The Secret For A Cheap, Chic Kitchen Refresh

Hi Everyone,

First of all, before we get into our kitchen refresh; thank you so much for all of the beautiful birthday wishes! My son is here and we are having a wonderful visit.


Cale with Rascal Thanksgiving 2019.

And, I’m glad so many of you enjoyed Tuesday’s post regarding Kathy’s bedroom decorating ideas you might not have considered.


Today, I’m continuing with Kathy’s kitchen. I thought it would be great to do a post about a thrifty kitchen refresh.



There’s just one problem.


affordable decorating ideas for a modest kitchen - kitchen refresh


Originally, I only saw this image.

For some reason, I figured that she hadn’t done the kitchen.

I should’ve known better because, clearly, the gorgeous ceiling and shiplap are the tell that she had already redone it; or, at least someone did fairly recently.

I figured that on the other end of the kitchen, I was going to be met with something that didn’t quite go with the dining area.

Indeed, I was wrong.


Dining area looking at kitchen

Kathy definitely redid the kitchen!

And, I must say that she did a very nice job. It’s not a super-high-end kitchen. But, I checked out some real estate listings in her area. And for a small town in central Texas, this is a spectacular kitchen.


A lot of us are in a similar situation, when it comes to renovating our homes.


In fact, I daresay that most of us are. We don’t have huge sums to put into a full kitchen remodel.


In fact, over the years, I enjoyed helping my clients do what I called a kitchen “botox.”

That usually meant new counters, backsplash and appliances. The cabinets get painted and with new hardware. Those were some of my favorite projects.

On the blog, I’ve gone over some ways to take and old kitchen and give it new life.

And, this one talks about painting the kitchen cabinets.

Alas, I don’t get to do that here. However, there are a few tweaks I would make to take this room up a notch.


However, Kathy has some things to say about her kitchen refresh. And, most of it parallels my thinking:


Hi Laurel,

Here are some answers to your questions and some more information about the kitchen.

Yes, we gutted the old kitchen almost immediately upon moving in.  I guess you’d call it a “half galley” kitchen. It was one 13-foot wall of cabinets with the range on the left wall and the refrigerator on the right wall. Both of those appliances were freestanding. 


Where the table is now was a huge wood burning stove that heated the whole house we were told. But, of course, that left no room for a table.


Dining area with banquette - kitchen refresh


And, what could have been the small dining room in the front of the house was used as a music room.  I’m still scratching my head as to how this elderly woman hosted large family gatherings. All she had was a table against the wall where the hutch is now.

[Maybe they ate standing up? haha]


I designed the whole kitchen and banquette myself. A local cabinet shop fabricated everything.


When the cabinetry was installed, I ordered the countertops and white granite sink. Originally there was supposed to be a beautiful Kohler white cast iron sink. However, it was deemed too heavy for the counter to support properly. Then they ordered the wrong one. Yikes! However, they let us keep this one for free.  It was a no-brainer at the time, but I’ll never get a granite sink again. It stains and has to be cleaned daily with Bar Keeper’s Friend.

Oh, I’d love a bank of windows over the sink area to let in some more light or to knock down the wall between the kitchen and office to get morning light in there. However, that would mean moving two load-bearing walls.


And, I’d love to figure out some new flooring.


So, any additional renovations will have to wait.


kitchen refresh - stainless steel island


Thanks so much Kathy.

First off, I think that she did a terrific job! I have not seen the before. But, from her description which I edited, it sounded pretty dreadful.

And, I love the shiplap and the detail on the ceiling as it suits this small home in a charming way. These aren’t expensive fixes, but they add a lot to the over-all feel of the room.


The one major issue I’m having with this kitchen refresh is the kitchen floor. And, I’m glad that Kathy would like to change it.


I mean there’s nothing terrible about it, but it’s not up to the level of the rest of the room. And, therefore is dragging the rest of it down. (no pun intended)

But, a couple of things. Changing out the ceramic tile is a horrible, toxic, messy job. It will fill the entire home with dust. Yuck. That is, unless the workers are super careful. Well, they usually aren’t.

Plus, an upgrade to the floor will be expensive.


However, you can definitely paint ceramic tile.


So, at the very least, a plain white floor to coordinate with the cabinetry would be an improvement.

I’m thinking like William McLure is always painting his floors white.


