DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

This kitchen remodel used DIY ideas, color, stainless steel and (lots of) elbow grease to revive a drab '70s kitchen into a family-friendly space.

Sunny remodeled kitchen.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

A window from an antique store and two used schoolhouse-style lights brighten up this DIY kitchen. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

The Dudle family in porch swing.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

Josette (seated) with, clockwise, Peter, Elizabeth, Nick and Wolfe Dudle. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

Red door entrance to DIY kitchen.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

Pops of poppy red accent the kitchen, in the stools, door and wall decor. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

Potato mashers.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

Josette's collection of potato mashers is spotlighted on the windowsill. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

A Lance jar, once used in country stores to hold candy and snacks, makes a nostalgic countertop container. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

Sugar canister and flowers.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

A retro sugar canister is one of many items the Dudles rescued from antique shops. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

Updated kitchen cabinetry in DIY budget kitchen

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

Josette and Peter used handyman skills in their kitchen remodel—updating the cupboards and drawers, adding new pulls and knobs. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

Pantry beside refrigerator.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

A salvaged $10 door fit perfectly into the space Peter created for a well-positioned pantry. Photography by Kevin & Layla Palmer.

Old kitchen with dark cupboards and counter.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

This "before" shot of the kitchen shows dark cabinets and dated laminate counters that hadn't been refreshed since the '70s. Photo: Homeowners.

Refurbished kitchen cabinet doors.

DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover

Gluing thin strips of plywood to the cabinet doors gave them them a brand-new look. Photo: Homeowners.

Sunny remodeled kitchen.The Dudle family in porch swing.Red door entrance to DIY kitchen.Potato mashers.DIY Budget Kitchen MakeoverSugar canister and flowers.Updated kitchen cabinetry in DIY budget kitchenPantry beside refrigerator.Old kitchen with dark cupboards and counter.Refurbished kitchen cabinet doors.


By Barbara Schuetz

Josette and Peter Dudle had all the makings of outstanding DIYers when they bought their Tudor-style fixer-upper 13 years ago. They loved scouring antique shops for great buys and knew their way around a salvage yard. They had a stash of home improvement building blocks—lighting fixtures, paneling, wood scraps and more—stored in their garage. And Peter, a  teacher by day, had honed his handyman skills at an early age, working on home projects alongside his dad, an expert woodworker and engineer.

So 10 months after moving in, the Prattville, Alabama, couple, with a new baby in tow, embarked on their first DIY adventure: a kitchen remodel. They were determined to modernize the 13-by-15 room while preserving the character of the 1946 home. The oak floor was in good shape, but nothing else was.

“The kitchen hadn’t been updated since the mid-1970s, so there was a lot of orange, brown and gold,” Josette recalls. “The dark cabinets and laminate counters were dated, and the fluorescent lighting seemed harsh. The double-pane garden window over the sink was mildewed and let in very little light.”

Big Job, Little Budget

On their must-have list for the kitchen remodel: a pantry, an enclosed refrigerator, more workspace and overall brightening. Since they’d started their family, their DIY kitchen needed to be kid-friendly, too. (They now have three children, Elizabeth, 13; Wolfe, 10; and Nick, 6.) It was a tall order, but despite their limited funds, the couple had a wealth of ideas.

Initially, they sacrificed some precious counter space by removing a peninsula that broke up the flow from the kitchen through a charming archway into the dining room. “Then Peter tore out a few sections of cabinets, resized them and rearranged them ‘Lego style’ to give the room a better balance,” Josette explains. “He pulled off wallpaper and removed trim, reusing the crown molding on the top of the cabinets.” To give the old cabinets a new look, they enhanced the doors with strips of wood before painting them.

That’s just one of the clever, budget-friendly improvements this resourceful couple dreamed up for their kitchen remodel. The countertops were a major coup. “I wanted granite, but the price was a deterrent,” says Josette, “so Peter sold me on stainless steel.” He meticulously measured the counters and had a metal fabrication shop cut the stainless steel to fit. A roofing company that made metal flashing turned down the edges, and the couple attached the new countertops right over the old laminate with Liquid Nails. Total cost for this DIY project? Just $350!

“I absolutely love them,” she says. “There’s no upkeep to speak of. They do get scratched, but the scratches overlap and sort of take on a brushed stainless look. One nice benefit is that stainless steel doesn’t burn. We can put a hot pan right on it.” Peter also turned an awkward space between the refrigerator and the back wall into a pantry and built an enclosure for the fridge using bead board paneling. He replaced the window over the sink with one he’d found at an antique store. And he installed two used schoolhouse-style lights and a Mission-style chandelier he found stored in the garage.

