This kitchen remodel used DIY ideas, color, stainless steel and (lots of) elbow grease to revive a drab '70s kitchen into a family-friendly space.
By Barbara Schuetz
Josette and Peter Dudle had all the makings of outstanding DIYers when they bought their Tudor-style fixer-upper 13 years ago. They loved scouring antique shops for great buys and knew their way around a salvage yard. They had a stash of home improvement building blocks—lighting fixtures, paneling, wood scraps and more—stored in their garage. And Peter, a teacher by day, had honed his handyman skills at an early age, working on home projects alongside his dad, an expert woodworker and engineer.
So 10 months after moving in, the Prattville, Alabama, couple, with a new baby in tow, embarked on their first DIY adventure: a kitchen remodel. They were determined to modernize the 13-by-15 room while preserving the character of the 1946 home. The oak floor was in good shape, but nothing else was.
“The kitchen hadn’t been updated since the mid-1970s, so there was a lot of orange, brown and gold,” Josette recalls. “The dark cabinets and laminate counters were dated, and the fluorescent lighting seemed harsh. The double-pane garden window over the sink was mildewed and let in very little light.”
Big Job, Little Budget
On their must-have list for the kitchen remodel: a pantry, an enclosed refrigerator, more workspace and overall brightening. Since they’d started their family, their DIY kitchen needed to be kid-friendly, too. (They now have three children, Elizabeth, 13; Wolfe, 10; and Nick, 6.) It was a tall order, but despite their limited funds, the couple had a wealth of ideas.
Initially, they sacrificed some precious counter space by removing a peninsula that broke up the flow from the kitchen through a charming archway into the dining room. “Then Peter tore out a few sections of cabinets, resized them and rearranged them ‘Lego style’ to give the room a better balance,” Josette explains. “He pulled off wallpaper and removed trim, reusing the crown molding on the top of the cabinets.” To give the old cabinets a new look, they enhanced the doors with strips of wood before painting them.
That’s just one of the clever, budget-friendly improvements this resourceful couple dreamed up for their kitchen remodel. The countertops were a major coup. “I wanted granite, but the price was a deterrent,” says Josette, “so Peter sold me on stainless steel.” He meticulously measured the counters and had a metal fabrication shop cut the stainless steel to fit. A roofing company that made metal flashing turned down the edges, and the couple attached the new countertops right over the old laminate with Liquid Nails. Total cost for this DIY project? Just $350!
“I absolutely love them,” she says. “There’s no upkeep to speak of. They do get scratched, but the scratches overlap and sort of take on a brushed stainless look. One nice benefit is that stainless steel doesn’t burn. We can put a hot pan right on it.” Peter also turned an awkward space between the refrigerator and the back wall into a pantry and built an enclosure for the fridge using bead board paneling. He replaced the window over the sink with one he’d found at an antique store. And he installed two used schoolhouse-style lights and a Mission-style chandelier he found stored in the garage.
Room to Work
Josette, who loves to bake, still needed a central work area but didn’t want a traditional island with her kitchen remodel. The solution? A $75 prep table rescued from an out-of-business restaurant. “This table does it all,” she says. “The kids eat breakfast here every morning and work on school projects. It’s where we bake sugar cookies, dye Easter eggs, carve pumpkins, arrange flowers and wrap Christmas gifts.”
It complements the gleaming countertops and stainless steel appliances perfectly. Wait—how did this budget-savvy couple wind up with pricey stainless steel appliances? “They were our biggest expense,” Josette admits, “but we got them all, plus a range hood and stainless steel backsplash, for about $2,000.” They bought the microwave and fridge secondhand and got the dishwasher as a gift, so the stove was the only brand-new appliance.
With the stainless sheen and neutral burlap hue of the walls and cabinets, the room needed a spot of color. Two vintage stools with red vinyl seats—an antique shop find at $35 each—were Josette’s inspiration. Other pops of red include small appliances, old tins and other kitchen collectibles, and the back door, relocated from elsewhere in the house and painted poppy red.
Josette figures the kitchen remodel cost between $3,000 and $4,000 and took about five months—and they did it all themselves. “We did not hire out one single thing,” she says of their DIY achievement. “To this day, Peter and I still stare into the kitchen and say how great it turned out. I don’t want to change a thing.”
Click for a better look at the Dudles’ DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover floor plan.
Photography and styling by Kevin & Layla Palmer, The Lettered Cottage.