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The biggest issue with a lot of kitchens is space and storage — both can be tough (and expensive) to add. But if you already have both, you can turn more attention to aesthetics.

This kitchen — owned by reader Amri Dobbins’s parents, who rent it out — is a great example of a solid starting point. “This kitchen had plenty of potential,” Amri says. The open layout connected to the dining space, the wood cabinets were still in good shape, and the island was generously-sized. But looks-wise, it was a bit drab. It had also been in the care of years of various renters, so it was starting to show its age. Amri knew that with a little work, she could give it a refresher.

One of the biggest changes was paint. Amri chose a warm beige (Sherwin-Williams’s Rivers Edge) for the walls and mid-toned gray for the lower cabinets (Fusion Mineral Paint’s Soap Stone). For the uppers, she picked a creamy white (Fusion Mineral Paint’s Raw Silk). The lighter cabinets on top help the kitchen feel a little bigger and brighter, even though the square footage is the same.

“The cabinets were challenging because after years of renters, they had a thick layer of grease,” says Amri. “We removed the doors and used a de-greaser and razor knife to get rid of it.” They followed up with TSP cleaner and a light sanding before painting.

Amri has a tip here if you start to get tired of painting: She took to Craigslist to find some assistance, where she hired “a lovely woman named Kate who helped me finish painting once I started to burn out.” Hiring a little help on the parts of your project that are wearing you out can help you make it to the finish line.

Amri’s dad is a concrete pro, so he created the new countertops. They’re pigmented with gray and black veining that makes them look like high-end marble for a fraction of the cost. The backsplash is made to match for a seamless look. Amri’s dad also expanded the counter on the island to make a real-deal breakfast bar, making their existing space more functional than before.

“I can’t get enough of the countertops,” Amri says. “They feel so cool and smooth. I think they really make the space.”

New appliances round out the project. The range came from Facebook Marketplace for a steal (just $100!), and a new fridge — necessary to fit the unique dimensions of the existing fridge spot — cost about $900.

The new kitchen now has an updated look, and with some extra functionality in the island bar and newly added open shelves. And a lot of help from family helped make it all manageable. “I’m most proud of the fact that the whole family pitched in on this project, from my dad making the counters, to my kids painting the cabinets, to my husband running errands and giving electrical advice, to my mom washing linens and dishes,” Amri says. “I’m so grateful I have an awesome family that made the work light!”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.

Megan Baker

Home Projects Editor

Megan is a writer and editor who specializes in home upgrades, DIY projects, hacks, and design. Before Apartment Therapy, she was an editor at HGTV Magazine and This Old House Magazine. Megan has a degree in Magazine Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is a self-taught weighted blanket connoisseur.

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