Kitchen Gets Parisian Makeover

Interior designer Linda Merrill refreshes her kitchen with a budget of $500 and a little help from her friends.

KItchen gets a new look for just $500.

KItchen gets a new look for just $500.

Bright ideas. Recessed lights and out-of-sight storage were two major changes Linda made, along with spruced-up cabinets and a new window treatment. Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Interior Design Kitchen

Interior Design Kitchen

Before: Interior Designer and blogger Linda Merrill wanted to refresh her kitchen (and add more storage) on a budget of just $500. Photography by Linda Merrill.

Complementary colors and contrasting textures fill kitchen.

Complementary colors and contrasting textures fill kitchen.

Details in pink shades, smooth apple green ceiling matches the cabinet interiors and textures ranging from coppery shine to embossed wallpaper (not beadboard!) to nubby burlap. Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Corner features cookie jar and flatware containers.

Corner features cookie jar and flatware containers.

Linda’s childhood cookie jar rests on the original Formica counter. With limited drawer space, Linda keeps her flatware in bright copper containers. Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Paint pretties up cabinets inside and out.

Paint pretties up cabinets inside and out.

Bare shelves worked best in the cabinets; a burlap skirt conceals storage under the new counter. Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Existing cabinetry was repainted and sanded.

Existing cabinetry was repainted and sanded.

Sanding the cabinets gave them character. Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Bargain cabinet pulls look like vintage crystal.

Bargain cabinet pulls look like vintage crystal.

They shine brighter when they’re a bargain! Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Kitchen has Parisian accents.

Kitchen has Parisian accents.

Linda Merrill enjoys the fruits of her efforts: a Parisian-themed kitchen she is proud to show off to friends. Photography by Michael J. Lee.

Linda Merrill's kitchen floor plan.

Linda Merrill's kitchen floor plan.

Layout to Linda’s Parisian-themed kitchen.

Interior designer Linda Merrill.

Interior designer Linda Merrill.

Linda Merrill. Photograhpy by Gretje Ferguson.

 

By Linda Merrill
Duxbury, MA

The challenge? To give my drab kitchen a whole new look, with more storage, for just $500. Was I up for it? Absolutely!

My kitchen is small, but these days it’s my favorite room in my townhouse condo. It’s always been plenty big enough to fix dinner when I have friends over—and it cleans up fast. But with only two drawers, I’d waged a constant battle with clutter and storage in my nine years there.

That wasn’t just annoying, it was embarrassing, since I’d started an interior design business, and people expect interior designers to have perfect homes. But beyond new flooring when I moved in, my growing business had left no time to oversee a redo. That is, until the economy and the real estate market crashed.

Now I had time, but less money. So when I got an opportunity to trade my expertise for new kitchen appliances, I challenged myself to a shoestring update—$500. That forces you to think hard to get the most out of every single dollar. I certainly didn’t want my kitchen looking cheap! I wanted a unified look—country, with a little sparkle—and more storage. So, while the new appliances sparked the makeover, they don’t really represent its heart.

I thought through everything, from lighting to storage. Since my knotty pine cabinets were in decent shape, I stripped and repainted them. I repurposed a door I’d taken off elsewhere, turning it into a counter. Truly, “Reduce, reuse and recycle” is good for the pocketbook and the environment.

What did I buy new, besides paint? Embossed wallpaper that looked amazingly like beadboard added interest to the walls. New recessed lighting was a necessity. I added plastic shelving, hidden by a burlap skirt. I ripped apart my Roman shade to use as a pattern for a matching window treatment.

Longtime friend Rob O’Connell, a self-taught handyman, gave me an afternoon every week for six months, helping scrape the ugly popcorn ceiling, install the lighting and lots more. Ambitious, yes, but I was confident. My dad, an electrical engineer, was such a DIY guy that we never had contractors working in our home. (He built an entire kitchen himself.) Whenever I was tempted to cut corners, such as maybe not sanding the cabinets, I’d hear my dad’s voice in my ear— “Ahem!”—and get back on track. I know he’d be proud of my kitchen and the strong friendships it represents.

My kitchen update would have cost $2,000 more with hired labor. I love the new look, but even more than that, I love what’s behind it: the problem solving, the hard, hands-on work, and the spirit of collaboration. You just can’t buy that—which makes my kitchen priceless.

Want to learn Linda’s tips for a kitchen refresh on a budget? Get more from Linda here.

About the author: Linda Merrill of Duxbury, Massachusetts, writes for ::Surroundings:: and other blogs that feature her expertise in interior design combined with her background in marketing and media communications.

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