See this kitchen go from ordinary to outstanding after a modern makeover

With two teenage boys going off to college in a few years, this couple didn’t want to break the bank on a kitchen renovation. However, they were tired of living with the room’s dark and gloomy style.

In addition, they wanted a closer connection to their backyard patio, which they had to walk through another room to access. By repurposing what she could and keeping the existing layout intact, interior designer Sabrina Alfin was able to give them a bright, fresh and new-to-them kitchen at about a third of the cost of a complete renovation.

While not compact, the previous kitchen looked small and cramped because it was so dark. In addition, the family had to cart food and drinks through another room to their backyard entertainment space. However, their appliances, granite countertops and cabinet bases were in great shape.

“At first they thought they wanted an all-white Shaker kitchen, but I thought that could wind up looking too stark and antiseptic for them — I wanted them to have something more cool updated to reflect them,” Alfin says. So she nudged them toward a two-tone cabinet scheme that injected the room with more color.

“My clients liked blue but didn’t want nautical navy or to go too beachy,” Alfin says. Instead, she helped them find a grayish teal that’s updated and sophisticated.

One of the biggest cost savers was refacing rather than replacing the cabinets. The designer added new custom Shaker doors and drawer fronts, updating the classic style with long bar pulls.

Alfin didn’t stop at just blue and white. She knew that her clients loved deep reds and wanted to find a fabric that incorporated those while tying into the teal. She also knew that spicy colors would warm up the blue and white scheme and steer it away from a coastal look.

She had the built-in bench refaced in white, with new drawer fronts and hardware that coordinates with the cabinetry. The eat-in area is an important part of the room, as the family enjoys almost all their meals together in here.

New recessed lighting and vintage-style glass pendants help brighten the room. Framed groups of vintage bottle caps add an eclectic touch. In case you’re wondering, the door leads to the existing pantry.

Here’s a glimpse of the original upholstered bench. The family wanted to keep the existing table, and Alfin made it work with new chairs, a refaced bench and new upholstery.

“I was looking for fabric that had a lot of visual interest and has the blue in it, and I found a bunch to show them — my clients fell in love with this one,” Alfin says. “It was so much fun to work with them, as they were so willing not to go down the neutral path and to take artistic risks.”

The room didn’t have a physical connection to the adjacent patio and outdoor entertainment area.

The biggest structural change to the room is the new window over the sink, which opens to the patio. Alfin took out the cabinets flanking the original window, which gave her room for a 7½-foot-wide window. Of the window’s three panes, two slide open to the outdoors, making it easy to pass food and drinks through to the bar counter on the other side.

Another cost saver was preserving the existing granite countertops, but the coordinating granite backsplash had to go. The designer replaced it with classic 6-by-3-inch subway tiles. Next she added a border of 3-by-1-inch frosty glass accent tiles. “We could have gone with just white subway tile, but it would have looked too monolithic,” she says. “We wanted to break it up without too much contrast — we already had that from the two-tone cabinets.”

She also added LED lighting underneath the cabinets. Previously the only source of light on the counters had been from the vent hood.

A spicy mat at the sink picks up on the colors of the bench fabric across the room.

The floor looks like weathered driftwood but is actually porcelain tile. Because the homeowners have dogs, they needed the durability of porcelain.

When it comes to refacing cabinets, Alfin says that although finding good-quality paint-grade doors and drawer fronts is important, the key is finding a great painter. She recommends looking for someone who is very detail-oriented.

“They should do good prep work on the cabinet bases first, filling in all the holes,” she says. She also says it’s best if the painter has a spray booth in which to paint the doors and drawer faces before bringing them to the house to install. “It’s not cheap, but it’s still a lot less expensive than buying all new cabinetry,” she says.