because cookie cutter kitchens bug me

This really cool gal named Haley wrote me recently. It went a little somethin’ like this:

“…I’ve never seen you really post anything about kitchens… We are trying to redo our kitchen with a very low budget – before expecting our first child in January. We are trying to do most of the work ourselves (eek!) and have torn up the linoleum and are in the process of puling up plywood to reveal original hardwoods that I think I plan to paint instead of refinish. Husband has already demo’ed a closet so we get more counter space and we’re about to have a little help knocking out a wall! Our house is a 1925 craftsmen close to downtown birmingham and almost everything in the house (except the kitchen) is original. Here’s the dilemma: I haven’t even decided what im doing with cabinets, countertops, paint colors… I know! I’ve lost my mind and gotten way ahead of myself! I just can’t find anything that makes me swoon! Kitchens are all just sooooo generic these days… Beige and granite, beige and granite. I live in a really fun neighborhood convenient to downtown, so lots of college kids, hospital residents, artists and young professionals. My point: I don’t have to go with ”what sells” for my kitchen, it’s a very eclectic neighborhood. Here’s where you come in :) …{would you do a} ”decorating a kitchen” post just for me? 😉 and put everything you’ve ever thought was beautifully done in a kitchen against the backdrop of some unique and exciting kitchens. Decorators never do kitchen posts, only remodelers. And when they do, what do I get? Beige and granite…

First things first: I totally feel ya, Haley. Our kitchen didn’t even have granite. But we were definitely rockin’ the beige.

You guys should have read the rest of her email. She had me laughing out loud. And I gotta love a Birmingham gal. {It’s my hometown!} But since our big kitchen purge, I haven’t really posted many inspiring kitchen pics. I did a few, and then dove right in, because I knew exactly what I wanted. We were on a tight budget as well, so she’s in good company.

I could post on kitchens, one a day, for the rest of my life. Honestly, they just go on…and on…and on…and these are only just a few. In the photos I chose for this post, some of them are just for inspiration, but the majority of them were done by real people in real homes on real budgets. And I love studying that process. Especially before I delve into it on my own. So be sure to click on the link provided for a lot of these, to take you there, and you can read all about it. I think this will help you just as much as purdy pics.

You can also read more about our personal process, here.  Enjoy!












Quite possibly one of the coolest kitchens I’ve seen in a while. Peacock on a vintage fridge? Why not?



the late and great domino via pinterest

A note for those who may feel like they aren’t allowed: It’s awesome that Haley lives in a fun, older neighborhood like that. But I have a home philosophy, and it hinges on the fact that I got tired of waiting because I was afraid. I honestly don’t care if a (cough-boring) person doesn’t like my home because I painted it white. If I have to wait for a while, for it to sell, because it was done in a different way, then it just means I am handing a home that we cherished and enjoyed with memories over to someone who will enjoy and appreciate it as much as we did. More importantly, it also means I loved my house and turned into a home with its fullest potential while I had it, FOR US. I just get tired of feeling limited “because of the market” or some imaginary person’s tastes. I’m getting preachy, and you’re now all kinds of “woah, down, girl” I just say, if you love it, DO IT. I hate to see others feel so limited. Life will take care of itself. {cue seriously over the edge dramatic music} Break the CHAINS of REAL ESTATE SLAVERY! Digression. Finito.

Back to reality: While I was at it, I thought I’d include some things I learned from our own redo on a budget a-la builder’s beige blech kitchens:

Little things make a big impact. And if you don’t have the funds for a “real live” tile backsplash, there’s always other options. For instance, above, we have a brilliant stenciled project for quite the elegant look…or Jamin and I used wainscoting for our backsplash {as seen below} More bang for your buck.

Not all countertops {for the LOVE} have to be granite. Butcher’s block from Ikea comes in super affordable options! You pick your finish, and it gives it a super elegant, unique look.


