Category Archives: Kitchen Makeover on a Budget

Six Dollar Kitchen Countertop Transformation

Yep, you read that title right! I completely transformed the look of my countertops for only SIX DOLLARS!! How, you ask? Well, first a little background…
(This may get a little lengthy, but you really have to read the whole thing to understand the victory I felt when I came up this idea.  So bear with me!)

Counter Top Transformation

Our kitchen is actually pretty new.  It went through a complete remodel in 2009. We bought the house in 2011.  So while the kitchen is new… it wasn’t how we would have redone it.  It started out with honey colored cabinets, really bad off-white walls, white appliances, the cheapest off-white laminate floors money can buy, and sandy rose (aka pink) countertops that clash with the cabinets.  A complete remodel, but obviously on a tight budget.  The only real upgrade that I LOVE are the soft close drawers.

Here is what our kitchen looked like when we moved in.  You’ve heard me talk about how teeny it is. Well, here’s the proof!

This picture gives you a good idea of how cheap and off-white the floors are and how bad the paint color is.  Look at it compared to the white trim. Eek!  And yes, they painted the basement door in the same color.  The front door is a FIFTH shade of white.  Everything just looked dingy and dirty.

So first things first, I painted! And I’m still painting… I have to finish that hard to reach little area above the cabinet that’s above the refrigerator.  The color I used is called Homemade Butterscotch.  I love it!  But… it made those sandy rose countertops looks even MORE pink! They seem to change color depending on the lighting and what is sitting on top of them.

Here are some pictures of what I’m talking about.
(pink counters)

(this section gets more sunlight from the window, so it doesn’t look as pink, but it really brightens up the wall color)

So they had to go!  We’re doing this kitchen makeover on a very small budget. I researched all the options I could do to change the countertops without actually changing them out.

First, there was Rust-Oleum’s Countertop Transformations.  Very cool, VERY expensive!  I just couldn’t imagine creating a big dust storm in my house though with all the sanding involved.

Next was Giani Countertop paint kits.  Again very cool, and much more budget friendly.  I had a few issues with it though.  The painting method makes the counters look patterned instead of more random like granite should look, the color options were limited, a lot of people have had bad experiences with it, and the cure time is RIDICULOUS! No way could we avoid using our counters for 2 whole weeks.

Then I thought, I can do the Giani method, but buy all the supplies myself!  This would save even more money, allow me to pick and choose my colors, change the painting method (I could have with the Giani method, too), and change the top coat.

So lots of time and research went into that last idea.  I realized that I’d have to reseal my countertops every so often.  Same with the Giani method.  Then I came across this awesome product called Envirotex that wouldn’t need to be reapplied.  But even with my 40 and 50 percent off coupons, it wasn’t making the budget friendly cut.  It would require multiple boxes.

After hours of planning and thinking about this and trying out different paint methods on poster board, the thought of PERMANENTLY changing (essentially ruining) new countertops, just didn’t sit well with me.  Especially if they didn’t turn out well!

Still with me? Because here’s the secret to my SIX DOLLAR countertops: Con-Tact paper! Ok, so some of you are probably thinking, That’s tacky!  Well, yes, in fact, it is (in the literal sense!).  You wouldn’t even know by looking at it.
Cheap does not equal cheap in my mind!

I was reading something about a project using Con-Tact paper.  And then I saw that they make it in different granite prints.  The idea hit me, and I was SO EXCITED!  Con-Tact paper is already made to be used in kitchens, it can get wet, it’s stain resistant, and it can be cleaned with soap!  I loved the thought that this could be a temporary or long-term solution.  If I don’t like it, I can just pull it up, but in the meantime it can stay until I decide to paint or completely change out the counters.

I wish I had thought of this earlier.  Like during the time we were bouncing around from rental to rental the first few years of our marriage. We lived with some pretty ugly counters back then.  This is a great solution for any renters reading this with horrible bright orange laminate counters.  Or maybe yours are pea green? 😉

Ready for some AFTER shots?
Counter Top Transformation
Sooo much better! What a big difference $6 can make! I love the contrast and the way it breaks up all the brown/orangey tones. No sanding, no drying time, no curing time, no messy cleanup!  This only took a few hours!

Close up.  In certain lighting it looks a little blue, but it’s supposed to be gray.

Here it is with a pop of color! Now you have another sneak peek into our kitchen makeover and an idea of the color scheme 🙂
If you like the knife garden in the picture, head over here to find out how you can make one.

