Elsie’s Mini Kitchen Remodel

Hello friends! When we first looked at our new home, I was impressed by how “nice” and “new” the kitchen was compared to many of the other homes we’d seen. I felt instantly guilty because it was recently renovated, but it wasn’t my style and I couldn’t imagine our family making Christmas cookies at that counter. So, I immediately started to brainstorm ways to update the space. I wanted something quick and painless (aka, no demo!) that would personalize it and make it feel like home. The answer, as it often is, was paint!

Now TRUST ME, I would have loved to change the tile, the cabinet fronts and, most of all—the counters. But it did not make sense for us since this is a phase one renovation meant to tide us over while we wait and save up for a dream kitchen. Given those constraints, I am so pleased with what we were able to do on a very small budget and very little waste. I hope this post inspires you with the possibilities of what paint (all by itself) can do for a room. It’s pretty incredible.

Here’s a before and after!

95% of what we did is just paint … isn’t that crazy? I considered doing a few different colors. I was trying to avoid doing bright white since that’s what my last kitchen was, and I wanted to mix it up a bit. I also knew we’d be “embracing” the light brown quartz counters, so I wanted a color that made them blend in, not stand out. I ended up going with White Mocha by Behr. it’s a warm white and a color I tend to Pin a lot in kitchens, so I decided to just go for it. I really love how it came out. I was in the home when Davis Custom Finishes painted them and it was one of the BEST things I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes. The “before” kitchen felt disconnected from the home to me—like it didn’t fit with the house. As soon as he put the white primer on, it immediately felt like a completely different kitchen to me. I was thrilled.

One of the questions a lot of people have asked is how we like our new closed shelf kitchen compared to our old open shelf kitchen. It’s actually a pretty good comparison because the size of the kitchens and counter space is almost exactly the same. The only major functional change is the the top shelves—open versus closed.

So here’s my opinion. I like them both. If I had to choose one over the other, I think I prefer the open shelves, just strictly because it’s prettier to me. People are SO negative about open shelves, but having lived with both I can finally say … nah. I will defend open shelves until my dying day. They are functional and beautiful. And I personally love to see all my stuff.

In the future, when I design a dream kitchen from scratch, I will 100% choose a combination of both open and closed shelves. Best of both.

That said, these cabinets are great and I am very thankful for them.

(Lol, there’s a blurry view of my lesser-known first tattoo, which I got when I was 21, I think. It’s the cherries with three stars … It makes me laugh that I planned that out for like a year.)

OK, let’s talk hardware! I went with this affordable lucite hardware from Etsy. I used a combination of five- and 10-inch pulls. I wanted hardware that felt more mid-century since the home is from the ’60s, but the cabinets were new and a more traditional style. I feel like this hardware helps to tie the two styles together.

Most of the decor in this kitchen is reused from our previous home, like the vintage rug and the wicker basket that’s been holding utensils since our first home.

The brass fixture is Jonathan Adler (it was previously hanging in Nova’s bedroom). There will be a breakfast table beneath it, by the way. It just hasn’t arrived yet.

Thanks so much for coming along on my mini tour. I am super grateful for this kitchen. It has already served us well during our quarantine and we’ve already made countless bowls of mac and cheese. Feels like home. 🙂

Links: chandelier, knife magnet, plant hanger, footed cutting board, pink scrubber brush, lucite hardware, Elsie’s dress, Elsie’s shoes, and headband.

I am really excited to keep sharing rooms and projects with you. xx- Elsie

P.S. Big shout out to Davis Custom Finishes in Nashville for painting my cabinets. I highly recommend them if you’re local.

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Project Assistant: Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • The old “updated” kitchen felt like a dark cave compared to this. I applaud the low waste solution. It looks great. Adding the warmth of the accessories bumps it up a notch, and all of those accessories would have looked and felt put of place with the old dark cabinets. Its so pretty now! I had to keep my 90s orange oak cabinets in my kitchen. As soon as I painted them white it was like the heavens parted and angels sang. Still makes me happy 4 years later. This tiny bungalow in this working class neighborhood would never support an expensive kitchen redo. Keeping it humble yet pretty was the way to go.

    • Hi Elsie! I love this makeover and we’ve been debating changing our cabinets from traditional timber (very 90s, very country kitchen) to shaker-style or just painting them. We’ve had some cabinet makers express concern about painting timber because it moves and swells, but these people are usually recommending gutting the entire kitchen anyway, but that feels wasteful when we can’t change the footprint of the kitchen.

