The Evolution Of Our Affordable Kitchen Refresh

Back in December, I mentioned on social media and several times in my weekly newsletter that we had started a kitchen makeover. That this makeover was all about how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them AND how to repurpose an old hutch into a kitchen pantry and small island.



Then Christmas happened and Valentine crafting happened and well I completely forgot to share it. Until recently when some of you emailed and messaged me asking when I planned on sharing the kitchen update.



So sharing the evolution of our affordable kitchen refresh is long overdue and my apologies for not sharing it sooner. Especially considering we've already moved onto the bathroom.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

An Affordable Kitchen Refresh

If you are a regular here then you'll remember last March during lockdown we decided to use our time stuck at home painting all the interior walls of our home. Of course, it didn't stop there and every room ended up getting a mini-makeover with a maximum budget of $400 per room.



If you missed them, you can catch up here on our Budget Home Improvements page. It includes the DIY home decor projects for each room as well.



We painted all the walls Behr Toasty Gray (N320-2) with accent features in the color Behr Mined Coal (PPU-18-18). Before we dive deep into the kitchen makeover, let's start from the beginning.



Our house is a modest raised bungalow (bi-level) built in the 1960s and the kitchen is quite small by today's standards. While I'd love nothing more than to completely gut and reconfigure this room, it isn't in the budget.



So instead we made the best of what we have with an affordable kitchen makeover by updating the existing oak cabinets, building a small pantry unit, and a small kitchen island.



But the inspiration for improving the footprint of our small kitchen came from this 1990s dining hutch.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

I should mention that this is the second kitchen refresh since purchasing our home. The first budget-friendly makeover happened a few years ago. I loved the additional food storage, counter space, and spot to enjoy our morning coffee.



But there were some things I wasn't 100% happy with and so we addressed those in this last makeover. I am so pleased with the results and for the first time in twenty-three years - yeah you read that right - 20+ freaking long years, I finally like our kitchen!



Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the small kitchen transformation I should mention that we are self-taught DIYers and not trained professionals. The DIY projects shared below are based on our building knowledge only. However, if you are a do-it-yourselfer like us, you may find them helpful and inspiring for your home.



Almost all of the DIY projects shared here at Interior Frugalista have step-by-step tutorials so why not get your budget DIY on and subscribe. You can also follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.



So let's start from the very beginning. This is what our kitchen looked like before the first makeover. It felt like we were living inside a golden oak wood box.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

And here is the kitchen after the first makeover in 2016. Much better, right?



Or so we thought...



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

Now, this is what the kitchen looks like after the recent makeover in December. I'll talk about what changes we made and why further down in the post.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

This post contains affiliate links so you can see what products we used or recommend for these projects. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.



So you understand the evolution of our small kitchen, I'm going to break it up into three sections, starting with the small built-in pantry.



Small Pantry Makeover

A repurposed dining hutch turned small pantry makeover. We separated the top and bottom sections of our small dining hutch and repurposed the upper half into this custom built-in pantry.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

With so few kitchen cabinets, food storage was very limited in our tiny kitchen. By adding this narrow pantry unit on the back wall, it increased storage substantially while also becoming a focal point in the kitchen. It was stained dark walnut to match the lower kitchen cabinets.



In 2019, I decided it needed a farmhouse kitchen pantry makeover by removing the original stained glass and replacing it with chicken wire. I also distressed the dark stained wood.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

While I didn't regret replacing the dated original glass in the top doors, I did regret replacing them with chicken wire. No surprise, the constant dusting drove me crazy!



We also decided the dark walnut was too heavy for our small kitchen and wanted to lighten and brighten the small space.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

What We Did Differently

  1. Removed the chicken wire and replaced it with clear glass.
  2. Painted the pantry white to match the upper kitchen cabinets. You'll see why painting it white makes sense when we move to the other changes made in the room.
  3. Replaced the handpainted ceramic knobs with clear glass and the bronze pulls with chrome.
  4. The back of the upper section is painted Mined Coal, the same dark gray accent color used in every room throughout the house.


Kitchen Island Makeover

A repurposed dining hutch turned small kitchen island makeover. The downside to having few lower cabinets is that we were lacking counter space for food prep.



Also, a small kitchen table or banquette made the room feel crowded. Our solution for both of these problems was to repurpose the lower half of our dining hutch into a small kitchen island.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

To modify it we removed the original wood skirting along the bottom and added small feet. Then we installed a small wine fridge on the end and stained the island dark walnut to match the pantry unit.



