A $50 Budget Kitchen Makeover

Small kitchen is transformed with colorful decoupage decor in this budget kitchen makeover.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: sink side of colorful galley kitchen

A $50 Budget Kitchen Makover

Updating a small 1934 kitchen on a tiny budget was a challenge Brenda Kula tackled with old-fashioned ingenuity.

Brenda Kula with dogs in lap

Brenda Kula And Yorkies

Another of Brenda's pet projects is caring for her two cute and cuddly Yorkies.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: kitchen cabinet full of colorful dishware

Cabinet Full Of Colorful Dishware

Brenda showcased her dazzling array of dishware by removing the doors from her upper cabinets.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: upcycled pot lid towel holder

Pot Lid Towel Holder

A repurposed pot lid makes a handy towel holder.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: white cabinets covered with colorful decoupaged items

Decoupaged Lower Cabinets

A decoupaged collage covering the lower cabinets is made up of fun ephemera—photos, poems, cards and quotes—Brenda collects.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: refrigerator end of galley kitchen

One End Of Galley Kitchen

Black laminate counters and linoleum floors present a neutral backdrop for an eye-popping style Brenda calls "farmhouse cottage eclectic."

Budget Kitchen Makeover: black bookcase pantry

Bookcase Pantry

A spare bookcase is easily transformed into a compact pantry.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: pet feeding station topped with accents

Pet Feeding Station

This repainted table works well as both display space and a feeding station for Brenda's pups.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: coffee bar next to stove

Coffee Bar

Stencils and whimsical signs wake up an inviting coffee bar, while more colorful collectibles find a home over the stove.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: dining room table and two cabinets

Dining Room With Table And Cabinets

Mixing and matching many textures—wood, fabric and glass—livens up the dining room, brightened by a mason jar lamp Brenda made.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: Red colander candleholder

Table With Red Colander Candleholder

An old colander is given a shiny new life as a candleholder, reflecting Brenda's passion for red.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: table by window with checkered curtains

Glass-Topped Table By Window

A second table in the dining room provides a window view and another comfy spot for conversation. Checkered curtains add a touch of country.

Budget Kitchen Makeover: sink side of colorful galley kitchenBrenda Kula with dogs in lapBudget Kitchen Makeover: kitchen cabinet full of colorful dishwareBudget Kitchen Makeover: upcycled pot lid towel holderBudget Kitchen Makeover: white cabinets covered with colorful decoupaged itemsBudget Kitchen Makeover: refrigerator end of galley kitchenBudget Kitchen Makeover: black bookcase pantryBudget Kitchen Makeover: pet feeding station topped with accentsBudget Kitchen Makeover: coffee bar next to stoveBudget Kitchen Makeover: dining room table and two cabinetsBudget Kitchen Makeover: Red colander candleholderBudget Kitchen Makeover: table by window with checkered curtains


By Brenda Kula
Tulsa, OK

If you’re a lover of all-white kitchens, you might want to bring sunglasses when you visit mine. I decided that the place I hang my apron has to reflect my personality. For me, that means colorful and full of fun.

A few years ago, I had a much fancier kitchen with all the bells and whistles, professionally put together by a designer. Things changed when, after a divorce, I moved into a modest blue 1934 house, rented from my daughter, a real estate agent. My work as a home and garden blogger (cozylittlehouse.com) is very rewarding and has enriched my life with friends more than money. I’ve found that living frugally motivates me to be creative—and my kitchen redo is a good example. I just let my imagination lead me.

The challenge of a long, narrow galley kitchen is making it look bigger. So I began by taking the doors off the upper cabinets to give the room an open feeling. It also brought my colorful patterned plates and glasses out of hiding. I was already beginning to see some promise.

The cabinets below the sink were still boring as could be—but nothing a paint job couldn’t fix, I figured. So I brushed on a couple of fresh coats of white, took off the dull silver knobs and drawer pulls and spray-painted them black. Then I sat back on my rolling garden seat, looked at all my work and sighed. It still needed something.

You may be wondering what I’m doing with a garden scooter in my kitchen. A couple of summers ago I broke my ankle, requiring surgery and some heavy-duty hardware to hold it together. Squatting is no easy feat for me—so when I need to do chores close to floor level, my garden seat comes in handy.

Anyway, while I was sitting there, an idea popped into my head. One of my favorite hobbies is decoupage. A collage of cutouts and a few coats of sealer are all you need. I went straight to my craft room and started rummaging through file drawers full of graphics I’d been saving—vintage pictures, photos, poems, cards and inspirational quotes—things that had captured my fancy.

