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Before + After: Our Condo Kitchen Makeover!

This is how we gave our early 2000s-era kitchen a big makeover on a budget!

taupe kitchen cabinets, granite countertops and neutral decor | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools

We are so excited to be sharing the entire condo kitchen reveal with you today! The entire project took place over a couple of weeks, and we were able to completely transform our 2005-era kitchen into a seamless, timeless heart of the home. The largest obstacle was working around our dark granite countertops, which was common in builder-grade flips in the early 2000s. (For those who have asked, these are Uba Tuba – or Ubatuba – granite. They feature a black base with gold, green and/or pinkish flecks.) The countertops function beautifully, but we were on a mission to make them feel more modern.

A quick note! This is the kitchen in our condo, our first Chicago home. These posts give you the backstory of the condo: why we’re selling the condo | our to-do list before we sell | q+a with a real estate pro

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After!

neutral kitchen design | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools | vase

It looks SO. MUCH. BIGGER! The combination of warm white walls (Valspar Cozy White) and taupe cabinets (Valspar Lamb’s Ear) create the illusion of a taller ceiling, even though we didn’t change a thing to the layout. Let’s do another before and after:

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

taupe kitchen cabinets with black granite countertops | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
pedestal bowl | brass cabinet knobs | rug

The 3 Changes That Made All the Difference

Fresh paint (1), a tile backsplash (2) and a mix of metals (3!) made all the difference in this small-but-mighty kitchen. Our goal for this space was two-fold. We not only want the future homeowners to move-in without needing to change a thing, but more than that, we want them to fall in love with the space.

1| Painting the Cabinets

This was the trickiest part to get right, but once we found our color, we were off to the races! We wanted the granite countertops to feel more intentional, like an integral part of the kitchen plan. We always felt they seemed so harsh (especially against the red-toned wood cabinets), and now they feel like this wonderful contrast!

taupe kitchen cabinets with black granite countertops | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools | pedestal bowl | knobs

I struggled initially to find a color that would tone down the pinkiness in our granite, and after phoning a friend (thanks, Julia!), I was reminded that to tone down the pink in the countertops, I needed to find a taupe with pink undertones, too. At first I thought I needed a green undertone (because green is the complement to red), but all that did was highlight all the pink in the countertops. Once my brain made the connection to find a taupe with a pink undertone, I landed on the winning color in less than a minute: Valspar’s Lamb’s Ear!

Think of it this way: If a girl with red hair wears a green shirt, both her hair and her shirt will POP! If that same girl wears a red shirt, neither the hair nor the shirt has an opportunity to standout.

taupe kitchen cabinets with black granite countertops | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

2| Tiling the Backsplash

After removing the 4″ Uba Tuba granite splashguard, we installed this 2.5″ x 9″ tile backsplash. The tile has a handmade look and feel, so to keep it from feeling too traditional, we chose to do a stacked pattern with a low-contrast grout. This upgrade, while small, adds a richness that can’t be beat. (Fun things to consider: Imagine how different a backsplash can make a space feel if you choose contrasting grout. Or a gloss finish. Or a patterned tile!)

row of taupe cabinets with a matte black kitchen faucet | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

Tip: Extending tile down to the floor is a more luxe look for very little added expense. See our tiling tutorial + video right here, if you’d like!

2.5″ x 9″ tile | stools | vase + greenery

3| Introducing Mixed Metals

Brass, matte black and stainless steel appliances can all live harmoniously together, as long as you have a plan! This was ours: we chose a matte black faucet (a steal, and well made!) to blend into the countertop, brass knobs on the cabinets to add sparkle (but not contrast), and a wide semi-flush brass light fixture to top it off. A glass pendant (similar) above the peninsula keeps the sight lines clear while adding a small hit of contrast in the black down rod.

row of taupe cabinets with a matte black kitchen faucet | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

The Final Details

To complete the look and to semi-stage it for showings, we added warm wood stools with cushions (for texture!) and minimal styling with cutting boards, ceramic vessels and faux greenery. A small runner ties all the colors together, with its blush + greige tones.

Emery counter stools, Studio McGee by Target | via Yellow Brick Home
taupe kitchen cabinets, black countertop | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home

One more before and after, because, FUN!

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After!

row of taupe cabinets with a matte black kitchen faucet | small space kitchen ideas | via Yellow Brick Home
brass light | pendant light (similar) | faucet | stools | pedestal bowl | knobs

Thank you for rooting us on while we shared our process in real-time! We love doing projects like this alongside you.