We also made the island table height because I'm vertically challenged and thought it would be more comfortable for food prep.



But after living with the kitchen island for a few years there were a few flaws with our design.

  1. The lower height ended up not being comfortable for food prep and it was too low for the swivel bar stools.
  2. The feet were too short for a vacuum to go underneath and so dust and crumbs got trapped under there.
  3. The small wine fridge would overheat from not having proper ventilation plus it was too small for these two wine lovers.
  4. The island felt disjointed simply butted against the pantry.


We purchased a much larger wine fridge and installed it on the kitchen side of the island, properly vented this time.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

It is recommended that built-in wine fridges have front ventilation but the price tag for those models is double what we were willing to pay. So we improvised by adding ventilation both on the back of the island and underneath.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

While some may find the decorative metal panel on the back of the island unflattering it was the compromise we were willing to make in order to purchase a less expensive wine fridge. Ideally, a front ventilated model is the ultimate option if you're willing to pay the price.



What We Did Differently

The first thing we did was remove the feet and raise the island to counter height. To do that we built a 2 x 4 kicker plate frame on the bottom.



We also increased the depth of the island by adding three inches on the back to accommodate the larger wine fridge.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

  1. All the doors were removed for open shelving for easy access to mixing bowls and such.
  2. The drawer fronts were changed with ones found at Habitat reStore for $8.
  3. Instead of increasing the size of the second drawer to fit right to the end for a more balanced look, we filled the empty void by increasing the size of the drawer front instead.


An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

  1. The paintable beadboard wallpaper was replaced with wood tongue and groove beadboard and painted white to match the pantry.
  2. The knobs were replaced with clear glass to match the pantry.
  3. The island corbels were moved closer to the edge rather than inset-like before.
  4. We added a small spacer between the island and the hutch so they have a more unified custom built-in look.
  5. The base of both the island and pantry are trimmed as one built-in.
  6. Last but not least, we raised the height of the light fixture to 30-inches above the island so it doesn't obstruct the view.


See the original China Cabinet Hack post for more photos of the island and hutch build.



How To Update Kitchen Cabinets Without Replacing Them

How to update golden oak kitchen cabinets without replacing them. You can see in the original kitchen makeover we painted the upper cabinets white and stained the lower cabinets dark walnut. In that makeover I included step-by-step tips for painting cabinets for a lasting finish and I've included a link further down.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

We grew tired of the high contrast two-toned look and like the island and pantry, we unified the upper and lower cabinets by painting them white.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

What we hadn't intended was having to repaint the white upper cabinets again.



Why? Because after we hung the freshly painted lower cabinets, there was a noticeable difference in color from the uppers. Despite painting them the exact same color, the water-based clear coat had yellowed over time.



Pro-Tip

When painting cabinets white, make sure you use a non-yellowing diamond wood finish. We used Varathane Indoor Diamond Wood Finish in satin.



What We Did Differently

  1. On the lower cabinets, we removed the doors and drawer fronts and sanded them back to the natural wood with this awesome compact mouse sander.
  2. Then they were brushed with this stain-blocking primer.
  3. We used a high-density foam roller and two coats of Behr Premium Plus Ultra Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer In One paint in the color Ultra Pure White (1750).
  4. On the upper cabinets, we removed the center panels on the two corner cabinet doors and replaced them with glass. I didn't let those routered cutouts go to waste and made these Repurposed DIY Cabinet Door Signs for the holidays.
  5. We also painted the back of both corner cabinets the same dark grey accent color as the pantry.
  6. The bronze handles were replaced with chrome and unified throughout the kitchen.


Tips For Painting Cabinets For A Lasting Finish

For more detailed step-by-step tips on how to paint kitchen cabinets for a lasting finish, visit our original kitchen makeover post.



For the fun of it, let's take another look at the original golden oak box we lived with for far too many years.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

And how the cabinets look now refreshed in white.



An affordable kitchen refresh and how to update kitchen cabinets without replacing them plus how to repurpose a small hutch into an island and pantry.

We are so much happier with our lighter and much brighter kitchen now. This makeover was all about getting the best look for our small 1960s kitchen on a small budget when replacing cabinets is not an option.



