DIY upcycling helped add family- and budget-friendly touches to this colorful cottage kitchen makeover.
By Barbara Shuetz
Jessica Kielman may not be able to pull a rabbit out of her hat, but she certainly performed magic on her kitchen—and her decorating tricks didn’t take weeks or break the bank.
Jessica, who lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with husband Matt and kids Kate, 11, and Cam, 16, shares her DIY know-how on her blog, Mom4Real.com. Maintaining the three-year-old blog has become a full-time job, but the former preschool teacher still finds time to prowl yard sales and thrift shops in the interest of tweaking her home decor.
The 9-by-11-foot kitchen, in particular, seemed dark and dreary when the Kielmans bought their “smallish” home 12 years ago, she recalls: “It had cherry cabinets, which were lovely, but they were too dark for our taste and starting to fade. We love white and bright and cottage style, and there was none of that.”
Without the big budget required for a total renovation, the couple made every change they could around the cabinets. But after eight years, Jessica had had enough, and one day she painted those cherry cabinets white. “I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl,” she says, “so I usually make huge changes on a whim.”
And she wasn’t finished. After a few months of contentment, Jessica made another bold change: “I’d always wanted open shelving, so I took off some of the doors and painted the shelves white and the interiors my favorite shade of aqua.”
She outfitted the cabinets with rubbed-bronze knobs from a friend, added beadboard wallpaper for the backsplash and sponge-painted the countertops to resemble granite. Then she poked around the house for accents in aqua, lime green and silver.
The dramatic transformation took about two days and cost less than $200. “That’s my specialty,” she says. “I like to stay as frugal as possible.”
Jessica’s a big upcycler, and the kitchen shows off several examples. She made a menu board from
an old mirror and some chalkboard paint, turned a used $20 microwave cart into a rolling island and made soap and olive oil dispensers from empty wine bottles. All of them enhance the kitchen’s comfy cottage atmosphere.
“To me, cottage style is sweet,” she says. “It gives you more freedom. I love old things, and you can mix them with new things. Brightening up this room was like letting the sun shine in. I spend every moment I can in my kitchen now.”
So does her family. “Everyone helps with dinner prep, and Cam actually cooks dinner sometimes—he’s a very good cook,” she says. “I think it’s important to stop what we’re doing once a day and just be together and share what’s going on with each of us.”
The breakfast nook just off the kitchen is a hot spot. With lots of light and Jessica’s signature blue and white colors, it serves as an office, a craft corner and a homework station, as well as providing overflow seating when they entertain or when the kids have friends over on weekends.
It’s also where Jessica writes her blog. “I feel really creative in that space,” she says. So when she’s not posting ways to reuse mason jars or tips for cleaning burned pans, she develops crafts with her daughter. Kate, by the way, is following in her mom’s footsteps and starting her own blog.
The multipurpose nook shows off some of Jessica’s handiwork, including a table and chairs from yard sales, a large stand-alone shutter and a fun corner shelf—all painted, of course. Paint is high on her list of magic potions, and she often relies on thrifty store samples. (The two aqua paint samples she used in her cupboards cost less than $7.)
“I have painted interior doors, old furniture, even rugs,” she says. “It’s amazing what you can do with an inexpensive sample of paint. If you paint something and don’t love it, you can always repaint it.”
That goes for her cute white kitchen, too—“It’s constantly changing,” she says with a knowing laugh. To see what she’s got up her sleeve now, check out the blog.
Colorful Cottage Kitchen Makeover photography by Jessica Kielman.