Help! My Small Kitchen Is Ugly. Now What?

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In our beach condo, we have a dark, dated and very small galley kitchen.  Somehow, I have to give the it a total makeover and I have to do it on a small budget.  Since I’ll be working with limited funds, that means not replacing the cabinets and not replacing the appliances.

Help! My Small Kitchen Is Ugly. Now What? #kitchenmakeover #modernfarmhouse #galleykitchen #budgetmakeoverPin
When we purchased our beach condo last summer, it had been used as a rental for several years.  The condo was in relatively good shape, but the decor and furnishings were not to our taste at all.  Even though I’m working with such a small space in the kitchen, I want the finished room to be bright modern farmhouse style with just a nod to the beach that’s right outside our door.

Looking from the dining room into the kitchen, this is what it looked like when we purchased the condo.  The cabinets are good quality and are in very good shape, but that’s about the best thing that it has going for it.  

Small galley kitchen before makeover Pin

You can see that we have mismatched appliances, but that pesky budget that I’m working with means that I’m just going to have to live with them and replace them as they die.  πŸ™  The microwave will stay since it’s relatively new and the stainless on it ties in with the tiny bit of stainless that’s on the stove.  The refrigerator is also relatively new, so I don’t foresee replacing that anytime soon.  But, the dishwasher has some age on it and I’m sure will have to be replaced at some point, so I’ve given some thought to painting it black.  Black is not my first choice for appliance color in this space, but it is what it is.

Small kitchen before makeoverPin


Small galley kitchen before a budget makeoverPin

So, with all that being said, let’s take a look at my plan.  The mood board that I created for the space shows all the tricks that I’ll use to brighten the kitchen up and give it a modern farmhouse vibe.  Hopefully, you won’t recognize the space when I’m done!  {By the way – you can learn how to create you very own mood boards by clicking RIGHT HERE.}  

Modern Farmhouse budget makeover plan for a small kitchen #kitchen #makeover #kitchenideas #modernfarmhouse #whitecabinets #rangehood #glasstile #backsplashPin


We’ll paint the cabinets with Sherwin Williams Extra White so that they’ll match the trim in the rest of the condo.  The old-timey paneling that’s above the cabinets will be painted too.  Our cabinets aren’t shaker style like these, but this gives you an idea of what they’ll look like.

White kitchen cabinetsPin


The current kitchen doesn’t have a backsplash, but I definitely want one!  I’ve been looking for something affordable and super easy to install, so I’ll be using this amazing glass subway tile from Aspect Tile.  It’s peel and stick and doesn’t have to be grouted, so I’m hopeful that installation will be a breeze.

Aspect Glass Peel And Stick Tile #kitchenmakeover #subwaytile #peelandstick #easy #diyPin


The biggest splurge in the kitchen will be the new Luna White granite counters.  The old fake butcher block counters have got to go.  They’re the one thing in the kitchen that’s showing a lot of wear.  The new granite is very similar to what I used in my kitchen remodel at home and I just love it.  It ties in all of the colors that I’m using, it’s bright and doesn’t show every crumb or speck of dust like some countertops do.

Luna White granite for kitchen counters #kitchenremodel #kitchenmakover #granitecountersPin


Nothing fancy here, but I’ll be replacing the current faucet with a more modern one.  The counters include a new stainless sink, but the current faucet is chrome, so I think this one will look much better.

Help! My Small Kitchen Is Ugly. Now What?Pin


The current hardware on the cabinets is yucky looking fake glass knobs and several of them are loose and won’t tighten.  So I’ll be replacing the drawer pulls, cabinet knobs and hinges with brushed nickel hardware that has simple lines.


This is a project that’s probably a couple of years down the road.  The photo is just an example that I mocked up to give you an idea of what I’d like to do.  Because the kitchen is small and narrow, a hood can’t project out into the room much at all.  And it won’t be functional – it’ll just be for looks.

Idea for a non functioning hood above a microwave #rangehood #kitchenremodel #kitchenmakeover #diyPin

Here’s the full to-do list for the kitchen makeover:

  • Paint walls, trim and ceiling
  • Paint cabinets
  • Replace old ceramic tile with laminate flooring
  • Center and replace light fixture
  • Replace counters
  • Add a backsplash
  • Replace faucet
  • Replace cabinet hardware
  • Paint dishwasher
  • Add a decorative hood above the microwave
  • Add a roman shade to the window
  • Make it pretty!

Okay – in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve really already done quite a bit in the kitchen.  πŸ™‚  If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ve already seen some peeks of it when I revealed the dining room makeover.  It isn’t quite finished yet, but I’m hoping it will be soon!

Small dining room makeover, modern farmhouse style, orb chandelier, rustic industrial, board and battenPin


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  1. Gorgeous as usual! You knocked it out of the park Suzy!

  2. Wow, you have done a lot! It looks great. I love that it has coastal vibe without looking too beachy. Great job πŸ™‚

  3. Carol Davis says:

    Who wouldn’t love the new look. Makes the area look larger and gives it a cleaner look. Fantastic job.

    1. Thanks for that suggestion, Vanessa. I’ll definitely check it out the next time we’re there!

  4. I think the updates will look amazing! I can’t wait to see the finished product!

  5. Marty Oravetz says:

    It looks amazing already. Love the white.