I bought my Con-Tact paper from Home Depot. I had to buy it online, because none of the stores in my area sell the granite ones.  It was a bit of a gamble to choose a color over the internet.  It’s not exactly what I had hoped for, because the tan doesn’t really show well, but for the price I’m not going to complain 🙂

My husband was nice enough to calculate the square footage of our counters including the edges and figured out just how much of the paper I used.  The roll cost $18 and I used almost exactly 1/3 of that.  Meaning my budget friendly countertops only cost me $6!!  And now I have extra paper for other projects or to make repairs if I have to.  NOT BAD AT ALL! 🙂

And now a quick summary of how I used Con-Tact paper to cover my counters:

The Supplies
Con-Tact Paper
2. squeegee or credit/gift card
3. ruler
4. scissors
5. utility knife
6. painter’s or masking tape (optional)
7. a helping hand!

The Directions
(pictures below)
Clean your surface well! This is really important!  The paper will stick best to a clean surface.  Any debris will leave bumps on your counter. I used a solution of 1/2 warm water and 1/2 vinegar in a spray bottle.  I let it sit for a while on the really greasy spots, like the edges next to the stove.
2. It really helps if you can do this with another person.  The contact paper will stick to everything, so having someone hold it up and flat makes it easier to position it.  The paper I used was 18 inches wide.  Measure how much you need to cover from the back of your counter to the front, taking into account the front edge.  Cut out strips using these measurements (add a little extra for error).  I found it easier to do the back splash of my counter with separate pieces.
3. Line up your paper and gradually smooth it down using the credit card or squeegee starting at the very edge.  Work in one inch strips going across the width of the paper.  It might help to use painter’s tape to tape down your first piece and keep it straight.  Just remove the backing a little at a time so the tape can be removed a little at a time too.
4. If you have bubbles or wrinkles, just lift it up a little and try again.
5. When you put down your next piece, only overlap by a few millimeters. If you don’t overlap or overlap too much, the seams will be noticeable.
6. When you get to hard to cover areas, like around the sink, just cut small pieces and work around it.  Use the credit card to really crease the paper up against the sink and use a utility knife to trim it.  Do the same thing when it comes to the edges and ends of the counter. Please be careful not to scratch your counters and walls using the utility knife, or cut into the caulk around your sink.

1. Small bubbles can be pierced with a pin and flattened with the credit card.
2. The surface can be cleaned with a damp cloth and mild soap.
3. If you accidentally damage the paper, you can cut small patches to repair it.
4. When choosing what paper to use, don’t buy one with obvious patterns.  You’ll have a hard time making it all match up.

Here are some action shots. Sorry about the quality.  A lot of them were taken in bad lighting and at night.
Cleaning with vinegar.

Part way done.

Using a gift card to smooth it down.

Cutting excess paper underneath the edge of the counter.

Removing the cut piece.

And now one more look at the AFTER picture:
Happy dance! Ok, not really. I don’t dance.

Here are some other kitchen projects you may want to check out!

Mail Center - Upcycled Formula TubsDIY Knife Garden - A Universal Knife Holder

Remember, if you post about this project, please be sure to give me credit and link back to me or grab a button from the sidebar. Thanks!
Your opinions and thoughts mean a lot to me.  I would love for you to leave me a comment below.  Thanks for stopping by today!


Filed under DIY - Do It Yourself, Kitchen, Kitchen Makeover on a Budget

Mail Center – Upcycled Formula Tubs

Here’s a project I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting to do.
It involves spray painting, so I’ve really just been waiting on the warm weather.
Just when I think it’s getting warm enough to spray paint.. NOPE!.. we’re hit with a blizzard.. in the middle of April!
Well, we’ve had 2 days in a row that have been in the 80’s, and no snow in the forecast.  So I figured it was finally time to conquer this upcycling project!

Here’s the plan:  to turn formula tubs into a mail center.  Are you excited? Here’s the how to..

The Supplies
clean, dry formula tubs
spray paint that adheres to plastic
scrapbook paper or fabric
4. scissors and ruler or paper cutter
5. lettering – stencils, cutouts, stickers, stamps, vinyl – you choose
6. glue – I used Mod Podge
7. soda can tabs
8. hot glue

The Directions
Start with clean, dry formula tubs.  If you can’t get your hands on some formula tubs, I’m sure there are other items that would work.  For instance, the french fried onion tubs are similar, but just a little smaller.
(Let me just say, I’m all for breastfeeding!  But my health and the medications I take made that a challenge for me, so that’s why I have these tubs)

Carefully pop the covers off.  If you do this too fast, the little plastic rods will snap and go flying.  The covers are fairly easy to take off.
Spray paint the tubs.  Mine only took one coat, but it was a paint and primer in one.

You may want to paint the insides to give them a more uniform look.

