Mini DIY kitchen makeover made a crafter's country kitchen feel warmer and cozier.
By Barbara Schuetz
She may not be the chief cook, but Kristen Brandenburg can sure whip up a delicious-looking kitchen! A homemaker who worked as a floral designer for 15 years, Kristen treats her pretty kitchen—and the rest of her home—to stunning seasonal floral arrangements and accessories.
But even the prettiest of kitchens can’t always disguise the need for improvement.
“We built our house in 2004, based on a model home up the street, and brought our appliances from the other house,” says Kristen, whose husband, Kevin, is a database administrator. They live in Van Buren, Arkansas, with son Chase, 13, and a mini menagerie of pets: a dog, two cats and a chinchilla.
Although their old black stove and microwave were still in fair shape, the hand-me-down dishwasher worked only on the quick-wash setting, and the 13-year-old fridge (which they’d hauled to an auto body shop to have painted black) had a broken ice-maker and chipped exterior. So last year the couple invested in new appliances, splurging on stainless steel.
“The black appliances were so dark,” Kristen recalls. “The stainless steel ones really brightened up the kitchen. They made it look so clean and fresh.”
They also made “everything else look bad,” she told followers of her blog, which chronicles her creativity.
Kristen’s comfy kitchen was already a charmer, with country French-style cupboards and Formica countertops, tile flooring, and a handy pantry and island for added storage. And neutral colors—light-gold walls and cream cabinets—painted to order when the couple built their house, “because I planned on accenting with lots of color,” Kristen notes.
When they first moved in, she highlighted the cabinets with a coat of walnut gel stain. “But I always thought they still needed another coat,” she says. So she began by giving the cabinets a second coat of glaze. “It wasn’t a huge change,” she says, “just enough to add a little more warmth and update the kitchen.” [Find how-tos on her blog.]
New doorknobs and drawer handles in a classic birdcage design fit right in with the country French style.
The island proved the most time-consuming project; Kristen thought about painting it green for more than a year. After picking the perfect shade, misted fern, she applied three coats and glazed the whole thing with walnut stain. Not satisfied, Kristen brushed on, here and there, a bit of darker green paint she found in the garage. She then anded the edges to let some of the original cream color peek through, and added black iron corbels underneath the tile countertop.
“Kevin was a little concerned about how the green island would look, but he was pleasantly surprised at how it turned out,” she says. “Believe me, it was all trial and error.”
Kristen’s other experiments worked equally well. For contrast, she painted the cream-colored iron light fixtures brown, then added a layer of metallic gold. (She actually spray-painted the fixtures without even taking them down!) And she had new granite countertops installed on both the cabinets and the island.
Kristen’s tasteful seasonal accents throughout the kitchen complement the update.
“I was very crafty as a child,” she says. “My favorite class was art. The first wreath I ever made was for my grandma—she still hangs it on her door every Christmas.”
Frames, Flowers and More
Kristen still fashions wreaths but also creates fun frames, silk flower arrangements, ribbon tassels and seasonal items like scarecrows to hang on doorknobs or walls. She also works with fresh flowers and decorates several local homes at Christmastime. When the shop where she worked for 15 years closed, Kristen opened her own online.
Kristen’s kitchen update is done—t for now. “I would love to add crown molding sometime, and I plan to paint medallions around the tops of the light fixtures,” she says. “If you’re like me, your house is always a work in progress.”
That might be why Kevin is the main cook in this family; Kristen prepares meals about twice a week and enjoys making desserts. But truthfully, she says, laughing, “I’d rather decorate the kitchen than cook in it!”
Click here for a look at Kristen’s floor plan.