Think outside the box of conventional kitchen-esque materials. Want an island but don’t have the funds for some grandiose monstrosity? Sometimes less is more. I adore how they chose a simple, contrasting color to pop against the green cabinets above. It serves its purpose while suddenly becoming the focal point of the room as one great island. I’m not so sure that space would be quite as interesting, without it.
Get rid of it: Have obnoxious linoleum on your floors, but don’t have the budget for hardwoods? That’s okay. Neither do we. If it’s driving you crazy, rip it up. Something fun and different {like above} may serve its purpose nicely in the meantime. OR, you may just decide {gasp!} that you like it. FOR. EV. VER. {okay. I’ll stop now.}
Pops of color can go a long way. A little yellow, {or red, or blue or green or grey or…} can make a space. And consider ripping out those box-like upper cabinets to open up your space, if it makes sense for you. Especially if they’re old and gross. People are proclaiming it as trendy, but I disagree. Anything can be timeless with the right execution. If you love it, stop worrying. Just go for it.
If you’re going traditional, steer clear of cookie cutter. {no matter what your color} This kitchen was done well with a nice balance of light and beautiful greys to cancel out the otherwise overwhelming brown. I for one, love this space. And I don’t usually swoon over dark kitchens. YUMMY!
Think through your choices and your options…your money can go further than you think!
I hope you found this at least a little helpful, Haley! And of course, I’d love to see some of those great before and after pics I just KNOW will be coming my way when all is said and done! 😉 Congrats with that sweet blessing of a little one on the way!
What about you guys? What say you with saving money on those big redos? Any personal tips you can give, straight from the veterans who have been there before? Anything you’ve been afraid to try, but you’re ready to do anyway? STICK it to the MAN! I’d love to hear!
Happy Monday!

PS: Don’t forget about our first real linky partay tomorrow! I’d love to see you there!

This entry was posted in eye candy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
Be Sociable, Share!

Responses to because cookie cutter kitchens bug me

  1. That’s an amazing array of much choice, where would one begin! Great post.

  2. jeannett says:

    wow! thanks for including me in this amazing collection of kitchens! lots of people were horrified when i told them i was painting over my 6 year old cabinets, but it’s what i wanted, and i LOVE it. love. as an aside, we’ve added glass subway tiles as a backsplash since the photo you posted. i think it really completed the look. :)

  3. Lori says:

    We just remodeled our 1895 three story house… and with three stories to gut and redo, you can bet our budget for each room was miniscule. One thing we found helpful in redoing a historic home was our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We got some awesome narrow cabinetry salvaged from a 1915 home (it had been marked down to $2!) We cut it down to the length we wanted, my husband painted it an awesome grey, we found vintage hardware for the doors and topped it with a salvaged piece of Carrera marble. Total cost for the floor to ceiling cabinetry project, including the marble: $102. This is going to sound way too Zen, but it’s true: be patient and have an open mind about how you want to accomplish your vision. Cool things will find you. :) (Also: forget Lowe’s. You can find AWESOME one-of-a-kind lighting at antique stores for waaaay less! An interesting light fixture can transform ordinary into amazing!)

  4. Catherine says:

    We just finished building our home. For the kitchen, we went with Ikea cabinetry as it is the greatest deal around. We love them. They look beautiful and are very functional. We used a composite quartz countertop to balance out the economical cabinets (and, unlike granite, you don’t ever have to seal it). Like Ashley was talking about here, we have very few upper cabinets which makes our kitchen feel open, and if you have a pantry and lots of lower cabinets/ drawers for storage, you should be fine without them. The look is certainly nicer, in my opinion, you just have to make sure the function is there.

    Painting old cabinetry, though, if it is in good shape, may be the most economical option. In our old place (a trailer), I painted all of our horrid, brown cabinets. It was a huge job, but made a huuuuge difference in our little space when they went from brown to white. You need to clean with TSP, then prime, and then paint a couple of coats. I went a step further by adding sheets of white tissue paper to the cabinet doors and painting the second coat of white overtop of the tissue. It crinkles a bit and gives them a really great texture!

    Excited about the party tomorrow. I have a post getting all dressed up.

  5. Brooke says:

    Great post! So true– enjoy it while you live there!!

  6. My soul! I’m kitchen inspired after all those pics! :) xo

  7. Christina says:

    I am IN LOVE with your kitchen and I am loving all the photos, I find it SO inspirational, thank you!

  8. Leanne says:

    Great post! You wouldn’t, by any chance, have any inspiration photos of great kitchens with slanted ceilings do you? Everything beautiful I see when I look around is the cabinets up high and lovely with the molding kissing the roof… but the ceiling above my cabinets is at an angle. Right now I have frames up there but I’m not loving it and I’m not really sure what else to do!

  9. Christine says:

    It’s like you found all of the most beautiful kitchens on the web and brought them together! Love it!

