new kitchen, old cabinets: the no-fail formula for making it fabulous

A recent flurry of kitchen reno reveals by talented bloggers has convinced me once and for all that there is a borderline no-fail formula for fixing dated kitchens on a budget.   
  1. Paint the lowers a dark moody blue or black
  2. Paint the uppers white
  3. Switch out the countertop for one that matches (or closely resembles) either of the cabinet colours
  4. Add in white subway tile and some pretty new hardware
  5. Step back and admire the amazing
It works to save "recently renovated" aka horrible builder basic kitchens...



...and just as well on older models that are crying out for some love...


...but what excites me most is the difference a pared down version can make in a rental.

A good friend of mine recently moved into a new place, and asked for my advice on how to save its lackluster kitchen. A classic rental set-up, it included flat panel wood doors with exposed hinges and wood-look counters. Unfortunately, the previous tenants had painted the doors of the cabinets a different colour (beige) than the boxes (white). A bit like this.

Why people think that's a good look I will never understand.

When I saw it I immediately thought of this amazing kitchen that designer Samantha Pynn transformed in her brother’s Toronto rental:


Pretty much the exact kitchen I was working with and so damn chic.

While Samantha had splurged for a new counter, I also remembered a pic I'd saved from an old rental listing in which they'd stuck with the faux-wood. It still looked killer:


Going all-white works in these kinds of kitchens, for sure, but it definitely reads more "rental". This look is so much more interesting and sophisticated, and shows that you're slightly more daring but in a damn good way. Screw lemonade, this is taking those lemons and making whiskey sours.

Here are my friend's results:

The new brass knobs against the blue-black cabinets are just the icing on the cake. I love it, but more importantly she loves it. Success.

We're seeing this look more and more, so I'm sure there'll be a backlash soon enough, but I won't care. In my books, it's a keeper. If your reno budget won't cover an overhaul and/or your landlord won't throw a hissy (like mine would), then I say consider this your foolproof fix for a boring hub-of-home.

Have some of you already done this in your own home? Anyone already sick of the look? What surefire fix do you prefer?

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  1. Amazing post! I love that your friend took your genius advice, and it's so vicariously satisfying to see the results.

  2. the transformation in that first kitchen is amazing. loving your style!

  3. We are doing this in our {hated} kitchen and I am so excited. Huge fan of the dark bottom and white tops!!

    We decided not to gut because we plan on buying our forever home in the next year but I needed at least a facelift to get me through then. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Natalie @ dishesrunwaysandbriefcases.com


Your comments make me borderline giddy! Thanks so much for taking the time!