Room to Work

Josette, who loves to bake, still needed a central work area but didn’t want a traditional island with her kitchen remodel. The solution? A $75 prep table rescued from an out-of-business restaurant. “This table does it all,” she says. “The kids eat breakfast here every morning and work on school projects. It’s where we bake sugar cookies, dye Easter eggs, carve pumpkins, arrange flowers and wrap Christmas gifts.”

It complements the gleaming countertops and stainless steel appliances perfectly. Wait—how did this budget-savvy couple wind up with pricey stainless steel appliances? “They were our biggest expense,” Josette admits, “but we got them all, plus a range hood and stainless steel backsplash, for about $2,000.” They bought the microwave and fridge secondhand and got the dishwasher as a gift, so the stove was the only brand-new appliance.

With the stainless sheen and neutral burlap hue of the walls and cabinets, the room needed a spot of color. Two vintage stools with red vinyl seats—an antique shop find at $35 each—were Josette’s inspiration. Other pops of red include small appliances, old tins and other kitchen collectibles, and the back door, relocated from elsewhere in the house and painted poppy red.

Josette figures the kitchen remodel cost between $3,000 and $4,000 and took about five months—and they did it all themselves. “We did not hire out one single thing,” she says of their DIY achievement. “To this day, Peter and I still stare into the kitchen and say how great it turned out. I don’t want to change a thing.”

Click for a better look at the Dudles’ DIY Budget Kitchen Makeover floor plan.

Photography and styling by Kevin & Layla Palmer, The Lettered Cottage.

Sherry 1 September 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm

My kitchen looked just like yours before your make over. Could you please tell me what kind of paint and color did you use? I would love to do my cabinets like yours. I really love what you did.


Just saw this 2 October 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Isn’t this the best kitchen redo!?

Per Josette in the Comments of The Lettered Cottage makeover feature -(

Josette says:
May 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm
The over the stove microwave does have an exhaust fan. I wondered too how well the painted cabinets would wear, but almost ten years later, they still look great. The paintt has never chipped or peeled and we have only done a couple of small touch ups since we first did it. Even though I was skeptical, Home Depot said the Behr semi-gloss latex would hold up, and it has.
We started with tinted Behr primer. Then we used the semi-gloss top coat. We used the same paint on the walls and cabinets. It is Behr brand paint, but we had it mixed in a Ralph Laren color.

Drawer fronts – looks to several people like they filled the grooves with some type of paintable wood filler. I am thinking some kind of flexible filler so it will expand and contract with the wood around it.

NOTE! Other comments said the paint was darker and more olive than in the pictures, so I am going to take the pics with me to the paint store and see what matches that versus the Burlap color.


Ruth 3 October 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Love the stainless steel counter tops where did you get the steel from??


sharon 4 October 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

A local metal fabricator shop cut the stainless steel, and a roofing company that makes metal flashing turned down the edges. Peter and Josette attached the stainless right on top of their existing laminate counters with Liquid Nails.


Jennifer Davenport 5 January 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Wood over the cabinet doors—BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!


Rose 6 March 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm

am looking to find patterns for kitchen curtains or to be shown style for curtains can’t have blinds due to cats , playing around am on farm have one large window facing west,


Diane 7 July 19, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Great job!
We live in a 100-year-old farmhouse that has been added on to over the decades, walls and rooms rearranged, woodwork changed, etc. The kitchen had been remodeled in the late 60’s and the cabinets were a dark oak stain and the counters a beige laminate. I finally couldn’t stand the cabinets any more, but I didn’t have the heart to tear them out and replace with new. For one thing, there are a whole lot of cabinets in this kitchen compared to most, and for another (and the main reason), they had been made from the wood of trees taken down on this very farm. So I was sentimental about them, and besides, where does one find solid oak wood cabinets these days without paying a fortune for them?
So I decided to paint them. It took me a year to complete the job. I painted them a polished ivory color in a semi-gloss and replaced all the hardware with brushed nickel. I like them very much, but now it’s time to repaint them (ugh) as they take beating with my family. And I still need to do something about the counters! I like your stainless steel idea and will look into that. I also like the color you used on the cabinets, as well as the trim idea. Ours are just plain flat doors so it would be nice to add some detail.
Thanks for the ideas, and as I said, Good Job! Great kitchen!
Diane in MO


Lisa @ Lisas Creative Designs 8 February 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm

I am familiar with Layla and her designs. She is very influential in the DIY world. I am a passionate upcycler and just love how her kitchen turned out. In today’s world too much is tossed aside and thrown away. With a little creativity and elbow grease we can keep those lost treasures out of the landfills and make them beautiful again!


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