Before & After: A “Dark, Grim” Cabin Kitchen Instantly Transforms with Beautiful Blue Cabinets and Colorful Tile

published Apr 12, 2024
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Brown wood paneled kitchen

There are some incredibly chic cabins out there, but for some, cabins’ all-over brown paneling can be overwhelming. This definitely rang true for designer Daniela Araya and her husband, Austin, in the kitchen of their Catskills-based cabin.

“The cabin was built in the ‘80s and looked like a traditional cabin: dark wood paneling, wood cabinets, dark linoleum floors (which were glued to our concrete slab and felt very cold on your feet — not ideal for winters in upstate New York!)” Daniela says. “The wood-on-wood aesthetic might sound charming when I describe it, but it was not in the best shape, especially the kitchen.” 

There wasn’t much she and Austin loved about the original kitchen, looks-wise, but they did like its ample size and layout. “What was really special to us was that we could see the potential immediately,” Daniela says. “That’s what stood out to us the most about the cabin in general.”

The cabin went through a full DIY renovation, and the kitchen was the first place Daniela and Austin started. 

They ditched the upper cabinets but added an island.

Before Daniela and Austin got started with more fun choices like color and tile, they needed to fix some impractical design decisions. There was no countertop space to prepare meals or cook, but there were a ton of upper cabinets that served little purpose and made the space overall feel dark and heavy.

“We decided to rip out the upper kitchen cabinets and give ourselves ample storage and countertop space by adding a kitchen island to the room,” Daniela explains. “Because of the open layout on the first floor, we had the flexibility to make the kitchen island fairly large and have it flow between the kitchen and what would become the dining room.”

Paint and pops of color brightened up the place. 

After ripping out the cabinets, re-insulating, and adding in the island, the couple turned their attention to the kitchen’s aesthetics.

They painted their new lower cabinets (with IKEA bases and Semihandmade fronts) a muted blue shade and added quartz countertops from Cambria. “The colors make me smile every time I look at them,” Daniela says. “Our cabinet colors complement the rest of the colors in the space. The light blue is calming and balances out some of the punchier colors like the bright red and yellow in the kitchen.”

The wall color is Farrow & Ball’s School House White, and the ceiling color is Benjamin Moore’s Ocean Air

The tile backsplash was a first-time DIY.

The aforementioned “punchier colors” are in the backsplash tiles from Fireclay Tile. Daniela calls it the true masterpiece of the kitchen, but it didn’t come without its challenges, “especially as first- timers,” Daniela says. 

“We used 4×4 square tiles and, because of the pattern we wanted, we needed everything to be straight and precise — otherwise the rows would look crooked,” she explains. “Between literally laying out the tile to find the best pattern to trying to figure out how to quickly place the mortar and apply the tiles, we had our work cut out for us.” (It took over 300 tiles!)

In addition to a new color scheme, whimsical silhouettes added cheer.

Daniela and Austin completed their kitchen with engineered wide-plank hardwood flooring from The Home Depot, a dining table from the aptly named Wiggle Room, Mitzi lighting, vintage dining chairs, and a shelving unit from HAY. “It’s filled with joy!” Daniela says of the room. 

In total, the project cost about $13,000 with the backsplash tile around $2,300, the island and cabinets around $4,100, and the countertops around $3,300. One money-saving detail Daniela is proud of? “I was dead-set on getting a SMEG fridge for our kitchen, but we ended up finding a similar retro fridge for a fraction of the price,” she says.

In the end, she can’t pick a favorite element. “I’m truly proud of it all!” she says. “Austin and I had been renters up until we bought the cabin, so this was our first time having the freedom to make whatever changes we’d like to a space … I love that I can look around the space and be filled with so many memories of us fixing it up ourselves.”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: A “Grim” Cabin Kitchen Gets a Redo with a Cheery Backsplash (in 5 Colors!)