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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly | Our DIY Kitchen One Year Later

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Inside: After one year in our DIY Kitchen, I explain how things are holding up; including spray painted hardware, painted white cabinets and our rolling pull-out pantry. 

It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we finished our DIY Kitchen! We needed to upgrade our 80s builder-style, tiny space without spending a lot of money and we ended up doing quite a few cost-saving DIYs. The question we want to answer now is – how did all of them hold up over time? Today, I’ll walk you through our DIY Kitchen One Year later, including some wins and some DIYs that I would skip next time.

If you’re new here, you might want to have a look at the tutorial for how we built our rolling pull-out pantry, how I declutter our kitchen with the Konmari method and also maybe how we updated the kitchen again using peel and stick Smart Tiles!Our DIY Kitchen Before Renovations

A little back story – we went through the typical pros and cons list to decide how large of a renovation we wanted at this stage of our home and our life. In case you need reminding, this is what the kitchen was.

Take note of the lack of counter space, the monochrome ‘not in a cool way’ vibe of cabinets and flooring, the impossible to reach fridge cabinet and the SKY on the ceiling.

Last summer, we did a bunch of things to improve the space without breaking the bank. All in we spent about $3000 to make our kitchen much happier. This included hiring a plumber, electrician, buying a counter and having it professionally installed and buying a new dishwasher.

Is it a permanent solution? Nope. But was it enough to make us want to spend time in our kitchen? Yes it was!A DIY Kitchen Makeover for less than $3000

Let’s go through the elements and assess how they’ve stood the test of one year of hard kitchen living.

The overall design choicesDIY White and Bright Builder Grade KitchenVery early on we realized that we wanted more counter space. To achieve that in this small kitchen (it’s 10×10 with two doors), we knew we needed to move the fridge into the ‘dead’ corner of the room. That required us to call an electrician to wire the breakers correctly for that wall so it could manage the voltage etc.

Benefits of this DIY solution:

  • We now have almost 18 feet of counter space
  • We created a spot for a dishwasher
  • We were able to use the ‘over fridge’ cabinet for the first time ever

Drawbacks after a year:

  • None really!

Pulling out the upper cabinets and installing a bead board backsplashHow to seal a beadboard backsplash

Because the space is so small, we wanted to achieve a seamless look (for next to no money.) The boxy builder grade cabinets that once flanked the windows were technically useful – but by increasing our efficiencies with storage (like our rolling pantry, which we’ll talk about below), we soon realized that we didn’t need either of them. Replacing the right hand side with basic open shelving that reflects the beachy vibe of the rest of the house was the perfect move for us. They are short enough that they can’t get cluttered or messy looking and only hold the things we use daily or every other day.

As for the bead board back splash – it has been the best $60 we spent in the kitchen! It cleans up like a dream and it blends in well. We thought of doing tile, but we know that in a couple of years, we will probably be in full-scale reno mode and we just couldn’t justify the expense. To do 18 feet of back splash in a tile would have cost 10x as much as we spent. So we’re happy with our budget and beachy solution for the moment.


  • Our kitchen now has a much more open and airy feel
  • Our back splash is very easily cleaned and saved us a mint!
  • It emphasizes the sunlight from the window
  • It allows for a display of colour via art work and every day use accessories and dishes

Drawbacks after a year:

  • None really!

Our Rolling PantrySpace Saving Pantry in a DIY Kitchen upgrade

Probably one of our most popular tutorial posts of all time (we had readers send us pictures of theirs after being inspired by ours! We LOVE that!!) This pantry has been a life saver. And no – we didn’t stage it for this photo .. can you tell?

The reason we left it as is – is to show you just how much stuff this baby can hold and how much abuse we put the pantry through on a daily basis. It works like a dream.

Side note 2: the photos in the initial post are terrible and it pains me to no end that it’s gone viral. I hope like heck I’ve learned how to take better photos of my house in the last year as well! Live and learn, people. Live and learn!

A couple FAQs

  • Nothing gets hot. It seems everyone and their brother is concerned about the ‘heat from the fridge’. Guys, if your fridge gets hot on the outside in the year 2015 – you have a VERY old fridge and probably bigger issues. Modern fridges don’t get hot to the touch. So there is no spoilage at all.
  • The bigger wheels were worth the price. We didn’t cheap out on the rubber ones and we’re glad. When the pantry is full, it can be a bit tippy (is that even a word?), so the bigger wheels go a long way to improving overall stability


  • Cost us less than $100 to make and it holds basically all of our food
  • It’s not the prettiest thing, but it tucks away inconspicuously beside our (not hot) fridge
  • Did we mention it holds All. The. Things?

Drawbacks after a year:

  • Sometimes we forget what’s in it because it’s so big and then we double buy stuff πŸ™‚
  • None other than that!

Adding style in unexpected ways – our Wood Shim Herringbone AccentHow to upgrade a builder grade kitchenThis little area is what came about as a result of us moving the fridge. We wanted to continue the long visual line established by the upper cabinets and so, decided on that open shelf. Once it was there though – it was so bare looking! It was crying out for something, but not too much. Using a $4 pack of wood shims, some white wash stain and wood glue – the Herringbone Back Splash was born.

We were also able to maximize the space beside the dishwasher with a small, moveable, shelf to hold baskets. We keep towels, bread and onions and stuff in there. It works well.

FAQs about the herringbone back splash

  • Nope. We’ve never ‘cleaned it’. Initially folks were concerned with how food would get stuck in the grooves. You can see what we have on that shelf. It’s basically dried goods and dishwasher packets. The day food spurts so far that it gets stuck in our $4 back splash and can’t be pulled out easily is the day we replace the back splash πŸ˜› We just dust the shelf off and wipe it down – as you would a cupboard.

Have you ever done an unexpected project with wood shims? Those things are the best!

Our spray painted hardware and painted cabinetsWhat happens when you spray paint kitchen hardware

So ya. One of those things worked AMAZINGLY  – the other, not so much. Let’s talk about the cabinets. We used a thoroughly researched and researched and researched method prior to painting our solid wood cabinets. And the results speak for themselves. We don’t have one chip. Not one. They are scrubbed daily (hello dog slobber! hello tomato sauce!) and have withstood tons of abuse.

The cabinet hardware has not. As you can see – the high volume areas are chipped badly. We can’t decide if we should just spray them again and hold out another year – or spend the money to replace them now. Jury is still out. What do you think we should do?

All in all, this makeover has been great for us. We saved a ton of money and we put a fair amount of sweat equity into the space. It’s been nice to have a functional and cute kitchen to work in.. and it’s also nice to look at those before pictures and realize how far it’s come with just a little DIY enthusiasm πŸ™‚

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