Exactly one year after starting the first room makeover, we are about to begin the last. We are gutting our main floor bathroom but the budget for this room makeover will far exceed $400 like the others. This time I plan on sharing the makeover process on Facebook and Instagram stories.



Thanks for stopping by the Interior Frugalista today! I hope you found some inspiration with our budget kitchen makeover adventure. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below or the Contact Me tab at the top to drop me an email. I love hearing from you!



If you enjoyed this small kitchen makeover, I'd be so thankful if you shared it with a friend and pinned it to your Small Kitchen Ideas or Budget-Friendly Room Makeovers board on Pinterest.




How to give your outdated kitchen a budget-friendly makeover. We repurposed a few things to save money instead of buying new. See the full refresh over on the blog. #kitchenrefresh

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.



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Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, Marie!! What a night and day difference! Literally! Dark to light and it's a breath of fresh air. Bravo!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Larissa! We are very proud how with a little creativity and elbow grease we were able to completely transform this small space on a low budget (minus the new appliances but they were on their last legs and in need of replacing anyways). It only took 20+ years for me to finally enjoy being in this room. LOL

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  2. I love what you did. My small kitchen is also all white. It might not be the "trendy" decor of today but I like it. I can add whatever colors I want. We were able to buy all of our whitecwhite for $400 from a builders model house. I would live to have an island but there isn't any space available. But I am still looking
    for another piece a small hutch would be perfect. Your kitchen
    makeover has inspired me. You are very talented and creative. I enjoy your blog and Facebook posts very much.

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    1. Music to my ears that our kitchen makeover has inspired you! And I'm thrilled to hear you are enjoying what you see here on the blog and in my facebook posts. Thank you very much for supporting our work!

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  3. Wow! What a stunning makeover, Marie! Your kitchen should be in a magazine! I am crazy about the white look and I am planning on renovating my kitchen, adding more white to it. I love how white makes the space look much bigger and lighter (and more lighted).

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    1. Thank you Maya, we are thrilled with how it turned out. No longer dreading to be in this space, it has become one of our favorite rooms in the house.

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  4. Oh my goodness Marie, it looks totally different. So much bigger and brighter. A kitchen like that may just make want to try cook something ;-) and I love the way you cut a little bit here and added a bit there to make the island. So cool.

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    1. Thanks Michelle, I'm glad you like it! It went from a room I dreaded being in to one of my favorite rooms in the house. Has it motivated me to put on my cooking apron again? Ummmm, I still prefer my workshop apron but I enjoy hanging out in here with my morning coffee. LOL

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  5. I adore the new look of your kitchen, Marie! I bet you love how you feel every time you walk into your kitchen now or look at it from afar! I have white kitchen cabinets that I picked out when we had our home built. I wouldn't have picked any other color since I love how bright and comforting they make the kitchen seem. You and hubby did a fabulous job in updating your kitchen!

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    1. Oh Gail, I can't believe the difference in how I feel in this space now that it's light and bright and it even feels bigger. I dreaded any time spent in here not only because it felt dark and dreary but because of the lack of food storage (we had a pantry in the basement) and lack of counter space for food prep. Now it's become one of my favorite rooms in the house! Adding the bay window was money well spent. The white appliances were 20 years old and in need of replacing regardless so I don't even include that in the makeover costs.

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  6. Wow Marie, such a great job on brightening up your kitchen. I think it looks amazing.

    DIY'S are a great money saver. We had learned so much over the years.

    Love it! Pinned!

    Enjoy loving your kitchen.

    Cindy

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    1. Thank you Cindy, appreciate your kind words, the visit, and the pin! I'm thrilled with how we were able to completely transform our kitchen on an affordable budget.

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  7. Oh, Marie! What a beautiful job; absolutely gorgeous.
    P.S. Life is much better, calmer and saner now that you know who is out!

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    1. Thank you very much, Carol, we are so pleased with the transformation!
      P.S. It's much more enjoyable watching from here in Canada now too. LOL

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    1. Thank you very much, Joanne, we are so pleased with the transformation!

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  9. Wowza what a dramatic difference! It is so much brighter and cozy. Now, what time is dinner (haha)!

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    1. Thank you Christina, we are so pleased with the results! Now about that dinner, girl you don't want a meal cooked by me BUT the fridge is fully stocked and I can do cheese and cold cuts. LOL

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  10. I love all the changes. They really modernized and brightened your kitchen with really smart design decisions along the way. Enjoy!

