How to do an inexpensive temporary kitchen makeover

mrs.wiggleyJune 7, 2014

Here's my dilemma. I've got an awful postage stamp sized kitchen. It has truly horrible brown "marbleized" walls and countertops, crappy cabinets and a stove/range that works but is very old and cosmetically ugly (peeled paint, etc) I will be renovating the whole house in two or three years but really can't stand the thought of living with this kitchen for that long. I have no room to cook, and no dishwasher (for lack of space) and it's just plain ugly and depressing and doesn't work for me in terms of simple functionality. HELP! What are some inexpensive DIY things I can do. For instance, if I tear off the brown formica can I just cover it with something else or do you have to replace the whole counter wooden structure? The cabinet doors are ugly too. I want to spend money on the renovation in a few years and don't want to throw money away on this temporary fix.
Here are a few photos of the kitchen. Sorry my camera flash isn't working so had to rely on natural light. Most everything is vintage 1980's. I changed out the stove vent top and the faucet. I would LOVE a dishwasher. I left this morning's dishes next to the sink just to demonstrate that the counters on either side of the sink are always in some stage of dishes duty - to be washed or drying - and that counter space is always a wet mess.
And the space is usually much more cluttered, particularly after preparing a large meal. So the only good food prep area is that little area to the left of the stove.

This post was edited by mrs.wiggley on Wed, Jun 11, 14 at 12:52

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We did that once, I just slapped some inexpensive tiles right on top of the formica and had a new drop in sink installed. It is so easy to install tile, especially on counters, you can do it. I would splurge on epoxy or urethane grout so it didn't have to be sealed.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 8:20AM
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Can you post pictures?

Paint is usually the best short term remedy.

Check out this makeover. She painted walls, cabinets, and counters. There's also appliance paint, bu tI don't know how well it holds up with a range/oven.

Here is a link that might be useful: small kitchen makeover

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 8:22AM
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Hadn't thought about tiling the coutnertops.
Nosoccermom,- thanks for the pics. The 'before' pics would be an improvement over what I'm starting with. I wish my cabinets and stove were that nice. I'll try to post pics of my kitchen later today but may have to wait until tomorrow. What kind of paint would work on formica countertops?
I noticed at Home Depot you can buy counte rtops that are ready to install. I may look into that too.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 8:30AM
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IKEA has very nice counter tops for relatively little money. I particularly like the ones with the aluminum edge or their wood counters.
Another option is a product called "instant granite". It's a very thick vinyl-type material. I put it in a small rental, and a year later it's still holding up very well. My contractor thought I had installed new countertops. If you google, you'll find several examples. I think I bought it on overstock, but it's also available for less on ebay.

Here is a link that might be useful: instant granite

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:45AM
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You might check for a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in your area. They accept donations of all types of construction materials that are in good condition, as well as surplus (new) building supplies from local building firms. Lots of very useable stuff out there!

There is also at least one company in our area that goes in for demo then sells what has been torn out--lots of it great quality. Construction is really on the upswing so I'll bet inventory is pretty good.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 10:01AM
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Do not tile anything you are planning to remove in two years' time. It is messy and can be dangerous to remove, as evidenced by the inch long scar on the middle finger of my right hand (yes, I was wearing gloves when I got it, and yes, that's a surgical scar; good times...).

Pull off all of the Formica, go with a painted wall (as no points out and illustrates beautifully, paint can be a great help) bs and replace your counter with inexpensive butcher block. Have fun with it, experiment with color. It's temporary and you can see how your ideas go together before you renovate for real.

I could not live without a dw. Since the cabs are crappy anyway, tear one out and install either dish drawers or a dw, one that you will want to keep in the new kitchen as well. If you post a layout, we can be of more help. To learn how, read the stickie at the top of the forum.

Good luck!

