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Before and After: The DIY Makeover That Made a Tiny Brooklyn Kitchen Work for a Family of 5 (For Just $1,200!)

published Jun 13, 2024
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Kitchen before renovation.
Credit: Lisa Miller

Even the smallest kitchens can be the heart of the home. Photographer turned content creator Lisa Miller moved her family of five from Tennessee to Brooklyn, New York, and swapped out open floor plans for a smaller rental apartment to pursue her creative dreams. But just because the home has fewer square feet doesn’t mean they had to sacrifice — especially when it came to their kitchen. 

Credit: Lisa Miller

“Our kitchen is very lived-in because we have three children, so it was my goal to make it usable and beautiful,” Lisa explains. “It’s a small space, and because we don’t have a dining room, I wanted to make it easy for us all to eat together.” 

Credit: Erin Derby

Because the space is a rental, Lisa needed to make changes that could be easily swapped out. The kitchen didn’t have the original architectural details, so she wanted to add charm to help it flow with the rest of the home. 

“The kitchen was slightly dated, but more than anything, it just needed a good scrub, some paint on the cabinets, and some organization and decor,” Lisa shares. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Although the family has only lived in the apartment for a few months, Lisa has made some substantial improvements, including installing floating shelves, painting the cabinets a taupe color, adding peel-and-stick wallpaper and a backsplash from Wallpops, and finding the right functional furniture. 

Credit: Erin Derby

We actually tried out a different table originally, but it was just too big, and we couldn’t move around the room easily,” she says. “I added a smaller round table with two drop leaves, which seemed to fit perfectly. I threw in some decor, which was mostly thrifted, and some cute brass pieces for some added character!”

Lisa admits that she makes changes just about every week, like adding in bamboo blinds for texture and privacy. All in all, she’s spent around $1,200 on the entire kitchen makeover so far. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Lisa also picked up some small-space storage tips along the way. She’s learned that storage bins and baskets are your “best friend” in tighter spaces, and that you should utilize furniture in your kitchen that might be traditionally placed in another room. For example, she used a media cabinet as a storage closet and pantry.

“Because we are apartment living, our kitchen kind of moonlights as a laundry space and just another hangout space,” Lisa notes. “I love that it feels like a place people can gather, even though it’s small. It makes me happy to see all the little details coming together.” 

This post originally appeared on The Kitchn. See it there: Before & After: A “Dated” Cramped Kitchen Gets a Bright, Airy Makeover (for Only $1,200!)