But, I’m thinking of something with more pizzazz for this cozy retro-inspired kitchen.


And, here’s the reason.

It’s the dark hutch. Almost everything else is white or stainless steel.

While the hutch is very nice, it’s creating an imbalance.

Well, that is, unless you’re selling your house.

So, for the floor, what I’m thinking is a white floor with a soft black stencil design to mimic an encaustic cement floor.

Could we just paint the hutch? Yes, but I actually do like some wood tones in a white kitchen. That’s one way to keep a white kitchen from being “cold.”


But, getting back to the encaustic tile floor look-alike.


Wit and Delight - via Domino Mag - Encaustic Cement kitchen floor

Wit and Delight – via Domino Mag – Encaustic Cement kitchen floor


Above is just one example of such a floor. But, this one is the real thing; not stenciled over ceramic tile.

You can see some beautiful encaustic cement floors in this post. And, also in this post about my kitchen and kitchen floor.

And, then there’s one of my favorite posts about some great ideas for kitchen floors that aren’t tacky.


Wait, Laurel? You can paint on top of ceramic tile?


Yes, actually, with the proper prep and paint, you can paint pretty much anything! Don’t believe me? Take a looky below at what one clever woman did to some very similar tile in her bathroom.


stenciled encaustic cement look-alike floor before and after - via Rosario Tile Stencil - Designed by Hannah Coram

via Rosario Tile Stencil – Designed by Hannah Coram

In fact, that pattern could work very well for Kathy’s Kitchen.


Rosario Tile Stencil - Reusable Floor & Backsplash Scandinavian Tile StencilsHere it is from Rosario Tile Stencil

These are reusable stencils. And, they provide clear instruction.


Rosario Tile Stencil - Reusable Floor & Backsplash Scandinavian Tile Stencils - reverse white on black


This is the reverse of the Rosario Tile Stencil, but looks to be a smaller scale.


creating rustic charm - stenciled-my-ceramic-tile in bathroom - Cutting Edge Stencils

Cutting Edge Stencils

Design via Creating Rustic Charm

I love this pattern, as well, and think it would also look terrific in Kathy’s kitchen.



The same stenciled pattern used on a backsplash. It makes a terrific accent faux tile.

However, I would not do it on both the floor and the backsplash.


Cutting Edge Stencils on Etsy - Barcelona Tile Stencil

Cutting Edge Stencils on Etsy – Barcelona Tile Stencil

This pattern would also look fabulous on a kitchen floor.


Augusta Tile Stencil - 3 colors - Cutting Edge Stencils

Augusta Tile Stencil – 3 colors + white background – Cutting Edge Stencils


For a look with more dimension, you could also do two or three colors, like this faux encaustic cement tile backsplash.


Here’s a fabulous tutorial from the Remington Avenue blog about how to do a stenciled floor to look like encaustic cement tile.


If your tile is 12″ x 12″, I believe that you’ll need the large size stencil. But, please double check this.


In addition, I very much recommend doing a sample board first. I would use a good size piece of sheetrock; maybe two-feet square. Or, you could also use some extra heavy poster board.

That one change with the kitchen floor, I think, is going to transform this space.

After that, and this is only my opinion. I’d like to further balance out the space by painting the chairs black. It’s not absolutely necessary. One can also make a case for the white chairs. However, I think that black would be super wonderful. And, especially so, as you see the dining set from the living room.


Since we haven’t seen the living room yet, you’ll have to wait so that you can see my point.


In the meantime, the point is to consider what’s going on in adjacent rooms when deciding on colors and finishes.


California_Tucker_Islabro_Ross_Serena & Lily

Tucker Chairs from Serena & Lily are a similar style in black

By the way, S&L is currently having sale– up to 30% off on all of their gorgeous light fixtures.


To complete the dining area, I would love to see a gallery art wall where the clock is. I would put the clock or maybe one a little smaller over the doorway to the office.


kitchen-art-gallery-in-a-box-pottery barn - kitchen refresh

This is only one idea. It’s actually called kitchen-art-gallery-in-a-box. And, it’s from Pottery Barn! Did you know that they have a ton of decorative art?

Another great source if you wish to purchase a ready made gallery wall is Artfully Walls.

