biggest cost in getting granite countertops is the fabrication and installation. Buying "discount" granite like that will be like buying the $1000 car; no matter how good of a deal it seems, there's got to be something wrong and it will end up being a money drain. Granite is not easy to cut, and the tools are not cheap. Edge polishing is even harder. You have to have specific tools for cutting faucet holes as well. And then you'd either have to cut out a sink hole (good luck with that) or try to find a a sink that fits the whole already there. And you wouldn't be able to have an undermount sink.

2. That said, those cabinets are not a bad shape, and would look absolutely lovely painted white. They reminded me of this photo:
Through the Kitchen · More Info
that was featured in a recent houzz ideabook about embracing the quirks of your home (
Ideabook: Houzz Call: Show Us the Home Quirks You Love · See Ideabook

3. I agree that the backsplash has to go. What a strange direction for it to go in. The cool thing about wall tile is that you can look for super discounts there. Because you won't be walking on it, you don't have to have a super high quality tile. That said, I do think you should try to find a real material (travertine, ceramic, glass, etc) rather than an imitation product. Simple and natural always looks better than a forced imitation. Home Depot and Lowes have a big selection of inexpensive wall tiles.

4. If that is all the countertop space you have, then you could probably get a granite remnant from your local fabrication shop! This may seem counter-intuitive (pun intended), but by going to a more high end fabricator, you'll have a better selection of remnants at low prices. That's because when you are cutting stones with bigger patterns, it's harder to use leftovers for the next job, so the remnants can be fairly large. Putting granite, marble (less expensive than granite btw) , or soapstone on your counters will take the focus away from the cabinets. The most noticable feature of any room is usually the natural material, so with formica counters your cabinets stand out a lot more than they would with a natural material on the counters. Another way to accomplish that would be butcher block counters, which are fairly inexpensive (although you have to change them out every couple years I believe). White cabinets and butcher block would be a really charming look.

5. When you replace the counters, get an undermount or farm sink if possible. The drop in sink just screams "dated!" Modern touches like that will help turn the other aspects into "vintage" or "retro."

6. Undercabinet lighting is inexpensive and will brighten up the space and add some variation to a simple run of cabinets.

That kitchen has a lot of potential. You'll learn as you go, so don't worry about not having any experience. My first home with my husband was a 1600 sq ft 40's house with lots of original parts and cabinets kindof like yours. I learned so much making my tiny home the way I wanted it. Good Luck! And have fun!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:38AM
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Granite Grannies
Historic Ikea Kitchen · More Info
1 Like    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:45AM
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Thank you all so much, great ideas! Unfortunately we do not have a separate dining room, so I was thinking about buying a portable island for more counter space.
Should we paint the cabinets before changing the counter/sink? We're not sure what the first step should be.
    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Glass Tile Store
Definitely paint the cabinets first before changing the counter top. Here's some idea for your cottage look makeover.
    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Boerne Kitchens and Baths
I second the suggestion of not getting your granite from craigslist. I have seen numerous installations where seams were horrendous and the edges very poorly done. Go to a legitimate fabricator and look at remnants. A professional installation is worth the few extra dollars.
    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:45PM
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