Homeowners in a small kitchen with taupe cabinets, matte black faucet and brass hardware | via Yellow Brick Home

Kitchen Sources:

Valspar Cozy White 3008-10C (walls) | Valspar Lamb’s Ear CI145 (cabinets) | Valspar Ultra White (millwork) | 2.5″ x 9″ tile backsplash | brass ceiling light | schoolhouse pendant light (similar) | matte black faucet | counter-height stools | small rug | ceramic vase + faux greenery | pedestal bowl | brass cabinet knobs

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  • Meredith7.20.21 - 7:00 AM

    My jaw is on the floor. So well done!ReplyCancel

  • lak7.20.21 - 7:08 AM

    Beautiful job!  Looks like an entirely different room.ReplyCancel

  • Liz7.20.21 - 7:29 AM

    Exquisite! Thank you for taking us along for each component. I am feeling braver about trying new DIY’s in my kitchen. I think I *might* be ready to seriously consider painting the cabinets!ReplyCancel

    • Scott7.20.21 - 8:44 AM

      You can do it! The steps we used worked out very well for us. The whole project likely cost us around $500 (including $250 for the sprayer) instead of multiple thousands if we had hired it out professionally. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • jenn7.20.21 - 9:15 AM

    Knocked it out of the park! This looks so serene, and I absolutely love it.ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia7.20.21 - 9:37 AM

    What a difference color makes! Stunning and peaceful.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly7.20.21 - 9:39 AM

    Thank you so much for the variety of projects you still share! I love it when we can see higher-end renos AND budget makeovers with incredible style! You guys are the best!ReplyCancel

  • Miruska7.20.21 - 9:45 AM

    Stunning! The kitchen has a great layout and good bones to begin with, but now it looks so much more expensive, modern and bigger. You added so much value to your apartment and it shows really well. Very inspirational.ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.20.21 - 10:43 AM

      It feels like it doubled in size for sure. We’re so happy with how it turned out!ReplyCancel

  • Heather7.20.21 - 10:03 AM

    Just gorgeous!  You may have pushed me into finally painting our wood cabinets!  We have the same granite countertops (not our choice, but they are ok) in our kitchen and have been waffling about painting the cabinets for years in an attempt to lighten up the space.  Thanks for the inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.20.21 - 10:42 AM

      I’d love to see a photo if you do!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy7.20.21 - 11:37 AM

    Beautiful! We have a similar dark granite, dark wood situation in our kitchen. We will need to replace the granite as it’s become uneven in places but I hate the idea of getting rid of the cabinets, which are in great shape. One contractor is telling us that painting the cabinets won’t last in the long run. How long do you expect painted cabinets to remain in good shape, without chipping?
    Also want to second the commenter who applauded your variety of projects, from more budget-minded like this one to major like the Two-Flat!ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.20.21 - 11:41 AM

      Thanks, Nancy! We have painted cabinets in our home that were painted… maybe 6 years ago? We’ve had to touch some of them up over the years, mostly in water or high traffic areas (like the sink). I think you’ll have to touch up paint on ANY type of furniture, no matter what as the years go on. That said, it’s usually very minimal, and still worth it to take the plunge into painting when prepped properly!ReplyCancel

  • Allyson7.20.21 - 12:49 PM

    Wow, I have to admit I hated the cabinet color when you first showed it, but I’m a convert. This looks great, what a huge improvement.ReplyCancel

  • Queenie7.20.21 - 3:05 PM

    Hello! Nice job on the reno.  I am planning on a similar small kitchen layout like yours and was wondering if you had a rough plan of the kitchen or dimensions of distance between oven and the lower cabinets infront of it?ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.20.21 - 3:57 PM

      I’d say there’s about 4′ of space in that little galley space.ReplyCancel

  • Tanja7.20.21 - 3:12 PM

    So amazing. It gives me some courage to do a similar update to the kitchen at our recreational property. ReplyCancel

  • LK7.20.21 - 5:42 PM

    So awesome! It makes the floors and the overhung countertop look so much nicer too! Looks so great. ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Murai7.21.21 - 12:23 AM

    I can’t believe it- the most amazing before and after ever!! ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Reeves7.21.21 - 8:16 AM

    Thanks so much for shooting the “Afters” from the same spot as “before”.  Also— does anyone paint the underside of cabinets? I’ve often wondered this. They show just a bit in every home and thought ‘I wonder why no one thinks to do this?’ Even manufacturers should color wood ones to blend or disappear.  Anyhow, this looks sensational!!!ReplyCancel

