How we completely updated our kitchen for less than $1200

Inside: Simply DIY kitchen updates that make a big impact; including how to paint oak cabinets, how to install peel and stick back splash tile and a review of the Smart Tiles.

*This post is sponsored by Kent Building Supplies*

Do you ever find yourself pulling the equivalent of a project thread? You know, remove one thing or add another and suddenly it opens up a flood of projects and before you realize it, you’re into the thick of a full scale room makeover? It’s like that book ‘if you give a mouse a cookie’. Anyway, that’s what happened with this kitchen makeover. I had no intention of touching the kitchen until at least next year – but when our oven broke beyond repair and we had to replace both it and the microwave vent hood, all of a sudden I found I had to make repairs and changes to the space. And so, this is how we completely updated our kitchen for less than $1200.

I took the opportunity to repaint our existing lower cabinets in a navy blue colour, which combined with our new peel and stick subway tile back splash has really made the kitchen feel bright and renewed. I’d painted the oak cabinets white a few years ago, and truthfully, it was time for a fresh coat of paint no matter what. This was just the kick I needed to get going.

Supplies I used to Paint the Oak Cabinets

*all of these supplies were purchased at Kent Building Supplies

Method for Painting the Cabinets

Since my cabinets had already been painted, I didn’t have to worry too much about priming them. If you are heading into a project on unpainted oak cabinets, I’d sand them to scuff them up and then add a couple of coats of high grip primer before you paint. I did that the first time, and I think that’s why mine lasted as long as they did.

Essentially, I took the doors off the cabinets and gave them a really good cleaning with TSP. This will pull all the grease and deep debris out of the door before you paint.

Then I used a foam roller on the doors and cabinet faces, and I propped the doors up on a table using the painting pyramids. Basically they elevate the door just enough that you can easily paint the edges! I love these things! You could also use tin cans or small flower pots or something, but the pyramids are really easy to use and are quite effective.

Three coats of my navy paint, making sure to let each coat completely dry before adding the next coat. This will be the most tedious part of the process because it was at least four hours – so if you’re going to paint you cabinets, just be prepared to have a bit of a mess on your hands for a couple days.

Once your cabinets are painted, the final step is to seal them with Polycrylic and a foam brush. The trick is to only add the Polycrylic in one direction (like putting on nail polish). Give them at least two coats and let them dry a full 24 hours before reinstalling them. 

I also waited about ten days to see how the paint wore and then did touch ups. The drawer fronts got especially chipped within the first week of use, so I’m glad I waited and then I went in with a small craft brush to fix them up.

Cost of Painting the Cabinets

This was probably the most affordable and high impact update I’ve done in a while. Never underestimate the power of paint! I used less than a quart of the paint and the sealant, which together cost about $45. I had the other stuff already, so technically it cost me nothing, but if I were to buy it all over again – it might come out to an additional $30 or so. This project was well under $100.

Other Affordable Updates in the Kitchen

The other update we made was the installation of the peel and stick back splash. You can read all about how we did the install in this post. Smart Tiles are available for purchase on the Kent.ca website and there is a greater selection in-store. So far, after a few weeks of living with the Smart Tiles, we are liking them. They are definitely easy to clean and for the most part, they look like real tiles. I will say, a few of the edge pieces have started to peel back a bit and I had to add more glue. This may just be because the walls in our kitchen weren’t perfectly smooth to begin with.

I do love the mosaic like tiles we put in the little shelf nook. It’s just enough visual interest to create a sweet little vignette there. I’m glad I opted to add some pattern into the room. I love the way it changes the look of my vintage industrial DIY mug rack too! Oh and I also opted to paint the other kitchen walls white. They used to be a soft heather blue and the white really brightens the small room and makes it feel much cleaner. 

If you want another blogger’s honest review of her long term experience with Smart Tiles, check out what Katie from Little House of Four just put on her blog. She reviews her kitchen back splash tiles after three years. 

A word about the cost of the tiles – our Smart Tiles were provided to us in exchange for our honest review of the product. The retail cost of the tiles we put in would be around $900 (depending on shipping) – so this is certainly not a ‘budget’ update. In fact, you could probably install true ceramic subway tiles for less money than this. The advantage with the Smart Tiles is the time savings. There is basically no mess and we were able to complete this project with two people in less than two days. But you know what they say, you do pay for convenience. Would I recommend this product for a fast facelift in a small space? Yes. I would.

Other Tutorials for Painting Cabinets Dark or Navy

Sisters What? did a fabulous two-toned kitchen update using gorgeous hexagon tiles for the back splash. I love the bright light in the space.

Craving Some Creativity used navy paint to update a bathroom vanity and the transformation is incredible!! 

Rain on a Tin Roof does not disappoint with her always quirky, on trend style! She updated her kitchen with navy paint…and again, spectacular results. 

And Boxy Colonial tackled a large bathroom vanity with Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy. Check out her blog for her full reveal of the space a few weeks later. 

Here are some other posts you’ll love

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Please see my full disclosure and privacy policy here. 

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