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    1. Thank you so much Lizzy for your kind comments! We are thrilled to FINALLY have a kitchen that is both functional and that we enjoy being in.

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  11. I l❤ve it! Hey #HGTV take a look at this gorgeous kitchen!

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  12. Wow, it looks so great Marie! I love it all white, it looks so much lighter and brighter now. The cabinet repurpose was genius and I started looking around my kitchen after seeing that!

    Tania

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    1. Thank you very much Tania, it feels like a totally different room now. I'm so glad you found the cabinet repurpose inspiring!

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  13. This is gorgeous Marie... I love the brand new bright airy look! And even though that dark cabinet looked amazing, I totally agree with you. Dark furniture, floors etc can be really hard to keep clean and dust free. I REALLY wanted dark stained floors when I first moved in and I'm so thankful my floor guy talked me out of it or I'd be dusting them every second day. This is especially true if you have fur babies. So impressed with your restyle. It looks amazing my friend. Pinned! XOXO

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    1. Thank you very much, Denise, we are so happy we decided to go all white. It completely changed the energy of this space. I almost went with dark stained floors too but like you, thankfully was talked out of it. I'm glad you like our room restyle and appreciate your visit and the pin! xo

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  14. I love it!! What a difference paint can make!

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    1. Right! It never ceases to amaze me the transformative power of white paint. We love our kitchen now!

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  15. Marie that kitchen looks gorgeous!!

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    1. Thank you very much, Mary! We couldn't be happier with the results.

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  16. Hello Marie,

    Stopping by from Over the Moon link party. Thanks for sharing affordable tips on your kitchen refresh. It turned out fantastic! I love how the kitchen looks brighter. 🙂

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    1. Thank you very much. I'm so glad you popped over for a visit - welcome!

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  17. It all looks great, Marie. I love the inventive way you solved the wine fridge issue.

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    1. Thank you Bev and I'm glad you like our budget alternative for the wine fridge ventilation.

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  18. Oh my Marie this is truly stunning. What a beautiful re love of your kitchen. I love all that you did to the island too. Just gorgeous. Makes the room so much brighter too. Great job. xoxo

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    1. Thank you very much, Kris! It means a lot coming from you, my favorite DIY dynamic duo who are well versed in updating small kitchens. After over two decades, I finally like my kitchen!

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  19. I have those same red Betty Crocker measuring cups! Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

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  20. Congratulations! Your post was my Most Clicked at #OverTheMoon this week. Visit me on Sunday evening and see your feature! I invite you to leave more links to be shared and commented upon. Please be sure to leave your link number or post title so we can be sure to visit!

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    1. Wow, I'm thrilled! Thanks and we'll see you Monday morning! Have a great weekend, Marilyn. xo

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  21. Loved seeing the evolution of your kitchen refresh, Marie! Linking to this in my Weekly Rambles today; think my readers will love it!

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    1. Oh thank you so much, Lora, I appreciate the share in your newsletter so much! xo I hope it inspires ideas for your readers in need of a kitchen refresh.

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  22. Congrats on your beautiful makeover, Marie! I'm in awe of your DIY skills and how you 'jury-rigged' some of your items on the island/pantry. So smart! And, I think the decorative metal vent actually looks lovely, and would never have guessed it was a vent! Love the bright whites, and Toasty Gray is a fave of mine (did you know my living area is painted in Toasty Gray cut 50%?!) I'm excited to be sharing your lovely kitchen at Tuesday Turn About tomorrow! Pinned!

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    1. I didn't know your living area was Toasty Gray, Julie! Now I need to go scroll through your blog to check it out. LOL Out of all the gray swatches we looked at, that one looked the best in every room at different times of day and I absolutely love it. Thank you for your sweet comments about our kitchen makeover, I'm glad you like our quirky ideas for this space. Big hugs for featuring it! xo

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  23. Your kitchen is so bright and modern now. The way you updated an island and storage area is very inspiring. We always need more storage and using an old cabinet is so brilliant and cost cutting. Love your kitchen Marie!

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    1. Thank you, Leanna, I'm glad you like the makeover! We saved ourselves a ton of money reusing what we already had instead of having an island and custom cabinetry built. We feel such a sense of accomplishment, first coming up with our quirky idea, and how it turned out in the end. Finally after all these years I can say that I like our kitchen!

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