Before & After: I Transformed My Kitchen for Less than $200 and It Still Looks Great a Year Later

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Credit: Ann Loynd Burton

Makeover by: Ann Loynd Burton
Location: Fairfield County, Connecticut

Last May, my husband and I relocated from New York City to the suburbs in Fairfield County, Connecticut. We found a roomy, two-bedroom apartment with the trifecta: A dishwasher, spacious balcony, and in-unit laundry. This combination of things in one place simply does not exist in Manhattan unless you fork over a small fortune.

However, our place is by no means perfect. Take the kitchen, which was in need of a serious makeover. Not only did it have dark cabinets and clunky hardware, but there was also a sticky bronze film over everything. The green laminate countertops — complete with a prominent, circular burn mark — were straight out of the ’90s.

Credit: Ann Loynd Burton

The Process

With permission from my landlord to paint the cabinets, I knew I could breathe new life into the space. I wanted a beautiful space to enjoy for the next several years, but didn’t want to invest a ton of time or money to improve someone else’s condo. With a few days off for the Fourth of July, I busted out my DIY chops and got to work.

For less than $200, I painted all of the cabinets and covered the countertops in marble self-adhesive paper. (It’s removable, so I didn’t ask for permission.) I took down the doors, removed the hardware, filled the holes with wood filler, and painted everything in a blue-gray Valspar cabinet paint from Lowes. For around $50 a gallon, this paint goes over any surface. Translation? No sanding.

With the cabinets done, I got to work covering the countertops in self-adhesive paper. I wrote about the whole process on my personal blog and received a ton of inquiries as to how everything has held up since. In a word: great.

Credit: Ann Loynd Burton

The Transformation

It’s been nearly a year since I transformed my kitchen and it still looks great.  I would recommend self-adhesive paper countertops for anyone renting an apartment with a subpar kitchen (if your landlord is really strict, though, check with them in advance). It looks incredibly real, as all of my house guests have commented. That said, my husband and I treat our kitchen with care. I’m not sure how they’d hold up to kids and stray crayons, but the internet has its share of water and oil-resistant styles.

When your lease is up, use a little warm air from a hairdryer to peel the paper off. Yes, it’s that easy.

Credit: Ann Loynd Burton

The Expert Advice

This might sound self-explanatory, but you can’t slice food on the bare countertop without leaving a nick. I was in a rush cutting a lime once and created a teeny tiny hole on the edge of my counter. It’s nothing worth covering with new paper, but I did purchase an extra roll in case we accidentally cut into the paper.

Another tip? Keep an eye out for pesky stains. My contact paper hasn’t ripped or bubbled over time, but it can stain if you aren’t careful. Saturated food items like tomato sauce or curry will leave a light pink or yellow tinge behind. I’ve found that wiping with a Clorox wipe right away does the trick. If something has been sitting for a while, a faint stain will probably be there to stay, but it’s not terribly noticeable. 

Thanks, Annie!

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Transformed My Kitchen for Under $200—and it Still Looks Great a Year Later