  6. Looks fabulous – what a difference. I know this is already a small space, BUT (don’t you just hate the but), there are two things that really stand out in the pics…. one is the cupboard on the left as you enter the space; and the other is the massive black fridge. I know, I know, one is much needed storage space and the other is what it is! Opening up that space by removing the cupboard and painting the fridge would make a huge difference in lightening up the small space. Hah! Easy for me to say, right! You, as usual, are doing a superb job.

    1. I agree with every single thing you’ve said, Maureen. When we first looked at the condo, the first words out of my mouth were that the cabinets above the peninsula have to come down. But (there’s that but), because of the way they’re built, it would be a major construction job. You can’t tell it in the photos, but they’re somehow mounted up into the ceiling, beneath the sheetrock – very odd. Annnnd….I too don’t like the big black fridge, but if I paint it white, then I’m stuck with a black stove. I’ve already done some research and I can’t get a white or stainless replacement door for the oven. Sadly, the hubs just isn’t on board with me plunking down a couple of thousand $$$ right now to replace them all. πŸ™

      1. That is too bad, that was my first thought too…..take it down. We just remodeled our kitchen. We had hoped to salvage some of the cabinets for the garage, but they were built in place. The only way they were coming out was with a saws all. It was a shame too…as they were solid oak from 1955.

  7. laurie Monroe says:

    Looks Incredible compared to the before Kitchen picture. Good for you and I am so impressed you are doing lots of the work yourself! Kudos!

  8. It looks wonderful! Enjoy!

  9. Everything looks fabulous! I would use appliance paint by Rust-Oleum for the missed matched appliance.

    1. Good suggestion, Cindy. I’ve used that paint before and it does a great job!

  10. Your update looks great. Much more doable for those of us who need to keep our kitchens current without doing a complete remodel.

  11. I love what you’ve done and what you plan to do – with the exception of the range hood over the microwave. A range hood (even a non-functional one) would look fine if the microwave were removed, but since you probably need the microwave at a vacation cottage, I would forego the range hood – it just doesn’t look right with a microwave under it.
    That being said, do whatever you want. It’s your beach condo and all of us who don’t have one will be envious regardless of how you decorate it.

    1. I had the same opinion as you, Pat, until I saw it done in a couple of other kitchens and thought it looked fine. Who knows though – maybe I’ll change my mind before we actually try it. lol

    2. I agree — a non-functioning hood has no place in a small kitchen. And you would lose that cabinet that could hold extra pitchers, bowls, or small appliances like an air popper.

  12. Very inspiring. Look at all the money, time, effort saved using what you had! I get tired of seeing waste for the sake of style, people often rip out quality pieces and replace them with poorly made made but β€œfashionable” ones.

    1. Totally agree with you, Carol. Trying to use what I already own is one of my priorities!

  13. Hi Suzy. I am a kitchen designer and the big black beauty is your biggest problem. I am wondering if you could turn it 90 degrees so it is on the adjacent wall , the a new base and maybe some open upper shelves to fill in the existing space . I can’t really tell if your measurements would let you do that.

    You could also advertise to see if someone might want to trade for a white or ss fridge. If your cabinets are in great shape, I might suggest a white-wash stain instead of paint. Within a few years the paint will chip because of the stains and glazes used initially. White wash is much more forgiving.

    I would sure like to see that upper cabinet gone over your peninsula. Even getting rid of the cabinet and leaving the bulkhead would be a big improvement. Then lighting could be installed in the bulkhead.

    So just a few ideas to add to the many other excellent ones

    1. Hi Mary Ann. Thank you so much for all of your suggestions! Unfortunately, space won’t allow me to turn the fridge. It would severely impede the traffic flow into the kitchen at the end of the peninsula. I would LOVE to get rid of the cabinets above the peninsula – in fact that was the first thing I said when we looked at the condo. The problem is with the way the cabinets are installed. We’re pretty sure that the cabinets were custom built at the time that the condos were being constructed, prior to the drywall going in, (because of things we’ve seen in other areas of the unit) and they somehow mounted the cabinets up into the ceiling, behind the drywall. Sooo…to avoid a potential costly and messy repair, we’re just going to live with them. The only bonus is that it’s nice to have the added storage space. πŸ˜€

  14. Beautiful! Job well done!
    I painted our refrigerator. I wanted a new one but when I was doing some reviews I got spooked and decided to keep mine and paint it the same color as my cabinets. It turned out great! I did it about year ago and it is still holding up!
    You have done such a great job in your kitchen that the appliances look fine!
    Cynthia – Parker, CO

    1. Thanks, Cynthia! Painting the fridge is one of the options that I considered, but then I’d still be stuck with a black stove. πŸ™

  15. I also just went through the same kitchen issues with a limited budget. I have miss matched appliances too, but will have to replace one at a time. I did save some money by replacing my countertops with a Wilsonart laminate that looks just like granite. I chose an ogee edge and it looks amazing. Love what you have done so far.

  16. If you can’t flip the dishwasher panel, could you paint it white to match the cupboards? Or maybe silver for a faux stainless look? Maybe cover the front of the fridge with corkboard and turn it into a message center? Frame corkboard with some painted wood trim to tie in with the cupboards to give a finished look. Would take some ingenuity to cut corkboard and trim around the fridge handles, but you and Pookie can do it! Perhaps add a metal holder (like the ones under the lanterns in your dining room) to the lower fridge door for mail? Add some fun family pics!

  17. Sandra Ingram says:

    Did you find that installing the tile was fairly easy to do? It looks really good!

  18. Paint the dishwasher? Do tell !