And, yes, I know. You can go to flea markets and estate sales. We go through this EVERY time I mention art. :] By all means, support your local artists. But, in case you don’t want to go that route, there is much in the marketplace to choose from.

This is one of my favorite posts featuring ready-made gallery art wall templates I created. Apparently, I did two such art wall template posts.


Let’s talk about storage for this kitchen refresh.


Kathy says that she would like a pantry.

For some really cool pantries click here.


The next thing I want to address is the island.


There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But, it’s not utilizing the space adequately. And, I would rather see a different material than stainless.

This is also a great opportunity to bring a little color to the kitchen side of the room.

It looks like she only has three feet to work with. That isn’t a lot. And, it’s difficult to find a nice looking piece in that size. If she can squeeze out six more inches, this island I found on Wayfair is nice. And, it’s not expensive. But, I’d probably paint it.

However, I found this cool small kitchen island, below, that’s just the right size at Pottery Barn. And, it’s currently on sale!



This would be great if you’re a wine drinker.


The only problem for Kathy is that it’s a shade of white that most likely is not going to go with the white cabinets. And, like I said, I long to see a little color over here. I am always, always, always thinking balance when I design a room.

And, again, it’s paint that comes to the rescue.


hart-reclaimed-wood-kitchen-island-milk paint sage green

I would chalk paint it maybe something like this soft sage green. And, then lightly antique it. The piece doesn’t come in this color. I did a little manipulation to get it to look like that. This I think, would be very much in keeping with the slight retro feel of this kitchen. I know it might feel weird to paint a new piece of furniture. But, if it doesn’t come in the color and/or finish you want, why not?


Birch Lane Heritage Sudbury 1-light semi-flush mount schoolhouse style light

For over the sink, I think I would prefer a fixture more in keeping with the retro look of this kitchen refresh. The Sudbury semi-flushmount is not expensive and fits the bill, I think.

Please also check out My Kitchen Light Fixtures Are Driving Me Bonkers!


I would also probably repeat the same blinds over the sink window that are on the banquette wall window.

One last thing concerning kitchen storage. (that is a really good post in the link.)


stainless steel Fridge - kitchen refresh
I’m not 100% sure this is possible. And, the light switch would need to be moved, as well as what’s currently on that wall. But, there’s plenty of room for some shallow storage with doors opening out perpendicular to the front of the fridge.


Oh, I almost forgot something important.


I really do prefer, unless a fan is a bonafide vintage fan. Or, the ceiling is dark, to have a white fan with a white ceiling. And, especially with an 8-foot ceiling such as this one. Please humor me by trying to avoid the fans with the three search lights, as well. However, a single light at the bottom, is okay. A plain white fan is what Furlow Gatewood has in his Georgia homes.

You might also enjoy 20 Timeless Kitchens You’ll Love Forever.

Another of my favorite posts is this incredible kitchen botox a reader did not too long ago. I was flabbergasted when she sent in the photos.


So, what is the key to an inexpensive kitchen refresh?


Well, it’s paint. Paint. And, if you have the patience to do the work yourself, it won’t cost much either. I am really loving the idea of painting a floor instead of going to all of the trouble and pain of ripping it out.

We have one more space to look at in Kathy’s home. At that time, I’ll also address some simple architectural changes.



PS: Please check out the newly updated Hot Sales!


35 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel, awesome post as usual!!!

    I don’t think anyone has touched on this, but painting grout can make a HUUUUUGE difference.
    Kathy’s tile looks exactly like mine. I moved in 6 years ago, and the dark (dirty) grout was driving me nuts!! I have every intention of renovating that bathroom, but haven’t done it yet.. So, I painted the grout and it changed the whole look of the bathroom! I did the same in my kitchen.
    my walls are painted BM Natural Linen, and that was what I had on hand, so I just painted the grout that colour. It almost appears cream, or soft white, and I couldn’t believe how it elevated the look of the tile.
    I just used flat wall paint, no sealer, and with a small paintbrush. if you get any on the tile, just wipe off with a papertowel while damp. 6 years in and it still looks great! I have only needed to touch up in a few spots. it’s our only bathroom, so gets a ton of traffic. the paint really sinks into the grout and once there, it ain’t moving!

    Just thought I’d add that in for people who have grout that needs a touchup before they can get to replacing, or painting a whole floor.
    oh, and the kitchen took a couple of hours and some knee pads!

