Before & After: Bright Colors and IKEA Cabinets Make This “Dark, Bleak” Kitchen a Dream Come True

published Mar 3, 2024
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beige outdated kitchen with wood cabinets before remodel

Usually, if a room needs a makeover, creative designer Kara Lauren Kirchhoff would add jazzy paint — their bohemian St. Louis, Missouri, home, is covered in fun, bright colors — to the space and call it a day. However, paint couldn’t save the tired kitchen when they moved into the house. 

“In my original interview for the Apartment Therapy house tour, I said that the house was ‘old and gross.’ I was specifically referring to the kitchen,” Kirchhoff admits. “The ‘before’ photos show that it was dark brown, but they don’t show how disgusting the sink, drawers, and cabinets were.”

This was Kirchhoff’s first home that was all theirs (they share the space with their two children, Aurora and Fox, too), so it was important for the space to be exactly what they dreamt of. They noted that the original kitchen felt “very heavy” and had built-ins, making the room cramped.

Unfortunately, the kitchen needed to be “completely gutted.” Typically, they’d do much of the work themselves, but because the space needed a complete overhaul, they called in additional help, and found a great compromise. “I opted for an IKEA kitchen because it’s affordable but also because I knew I could do a lot of the labor myself that way,” Kirchhoff said.

Kirchhoff didn’t have a specific design inspiration for the room. Instead, they mapped the new kitchen out in their head after being in the space. “I like to start with a white base and then layer on the colors,” Kirchhoff shared. “I knew that I wanted to knock out the wall dividing the kitchen and living room, and I could just see it in my mind’s eye. I like open shelves; I like gas stoves with range hoods; I like bright and airy spaces.”

The modern, white, flat-faced IKEA cabinets (which Kirchhoff assembled themself) aren’t just stylish; they also make Kirchhoff’s life a lot easier. Having two “super messy” kids in the house means accidents happen, but these cabinets are easy to clean without molding or trim. 

Another one of Kirchhoff’s favorite parts of the kitchen is a DIY project. They added open shelving instead of opting for upper cabinets. As someone who loves coffee, mugs needed to be easily accessible. “I love the open shelves that can display all my wacky coffee mugs. I’m hard-core addicted to caffeine.”

What was once a space that needed an overhaul is now the true heart of the home. Kirchhoff and their kids share “special meals” (Aurora’s favorite part!) around the kitchen table and buffet set, which was a family heirloom from the 1950s. The new kitchen is bright, modern, and colorful — blending seamlessly with the rest of Kirchhoff’s gorgeous home. To see more, visit the full home tour on Apartment Therapy