Before & After: A 1950s Kitchen Gets a Charming Makeover for Just $2,500

updated Apr 9, 2020
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Before: 1950s Kitchen with wood cabinets and beige walls
Credit: Kari Hailey

There are a lot of charms to be had in an older home that hasn’t been renovated. And that’s exactly the kind of home Kari Hailey was looking for in her house hunt. “When we were house-hunting last summer, I was hoping to find a cute Tudor or mid-century house that hadn’t been renovated,” Kari says. “A red brick ranch definitely was NOT what I was envisioning, but we loved the location, and the original woodwork throughout sealed the deal.” The kitchen in the 1959 house had tons of character that Kari loved, but it also needed some freshening up.

Credit: Kari Hailey

“The kitchen reminded me of my grandparents’ kitchen, in all the best ways,” Kari says. “But 1980s appliances and shiny tan paint (even on the ceiling!) made the room feel dated and tired.” She wanted the kitchen to still harmonize with the 1950s house, but with a little more pep.

Credit: Kari Hailey

“We love the wood cabinets but wanted to make the kitchen a little more modern without any expensive changes to the layout,” Kari says. “That meant the quirky cooking peninsula stayed, but I painted out all the busy grout lines and pulled off the weird stainless steel tiles.” The all-white color helps the peninsula blend into the rest of the kitchen.

Another thing that stayed? The countertops. “We kept the laminate countertops since they were neutral and in great shape, and to my surprise I actually really like them,” Kari says.

Credit: Kari Hailey

One small thing that seriously helped the look of the kitchen: Swapping out the old stainless steel sink and faucet for a white quartz sink and matte black faucet. “It was the best $500 I spent in this house,” Kari says. “The whole room felt instantly fresher.”

Of course, painting the walls creamy white also helped, as did adding leafy peel-and-stick wallpaper Kari bought at Home Depot. Its vintage feel even fooled friends into thinking it was original: “A couple of days after I hung the wallpaper, we threw a housewarming party,” Kari says. “One of my older neighbors walked in, took one look around and said, Don’t worry, it won’t be too hard to tear this wallpaper down. Wallpaper is very polarizing!” Thankfully, she loves the warm vintage look — and if she ever tires of it, it’s not hard to peel off.

In the dining area underneath her secondhand table, Kari added a round jute rug from Rugs USA. The new black-and-wood pendant light above, also from Home Depot, looks way more expensive than its $105 price tag. Kari finished by adding in a new fridge and dishwasher, which she says ate up more than half of her total $2,500 budget. She saved on the rest by choosing inexpensive lighting, rugs, and furniture—and the effect is enormous.

Kari’s takeaway? “Take more design risks! My sister said recently that she wants her girls to smile when they think about the house they grew up in and I love that. Let’s make home more fun!”

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A $2,500 Refresher Keeps this 1950s Kitchen’s Charm Intact