A Colorful, Storage-Savvy Kitchen Makeover from Salvaged Finds

Table and chair set
A little digging and a lot of creativity is all it takes to transform a mass of misfit materials into a beautiful kitchen escape.

Restore Renovation

It's easy to renovate a kitchen on a dime when you know the right places to look. The foundation pieces for this kitchen were scored at secondhand stores, such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore. With everything from paint, flooring, appliances, electrical and plumbing supplies, to doors, windows, and accessories, resale stores are a great place to find items at a fraction of the original price. A little creativity transforms these odds and ends into a storage-packed, super functional, and pretty kitchen and breakfast nook that is perfect for a busy family.

Misfit Materials

These finds, a mishmash of stock cabinets, doors, appliances, and even old instrument cubbies from a high-school band room, are the skeleton for this DIY kitchen.

Colored Cabinets

Although the salvaged cabinets didn't all match when they were first picked out, a couple of coats of paint pulled them together. The key to making it work is to look for cabinets that have the same or very similar door fronts and details. If necessary, add molding at the top or bottom of the cabinets to hide inconsistencies. The mix of cabinets and open shelving in this kitchen provides ample space for storage and creates breathing space in a visually busy area.

Stow & Go

An appliance garage is the perfect solution for small, bulky appliances. Daily-use items, such as the coffeepot, bean grinder, and toaster, are tucked out of sight but within easy reach. To totally conceal your gadgets, add a tension rod just inside the top of the garage. Then suspend a panel of pretty fabric for full coverage. When it's time to get your goodies, simply slide the fabric to the side.

Swing Time

To avoid the busy, boxy look that can overtake open shelving plans, conceal the lower part of the unit with a panel of fabric suspended from a swing-arm bar. Add a second bar at the bottom to keep the fabric taut. The panel now acts as a soft cabinet door, allowing access to lower-shelf contents but adding a dose of style.

Embrace Open Shelving

Use food as the focal point for open shelving. Corral colorful edibles into clear canisters. Group and stack dishware so it functions as a design element. Tuck boring boxes and bottles into pretty bins and baskets.

Scrabble Style

Jazz up open shelving by utilizing old scrabble games. The letter pieces offer a great way to create a functional, yet adorable label for kitchen appliances. These labels add a zest of family fun to the kitchen design.


Like pieces of a puzzle, stock cabinets, salvage bins, and secondhand drawers combine to create the whole picture: a kitchen island that packs a storage punch. A mix of new and thrift materials gives the island character that store-bought pieces lack. The top and sides of the island were made from two salvaged doors. One door became the island's work surface, while the other door was cut in half to make the side supports. Laminate the doors to give a clean, finished look to the island.

Island Organization

Use a medium-density fiberboard to create the island's shelving and drawer unit. Cut pieces to fit the drawers and bins, then prime and paint to the desired color. This bright green paint makes the island stand out in the colorful room and creates a cohesive look to the assortment of secondhand materials that make up the island.

Dinner Party Bin

Pack the island bins with ready to-go essentials. In this one, candles and linens are perfect for an impromptu dinner soiree. Another bin could contain paper plates and napkins for a children's playdate. The key to these island bins are to keep them organized, but interesting. This worn metal drawer adds a bit of a rustic vibe to the bright green island shelving.

Cookbook Cubby

A little creativity resulted in savvy storage for this narrow space. By inserting a shelf into this cabinet, it went from one big space to two shelves, which are perfect for storing cookbooks.

Back It Up

Use a fiberboard that has a solid back so the reverse side of the island can be used for towel and utensil storage. For savvy storage, think beyond typical uses for hardware. In this kitchen, a bathroom towel bar was repurposed as a paper towel holder. Perk up boring space by selecting colorful kitchen towels that complement the color scheme. This is an easy way to make ordinary kitchen equipment exciting.

Mosaic Flooring

For a fun and creative look purchase three different types and finishes of laminate flooring and lay them in a rich mosaic pattern. This works best when working with salvaged materials, because it can be difficult to find enough of one material. Be sure to stick with styles that are made by the same manufacturer and have similar production dates to ensure the flooring fits together. The result is a unique arrangement with tons of personality.

Fabric Wall Art

Cheap melamine plates become the backbone for dramatic decoupage wall art. Use a fabric stiffener to permanently affix scraps of fabric in intricate designs to the plates. The liquid medium dries clear and adds subtle texture. Ribbon accents the perimeters. The texture and color creates interesting wall art that pops.

Sweet Shelf

Laminate a shelf in the same way the kitchen island was laminated to create a cohesive look for the kitchen surfaces. Keep in mind when cutting hollow-core doors, be sure to cap any open ends with a piece of wood lath cut to size and stained to match the laminate. Arrange bright green vases and cups on the shelf to add a burst of color to the otherwise plain surface.

Hanging Tough

Keep countertops clean and clutter-free by suspending a screw-top canister from the window shelf using a handle and a bit of wire. Because they're a cinch to refill, the containers are perfect for on-the-go treats. These handy canisters help keep the kitchen tidy so the rest of the room's design can shine through.

Bargain Backsplash

When using salvage materials, it can be difficult to find enough of one style of tile. The solution: Patch together a neutral mosaic from several tile varieties for the kitchen backsplash. Planning is a must with this technique. Lay the entire project out on the floor before touching the trowel. A symmetrical design and colors within the same family help minimize chaos.

Spice It Up

Store spices in clear containers to let their natural vibrant colors show through. A cute printed label attached with a simple piece of yarn is an easy touch to add both organization and style to the seasonings.

Let in Light

A horizontal window above the sink and countertop lets natural light in, but is high enough to protect the glass from spills and splatters. Similar shapes in the island and the bench compliment the window's long, narrow shape. In the breakfast nook, white window treatments let in light and provide a break from the bold colors throughout the kitchen.

Editor's Tip: Install the curtain rod above the window frame to draw the eye up and make the room appear taller. Draperies should graze the bottom of the window sill or the floor.

Color and Repeat

The breakfast nook features a neutral backdrop with white window treatments, beige walls, and a sisal area rug. To connect the breakfast nook to the kitchen, this area features colorful accents and artwork that bring all the colors from the kitchen's color scheme into the area. The same aqua blue that coats one wall of cabinets and shelving also makes a cameo on the bench seat in the breakfast nook. The island's deep green repeats itself in textiles, pillows, and accents throughout the space. This system makes the room bright and colorful, but not overpowering.

Bright Ideas

This '70s-style table-and-chairs set looked drab and dated in its original state. But quick coats of primer and crisp white paint brought it into this millennium. To soften the scene, cover chairs with slipcovers sewn from inexpensive drop cloths.

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