Dramatic DIY Kitchen Makeover

Meet Lauren Liess
Armed with paint, creative vision, and courage, interior designer Lauren Liess transformed her boring '70s kitchen into a family friendly space with loads of style.

A Kitchen in Great Taste

As an interior designer and popular design blogger, Lauren Liess knows her style: a fresh take on traditional that includes a lot of antiques and a little bit of quirk. When she and her husband bought their 1970s split-level home, they targeted the kitchen as one of the first rooms to get her style treatment. The result? A lightened-up space that's all Lauren.

Before: Dark & Heavy

Arched maple cabinet doors, a fluorescent light fixture, dirty linoleum... There wasn't a lot about her kitchen Lauren liked. Her budget only allowed for a cosmetic makeover, so the kitchen's floorplan stayed in place. Still, she wanted a lighter look, more work space, and a place for the family to eat weeknight meals.

After: Bright & Airy

To eke out more space in the small kitchen, Lauren added an open island from IKEA. High stools in a worn paint finish add to the lived-in look Lauren loves. A vintage chandelier found at a flea market replaced the fluorescent light and added much-needed drama. "I'm crazy about vintage light fixtures," she says. "And lighting stores can rewire anything for you."

After: Bright & Airy (cont.)

After ripping out the upper cabinets, Lauren and her husband installed sheets of white beaded board from counter to ceiling. In place of upper cabinets, the couple installed two long rows of shelves supported by brackets to hold their everyday dishes and a few pieces from Lauren's collection. Linoleum tlies were traded for click-and-lock, walnut-finish elm flooring from the home improvement store.

After: Color Impact

Lauren used a hand sander to remove the finish from the lower dark maple cabinets. Wiped down with a fresh coat of paint and nickel-plated hardware, the cabinets hardly resemble the former units. To camouflage the dishwasher, Lauren painted right over the front of it with the same paint she used for the cabinets. "I really recommend this if you have no money for new appliances," she says. "The dishwasher just recedes and blends in with the cabinets"

Paint Color: Behr Witch Hazel (780D-6) in semi-gloss. The dark sage complements the dark countertop; changing the countertop wasn't in the makeover budget.

After: Message Center Fridge

The refrigerator posed another problem. Lauren craved stainless-steel appliances, so she first tried to get that look with stainless-steel paint. "It looked awful, so I just painted chalkboard paint right over the 'stainless steel,'" she says. When the chalkboard starts to get a little worn, she touches it up with a small can of paint she keeps under the sink. "People ask me, 'if your fridge broke today would you do this again or get a stainless-steel one? I'd find another fridge on Craigslist.com and do it again! I love the chalkboard!"

Before: Boring Bar Area

The bar area looked into the dining room, so Lauren knew it had to look good and be functional from both sides.

After: Bar Wall Storage

With repainted lower cabinets, the bar area was well on its way to looking better. Lauren fastened wine racks to the wall for a space-savvy way to store wine and crystal glasses. Everything for serving drinks is at Lauren's fingertips when she entertains; she often uses the countertop and ledge above as a buffet.

After: Hidden Pantry

Lauren turned an odd closet space off the bar area into a pantry by adding shelves. The "custom" drape cover-ups are actually paint drop cloths from the local home improvement store, hung from inside the pantry to hide the hardware.

Before: Bland Breakfast Nook

The nook had a great view to the tree-filled front yard, but zero personality. Lauren knew this spot adjacent to the kitchen would host most of their family meals, so she wanted to dress it up and do something dramatic in the small space.

After: Better-Than-Good Morning

"I really wanted old-fashioned mixed with super-modern," Lauren says of the breakfast nook. She got a lot of impact by wallpapering just one side of the kitchen in a traditional black-and-white design, then added a super-modern Saarinen table knock-off she found for cheap on eBay. "If I put something traditional in a room, I always try to get something modern to balance it," Lauren says.

After: Pulling It Together

A moody oil painting -- another flea market steal -- perfectly ties in the colors from the cabinetry and adds a personal touch to the space. Lauren left it unframed: "I love the tattered sides of the canvas. The painting is so beautifully aged," she says.

Meet Lauren Liess

Lauren began designing interiors for friends as a hobby before starting her own firm, Lauren Liess Interiors. Based out of the Washington, DC, area, she's known for her family-friendly and fresh takes on tradition and for helping her clients love the home they have. She also posts designer tricks, her inspiration, and behind-the-scenes secrets of her projects at her blog, Pure Style Home.

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