Next, take your scrapbook paper or fabric and cut it into strips.  My paper was 12 x 12.  It wasn’t long enough to wrap all the way around the tub, but enough to cover the sides that would be showing.
I cut my paper at 3.5 inch intervals.  So my strip size was 12 x 3.5.  You can of course make wider or narrower strips depending on how much of the paint you want to show or how big your letters are.
My paper cutter has been on the winning side of hide-and-seek since we moved to this house almost 2 years ago.  I was pregnant at the time, so family helped pack us up, which resulted in not knowing what went in what box!  There’s a lot of hiding items yet to be found.  So I had to cut my strips in the more time consuming way.
I could only get 3 strips out of one paper.  So for the fourth strip, I started up 1 inch from the bottom of a second piece of paper before cutting my 3.5 inch strip. That way none of the 4 strips would be identical.
Does that make sense?  In other words, if I hadn’t done that, my first and fourth strip would be identical because they would be cut from the same edge of each piece of paper.

I forgot to take pictures of this next part.
Glue your strips to the tub.  Put glue on the center of your strip and position it on the front center of your tub.  I found it easier to not have glue on the whole strip while I was trying to get it in the right position.  Once you’re happy with where it is, glue down the rest of the paper.

Then I got my lettering ready.  It took me awhile to decide how I wanted to do the letters.  At first, I wanted to stencil them on with a creamy white paint that matched my scrapbook paper.  But when I tried it out on a scrap piece, it didn’t come away with clean edges.
So I decided to go vinyl!  This was actually perfect, since vinyl is repositional, you don’t have to worry about crooked, unevenly spaced letters.
Unfortunately, I’m not blessed to own a Cricut or Silhouette, so I used the same method I used to make the monogram for L’s nursery.  You can read about it HERE.
I traced letters on to the back of my vinyl, making sure to trace unsymmetrical ones backwards. (ignore the extra markings in the picture, they are leftovers from a different project) Then I carefully cut out each letter.
Now add your letters!  Mine say:  OPEN, PAY, AWAY, ITEMS.  Short words worked best for me, but yours can say what ever you want.  Other examples: IN, OUT, PENS, KEYS, SUPPLIES, STAMPS, COUPONS, RECEIPTS.

We’re not only going to upcycle the tubs, but upcycle some soda can tabs! They will be used to hang the tubs to the wall.
There are different ways of doing this.  The most common way is putting a screw through the little hole on the bottom of the tab to attach it to your item.  Well… 1. I can never get the tabs off with those little circles in tact. And 2. I didn’t want an unsightly hole going through the container.  I opted for hot glue.
I bent each tab slightly while holding it over the edge of my kitchen counter. Then, I marked the same spot on the back of each container as a guide, and glued them on.  I added an extra layer of hot glue on the top to really bury the tab in glue.

Now hang them up, be proud of your work, and enjoy the organization!

We were in desperate need of a mail sorting system.  We usually have random piles sitting around the house…
Like this one on the kitchen counter…

and all this opened mail that’s invaded the wine rack.  There’s usually a pile or two on the dining room table, too….

But this is just so much better!  And now you have a sneak peak into our kitchen makeover!

Thanks for stopping by today! If you have any questions about this project, please put them in the comment section.

Remember, if you post about this project, please be sure to give me credit and link back to me or grab a button from the sidebar. Thanks!


Filed under DIY - Do It Yourself, Free Tutorials, Kitchen, Kitchen Makeover on a Budget, Upcycled

DIY Knife Garden – A Universal Knife Holder

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Have you seen those bamboo universal knife holders, where you just plop in a knife? It’s a pretty cool idea.  I’ve seen a lot of projects on Pinterest that try to replicate them, but they all use bamboo skewers or broom bristles. I wanted to make my own, but didn’t like the idea of either of those.  The skewers seemed to0 stiff, and something about using broom bristles to hold my knives just didn’t sit right with me.  Neither option gives you a lot of color choices.

So I instantly had an idea:  SPAGHETTI NOODLES!
They are thinner than bamboo skewers and don’t require a saw, and they don’t have that ick factor that the broom bristles do.  Spaghetti is a little bendable -PERFECT!- and you can make it any color you want.  I was dying to put this idea together.  I must say I’m pretty happy with the results!! 🙂



The Supplies
1.  sturdy container
2.  spaghetti noodles
3. several gallon size or larger Ziploc type bags
4. rubbing alcohol or vinegar
5. liquid food coloring
6. cookie sheets or hard floor
7. aluminum foil or an old water proof tablecloth
8. paper towels
9. kitchen scissors
10. knives!

