If there’s something we never get tired of seeing, it’s a great makeover. Whether it’s transforming a retro bathroom into a modern oasis or giving a lackluster bedroom a fresh look, pros perform these design miracles all the time.
To give designers a chance to showcase their favorite makeovers—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the best before and afters we’ve seen in our series, Makeover of the Week. Take notes for your next renovation.
“Twenty years after our first remodel, our kitchen started looking and feeling its age,” says MyDomaine contributor Colleen Sullivan. “I met with a few interior designers but their six figure renovation estimates were waaaay out of my budget so I decided to eliminate the middleman to save money and GC the project myself.”
Meet the Expert
Colleen Sullivan is a lifestyle writer who specializes in home, travel, style and weddings. She is the OG writer for MyDomaine’s Makeover of the Week column.
“Dark cherry cabinets with antique glass fronts, green granite countertops, and wainscoted walls were in style twenty years ago but not so much today,” notes Sullivan. “All of these design elements contributed to our kitchen feeling dark, even when it was sunny out. My goal was to create a brighter space that felt clean and fresh.”
“GC’ing a kitchen renovation isn’t for everybody—you have to be incredibly patient while getting multiple estimates for each job and you need to be organized to coordinate everyone’s schedules,” notes Sullivan. “But it was worth any aggravation because I saved a lot of money by cutting out the middle person, plus I was able work at my own pace and on my own terms—everything was literally a work in progress. Surprisingly, from start to end, the project took four months, a lot less time the designers I met with predicted. If you do decide to take on a big reno project yourself, you’ll need to put together an enthusiastic and flexible group of people to work with. My team—Gary, Salome, Eddie, Kathy, Jill, Giuseppe, and Gilberto all rolled with the punches!”
- Color theme: White + cream + pops of blue, green, and orange create a bright and blissful vibe. “Everyone who walks into our kitchen says it feels like a happy place,” says Sullivan.
- Cabinets: Painting the original cherry cabinets white (Benjamin Moore Simply White) saved over $50,000 on new cabinetry. “Fortunately, with my first kitchen, I chose quality cabinets with a basic design so they were suitable for repurposing. I went back and forth between cabinet colors - ultimately settling on white as it’s timeless and I didn’t want my kitchen to age quickly,” says Sullivan. “I hired a professional cabinet painter but still encountered some pain points—peeling veneer around the wall ovens wasn’t caught before the paint job and we had to make do without any cabinet doors for weeks. But in the end, you’d be hard pressed to tell the cabinets weren’t new.”
- Hardware: Glass was swapped out for satin nickel knobs to give the cabinets a more modern feel, while the pulls were repurposed. “I considered brass hardware but I wanted something different than what has been trending in kitchen design. Plus, I liked how the satin nickel played off my stainless steel appliances,” says Sullivan.
- Countertops: The seams on the dated green granite countertops were failing, so they were replaced with an affordable and stain-resistant Silestone quartz. “One week after the white countertops were installed, my mother-in-law spilled red wine that wasn’t discovered until the next morning. There was a red ring—I wanted to cry—but luckily with some baking soda, warm water, and elbow grease, the stain came out. I knew then I made the right countertop choice!” notes Sullivan.
- Center island: To make it more functional, the original center island—a vintage bean cabinet—was modified to include a quartz top and shiplapped sides, saving money on a replacement. “I lost sleep over the idea of deconstructing an antique piece, but I saved the wood top and covered the sides without changing anything underneath so if one day I wanted to restore it, I could,” notes Sullivan. “The new overhang makes it so we’re not banging our knees every time we sit and my husband, the cook in the family, has better use of the island for food prep. I left the original wood drawers exposed to warm up all the white on the island, so I could continue to tap into all their amazing storage. We also repositioned the island for better traffic flow, aligning it parallel to the stove.”
- Stools: Backless stools fit snugly under the center island’s countertop. “I must have looked at 1,000 stools online—not only could I not find ones I liked, I couldn’t see myself spending $750 and up for a single stool!” says Sullivan. “Then, one day I was in HomeGoods and noticed these beautiful leather and teak stools for $150 each up on a shelf. I needed three, but purchased five for larger family gatherings or in case one gets damaged down the road.”