  2. Honestly, the huge square tiles are always going to look out of place in a country kitchen, no matter what you do to them. Sorry they will always look builder grade. Rectangles you can work with, large squares, not so much lol. A suggestion most people dont think about is lvp. We just put down some faux marble lvp by smartcore in our bathroom, and its beautiful. We also have some in our laundry room that looks like weathered wooden boards. Im not sure about other brands, but smartcore has a nice thick backing so you dont need underlayment, and you can just put it in on top of the existing floor. Its great for comfort and sound proofing. Its cheap, waterproof, kid and pet proof, and it just snaps together so they could have a kitchen that size done in an afternoon. Obviously if they were in a high priced neighborhood in an expensive house, i would suggest real wood floors or high end tile, but for the value of their home, that wouldnt make financial sense (im in the same boat, small, cheap house, in a small southern town, im desperately trying to bring out of the 70’s lol). With new technology, you can find many vinyl flooring products that look great and are nice on the wallet.

  3. I love the idea of painting the floor. I have a tile floor that I would love to paint, but am worried that the paint would flake and be a hazard for my dog. Do you know if tile paint is generally durable enough so that it would be safe for pets? Thanks!

  4. Thank you,Laurel, for this educational post! IMHO posts like this do a lot to persuade readers how valuable hiring the services of a trained/educated designer can be. Your comments are spot on and quite reasonable to implement. I have been struggling to select the right one color to paint the entire (well not the bathroom) main floor of my cabin. I am going to hire a designer to pick one! And, to advise me on a one floor solution. If I like the advice, then I will proceed. If not, all that was risked was a consulting fee! Please…more of these types of posts, please!

  5. Love you Laurel…your post are always fun and great advice…another thought,…the hutch top may come off if so, the art gallery on that wall would look awesome, then paint the bottom black and add fun new knobs, then on either side of the door where her colored glasses are add 3/5 floating shelves for her fun accessories…the door beside her frig could have some Botox😂with adding some stock molding to make it not go so flat.

  6. I actually like the hutch/dresser and would change the dining chairs to black to balance the darkness. Otherwise I think it’s an adorably cozy dining area. The little red bench is a pretty accent.

  7. I completely agree with you on what that kitchen needs, especially the floor. The thing I would check first is if hardwood floors are under that tile because that would be best to flow with adjacent rooms. If not, painting them is a great idea. I also think the hutch is too deep and dark. I would find a shallower one, or strip the stain off to uncover it’s natural color. If the natural color is ugly orangy oak, then paint it a soft color.

    Happy Birthday!

  8. Hi Laurel,
    Happy belated birthday. I hope you had a good time with your handsome son.
    I love your ideas for Kathy’s kitchen. My only idea was to spread the wood tones around a bit more. Maybe getting some bamboo or matchstick blinds for the windows. And some wood stained chairs. I would also get the largest outdoor rug to hide the tile until she can replace it.

  9. I so appreciate these “botox” kitchen posts, Laurel. Although I dream of a full kitchen remodel, it’s unlikely it will ever be in the budget. With every post you share, I get better at recognizing good design become more confident with my own decisions. Thank you!

  10. Susanne…Annie Sloan makes a wonderful floor sealant that is extremely durable. I used to work for someone who sold her products, and also know of a shop owner who stenciled her ugly floor and it has remained as pretty as the day she sealed it, even with the high amount of daily foot traffic. If I remember correctly, it is very low odor as is all of her products.

  11. I love all your recommendations, especially painting the tiles! I’m grateful for the links because this is a great solution for my main floor 1/2 bath.

    The thing that stood out most to me was the “heaviness” of the hutches. They are also really cluttered without a focal point (for example, all the items on top of the hutch in the dining room). The stainless steel island has the opposite problem in that it is “too light” and too industrial for the kitchen space. I love the Pottery Barn island—she could have a carpenter make one up, too, that could be put on locking wheels so she could have more flexibility in the space.

    I would also love to see different light fixtures and your “school house light” is perfect, imo.

  12. Oh, these posts are so fun! And made more so by the wonderful comments. My first thought when I saw the photos was that a large rug (instead of just the small one in front of the sink) would look nice. I see that many others are like-minded 🙂 I love all the inspiration and ideas that you and your readers share, Laurel. This is my favorite blog!

