Our $500 Kitchen Transformation

6 Materials
2 Months

Do you have a dated builder's grade kitchen? Learn how we updated ours for only $500 and got featured in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine!

Our previous house's kitchen looked something like this:

Can you say DATED?!? Even though it was built in 2002 and served as a model home for our subdivision early on, the wood everything and tacky wallpaper made it feel much older.

Thankfully my husband and I were able to see past this and envision something much more up to date, fresh and modern in our future kitchen.

We had to buy new appliances when we moved in, so we opted for stainless steel. This helped bring it into the now a little bit.

Then out of curiosity, we got a quote from a local home improvement company and to paint or stain our cabinets, install granite and a tile backsplash it was going to be roughly $12,000. Being the frugal DIYer that I am, I just couldn’t stomach paying someone to do this project for us, and I knew Ted was handy (and patient) enough to tackle a future remodel – so I waited it out.

To help us “get by” with the kitchen as is for the time being, Ted added wainscoting and trim to the island and painted it a creamy white (Behr, lunar light) and I painted the walls a deep eggplant (an accidental color…long story) and the window and door trim the same creamy white (these were the only colors that sort of coordinated with the purple/mauve countertops and backsplash).

Then the addition of the updated pulls (which Ted got for free) and the butcher block island top (a very nice gift from Ted’s mom) helped make the room feel more tolerable (I’m so dramatic, I know:).

Until we decided to pull the trigger on a compete $500 DIY kitchen remodel (which took us almost 2 months from start to finish).

Here are the details:


While perusing Pinterest one day I ran across a blog post (linked in my blog) with very detailed directions on how to paint your cabinets WITHOUT SANDING them first, I got the bug to finally paint the cabinets.

I quickly got my hubby on board and we set out to Home Depot to buy our supplies the very next day (which ran us about $65).

1. Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer 

This is crucial and the only way I recommend painting cabinets without sanding them first.

2. Behr paint in lunar light  (We used flat, but if I were to do it again, I’d use eggshell/semi-gloss or similar)

3. Minwax Polycrylic Water Based Protective Finish  (semigloss)


We immediately got to work and after 3 days of priming, painting and sealing, we were done with the cabinets. We couldn’t believe how much brighter the kitchen had become.

That was exciting and all…but I couldn’t stand having the fresh white cabinets and keep our existing purple/mauve laminate countertops and backsplash!


We wanted new granite (or similar) countertops, but with a new roof, a baby on the way, a home refi (and a few other larger expenses) we just couldn’t swing it

We investigated pouring our own concrete countertops, but decided that we were not ready to take the plunge quite yet, so I once again turned to Pinterest, where I stumbled upon a blog post (linked in my blog) with steps detailing how to pretty easily convert your existing countertops to polished concrete coated ones. We decided that this was the only way for us to go (at least for now until we are possibly ready to professionally update them in the future).

This is the priming stage using bullseye 123. If we were to do this again we would have elevated the cabinets on boards or something to be off the ground.

Apologies for the terrible lighting in this photo.

Once the primer was dry we brushed on two coats of or white paint with a paint brush.

If we were to do this project again we would have used a small paint roller made specifically for cabinet doors. The rollers help reduce paint streaks and just give an overall smoother finish. Live and learn!

We let the cabinets dry and moved onto countertops!

We ordered our 4.  Ardex Feather Finish   concrete mix from Amazon (1 bag was all we needed and it was under $20).

It arrived on or doorstep a few days later and Ted got to work. He followed the directions  on the blog very closely, and a few days later we had smooth concrete covered countertops

Ted took an orbital sander to them once they were dry to smooth them out even more (thanks mom and dad).

We wanted to stain the concrete a darker charcoal color for a nice contrast, so we went to Home Depot and got this 5. concrete stain in Dark Coal STC-35 (for around $25).

We applied 2 coats with a spray bottle and a small paint roller.  We wanted the end result to be very high gloss (wet look), so after the stain dried, we applied 4-5 coats of this 6. wet look sealer  (also from Home Depot for around $25).

Just a warning. The concrete stain has a navy blueish tint to it for a couple weeks or so after it is applied. We sealed over it while it had the blue tint. It eventually turned to black, so don’t be alarmed (like I was).

Here's a closer look at the concrete stain once dry.


Tiles came next…we knew all along that we would go with 3″ x 6″ subway tiles.

We had enough white subway tiles already on hand to complete the project (we got them for free awhile back), but felt that they might be too much white.

After collecting samples from various places, we finally decided on 35 sq. ft. of light olive colored glass subway tiles from My Tile Backsplash. This was our only “splurge” for this project (ran us just under $350 shipped).

We removed the old tiles and realized that there was no way around the fact that no matter how gentle and precise we were, we were tearing off drywall with each section of removed tile (nothing is ever as easy as you think it is going to be).

We decided that Ted would just rip the walls out from behind the older tile and re-sheetrock the areas that were damaged. We purchased the new sheetrock (for around $10) and Ted measured, cut and installed (he is my hero).


I painted the walls a deep shade of grayish green (Martha Stewart, thunderhead for about $25).

Then for the island I mixed the same wall paint with the creamy white paint (Behr, lunar light) in a ratio of 90 (thunderhead) / 10 (lunar light) and painted the island.

I used the same paint mixture to paint the insides of our one double glass front cabinet and then installed 3 battery operated lights inside the cabinets to add some much needed light and interest.

…and FINALLY here are the finished results for our $500 DIY kitchen remodel:

I do know that if my husband hadn't have gotten some of the items for free this remodel would have cost us about $1,000. Still that's pretty amazing for a transformation like this in my opinion. :)

I hope this leaves you a little bit inspired to update your kitchen on a budget. I believe we can all have high style on a small budget!

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Audrey Kuether
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