- Banquette: Three-inch faux leather cream cushions replaced the one-inch cushions whose foam had lost their spring. “I wanted a performance fabric that wouldn’t stain in a neutral color that would allow me to change out the bench pillows when I wanted a fresh look, as the pillows provide most of the color in the room. I purchased all of the pillows at HomeGoods for less than $125, saving hundreds of dollars,” notes Sullivan. “I also sourced a cushion maker directly and purchased material from JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, where I scored an amazing faux leather fabric for only $17 a yard.”
- Sitting area: Two leather chairs, a faux fiddle leaf plant, and a round stool covered in a light blue velvet fabric create a spot for family and friends to relax. “The previous owners bumped out the kitchen to make a bay area—I wanted to transform the space into a spot where people could read or talk to my husband while he was cooking. Again, quality faux leather chairs saved me big bucks, another HomeGoods find for $250 each!”
- Walls: Six-inch horizontal shiplap replaced three-inch vertical bead board on the walls. “My original intent wasn’t a farmhouse look, but I loved the way the shiplap added texture to the walls,” says Sullivan. “It helped that Gary, my painter, was also a talented carpenter!”
- Hood: A simple 43” wood hood replaced a more ornate counter-to-ceiling set-up. “The prior hood included two pull-out spice drawers. What I didn’t realize twenty years ago was how much counter space those spice drawers would take up,” says Sullivan. “I discovered a site that specializes in hood sales (Hoodsly.com) and purchased a slightly damaged hood, saving $500. Some spackle and paint and the hood looked flawless.”
- Backsplash: A vanilla onyx natural stone tile features swirls of white and cream and ties into the countertops and cabinet colors. “This was my one splurge,” says Sullivan. “I’ve always been a believer of never skimping on quality tile because chances are you’re going to have to live with it for a long time. After looking at hundreds of options, this onyx stone was recommended to me by Salome, a design associate at Artistic Tile. She convinced me the tile would blend well with all of the other neutral colors in the room and with the existing floor which I purchased from her company twenty years ago!”
- Floor: A cream colored Jerusalem limestone tile is durable and does a good job of hiding dirt. “I really wanted to replace my 20-year-old floor because I felt it would be too matchy-matchy with the white cabinets and creamy countertops, but ripping out the stone would have been extremely expensive and could have damaged the radiant heat below,” shares Sullivan. “Instead, I hired a stone cleaner who blasted the stone using sanding discs to remove any dirt and grime, giving the floor new life. And I felt better after Salome shared my floor tile was making a comeback!”
- Pendants: White dome-shaped metal pendants provide task lighting over the center island. “I looked at a lot of expensive fixtures and then found these—a steal for $29 each at Homesense!”
- Hooks: Affordable round brass wall hooks from West Elm provide a spot by the back door for jackets and hats. “We used to have pegs that were hung low for our kids, but now that they’re older, we can position these hooks at an adult eye level!” says Sullivan.
- Table: A farmhouse table was created out of pine boards from an old barn. “I was certain I would replace our kitchen table, but once I saw how much white was in the room, I realized this table was exactly what I needed to warm things up. It aligns well with the other wood in the room, including the island, hutch, and the original doors,” says Sullivan.
- Television: A 38” inch television is hidden behind small barn doors that have been decorated with brown and white ceramic plaques. “My husband wanted a television in the kitchen so he could watch sports and food shows while cooking,” notes Sullivan. “I’m not a fan of how TVs look in a kitchen, yet with art TVs being so pricy, I went with the next best thing and had Gary frame the television and attach doors to disguise the screen when not in use.”
- Powder room: A blue palm leaf wallpaper purchased from Wayfair brings a tropical energy to the tiny powder room. “The wall below the chair rail, shutters and ceiling were all painted a white satin to make the space feel bigger and brighter,” says Sullivan.
- Pantry: A glass front cabinet stores a 3-tier lazy Susan. “The pantry cabinet, our main storage for nonperishables, was accidentally thrown away during construction. In the end, it was a blessing because the shelves were stationary, making it hard to retrieve items in the back. We opted for an oversized lazy Susan with shelves that rotate for accessibility and to save money on slide out shelving,” shares Sullivan.
- More cost savings: “I repurposed the window shutters, wall ovens, farmhouse sink and refrigerator to stay on budget,” says Sullivan.
Shop the Look:
“This tropical wallpaper is great way to add coastal chic to any room,” says Sullivan.
“Mixing colorful striped and solid pillows is a great way to add life to a window seat or banquette,” says Sullivan.
“Individually placed round hooks keep a wall from looking cluttered,” notes Sullivan.