How I made over our kitchen for less than $1,000

This week we finished renovating our kitchen. If you didn’t catch the before/after post you can see the full post here, but here is a glimpse of the transformation:


Kitchen before


kitchen after 4

We’ve had some lovely feedback regarding the dramatic change, and plenty of questions on both Facebook and Instagram. So I thought it would be a good idea to share the products we used with my honest feedback and tips.

Disclaimer – I mention a lot of products in this post. I have not been compensated to recommend these products. It is just my honest experience as a consumer.

Here is how we created such a dramatic transformation in our kitchen for under $1,000:

Step 1: Wash down the surfaces

downloadWe used Selley’s Sugar Soap, because it’s what we had on hand.
We gave the cupboards a really good scrub inside and out, with a gentle pot scrubber.

Step 2: Adding detail to the cupboards

I didn’t want my cupboards to turn out like painted laminate – I wanted to transform them into something completely different, and make my kitchen have a cottage or farmhouse look. Adding the detail definitely had the effect I desired.

You can see the difference here:

cupboards before and after

We used 2 products to help us achieve the cupboard detail:

  • The first product was beadboard wallpaper from Bunnings. There are 2 brands of beadboard wallpaper available from Bunnings; Dulux and Superfresco. We used the Superfresco one which was cheaper at $39.95. Unfortunately I can’t find it on the website tonight to link to it, but I’m sure the Dulux one would do the same job, it’s just more expensive at $49 a roll. We cut the wallpaper into rectangles (using a rotary cutter, cutting board and quilting ruler – ha) and stuck it down with some glue. This took precision, because not only did we have to measure the centre of the cupboard horizontally and vertically, but we also had to cut different widths for each cupboard door because every single one was a different size. Hopefully if you do this your cupboard sizes will be kinder to you! A long square ruler (aka quilting ruler) will become your best friend for both the measuring and lining up the paper squarely on the door.
  • The second product we used was an 18mm x 23mm bevelled timber beading. We (that’s the royal “we”, because Neil did all the measuring sawing of wood) using a mitre box and mitred the corners. We then glued this around the outside, filled the corners with a fine filler and sanded that once it was dried.

We used this glue to stick down the paper and timber beading:


Yes, that’s a very grumpy Abbie holding a broken door handle. That was earlier this afternoon. Lets just say that our new cupboard handles are not 5-year-old-standing-on-them-proof. I was unimpressed! So was she at getting told off, but she’s 5, she should know better knows better now. She was “helping” her dad fix it to learn her lesson. Nuff said.

Anyway, back to glue… This stuff stinks. And it’s fiddly as all hell. But it works. – If you follow the process of painting each side with glue, waiting for it to dry, then sticking it together, once it’s on, it’s on for life.

At this point in the process I watched my life flash before my eyes as I died of boredom. Seriously. This part of the process is not for the faint at heart because it takes a loooong time. But it looks amazing and it is worth it. So if you can hang in there through the boredom then yay. Here are a few progress shots of what it looked like before painting:

Mid gluing:


The difference between 1 coat painted and unpainted:


Step 3: Painting the cupboards

pure_white_Paint_Tin_ver1a_11_March_2014_D71_0253_Small_idx79329331.png_lrWe used Annie Sloan Chalk paint to paint the cupboard doors, purchased from the lovely people at Fenwick Vintages.

If you are unfamiliar with chalk paint, then it is not made from chalk, or not for making chalk boards. It is a different type of paint from standard latex paint, and it has a matt finish similar to the feel of a chalk board, which is where it gets its name from. You can use chalk paint to paint almost any surface without sanding, or priming, or much prep at all. Not to mention that it dries extremely fast and you can recoat within 30 minutes!! It comes in a variety of pretty colours and promises to be awesome in every way. There are several products you can use over the top to protect it and give more of a glossy finish.

