Before and After: This Family’s Dated 90s Kitchen Gets A Majorly Fresh Upgrade

published Jul 31, 2021
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Laurel Harry in kitchen with children.
Credit: Lindsey Stewart

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The kitchen in the 1999 Utah home that Laurel Harry and her husband bought six years ago didn’t exactly sell them on the house. Along with green carpet in the bathroom, the kitchen was all green, down to green laminate countertops. 

Credit: Photo courtesy of Laurel Harry

But even though the kitchen was dated and she didn’t love the log cabin vibes of the knotty alder cabinets in the home, Laurel could see the room’s potential with its open layout, functional island, and great natural light. 

A consummate thrifter (her husband calls her the wicker picker!) with a penchant for vintage dishware and exuberant color, Laurel approached the kitchen with an aim of creating a bright, fun space splashed with color for their growing family, which now includes a 10, 7, and 3-year old.

They retained the footprint in the three-month long renovation. Keeping the original cabinets and not moving the plumbing helped them keep to about a $15,000 budget.

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

But although the layout didn’t change, the floor to ceiling transformation was pretty dramatic. Their dark and cramped kitchen became an airy, happy space that perfectly showcases Laurel and her family’s joyful personalities and provides plenty of room for all five to gather, cook, and just hang out.

Laurel started with the cabinets, which initially looked so heavy and looming in brown. She gave them a fresh coat of light blue on the bottom and white on the top, which immediately opened up the space and helped the clean lines of the Shaker-style cabinets pop. Laurel’s personality shines through with the addition of an adorable tangerine-patterned wallpaper on the back of one of the upper cabinets. 

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

Why tangerines (besides just being super-cute)? “It reminds me of my childhood home where we had tangerine trees,” Laurel says. “My parents still own the house in California and we love visiting them and getting fresh tangerines.” The colorful pattern not only bakes in a fun childhood memory for her own littles, but “kind of inspired the other citrus pops and whimsical decor,” in the kitchen. 

That whimsy is showcased with glass-front cabinets that display her colorful vintage glassware collection, and color from small appliances and plants throughout the kitchen. 

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

It was also really important to Laurel that they add a backsplash, since the kitchen didn’t come with one. She opted for a lovely, soft gray and white herringbone pattern marble. Along with the dark gray quartz countertops they chose from Lowe’s, the backsplash serves as segue to help the cabinets flow together beautifully. 

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

And while Laurel loved having an island in the kitchen, it needed to be a bit bigger to become really functional for her family. They bought a butcher block top at Lumber Liquidators that was about a foot and a half longer than the existing top. Her (very handy DIYer!) husband installed the new countertop directly on top of the old one, which also raised the height just a bit. Going with the warm butcher block was one of her favorite decisions in the reno, Laurel said. “We use it all the time … we’ll make cookies just directly on the butcher block and not even have to put anything down.” It’s become family central, serving as the place the kids craft and do homework. Their own sets of dishes are housed in the island’s storage, so they can just grab their things themselves!

For the floors, they wanted the kitchen and the living room to have a seamless flow, so they ditched the pine kitchen flooring and living room carpet, and installed dark engineered hardwood throughout. Although she wishes they hadn’t gone with such a dark color with pets and kids in the house, she loves the open concept, especially when it comes to the kids. “We can watch them in the living room and talk to them when we’re making food,” she says.

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

The stars of the kitchen have to be the sleek, matte white GE Cafe appliances. Laurel started with the refrigerator, which she got for Mother’s Day last year, calling it her “dream fridge,” and eventually added the coordinating range and dishwasher. Having swapped from stainless steel, “I’d never go back,” she said. “It’s so nice to not have the fingerprints showing all the time!” Besides that perk, she says, “I just feel like it brightens up our kitchen a lot.”

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

They warmed up all the white with a clever, custom range hood cover her husband built and installed, and a matching enclosure for the fridge.

Laurel has continued to make little tweaks to the space, like swapping out cabinet hardware and replacing the light fixture. They painted the pantry door with chalkboard paint, so that’s become a place to leave sweet messages, like on family birthdays. She keeps it fresh and fun, switching things up with whimsical projects like crafting alphabet magnets and recently adding temporary decals to the fridge. A sweet citrus pattern complements the tangerine wallpaper; after all, she says, why have a white fridge if you can’t have some fun with it!?

Credit: Lindsey Stewart

The whole kitchen renovation speaks to her lighthearted approach. Kudos to Laurel for a renovation that gave them a gorgeous kitchen — but not a ‘“look, don’t touch” kind of space. She managed to make it picture-perfect, but also a dream space that’s meant to be lived in and thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family.