Whitney’s Fabulous $50 Budget Kitchen Makeover

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Cooking is in Whitney McGregor’s genes. She grew up cooking and eating and drinking wine with her mother and her many brothers and sisters. In every home she has ever lived, the kitchen is where people gather and where memories are made. So it’s no surprise that when she moved into her first home, fixing up the kitchen was first on her list. Her budget was tight, so tight in fact that it was virtually nonexistent.

But she didn’t let that stop her! Read on to see her amazing $50 kitchen transformation!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The kitchen, before

Whitney and her husband bought their home in Columbia, South Carolina, a year and a half ago. They were fresh out of college and not married yet, but wanted to buy a house instead of paying rent. They chose this house because of the large property (about an acre) and the spread-out floor plan. And the schools — not a very fun reason, but they aren’t planning on being here for long, so resale is something they had to put at the top of the list.

The kitchen definitely needed a refresh but there was no money to do any major renovations. So Whitney did three simple things to transform her kitchen:

1. Remove the doors on the top cabinets,

2. Paint the countertops and door knobs black, and…

3. Hang a new light.

The paint and brushes came in under $30 and light was on sale at PB Teen. The before and after shots, shown here and in the tour gallery, are a testament to how a few simple adjustments can make a huge difference. Bravo, Whitney!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
The kitchen, after

One of the favorite features of Whitney’s home is the “den” connected to the kitchen. She spends a lot of time in the kitchen and it’s nice to be able to talk to guests while she cooks. She calls herself an equal opportunity home chef. “I don’t discriminate.” says Whitney. “I like to cook all kinds of food from French to Japanese. I love to bake and mix up new cocktails. Any magic that happens in the kitchen — I’m on it!”

• You can read more about Whitney and her DIY home projects on her blog, The Avarice.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

10 Questions for Whitney (and Her Kitchen)

1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Wow. So much. Food has always been a huge part of my life. Many of my fondest family memories have occurred in one kitchen or another. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by fabulous women (and men) who love to cook and do it well. Traveling frequently and a study abroad in France was pretty influential and inspiring. I suppose all of these things also inspired how I decorate.

The kitchen was one of the only rooms in the house that I didn’t spend hours thinking about. I knew it was just a temporary fix, so I had no inhibitions about screwing up. I just let it happen. And that’s kind of how my cooking is. It’s so much a part of my life out of sheer habit. I start dinner, have a beer, turn on my Pandora (Jazz Radio) and just let it happen.

2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
I don’t have a lot of fancy gadgets. Most of my favorites are pretty standard: mixer, Dutch oven, good knives. We don’t have (or need) a microwave and up until recently, we didn’t have a toaster.

3. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked in this kitchen?
Every Christmas since we’ve lived in this house, we make prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and root vegetables. I look forward to this meal all year.

4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Oh where to begin. I will preface this answer by saying, I am grateful for everything we have. I love my kitchen and I could be, and have been, happy with much less. That being said, our oven is “vintage” as we like to tell people. It could heat the whole house and we’ve considered the option if it weren’t gas and didn’t cost us a small fortune to use at all. Other than this, the layout was poorly conceived leaving very little practical counter space. Despite all of this, I am still able to cook delicious meals made with a lot of love!

5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
So far, we’ve just made improvements to our kitchen, but have not yet fully renovated as we intend to do. So there have been no major changes, and no major regrets.

6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Because we have not fully renovated, only made it tolerable for now, there were no real “splurges.” My 5-quart Dutch oven cost more than our entire kitchen makeover. However, when we eventually do renovate, I would rather splurge on appliances than high end finishes. This is a working kitchen – I use it every day, multiples times per day – I prefer to spend money making it practical instead of making it show house beautiful.

7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
When we eventually renovate, I would love to remove almost all of the upper cabinets. It’s a small kitchen and all of the cabinets make it feel even tinier. I also want to move the peninsula back about a foot and turn that into a workspace. I would remove the stove top from the peninsula and the entire unit where the wall oven is now and put a large gas stove there. The countertops will eventually be replaced and the remaining cabinets at least painted or refaced.

Our home is modest and comfortable and the kitchen will remain that way as well. We were thinking butcher block countertops and stainless steel shelves instead of the cabinets. I love the look of a free standing, hodge podge kitchen (think Bridges of Madison County), but this isn’t our permanent home and, unfortunately, we have to keep resale in mind.

8. How would you describe your cooking style?
I cook like I decorate. It’s eclectic and nostalgic and sometimes impulsive. I like to have fun and I am not a low fat low calorie person, but I am a stickler for ingredients. I believe in supporting local farms – food tastes better when it’s fresh. When I lived in France, I went to the market every morning and bought fresh produce and cheese for the day. Living there made me really think about how I cook and what I put into my body.

9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
There is perfection in simplicity. It’s really life advice, but I apply it to my cooking.

10. What are you cooking this week?
Tonight, I am preparing a beet salad with goat cheese and a simple vinaigrette. At some point this week, I want to try Pappa al Pomodoro – a chunky tomato soup with pieces of ciabatta in it – it’s a simple recipe and I love soup in the fall.

We have guests coming from out of town, so I’ll probably make meatloaf – good old fashioned comfort food makes guests feel at home. We usually have homemade pizza at least one night a week – generally on the weekends and the toppings vary based on what we have in the fridge. Sometimes it’s pancetta and goat cheese – sometimes it’s Fontina and red onion. It all depends on what’s left from the week. I almost always have the ingredients for anchovy pasta just in case we need a quick meal and, it’s a busy week, so we’ll probably have that. It’s so simple and delicious. My husband hates anchovies and loves this pasta.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


• The countertop paint we purchased at the local home improvement store. It is Rust-Oleum Countertop paint in Onyx and we paid roughly $30 for it.
• The chandelier I purchased on clearance from pbteen.com for less than $50.
• The island is from IKEA.
• The toaster is WARING and we’re pretty pumped about it.
• The mixer is KitchenAid.
• The oven is Frigidaire circa 1975 and it’s for sale if anyone is interested.

• For more about this project, see Whitney’s blog, The Avarice

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Thank you so much for letting us peek into your kitchen, Whitney!
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