For our kitchen we used 2 paint colours – Old White for the first coat, and Pure White for the second coat. The reason we used two colours is because the Old White was too yellow for my taste, but Pure White has no pigment at all. So if we used that from the beginning it would not have covered the dark wood so well and we would have needed 3 coats. I was not up for 3 coats, so we used Old White to get better coverage, then Pure White as the top coat to give the white finish we wanted.

I used a brush to apply it, with the exception of under our breakfast bar and end panels, where I used a microfibre flat finish roller.

Now, chalk paint by itself is not a good finish for a kitchen, because it is such a matt surface. Because it’s matt it will damage easily and show up all the marks. I managed to chip it off with just the metal part of the roller, and started to wonder if it would give me longevity. But never fear, there are 2 options for use on top of the chalk paint to give it a smoother finish and protect your paintwork.

Option 1: Annie Sloan clear wax

i800_Clear_Soft_Wax_Tin_ver1a_10_March_2014_D71_0241_1600_idx85838907The clear wax is applied by brushing it on with a rag or brush, then wiping the excess off. After its dried you can then buff it if you want a bit of shine. For kitchens it is recommended you do 3 coats, 24 hours apart. I don’t know about you, but to me 3 coats did not sound that appealing. I gave it a go under my breakfast bar but I did not like the result. It made the panel look patchy and it wasn’t the modern look I wanted. I can definitely see myself using wax when I do my next piece of furniture, but I decided it wasn’t my preferred choice for my kitchen. It would have added at least 3 extra days to our finishing time as well, because of the extra time it would have taken, which was a big factor in my decision not to use it.

Option 2: Artisan ClearFinish (not to be confused with Topcoat Sealer – that’s a different product)

IMG_3082Top Coat Finish is a water based clear varnish. It is a lovely product and I quickly fell in love with the finish it gives. It is extremely thin and paints on like water, so you do have to be careful not to get drips, but the satin look it gives is lovely. I did 2 coats to my cupboards and that was enough. It goes on much much quicker than the paint or wax, and you can reapply the second coat within 2 hours. But it does take 48 hours to cure to full strength, so go gently on your doors for a few days after finishing.

I did find that it was better when I applied it exclusively with a brush, and going forward I would opt not to use a roller. I think that’s because the brush pushes it further down into the paint, so it gets a smoother finish with less coats. The areas I used the roller for probably need a 3rd coat.

Some notes & tips on chalk paint:

  • I used a brush to paint all my doors and did get some brush marks. This was not concerning to me, because I don’t mind that look. But if you are wanting a completely smooth finish, particularly if you do not add the detail and have a flat door, then I would recommend lightly sanding in between each coat which will minimise your brush marks.
  • At first, chalk paint might seem expensive per pot, because the pots are so little. But they are not lying when they say it goes a long way. I have done a lot of painting in my time, and chalk paint goes a long way further than any latex paint I’ve ever come across. The coverage is incredible. So measure and work out the coverage before you buy – you might not need as much as you think!

Step 4: Painting our laminate bench top

Eeek I was so excited to find out that laminate paint for bench tops was now available in NZ!!! I was originally planning on getting a new bench top, but to paint it cost 10% of the price and it really wasn’t that hard at all. The product I used was this one:



If you have a look on the Rust-oleum website for your country it will tell you the supplies for your area. If you are in NZ or Australia and have a Bunnings nearby, I found that it was the cheapest and most readily available from them. It retails at $234 NZ. It is only available in Diamond White of Black Granite in NZ at the moment, but if you are lucky enough to be in a country with loads of colours and styles available they yay you will have a lot of choice.

There are 3 steps to applying this product:

  • First you have to sand off the gloss finish of your benchtop with the diamond sanding tool they provide. That takes a bit of elbow grease, but it’s that hard. The tool they give you is fantastic!
  • Then you need to paint on 2 coats of the water-based base coat, 2 hours apart. They provide you with the roller sleeve for this but you will need to have a 150mm roller arm and paint tray to use.
  • Lastly you need to mix and apply the epoxy top coat. You have 6 hours from the time you mix it to finish using it. But it only took me about 45 minutes.