When you pick out a container, it MUST be taller than your longest knife blade measuring from INSIDE the bottom of the container to the top edge.  This way you won’t break the tip of your knife or cut the bottom of your container when you plop in in there. It can be any shape – round, oval, square, or rectangle, but should be the same shape and diameter from top to bottom.  It should not be graduated or curve in or out.  Make sure it is wide enough to hold all of your knives. This is a great way to recycle – can you say oatmeal container?? 🙂
2. I suggest getting regular spaghetti.  Thin and angel hair might break easily during the dying process.
3. To make this project SUPER easy, don’t dye the spaghetti!! There, I just saved you a ton of time!  But come on.. you know you want to dye it!  So many pretty color options to match your kitchen!! 🙂
4.  Works best if you can work by a window on a slightly breezy day.

Ready??  Let’s make a Knife Garden!!

Start with a clean container.  Make sure it is THOROUGHLY dry.  Start filling it up with spaghetti.  Stop when it’s full, and gently dump it out.  Add a couple good handfuls more to your pile.  This is in case you break any or don’t get them flat enough to dry.  It’s great to have extra, and not have to start at the beginning!

EVENLY divide your spaghetti into Ziploc type bags.  Don’t overcrowd, just do whatever fits comfortably.
photo (90)
Pour enough rubbing alcohol (or vinegar) into each bag to cover the spaghetti. Try to put the same amount into each one. If you use vinegar, pull your spaghetti out at the first sign of it going soft.  Add your food coloring.  Put the same amount in each bag and use a lot! I used about 40 drops per bag.  Squirt it into the rubbing alcohol, not directly on the spaghetti. Remember, you can combine colors here!  If you’re using lighter colors, you will need a lot of food coloring.  Darker colors like blue and red probably only need 10 drops per bag.  You can always add more later if you want it darker.  You could also do a different color per bag, and make a multicolored garden!

Now seal your bag and put it inside another bag.  We don’t want any leaks! Slowly shake and turn the bag to mix in the coloring and saturate the spaghetti. Put it down flat for 30 mins, shake it around again, and put it down on its other side for 30 mins.  Keep doing this until the spaghetti is the color you want. You’ll be surprised how vibrant the color will get each time you check on it. You should be done in 1-3 hours.  Don’t let it sit too long – your coloring solution will start to look murky and your spaghetti might stick together as they dry.

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Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil and top them with paper towels.  Or put down a large waterproof tablecloth on the floor and put paper towels on top of that.  You could also put a layer of aluminum foil in between the tablecloth and paper towels.  We are trying to spare our drying surfacing of food coloring.

You could use gloves for this next part if you want.  Take your spaghetti out of the bags and lay it FLAT on your drying surface.  Make sure you let as much excess coloring solution as you can drip into the bag before you move it to the paper towels.  Don’t layer your spaghetti more than a few layers.
Now let it dry!  You can help this along by opening a window and letting in a cool breeze.  Also ‘stir’ your spaghetti every once in awhile.  Just rake them with your fingers to help roll them around.

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Once your spaghetti is COMPLETELY dry, start putting it in your container.  I used a square glass vase and found it easiest to lay it on its side to fill it.  That way all the spaghetti went in nice and straight.

photo (96)
Flip up your container.  Shake it around or do whatever you have to do to get it all to fit right.  You want it mostly packed, with a little bit of wiggle room.  Put your knives in to find the right density of spaghetti.  Fill or take out what you need.

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Now it’s time to do some landscaping on our Knife Garden!  Use a kitchen scissors or a very sharp scissors to trim the top.  I found it easiest to tip it on its side over the kitchen sink, because those trimmings will fly everywhere! If it’s on its side, the trimmings won’t go down into the container either! Make it as even or uneven as you want, but make sure the spaghetti doesn’t stick out much more than an inch from the top.   If the spaghetti goes much higher than the container, your knives might fall out since the handles make them top-heavy.

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photo101 photo102
Plop your knives in, and admire your new garden!

(make sure your knives are completely dry each time you stick them in)

I love how compact this is. Those angled knife blocks take up a lot of room, especially if you have teeny kitchen like me!

Here are some other examples of how you could dye your spaghetti.  I really like the ones on the left. Maybe I’ll make a garden for my craft desk to hold some of my jewelry tools.  You don’t just have to limit it to knives!

I would love to see your Knife Gardens! Post a link in the comments!

Remember, if you post about this project, please be sure to give me credit and link back to me or grab a button from the sidebar. Thanks!


Filed under DIY - Do It Yourself, Free Tutorials, Kitchen, Kitchen Makeover on a Budget