  10. Stephanie says:

    It breaks my heart that all the other rooms in the house are done, and we saved the kitchen for last. . . and now we may have to sell it. We should have just jumped on it when we could and not waited. Sigh.

  11. Sarah says:

    I recently discovered the play kitchen you made for your kids and I’m in love and inspired. I already purchased my thrift store pieces to begin this project as a Christmas present for my kids. I was wondering if you could tell me about the tea stain you did. Also finding inspiration from your playroom. Thank you!!!

  12. louise says:

    beautiful inspiration! I have another question on the subject!We have two walls of cabinets that my husband and a friend made out of fir. They had to be custom, old house, blah blah… They are beautiful, but now I want a nook turned into more cabinets. And my husband and his friend aren’t interested in making more cabinets. Do you think it would be odd for the base cabinets in the nook to be white with all the other cabinets being fir? I see it with the islands being a different color, but this is a little different… Would love your thoughts! (ps. I’m trying to convince myself that the white would not be wierd! :) )

  13. Dorothy says:

    Thank you for all the gorgeous inspiration. I love white cabinets and touches, or more than touches, of blue. I’m wondering if sometime you might offer some words of wisdom to those of us stuck with the dreaded beige/almond in our countertops and backsplash tiles. In our case, I’d love to paint the cabinets white, and the floor is wood, but we think if we were to change our Corian countertops, it would wreck the bottom cabinets. And new cabinets are NOT in the budget for now. So white cabinets don’t contrast enough against almondish countertops, nor are they white enough to look good! I wonder if I should go with a really, light, pretty very light beige like Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan and paint the ceiling and/or island or lower cabinets blue..?? Then I’d use blue/turquoise and cora;/orange accents. I don’t know, but I’m sure envying the people with white, gray, and black countertops right now!

  14. Shannon R says:

    So excited to see the pic form “under the sycamore”. I found it months ago and I have been kicking myself for not saving the link. I LUV her table runner!!

  15. Kitchen before-and-afters have got to be the best kind. So satisfying!
    Didn’t realise how fars yours had come… w.o.w.
    People here seem to think its a deadly sin to paint over anything wooden, but am SO converted.

  16. I have one!!! When we moved into our current house (cookie cutter neighborhood, Pla!) We had white kitchen cabinets, a black silestone countertop, white glossy tile backsplash, and black and white appliances. Doesn’t sound too bad, but the combo didn’t flow. I painted the cabinets a creamy off white and distressed them, and, (this is my favorite part), faux finished the backsplash. I primed it with an off-white tinted primer and then went over it with wall-joint compound, creating a plaster-like appearance. (and re-enforcing the grout lines), then I created a pattern with the putty using stencils, and painted over the top of the whole thing. cost me next to nothing, and it changed the look entirely! (there are a couple of pics on my new FB page). Now I’m going to paint the cabinets a creamy smokey light blue and add glass knobs. I’m so excited to get started!! BTW…Hobby Lobby has the best knobs at the best prices! (especially if you go when they are half off)

  17. Nichole says:

    Thanks a ton!! LOVED the inspiration pics!! 😉

  18. Leslie J says:

    We have these honey colored ghastly cabinets that neither of us can muster the energy to paint yet. We just repainted the kitchen a dark green to try to spur us on to the white cabinets. After I pop out this baby, maybe I can come up with the wherewithal.
    BUT i will say, I hate our granite! Is that sacriligeous (sp?)? It’s throwing a kink in the plan of the budget redo. Would love some dark concrete counters or something more organic. Along with new floors. And crown molding. And new appliances. Time to buy a lottery ticket.

  19. Beth says:

    Ashley I just love your kitchen. It makes me smile every time you post pics. :) I’m sure you have the same feeling every time you go in it!

  20. abra says: you really came through on this one—LOVE the kitchens you shared, thank you thank you thank you! we are getting ready to sell our current home and buy another one, and i cannot wait till i can redo a kitchen, open shelving, swoon!

  21. I love your kitcken, and you were great on the nate show, I have a question I have a old fashioned pie cabinet that belonged to my mother in law. I painted it but it just doesn’t look old fashioned and welcoming any ideas on colors or anything i can do to it ?

  22. amanda says:

    amazing roundup – LOVE it all!

  23. wow!!! absolutely love all of these kitchens. Bits & pieces from each one would result in the PERFECT kitchen!