This post was edited by EAM44 on Sat, Jun 7, 14 at 11:01

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 10:58AM
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I LOVE ApartmentTherapy and they just had a small article about kitchens, I'm planning on painting mine a nice bright color.
A lot of ApartmentTherapy's articles are about how to make small places look great on a budget, good info for me and my teeny home :)

Here is a link that might be useful: kitchens

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:54AM
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Forget peeling off the old laminate. You might be able to laminate over the existing counter. Just make sure you scuff sand the existing counter and clean it really well before putting the glue on.....and don't expect perfection when you are done but it should last a couple of years.

I second the Habitat or Re-stores in your area and painting anything that can be painted.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 12:14PM
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EAM - yes, but very nice manicure :-)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 5:30PM
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Well, thank you, thank you very much :)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 7:19PM
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I'd recommend painting the walls a light color, painting cabinets and replacing the cabinet hardware - You can also look into getting the cabinets resurfaced which is a more involved process but about half the price of getting the cabinets replaced.

I'd look into ikea butcher block counters which are very inexpensive and look great. You can get the counters replaced without getting the whole substructure changed. If you can, invest in appliances (such as a stove) that you want to keep after the reno. Otherwise, look for deals online including Craigslist. Used appliances are fairly inexpensive. You can also pick up white or black appliances for fairly cheap (a few hundred bucks for a stove/fridge).

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Changing my faucet into a tall pullout faucet pre-renovation was life-changing. It will be ported to the post renovation kitchen as well.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Paint. Absolutely. If you are redoing in a couple years I wouldn't spend a dime more than absolutely necessary.

My girlfriend painted her formica and it turned out great. It took her a weekend (dry time) but boy what a difference. Cost her about 50 bucks. Maybe you could find a roll away DW that hooks up to the faucet, if you had a place for it to sit when you weren't using it? Craigslist might have one cheap. Post a pic for sure.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 10:17PM
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I also have a friend that painted his laminate counters. They look great!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:26PM
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I'd start by planning exactly what you want to do with the reno, what your new layout will be, whether there will be structural changes, etc. That is mainly so you don't spend money on something you'll end up discarding in a couple of years (like cabinet hardware or, worse, appliances that don't work in the new layout). If you have a definite plan, then any new purchases can be made really for the new kitchen, even if you are going to start using them early.

Other than that, I'd say that this is a great time to experiment with your DIY skills, if you are at all interested in DIY'ing part of the reno later on. You can practice prepping and painting cabinets, sawing butcher block, installing a faucet, etc, with nothing to lose if it doesn't turn out right.

Want to post a photo? It might help people give you more specific advice.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:44PM
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Wow....this thread is such an inspiration! I've already begun tracking down some of the suggestions and will take the advice to heart. I'm definitely going to post a picture so please stay tuned.... And I just downloaded Ikea's planner software and will try to include a layout too if I have time to do that. I will definitely need a new range that I probably won't use in the renovation because I'll have more room then for a larger one. Habitat Store is great advice. The nearest one is over an hour away so I'll just have to make a special trip at some point. Love some of the materials suggested like the stick on faux granite countertops, etc. Very grateful for all the help!

This post was edited by mrs.wiggley on Sun, Jun 8, 14 at 1:09

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 1:06AM
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I agree about looking on Apartment Therapy - some of the homes featured are TINY and have dainty but lovely kitchens. Some great ideas are buried there. It's frustrating when you spend a lot of time looking at large home pictures. I live in an apartment so I've spent a lot of time looking at European small home design, and NYC apartment design - lots of useful ideas. I've done lots of things to make my kitchen more functional. For over a decade I had very little counter space but I had a really sturdy dining table that I often used as a work surface, for example.