    • Scott7.21.21 - 11:42 AM

      We actually asked our painters about this and they said that cabinet bottoms are rarely painted. Apparently most mass-produced cabinets (including these) use an inexpensive laminate that it kind of glorified contact paper. We were told that paint won’t adhere well and will start flaking and peeling very quickly, so we trusted our painter and left them unpainted. Who knew?ReplyCancel

  • Lori7.21.21 - 9:26 AM

    I wasn’t totally sold on the cabinet color when you first started painting, but now I’m sold! I love how it works with the wall color, too– it really does look like a completely different & larger room!ReplyCancel

  • Nicolette7.21.21 - 2:37 PM

    This looks amazing!! I am super curious if you installed the countertops way back when or if they came with the condo when you purchased it. ReplyCancel

    • Kim7.21.21 - 5:07 PM

      They came with the condo when we purchased it. :)ReplyCancel

  • Kimi7.23.21 - 10:39 PM

    I have that before color cabinets but my Formica countertops are pinkie beige. Your finished result is reaaaaaaly making me want to paint the cabinets! Gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Shayna7.24.21 - 6:54 AM

    So beautiful! I have been waiting for this post since you shared on IG. I have the same 2005ish kitchen scene and this is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing. ReplyCancel

  • Ashley7.25.21 - 6:32 PM

    This is beautiful! Did I miss it? How did you take the granite countertop backsplash off? I would love to do that in our home as well! ReplyCancel

  • Sarah7.27.21 - 6:10 PM

    This has been so eye-opening!! I’m in the process of trying to choose a color to paint my cabinets to best compliment the dated granite! Would you be willing to suggest any colors to go with new venetian gold granite? It has so many colors in it I am struggling to choose! Thankfully this post helped show me I was definitely going in the wrong direction originally!ReplyCancel

  • Susanne7.28.21 - 11:38 AM

    But why does it look like white paint that got dirty? And those two light fixtures do NOT complement each other. At all. But, good effort!ReplyCancel

  • Krista8.16.21 - 1:44 PM

    We just moved into a place with the same “before” kitchen and I am SO happy to have found this post with recommended paint colors! I really cannot thank you enough. I am new to home ownership and renovating and would also not have thought to remove the splashguard, which I’m certain will make a big difference. ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly9.21.21 - 10:23 AM

    Do you have an alternate link for the brass ceiling light? I keep getting an error page (other links are working).ReplyCancel

  • Sharon10.24.21 - 3:48 PM

    This looks so good and thank you for including all the details! I love your blog!!! Sooo many great posts and pictures and videos that you have available to refer to for help as we start renovating our own place! ReplyCancel

  • Roxy12.14.22 - 2:41 PM

    Amazing job! I know I’m late to the party here, but hoping you see my comment. :)  I, like many of the folks in this comment section am in a similar predicament color-wise and this totally opened my mind to what’s possible. THANK YOU! I’m curious if you have any recommendations for the painting process? Did you sand first, and use a sprayer or hand paint? What finish did you choose for your cabinets- satin to make it easy to clean? Feeling so inspired. Thank you again!! xxReplyCancel

    • Kim12.15.22 - 8:20 PM
      • Roxy8.21.23 - 2:50 PM

        Thank you sooo much! I used your work as inspiration for my kitchen and it really has become my favorite room in the house. 🥹🫶ReplyCancel

        • Kim8.22.23 - 1:27 PM

          LOVE hearing this, Roxy!ReplyCancel

          • Sandra1.31.24 - 11:11 PM

            Hello I love the transformation, could you please tell what color is the backsplash tile? Thanks

          • Scott2.1.24 - 8:21 AM

            Hi! It’s 2.5″ x 9″ from Tile Shop, but it looks like the off-white color is discontinued.

  • F2.22.24 - 9:05 PM

    I’m pretty sure your granite is tan brown and not uba tuba… uba tuba has more black green tones and this  black gray/cream chestnut tones in it looks beautiful though! ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn3.7.24 - 1:09 PM

    Hi, Love the cabinet make over. Can you recommend a similar colour, I’m also working with a slight red undertone on my counter and I can’t find that Valspar colour where I live.ReplyCancel

    • Scott3.8.24 - 10:38 AM

      Hi Kathryn, every Lowe’s store should be able to access the paint color codes in their system even if they don’t have a paint chip on display. You may want to start with a sample container to ensure the color is what you’re looking for. Good luck with your project!ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

Join us as we renovate and nurture vintage homes across Chicago + SW Michigan!

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