Varnishing Act

I had intended to put up only a few select pieces, but once I started decoupaging, I couldn’t stop. After a day or so of work, I’d covered every square inch of those cabinets I’d just painted! If you look closely, you’ll see the pictures are a little crooked. (Remember, I’m rolling around on a garden seat.) But I think mistakes are part of the charm. Now, at least to me, my cabinets are a work of art and not just plain old wood.

The red-and-white-checked curtains I made for my kitchen window were the inspiration for another decoupage project. I didn’t want my upper cabinets to look left out, so I decoupaged around them and the shelf edges with checkered scrapbook paper. That really fit my country-girl-in-the-city style. Next, I cut out an oversize knife, fork and spoon from paper I had on hand and decoupaged them right to the wall for a fun food-themed accent.

When it comes to decorating, I have two rules. No. 1: There are no rules. Do what makes you happy. No. 2: As I tell my blog followers, don’t buy something new until you’ve “shopped” your house and garage.

For example, I don’t have a pantry, but I do have an unused bookcase I brought into the kitchen to store my food staples. I also came across an old pot lid that I hung on the wall—instant towel holder! At the far end of the galley, I placed a small table I’d repainted. I keep some plates on top, and below are food and water dishes for my adorable Yorkies, Abigail and Charlie.

The cupboards above my gas stove are hard to reach without a stepladder, so I use them to show off colorful collectibles—baskets, mason jars, old-timey food cans and such. Right beside them is my coffee bar. I stenciled coffee cups on the cabinet doors to perk them up. For practice, I also stenciled “Bistro” on a cutting board I have propped behind the sink as a backsplash.

When I tallied everything up, it cost me just under $50 to redecorate my kitchen—mostly for paint and brushes. True, it’s not interior-decorator perfect, what with my simple linoleum floors and black laminate counters, but it couldn’t suit me better. Every time I walk into it, I smile. When people ask about my decorating strategy, I have to laugh. Strategy? I just start—and I’m always surprised by where I end up. Usually, getting there is half the fun.

Budget Kitchen Makeover Photography by Scott Johnson

Charlotte Macdiarmid 1 March 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Bravo, Brenda. You sure did a fine job on your kitchen cupboards.. Your whole house is a work of art also. Congratulations !


Sondra Morris 2 March 2, 2014 at 12:38 am

Love all the color:-) Brenda’s very talented:-)


Andrea at Opulent Cottage 3 March 2, 2014 at 4:37 pm

These photos show off Brenda’s kitchen wonderfully! It’s whimsical, charming, fun and inviting. She is such a creative, talented lady! Love seeing this great feature.


Connie Lenden 4 March 2, 2014 at 4:48 pm

So happy to hear your good news! Your writing and craft skills have paid off.
You certainly deserve this after all your hard work, and labor of love!
Congratulations to you ~ you deserve it!!


Annie 5 March 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Love the way Brenda decorates with her imagination!


Brenda 6 March 11, 2014 at 11:36 am

This is a great kitchen. I’d love to visit and have a coffee. I’m sure I could not see it all in just one visit so the next visit I’ll bring the coffee and treats.


Gail 7 April 2, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I loved the kitchen. I love color and especially red, so this really caught my eye. I was wondering about the quilt wall hanging. Do you know the name of that pattern? Great job on the kitchen.


sharon 8 April 3, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Hi, Gail, Actually, the wall hanging is a pattern Brenda created herself. It’s her spin on the traditional pinwheel pattern.You may want to check out another cute quilt block on our site by reader Leona Kocher of Oblong, Illinois. Go to http://www.lovethecountry.com/project/quilt-blocks-summer-pinwheels.


Marlene 9 June 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Fabulous kitchen!! I’d love to have you here to work miracles in mine. :)


eileenkimmey 10 July 8, 2015 at 10:52 pm

dear, Brenda kula , kudos to you for being such a smart savvy , home designer for your own kitchen !!! it’s absolutely gorgeous & gloriously beautiful beyond comprehension !!! you are thee ultimate architect of designing great , magnificent kitchens on a restricted budget and pull it off as one of the greatest coup de gras ever !! my hats off to you !!!! I have Epilepsy and iam still waiting for the house to be sold so I can get my first ever bachelorette apartment …… I greatly admire you you’re a gutsy , feisty woman who refuses to take no for an answer at all ever…… Eileen kimmey orland park,il.


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