Before & After: A Small Kitchen Gets a Modern, Custom Look for Just $1,000

published Mar 6, 2022
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DIY woodworking skills and ample space to use power tools are really the ultimate assets when it comes to saving money on home upgrades. If you can build and install something yourself, you’ll save on retail and labor costs — plus, your design will be completely customized to your home.

DIYer Ndandu Khavhadi (@justamomwithadrill) has put her sawing and sanding skills to use in several rooms in her home, including an upgraded playroom for her daughters and, most recently, her kitchen.

“We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I wanted a space we could enjoy preparing meals in as a family,” Ndandu says, and the existing space just wasn’t cutting it.

Her kitchen before was fairly basic. It had some storage but had plenty of weak spots to add more, and it “was lifeless; it had no character,” Ndandu says.

On her Instagram story, Ndandu called the space “the black sheep” of her family’s house, as it was one of the only rooms she hadn’t optimized with DIYs. She wanted to bring some warmth to the space and up the functionality, starting with storage.

She added floating shelves (purchased from a timber company then cut down to her liking) to an empty corner next to her upper cabinets and created a large pantry using wood remnants left over from other projects.

“That was a bit tricky when I thought I wouldn’t have enough pieces, but I made it work somehow,” she says of her new dark cabinet, which holds (and hides) much more than the small white cupboard before.

Ndandu’s reclaimed wood aesthetic is prominent throughout her new kitchen — most notably with the new countertops, which her husband, Lutendo, helped her install. “The only professional help was just the tiling,” Ndandu says. “Not everything has to cost you an arm and a leg. There are always ways to do it cheaper and still get great quality. Don’t be afraid to try.”

Ndandu cut, sanded, and painted new cabinet doors out of wood scraps saved from demo, and her general philosophy is that old wood should never be wasted. “Don’t throw away that piece of wood; it may just become that drawer you need,” she says.

Speaking of drawers, some of Ndandu’s most innovative DIYs in her kitchen are on the inside of the storage. For example, she affixed new edge banding (the small trim on the perimeter of a shelf) to her cabinet shelves using a pre-glued roll that cost about $10.”If you have a really old kitchen, [it’s] a great way to give it a new look without breaking the bank,” she shared on Instagram, because old edge banding is often scuffed from taking pots and pans out over time.

Ndandu likes that she was able to spruce up her cabinetry and customize it to hide appliances, brooms, and chargers. (Yes, she rerouted an outlet next to a drawer so she can charge her devices without revealing any cords. Genius!)

Finally, she installed a new light fixture above the island to brighten and modernize the space, and she says it’s her favorite detail of her DIY.

So $1,000 and several clever solutions later, Ndandu has a much more functional and stylish kitchen, and the DIY-filled project only took about nine weeks. “Our old kitchen has come back to life,” she says.