      Is your kitchen natural timber or is it a manufactured timber-look? Did you have anyone recommend against painting for this reason? Thanks so much

    • Hi Elsie! Just wondering what the cost of painting your cabinets was, if you don’t mind sharing. We had a quote to paint ours for $5500 and our kitchen is about the same size as yours. Needless to say, we ended up painting ours ourselves, which was a painstaking 2-month process. However we are so happy with them and they’ve held up really well for the past couple of years.

      • Hi! It all depends on the number of cabinets and other factors- but it’s worth getting a few quotes. Ours was about half that. XX!

  • The end result is fabulous, Elsie! Thank you for sharing the hardware resource, I have a mid-century modern home and I would love to use those pulls in our kitchen or bathrooms.

  • I love your new kitchen, the update makes such a big difference! But I’ll admit I got a bit wistful remembering your first home. Miss that gorgeous clementine wall 🙂

  • WOW! What a difference a little paint makes. It makes the counter tops look new/different. Love the pulls. So cute.

  • In my area (Canada’s Capital city (Ottawa) but more specifically the suburb I live in), the market is extremely tight, houses are selling well over value and most of the time, houses are 20-30 years old and have never been updated/renovated. And when they are, the kitchen is always the same dark brown cabinets, light brown/ yellowish countertop and funky looking backsplash. And the hardwood floors are almost always this dark reddish brown I absolutely despise. But seeing how pretty your kitchen turned with just paint……gives me hope I would find a way to deal with any space for a while until we have the budget to renovate to our taste.

  • Congratulations, Elsie to the fantastic update. May I ask what type/brand is the new hardwood flooring in the kitchen?
    Thank you!

  • Elsie, I just want to say your grateful tone and words in this post is SUCH a breath of fresh air. It is possible to be content with what we have even when it isn’t necessarily what we would choose. Proud of you!

  • Just because your kitchen was recently renovated *doesn’t mean* it’s modern…My neighbouring townhouse renovated the kitchen much in the same way, with dark wood, etc., and I find it’s just so dark and dated! I’m very happy that my kitchen is bright and white, and I love yours too! I live vicariously through your posts, because I never renovate or paint my own house (I’m just too blasé!).

  • Love it! Just curious – are your countertops always mostly empty like that or was it just for the photo shoot?

  • I love seeing the new spaces in your new home with their mini-refreshs! My husband and I are years away from our dream remodel of our 40s home so in the meantime, it’s been a ton of paint jobs to make the home feel more like us and fresh.

  • Hi Elsie,
    First, this is such an improvement! Love how the soft white instantly makes it seem like a more cheerful place, and really makes the counters seem like an intentional choice rather than a compromise. A quick question – when your cabinets were repainted, were the interiors repainted as well? I ask because our kitchen has high quality, perfect layout, solid wood cabinets… in a stain I really dislike. We’ve been thinking about refinishing them but we’ve actually removed the doors on the uppers for an open shelf look, and are curious whether the interiors get painted too or if we’d have to fully remove all the uppers and replace with open shelving (which we want to do down the road but aren’t ready to tackle yet). Thank you!

    • Hi! So our painter says not to paint the interiors unless it’s needed. Our cabinets were newish with light wood interiors, so after we painted the cabinets all the dark wood was gone and still look brand new. I would only paint the insides if they are dark or really worn out. XX!

      • I am in that sitch where I HAVE to paint the insides (they are previously painted and very old, a lot of chips, cracks and peeling) usually when I paint furniture I wait a while for it to cure before I start using it. Do you know how long would be good to let them cure before I start putting stuf back in?

  • Oh man, it was fun to go look at your first kitchen! It’s cool to see how your style has evolved and refined over the years… but clearly your passion and talent for design aint going anywhere!!
    And now you can afford to pay people to paint your cabinets – thats’ the real dream right there! 😉

  • I really liked the look of the kitchen originally, so when you said you were going to paint it, I thought “what?! now way!” — but Elsie, this is so beautiful. I admire your vision to be able to see this outcome. It looks so so nice.

  • I wish I could have that nice looking kitchen at my place.. But someday will have it for sure.. Thanx for sharing the remodeling of it.

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