  13. My goodness, I could spend all day here reading all of this kitchen wonderfulness, but am on vacation here in beautiful Hawaii, so I’ll bookmark this particular post to peruse on my long flight homeI I can’t imagine how many hours it took you to research all of this. Thanks so much from this faithful reader.

  14. Hello Laurel,

    this just goes to show: whatever one has not done before moving in, usually is quite an ordeal to do afterwards…

    Myself, I would be very reluctant (and lazy, I admit it) to tackle painting tiles in a kitchen area, due to the heavy wear and tear. And if there is some sort of super duper seal to protect said paint job, I doubt that it holds up well enough. Furthermore, it would be rather chemical, I suppose.

    What I would do is buy rugs and runners. I can see going in the direction of oriental rugs here. Not stuffy, just ecclectic, artistic… A neat cook, can keep rugs looking well enough. >This is just my opinion though.

    Thank you for your posts btw. I sure enjoy reading them.


  15. Would moving the chairs take the paint off the tile? Would you suggest a rug under the table to prevent that?

  16. Jody, I have the exact same concern you do- mine is dated 90’s marble agglomerate. And there’s sooooo much of it!

  17. Love all the suggested tweaks!

    Kathy, I’ve redone two kitchens and had perpendicular floor to ceiling pantries installed on the side of each fridge. One pantry was 12 inches deep, the other was 16 inches deep. You’d be amazed and pleased with how much storage was available in that 12 inch deep pantry! Even a 9 inch pantry has tons of storage – you can fit two cans front to back in nine inches. Well worth the electricity being moved and the cost of the pantry. Go for it!

  18. Love all the suggested tweaks!

    Kathy, I’ve redone two kitchens and had perpendicular floor to ceiling pantries installed on the side of each fridge. One pantry was 12 inches deep, the other was 16 inches’d be amazed and pleased with how much storage was available in that 12 inch deep pantry! Well worth the electricity being moved and the cost of the pantry. Go for it!

  19. Hi Laurel! Happy belated bday!! Aquarius women rule the world! In the old days, grandmas fed 30 people in 900 square foot houses for $8 and then had you spend the night! That painted ugly tile was jaw-dropping and I’m so glad you shared it bc it is do doable vs diy hardwoods or something which, hello, is a task few can pull off. I too wanted her to paint the big Wood piece in flat paint In a color that she loves and get some storage in her island, so you have trained me well! I also thought a huge mirror behind the table would be nice just to splash some light around. But that tile Was amazeballs.

  20. Love this article. So many decorating blogs feature updates beyond the normal person’s wallet. We redid our kitchen ourself, spray painted the cabinets, installed ceramic Italian tile floor, reconfigured the fridge and stove placement, extended cabinetry and installed glass panels in a few uppers for display cabinets. The only item left to the experts was the granite countertop. My neighbor spent over two thousand dollars to have her cabinets professionally painted and thinks mine look nicer! Thanks for the links to painting ceramic tile. My bathroom floor could use an update.

  21. Ooooh, first, loads of good options here for sure. I’m all for trying rugs first (but I’m just trying for the easiest fix.) Painting and stenciling aren’t in my skill set! With the colorful glass display, colorful rugs may tie them into the room, along with a table runner and seat cushions, I think could give her cohesion and warmth. Otherwise, I might eliminate the glass collection all together and focus on making the floor the visual element from which to work and putting a bold piece of art in its place with fewer colors fighting for attention. She’s certainly got options and lots of choices. Second, design conference in San Fran in March sounds maaaahvelous. Please share your knowledge with those of us who desperately need your help.

  22. So many great recommendations in this post. Since the window over the sink cannot be made larger at this time, I suggest that the upper cabinet door panels on each side of the window be replaced with glass. This would lighten up the space and add interest. A roman shade mounted at the ceiling would make the window appear taller.

  23. That encaustic tile painted floor idea is super! Here comes the big “however,” painted floor cloths or indoor/outdoor rugs (a la Dash and Albert) are an excellent idea. Yes, paint the fan (Furlow Gatewood: swoon) and change the light; yes, change the light over the sink; yes, art gallery in the dining area. Summer in Central Texas: that stainless steel island feels pretty good, open and airy! Load up that hutch with white ironstone to brighten it up; stack some big wooden bowls (or even stainless bowls!) and style the lower shelf of the island as Valerie recommended. (I would want an even bigger stainless steel island.) The back door is so close to the fridge already, it’s a pretty tight corner, but hang a few copper pans and “Julia Child” that wall instead of a cupboard.
    Laurel, I have so much fun with these posts. Thank you!

