Before and After: An ’80s Kitchen Gets a Retro-Meets-Scandi Look

published Nov 11, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Before: a dining table in a blue kitchen with brown cabinets

Sometimes, a change as simple as painting the cabinets will rescue a dated kitchen, but sometimes, the kitchen needs more work than that, like in Jessica (@jessicaldesign) and Jon Hudson’s home, where the kitchen’s 1981 finishes needed major updating.

“We were hoping we could just refresh the cabinets and counters in the kitchen to start with until a bigger project down the line,” Jessica explains. “However, once we moved in we realized the cabinets were sticky and smelled strongly musty and basically unusable.”

They reached out to some professional painters, but every professional turned them down and recommended replacing the cabinets. This, in turn, gave Jessica carte blanche to think about her ideal kitchen layout.

“One thing I was sure of was [I wanted] to hide the microwave and install a new exhaust to really open that space up,” she says. “This was our first kitchen we owned, so I wanted to take a few bold moves and decided on a teal cabinet and this lovely vintage flower tile backsplash.”

Jessica also opted for butcher block counters, “the perfect way to add warmth but also so much easier on the budget,” she says, and a kitchen island, which made up for storage lost with taking out some of the upper cabinets. And the floor was redone with new light wood-lookalike vinyl floor panels.

As far as the process goes, the new cabinets took about six months to manufacture due to supply chain delays. In the meantime, Jessica, Jon, and Jessica’s parents worked on changes they could make themselves. Jessica and Jon often eat at home, so at the very least, they needed a bare-bones cooking setup.

“We removed some of the unwanted cabinets, put in the new butcher block counter, a new sink, and faucet,” Jessica says. “We also ordered and replaced some of the appliances, the oven being one of them, which sparked a fire one night and stopped working, but luckily, we were able to find things in stock and replaced it within two weeks.”

When the cabinets arrived six months later, they hired pros to install them, and the pros also installed the floors and the backsplash. “The tiles are my favorite thing ever, and they make me smile every time I enter the kitchen,” Jessica says. “I might have chosen a different floor if I were to do anything differently. I feel like it isn’t as scratch- and stain-resistant as I would have hoped for, but otherwise, this is seriously our dream kitchen and came true far sooner than expected.”

Jessica also added new lighting and new barstools from Wayfair. Her three biggest kitchen reno takeaways? First, paint isn’t always the Band-Aid fix you want it to be, second, adding an island is totally worth it for added prep and dining space, and third, don’t be afraid to go bold with a color like teal in the kitchen. “I love that we weren’t afraid of color,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try something different.”

Jessica says she’s proud that her vision came to life and that the mix of furnishings create a fun mix of styles within the space. “I’d call it modern eclectic,” she says. “It has a kind of ’60s feel, a nod to the Scandinavian vibe, and a hippy happy home mood.”