Paint is your friend. Obviously walls and cabinets can be painted, but I've learned that even hardware can be spray-painted - look for blog tutorials on the subject - there are many. People have done great paint jobs on countertops too, with appropriate products and surface prep. Even floors are not safe from zealous paint jobs. There are many blogs showing "cheap and cheerful" kitchen updates if you start looking for them.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 1:59AM
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You could look into a full size portable dishwasher that you could later build in or find a small portable possibly on craigslist and sell it later. We did this for a few years when we were first married. We just pushed it into the enclosed back mud room when we were finished.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 9:06AM
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I like northcarolina's idea about planning the new kitchen, if only to decide about your stove. Presuming your current stove is 30", the question becomes do you really want/need a larger one in a renovated space? It's very au courant to install a 36" or even 42" stove, but is that what you really need vs extra cabinet or counter space? In any case, mapping out the new space even in rough form will help you decide whether to buy a new stove now or put up with the functional, but ugly, one you have for now.

Dishwasher: you'll live. Yes, you want one in the foreseeable future, but for today you can just hand wash those dishes. We were without for one for a couple of years (I had a snit fit about how long the old didn't last and refused to replace it ;)), and hand washing was good for one's character. Well, maybe not, but it wasn't such an imposition either.

Do take photos! I'd love to see what you do with this. If the new pre-sized laminate counters fit your space, I know they're inexpensive and that might just work for you.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 11:50AM
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Check out liquid stainless steel for appliances. Supposedly it works on stoves/ranges. If your paint is already peeling, you don't have much to loose to try it for 25.00.

Here's a link on DYnetwork on painting ranges and which paint won't work.

On the other hand, you should be a able to get a very cheap or even free range on craigslist or the Habitat for Humanity resale store, especially if you're ok with white or black.

Here is a link that might be useful: Liquid stainless steel

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 12:20PM
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We had what you described. We opted to take out a 24" base cabinet and put in a DW there. After living in a rental for about 2 years without a DW, I had "built enough character" and even though we could do nothing else in the kitchen at first, I had a lovely DW...and it was one that we reused in our (not quite yet finished) remodel. Nothing at all matched for a while in the kitchen and it was truly hideous. We had a stainless DW, a black/stainless used (abused by prior owner) range, an avocado green non-vented hood, and a white fridge.

The fridge died on us before we were ready to do our remodel, and luckily, we were able to purchase the one we wanted for the remodel (we were able to make it fit by removing some additional cabinets.

By the time we were remodel-ready, we had eliminated some cabinetry and most everything had to live in the basement.

But, having the DW made the kitchen *almost* bearable as long as I didn't have to really try to cook much.

We tried very hard not to put money into things that couldn't rather easily go into the reno. It looked hideous for a while, but it was worth it in the end. I would have hated for us to have spent 1-2k on "intermediate fixes" - it was better holding onto that money to put in for the full reno.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 6:43PM
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This is such a great thread! So many helpful hints and, best of all, specific product suggestions. I'd never heard of Instant Granite, but I just may be brave enough to use it on a small outdated laminate countertop. The kitchn thread was beautiful and had inspirations far beyond paint.

Mrs. Wiggley, hope you get a photo up; it can't be worse than a kitchen I'm working on! :)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 11:34AM
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Sometimes, the simplest change can be the most dramatic. In my old kitchen, I took down the cabinets in your face above the peninsula. Instantly the space looked 3x bigger, even if it did have the old disintegrating plywood cabinets and stained laminate counters. Possibly think about removing doors to have "open shelving" to make things look a bit bigger, etc.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 11:55AM
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laura mcleod

I lived in a TINY weirdly designed kitchen for 7 years before we were able to add on and move our kitchen (I am glad that I didn't know at the time it was going to be 7 years!)

Our 1920's kitchen was dark (forest green paint) and dingy. Here is what I did when I moved in:

-Like Live Wire Oak says - we took down several bulky upper cabinets and replaced some of them with white inexpensive open shelving from Ballard Designs - it made a huge, huge difference. Everything looked 90% fresher after that.
- Took down dirty blinds and hung white cotton café curtains from Country Curtains to maximize the natural light
- Replaced the overhead fluorescent fixture with an inexpensive schoolhouse light
- Painted EVERYTHING (walls creamy pale yellow and cabs white)
-Peeled off the black laminate (from the counter) that was a pass-through to DR and wallpapered it with textured paper then also pained that white. Sealed it and it wore like iron.
- Glued down cheapo wood laminate planks over the dark faux-brick vinyl floor
-Brought in a small but fantastic antique cabinet in that wonderful vintage green - with everything else white or pale yellow, it really drew your eye and brought in some character (and good storage since I had lots of open shelving)

