Before & After: This Blah Kitchen’s Stunning DIY Redo Is Full of Smart Hacks

updated Mar 3, 2021
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Before: Bare kitchen with dark wood cabinets
Credit: Alyssa Murphy

There’s style potential in even the bleakest of spaces — and if you’re skeptical, let this apartment kitchen redo convince you. Alyssa Murphy moved into this apartment on short notice, after her roommate got a new job and Alyssa was forced to relocate. “The only reason I lead with that is to explain what compelled me to move into an apartment that looked like the ‘before’ picture featured here, which, surprisingly, is actually a flattering photo of the space,” Alyssa says.

Credit: Alyssa Murphy

The kitchen left a lot to be desired: there was old termite damage, a stove thick with grease, and “a fluorescent light fixture that could have been pulled straight out of a nondescript corporate office in middle America,” Alyssa says. To put it bluntly, Alyssa had her work cut out for her.

Credit: Alyssa Murphy

Thankfully, Alyssa wasn’t scared to dive straight into DIY. “In a stunning display of blind confidence, I decided to paint the entire apartment AND all the cabinets by myself,” Alyssa says. “I don’t recommend doing this — especially if you, like me, have never painted anything in your life.”

Even if it was trickier than she’d anticipated, Alyssa’s DIY job paid off. The new bright white color (Benjamin Moore’s Super White) makes the cabinets look brand-new. Alyssa also added some new hardware that gives the plain cabinet faces a higher end look.

“The white cabinets were definitely a substantial improvement in the kitchen, but I still felt the space looked pretty boring and bare,” says Alyssa. Specifically, they didn’t quite hide the dull “wet dirt” colored countertops (Alyssa’s words!); cracked, pale purple breakfast bar; or grungy tile floors.

Credit: Alyssa Murphy

For those, Alyssa reached for peel-and-stick magic: marble contact paper to cover the counters, butcher block contact paper for the breakfast bar, deep blue stick-on subway tile for the backsplash, and even peel-and-stick Spanish-style tiles for the floor.

While Alyssa also scored a new fridge, the range is actually the same one as before. Alyssa spray painted the knobs gold, to match her hardware, and made a new handle for the oven door using a curtain rod (also sprayed gold).

Credit: Alyssa Murphy

To give her kitchen some separation from the rest of her living space, Alyssa reached for IKEA’s trusty BILLY bookcase. Placed on the left of the fridge and topped with a trailing plant, the cabinet acts as a makeshift wall — and with its trendy cane-front doors, it’s a stylish storage spot, too.

Alyssa finished up the kitchen with a new light fixture, open shelves, and plenty of plants. Now, it’s unrecognizable in the best way. And the best part: Alyssa was able to do the whole project on her own.

Although running into a project head-first like this can be scary, Alyssa strongly believes the end result completely outweighs the risk and fear. “I’d really encourage readers, especially young women, to not be deterred by the prospect of doing renovations by yourself! I went into this not knowing anything about painting, mounting, or using power tools, but it was incredibly easy to learn just through research, or by watching Youtube videos,” she says. “Doing it myself let me save a whole bunch of money, and I learned a lot of handy new skills in the process.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: This Blah Kitchen’s Stunning DIY Redo Is Full of Smart Style Hacks