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Sick of your old kitchen? Here’s Our Oak Kitchen Update on a Budget!

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by Robin

What do you do when you’ve got a dated golden oak kitchen, but not the budget to replace it?

What if those same cabinets are in too good of shape to take a sledgehammer to? 

What if your life is maxed out busy and you can’t have your kitchen out of commission for even a few days?

That was us.  And maybe you too? Do you need an oak kitchen update?

We were tired of our tired kitchen.  It had it’s flaws, not just in style, but in substance too. 

The storage and counterspace were limited and what we did have just wasn’t functioning well.

We needed an oak kitchen update – but not a complete and costly renovation.

So we got creative.  And busy.  And patient.


Well, this reno took us more than a few days.  It was a few months.  By our own choosing mind you. 

We had many small windows of time in which to tackle this reno.  If we had the luxury of some days in a row we could have banged it all out in a week.  But that’s not our reality.

So we coined this makeover “The Slow Mo Kitchen Reno”

We didn’t have a single day that the kitchen was out of commission, but we had a few months where the kitchen looked half-baked.

We will share lots of Oak Kitchen Updates and how-to’s in future posts, this one is all about the Before and Afters!

oak kitchen update before
That microwave cabinet was such a clutter collector!

Plus with how much it stuck out it limited the useful counterspace we could work with.

oak kitchen update after
By removing the microwave cabinet and figuring out how to add open shelves we opened up our counter space and created a much more modern look.

We’re so happy with this – you can see this spot from our entire main floor and now it looks beautiful instead of dated.
Dark counters and old fashioned cupboards were making our whole main floor seem dated a drab.
Sherwin Williams Pussywillow cabinets
Adding an over the range microwave helped modernize our kitchen so much!

Painting the cupboards and installing a new marble-look laminate countertop didn’t hurt either.
This side of kitchen got an upgrade too!

After opening up our main floor we made do with an island on wheels and a wine fridge. Behind that is our breakfast bar.

A jumbled mess!
A much cleaner look! We figured out how to hack in-stock cupboards to make a custom kitchen look.

We made big box cabinets less deep to fit our space perfectly.

We also devised how to make simple drawer faces and saved a bundle.

We finished off the look with classic subway tile, and a gorgeous butcher block countertop.
It’s funny, until I saw this photo I didn’t realize how much our old range hood stuck out into the cooking area. It’s nice to have that gone!
Clean and fresh looking!

We added DIY board and batten paneling to this wall to tie it together with our dining room. A big impact and affordable easy update!

Here’s a sample of what we did for our oak kitchen update, and what’s to come in our how-to posts:

1. We installed an over-the-range microwave.  (What a space saver!)  You can read here how to cut a cabinet for over the range microwave.)

2. In the spot where the microwave was, we built open shelving.  (Sigh.  So much prettier.)  Click here to read about it.

3. We tore out our old black granite-like countertops – which were dark and damaged.  We found a pretty marble-like laminate to install in its place.  (So many reasons to love laminate!)

4. We tore out the fruity old backsplash and installed a new one. (Classic subway tile, with a twist.)

5. We painted the old cabinets.  (Time-consuming – but worth every second.  Except when we tried to spray them, that was a worthless, drippy mess.)

6. We hacked some big-box drawer bases to fix our space.  We made drawer faces ourselves (- can you believe it?!?)

7. We installed butcher block counters over this new bank of cupboards.  (Love that tung oil!)

8. We created a built-in wine rack that solved a clunky layout problem. (Not pictured…yet.)

9. We did a board and batten wall treatment (when we realized the time and effort the all tile wall I originally envisioned would cost us.)

10. I made no-sew faux roman blinds.  (And screwed them up, like I do when I rush, but in the end it all worked out.)

11. We learned to wait patiently for the hardwood floors that we want to install here, and throughout our main floor. Saving takes time (and waiting’s the worst.) UPDATE: After some research and looking into the luxury vinyl plank pros and cons we finally changed out the flooring! Keep reading here for all our tips on luxury vinyl plank installation. The floors look so good now!)

Speaking of saving, we did this all on a pretty tight budget.  Our whole “Slo-Mo Kitchen Reno” was half the cost of the marble countertops I priced out at the start of all this.  I love that!

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Emmy Jaye

Saturday 13th of January 2024

A note about over-the-range microwaves. If you do a lot of canning.... they don't like steam :( ....the system makes 'noises' after awhile. The kitchen looks wonderful. Well done.

Robin & Ed Hicken

Monday 15th of January 2024

Thanks, Emmy! We usually do our canning outside on the BBQ side burner - so haven't noticed this. :)

Dorie LaRue

Sunday 21st of November 2021

Thanks for all the pictures and the blow by blow account. Very helpful. And the after is gorgeous.


Sunday 28th of November 2021

Thanks so much, Dorie! Happy you liked it. :)


Sunday 28th of June 2020

And what finish of the paint cabinet did you take ? mat..?. semi-gloss...? and did you paint the interior? (sorry for my English, I'm French ) can you please be more specific for the paint... I'm lost in all the kind .... thank you viviane


Sunday 28th of June 2020

Hi, Viviane! Your English is just great! We used semi-gloss latex enamel paint. We used the colour "Pussywillow" from Sherwin Williams - but had it colour matched in Behr paint. Yes - we painted the interiors - in a house with kids these get left open ALL the time! :) Robin


Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Where did you say you got your counter tops for a great price? And what kind was it?


Wednesday 29th of August 2018

Your kitchen looks amazing!!! What color did you use on the cabinets?


Wednesday 29th of August 2018

Thank-you! It’s Pussywillow from Sherwin Williams. We had it colour matched in behr paint. 👍