Make sure to take pictures - these fix-ups are the best! You will be amazed at how much better everything looks. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 3:41PM
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At last some photos! I've added them to my initial post at the top. Sorry my camera's flash is not working so had to use daylight, but I think you can still get the basic layout and colors.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 12:55PM
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I'm secretly hoping some home makeover program will see these photos of my pathetic kitchen and choose me for a makeover...hahahaha!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 1:40PM
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When we moved into our current home, the kitchen was much worse that what you have shown. Although the floor space seemed like it should be a decent size kitchen, hot water baseboard heating took up much of the space where cabinets could have been placed. The fridge and stove were opposite each other and so close that you couldn't walk between them if one or the other was open and that was right in the entrance of the kitchen from the dining room. We had 2 upper cabinets (approximately 15" wide each) and 2 lower cabinets. It was horrible, just horrible. Oh, and all that wall space that was not covered by the few cabinets was covered in the most horrendous wallpaper I had ever seen! Anyway, I painted the few cabinets we had. We stripped the wallpaper and painted the walls. We purchased a pre-form laminate counter top from Home Depot, put down a new but very cheap vinyl floor and DH built open shelving from pallets we got for free for all that wall space and we lived with it for 13 YEARS!!! I had big plans for this kitchen but my DH and I are very debt averse so we wanted to pay the house off before we did any major reno. Anyway, 10 years later we paid off the house and then I started saving money for the reno. We are currently almost finished with it and I am absolutely loving my new kitchen. Countertops are scheduled to be installed tomorrow morning...can we say WOOHOO!!!!

I said all that to say that I think you should spend as little money as you can to be able to tolerate it for a couple years. We spent just a touch over $500 all those years ago and while it was never an ideal kitchen or even a functional kitchen, we made do for as long as we had to. When it comes time to do the big re-do, you'll be so glad for whatever money you don't spend now!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 2:55PM
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If you have an electrical circuit, there may be room for a dw to the right of the sink. If so, go for it. If not, look into a portable one -- maybe even used.

I bet your cabinets will take paint really well -- with some new hardware, they will look great. Take down the dark backsplash and add some semi gloss paint there instead. Unless you have damage, your countertops are fine for a temporary situation.

Lighting is another area for a functional improvement-- an inexpensive track light for the overhead fixture (IKEA) or some plug-in UCL might help things out.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 3:25PM
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Clean those cabinets really well, paint the walls, replace the light with something bigger and brighter (I recommend a 3000k LED bulb); if you are at all reasonably close to an Ikea, look at their counters and price compare with Home Depot/Lowes/Menards/ local lumberyard. Look at their other options too like light fixtures and storage doodads. Lots of good ideas given above, I am inclined to say spend very little - paint, replace only what absolutely has to be replaced to function, and plan and save for the full job!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 10:43PM
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So much great advice here. Thank you all. I have a lot of information gathering and stores to visit to begin this in earnest. I'll keep you posted on my progress. And if I have questions along the way I'll be posting them. Also if you think of something please add it to this thread as I'll be keeping an eye on it.
Thank you all so much for your support!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:41AM
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Oh my, that's BROWN!

I wouldn't spend the $$ on new countertops ... you then have the hassle of fitting, cutting the sink holes, waterproofing, ... etc. Save it for the new kitchen.

Paint ... Google for "painting laminate counters" ot the Rustoleum countertop kits.

Remove or paint the dark backsplash, paint the counters light, add a cheap bigger light fixture and some under-cab lights

Remove the valance. it's blocking light.

Remove the doors on the cabinet near the sink and paint the insides a light accent color.

Stop there and see how you feel

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 1:34PM
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