The clear top coat has the tiniest, subtle, most beautiful bits of glitter in it, which gives the bench top a gorgeous shimmer. I really love the effect!

Now – big note :

When they say to shut the windows, turn off all air-con/fans and keep everyone (including pets) out of the room for 48 hours after applying the top coat they are not exaggerating – this coat took approx. 36 hours to set, and trust me that dust/pet hair is not your friend!! Unfortunately we don’t have any doors, so shutting it up was not an option for us, and I had 2 bugs land on it and 1 piece of stray cat here find a home in it. So try to stay away from it for the first couple of days while it sets!
According to the instructions you can use it for “light use” after 48 hours, which is described as wiping lightly with soap and water, and placing items weighing less than 2 kg on it. Then full use is fine after 7 days. Because I was paranoid, we only starting using the room after 5 days and only used the bench with a towel down on top to protect it.
So far we have only been using it properly since yesterday – and apart from 1 tiny patch where the paint came out of the join when I ripped off the painters tape, it is perfect.

Step 5 – re door-handle

We also purchased our pretty crystal door handles from Fenwick Vintages. I love them to bits. As you’ve seen, they are not designed to take the weight of a 5 year old. But hey, they’re so pretty, and they send the light around the room in rainbows when it shines through them.


So that’s how we created our new kitchen transformation.

Here is the budget for those that are interested in the $$$:

Beadboard wallpaper – 1 roll x $39.95
18x23mm moulded beading – 12 x 2.4m lengths at $9.54 each = $114.48
Glue, rollers, sandpaper and sundry etc = $50ish
Chalk paint – 3 1L tins x $69 each = $207
Clear finish – 2 x 1L tins at $69 & $50 = $119 (they sold out so I purchased their partly used tin from their stash)
New Door handles – $225
Rustoleum bench paint – $234

Grand total = $989.43

Not bad for this…




Considering I was quoted $2300 for just a new bench top by itself, let alone the $10,000 I was quoted for a new kitchen, I was immensely happy to pay less than $1,000 for the entire kitchen. And now it is exactly the look I wanted it, rather than going for a compromise of what we could afford – because the detail on the front of the cupboard doors adds about $4-5,000 to the price. After doing it myself I can kind of understand why now, because it is fiddly. But the $10,000 wasn’t even including the door look I wanted, which I now get to have!! It’s also satisfying to know that we created that.

Also, now that the kitchen is done, I don’t hate the floor we have. It’s not my first choice, but it goes fine. So that saved me another $2300 for new flooring.

I have been getting a lot of questions about how it will wear and tear. Which are completely valid points! These are my thoughts on that:

  • Chalk paint is very easy to touch up. So if I have to do occasional touch ups I’m good with that. But with the clear coat varnish I don’t predict I’ll have to – it seems pretty hard wearing already!
  • The epoxy bench paint seems like it will be pretty hard wearing. But, if it’s looking tatty in a few years, then with the Rust-oleum paint you can do future coats. So even if I have to touch it up after a while then I’m ok with that too. But my cunning plan is that I kept the white base coat (which doesn’t go off like the epoxy top coat) for touch ups, and I figure for any small touch ups I should in theory be able to use a clear nail polish over the base coat touch up. That’s what I plan to try if the need arises anyhow.

Hopefully that gives you some food for thought on how you too might be able to renovate your space for a much smaller budget than a new kitchen.

I love how not only did I save a perfectly good kitchen from ending up in the landfill, just because I didn’t like the look of it, but also chalk paint and the Artisan products are very environmentally friendly paint solutions. Earth-care for the win.

Happy renovating

Blog ending


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  1. Hey, how has the bench top held up? And how do you mix the product? I have seen reviews that say you have to dust chips or flecks all over it after you apply a coat?

    Thanks! Your kitchen looks beautiful.

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