The Very Best Builder-Grade Kitchen Makeovers We’ve Ever Seen on Apartment Therapy

published Aug 14, 2021
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Credit: Karlin Reed

Builder-grade kitchens have a very particular look to them. A look that, um, might not be your taste. We totally understand why builders make those choices — but also that you might want to change things up. To help you do just that, we scoured the renovation projects over on our sister site, Apartment Therapy, and pulled the very best transformations that started with builder-grade kitchens.

These standouts are perfect reminders that change can indeed happen — with a little bit of dreaming and a whole lot of creative planning. Ready to be wowed? Go on, and take a look!

Credit: Judy Pellow

1. A Budget Redo Features Painted Cabinets

  • Price tag: $1,400

Judy Pellow and her husband knew that when they bought their 1987 fixer-upper, it hadn’t been renovated since. “From previous experiences in updating kitchens, we knew how costly they could become,” Pellow says. To save on expenses, they had the original melamine cabinets spray-painted white and added on new hardware. The difference is unbelievable! “Renovations shouldn’t put you into debt, so use what you have and make the most of the space!”

Credit: Brooke Littel

2. A Drab Kitchen Gets a Functional Redo

  • Price tag: $3,000

Brooke Littel’s kitchen offered plenty of floor space, but the functionality of just about everything else was lacking. “The sink couldn’t fit my Crock-Pot or larger pans, so cleaning them was a big hassle,” she admits. Plus, there was hardly enough counter space to prep meals. The existing brown oak cabinets? They were fine, just a little boring and outdated. But with a little bit of paint, open shelving, and the addition of a stainless steel farmhouse sink, Littel was able to transform her kitchen into a bright and happy space. “It’s an enjoyable place to be and is also very functional,” Littel says.

Credit: Karlin Reed

3. A 170-Square-Foot Kitchen Looks So Much Bigger

  • Price tag: $6,000

Karlin Summer’s teeny-tiny kitchen was just 170-square-feet, but it still had promise. “I knew I wanted to restore a space and make it totally my own, so this kitchen that needed a lot of love was perfect,” Summer says of her 1925 historical gem. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work adding a new stone countertop, subway tiles for the backsplash, and hexagonal tiles for the floor. For a pop of color, she painted the bottom cabinets a minty green. Now that it’s all done? Summer says, “I love how the kitchen is so light and bright, even with the lack of windows.”

Credit: Julia Marcum

4. A Dark Kitchen Gets a Chic Paint Job

  • Price tag: $10,000

When Julia and Chris Marcum moved into their new house, they knew right away that the dark and cramped kitchen needed major attention. First off, the couple decided to paint the dingy cabinets and add hardware, then they updated with a luxe marble backsplash and a black walnut countertop. “We painted the base cabinets a deep navy and added hardware which changed the whole game,” Julia says. To add the finishing touch, they also replaced the fluorescent lighting with pretty pendant lights — and the results are amazing!

5. A 1920s Outdated Kitchen Becomes a Modern Beauty

  • Price tag: $10,000

As a former rental, Lyndsey Hinkle’s kitchen needed a lot of TLC. The old, oak cabinetry was crumbling, the lighting was non-existent, and the speckled counters needed a serious update. Hinkle, a professional interior designer, had a DIY plan. She upgraded with sleek, black counters, and dramatic lighting. Instead of splurging on new cabinetry, she selected secondhand KraftMaid to give her a high-end look for less money. She also added a convenient kitchen island for more work and storage space. “We never had an island before, and we love sitting at it every day,” Hinkle says.

6. A Dark and Depressing Kitchen Goes Glossy and Glam

  • Price tag: $12,000

Suzannah Hamlin Stanley and Jason Stanley wanted a kitchen refresh without an overwhelming price tag. So, they took matters into their own hands — especially after deciding to work within the same floor plan and keep the existing electrical and plumbing. “DIYing aside, I shopped very carefully and compared prices especially on the bigger items like the cabinets and countertops (saved with prefab pieces),” Hamlin Stanley explains. The new sleek quartz counters, tile backsplash, and all white cabinetry with brass hardware has made a huge difference!

Credit: Jessica Erickson

7. An ’80s-Style Kitchen Goes From Dull to Dazzling

  • Price tag: $75,000

Although at first sight it seemed cluttered, Jessica Erickson knew her kitchen space had potential. Still, “the wood-nosed laminate countertop and flimsy oak cabinets were just so brown and blah,” she says of the kitchen before. After renovating an adjacent mudroom to make way for a bigger kitchen, Erickson chose shaker cabinets, a porcelain tile backsplash, and a quartz countertop to give her kitchen new pizzazz. “The renovation has changed the way we live in our home,” she says. “The space went from disjointed and cluttered to open and vast.”

Did you renovate a builder-grade kitchen? Tell us about it in the comments below.