  24. Perhaps a vinyl floor cloth such as one of the many designs from would work nicely in this kitchen. We have wood floors in our white kitchen but have these rugs which give the encaustic tile look, but they can easily be switched out if we ever tire of them, They are so easy to clean and thin so you don’t trip on them versus a rug. I have no affiliation with Spicher.

  25. I wonder if the top of the hutch could be removed and replaced with some open shelving? Kathy has some pretty glassware items.
    Not pertinent to Kathy’s kitchen, but I just read an article in the NYT about using IKEA boxes and custom or semi custom doors and drawer fronts. Genius

  26. I have used Grout Renew with great success on floors, showers, and a backsplash. It will make the floor look brand new. It is a labor of love. There are about 40 different shades to choose from. Matching the ceramic tile has a nice effect of getting rid of grout lines, particularly stained grout lines. Thanks Kathy for sharing your beautiful home!

  27. I love what Kathy has already done to her kitchen; it’s so homey I want to come over for a cup of coffee.
    Your suggestions to make it even better are great, especially the gallery wall over the banquet and repeating the lovely wooden blinds over the sink. The fan blades can be painted white and most fans let you swap out lights. Black chairs would add a nice contrast!
    A narrow pantry could fit at the end of the fridge, but Kathy has just put the shiplap there. If she has pretty pots and pans, etc. they could be displayed on hooks on that short wall, a la Julia Child, freeing up room in the cabinets. Just a few, not clutter it.
    I think the current island doesn’t work for 2 reasons: too much modern stainless, and not styled correctly. The stacked bowls on the shelf are all small, white, and leave a big space void. Some colorful tall vases, crockery, baskets, or say a red KitchenAid, would bring some needed color, height, and warmth. A wooden cutting board or a bigger bowl for fruit on top would also look good. Right now all the color is on the other side of the room, some needs to be brought to this side. The woodworker who made the banquet could also make a new island. I like the ones you showed, but I think an open one with shelves would look less bulky in this small kitchen.
    I painted and stenciled the sun porch floor in my first house. It came out gorgeous and held up well for years (3 coats of poly). It was a selling point when we moved! But it was long, hard work and we were able to close off the space during the process. It looks like the tiles continue into other rooms so the size of this job is daunting. I’m wondering if the floor would disappear if she had a much larger and colorful mat/rug in front of the sink and another under the table and chairs? She could use the artwork or colors is those lovely glasses as inspiration and paint two canvas floorcloths or use indoor/outdoor rugs that can be taken outside and hosed off! They are so much nicer than they used to be.

  28. Wow Laurel, love that whole picnic table causal dinning room look! Of course you found such a beautiful image!
    Any ideas on where that white table with the natural wood came from? Just perfect on trend but not to farmhouses trendy; just perfection as always!

  29. As usual, I agree with Laurel’s suggestions, but…
    The photos show that the floor tile goes right through the kitchen, eating area, and on into the next room. That’s a very large area, whereas the fake/real encaustic tile in the examples is always in a small area. I think even if kept to the kitchen and eating area, a pattern this assertive might be overwhelming.
    Practicalities: yes, you can paint ceramic tile with a good quality paint made for the purpose, but the prep is a bit of a pain, and getting a good finish isn’t easy. But once cured it’s as durable as any other finish. My bathroom done a few years ago still looks perfect.
    Do you really need the island — there seems to be plenty of counter space? I agree that the current version puts too much steel into the kitchen, but is a fixed piece the answer? I wonder if a smaller trolley (e.g. Ikea Stenstorp) might not be good, and then an “encaustic” central panel in the kitchen floor.

  30. You are amazing. Your insights and advice for that inexpensive redo of a kitchen redo -were spot on and love every detail you suggested. Question: You mentioned painting a ceramic floor – can you paint a stone floor? I want to do a kitchen for resale- but to redo the floor and pull up the stone (which is beige and dingy looking) is expensive and messy. What hope is there to disguise/transform it – any ideas?

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