before and afterkitchen

before & after: pegboard kitchen makeover + studio redo

by Kate Pruitt

This kitchen makeover comes from our very own Sewing 101 expert, the super talented and clever Brett Bara. Like many renters, Brett wasn’t allowed to alter anything permanent in her apartment. However, using her eye for fabrics and her DIY savvy, Brett was able to lighten, brighten and totally modernize this little kitchen for very little money and even less time. Great work, Brett! — Kate

Time: One day

Basic Steps: Since this apartment is a sublet, I couldn’t make any structural changes. I really had to get creative about cover-ups I could do that would make the space feel more like me. Since there was already a pot rack hanging above the mural, I was miraculously able to just hook the peg board onto the pot rack, which saved me the stress of figuring out how to safely mount the peg board onto the old plaster walls. For the smaller piece of peg board above the sink, I mounted it to the bottom of the cabinets with screws. I knew I wouldn’t hang anything heavy on that piece, so it was just a light attachment. (I had the peg board cut to size at the lumber yard where I bought it.)

To hide the clutter in the cabinets, I lined the doors with wallpaper.  I removed the cabinet doors (the hinges pop right off) so I could lay them flat, measured the glass and cut the paper to fit. Then I just Scotch-taped it to the inside of the doors. For the new kitchen-sink curtains, I decided to use oilcloth, since it would be resistant to splashes or spills. Oilcloth is great because you don’t have to hem it (it won’t fray), so I just cut it to size and sewed a pocket at the top for the curtain rod.

My advice to others would be to think creatively about how to cover seemingly unfixable problems. I tend to want to tear everything out and redo things my way, but a real renovation wasn’t possible in this case since I sublet. This kitchen really helped me to push past that tendency and see how much I could accomplish with just band-aid-type fixes. So in the future, I’ll try not to get so discouraged that I don’t have the perfect home of my dreams (yet!) — I’ll just look for little ways like these to add more beauty where I can. It makes a big difference! — Brett

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

CLICK HERE to see Sullivan’s elegant and airy floral studio makeover after the jump!

Oh, to have a workspace that looked like this! Needless to say, I’m incredibly envious of this studio renovation from floral designer Sullivan Owen. It was clearly no small feat, however, and Sullivan put a lot of hard work into the space. The palette of grays, creams and wood tones are the prefect backdrop for showcasing flowers, and the sparing use of great vintage furniture works so beautifully to set the tone. Wonderful transformation, Sullivan!

Time: 4 weeks

Cost: $9,000

Basic Steps: The removal of the partition walls was the first and key step. We were fortunate they were not load-bearing walls. The new half walls allow the natural light to flood the whole space and make the studio feel twice as big. I chose the cool gray wall color to allow the colors of the flowers to pop so that they are the focal points. Removing the old carpet revealed the original floorboards, which had to be painted as they were about four different colors.

I used my grandfather’s antique packaging collection as my main inspiration for decor; he was an industrial designer from the 1950s to 1980s and had amazing taste. The giant green cabinet is from a 1950s general store in upstate NY. The furnishings are a mix of antique, vintage and new chosen to emphasize the high ceilings and store my huge collection of jars, vases and bottles.

The best advice I can give is to get several recommendations from people you trust for your professional subcontractors. I had great electricians and carpenters. They were a pleasure to work with, did an amazing job and helped me get finished on schedule. It’s my dream studio; I feel very fortunate to get to do what I love in this beautiful space. — Sullivan

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  • Oh jeez, that backplash is hideous! I have a similarly ugly, though not as terrible one in my rental apartment. This post fills me with so much hope. If Brett can make her kitchen look this good, so can I!

  • Brett is a saint for even moving into that place with that blacksplash. That’s one amazing makeover! And as a renter who also can’t alter things too much, I appreciate these kinds of before and afters.

  • I can’t imagine why the renters want to save that mural…. and I am artsy and love crazy colors and tile work, but that hodge podge looks like pure craziness! The kitchen appears much lighter and brighter with the redo… great job Brett!

  • Wow, ditto what people are saying about the ugly (dizzying) backsplash. Great job covering up. It’s amazing what a couple big (but “small” in terms of time and cost) changes can do for a space.

  • What a spectacular save for a hideous bit of tilework. At first, I was so distracted by whether the walls were crooked or the cabinets mounted at an angle, blame it on the 80’s layered checkerboard wall. In the “after” photo, it is obvious both that the cabinets are level and that Brett has great creative willpower! Wonderful solutions.

  • Whoa! That’s some crazy tiling! Good on Brett for finding a solution to THAT! And the second makeover looks like my dream kitchen.

  • Lovely! I wonder if she could let us in on where she got those light fixtures and what color gray that is…? It’s hard to find the perfect color gray!

  • It does look far better afterwards, but I am in awe of the ‘before’ backsplash! So so fugly.. I’m sure the novelty wears off pretty fast though!

  • Wow, Brett — it was like a NYC subway station ca. 1985 exploded in your kitchen. What a graceful way to remake the space!

  • Sullivan’s studio makeover is stunning!
    I’m in the middle of a remodel and inspired to paint my bookshelves a similar green! Thanks Sullivan, beautiful transformation!

  • The before backsplash was horrible. The change was amazing. I love the pots hanging infront of the stove. I LOVE the green hutch and the table. Where is the table from? I’m looking for something like that.

  • Oh wow. That “before” kitchen is horrid and GORGEOUS after.
    And I’m dreaming of a studio space like that in my future.

  • Wow, both of these are amazing transformations! I admit that I am more impressed with ones like the first one, though, that cost little to nothing and are easy to do. The fabric on the glass cabinet doors are lovely, however I would have left one door uncovered on each cabinet, b/c I really like having some displayed dishware. But that’s just me. Bravo all around!

  • The ’80s DIY tile remnant backsplash just made my day. So funny. I have very little space in my kitchen and I can’t mount anything….but maybe I can prop some peg board behind the stove…hmmm. Thanks, Brett!

  • I wish I would have thought of pegboard behind my tiny stove in my last tiny apartment. It can be such a sad bit of useless space.

  • Please tell me that first kitchen “before” is a joke. That is not only ugly, it’s vertigo-inducing. You couldn’t convince someone to change THAT? Hideous! Great job with the after, though – making the best of an awful situation. =)

  • The pegboard is great aesthetically, but is anyone else a little concerned about a giant board of flammable material, painted with another flammable material, and then hung over a gas range?

  • Wow, that is the ugliest tile I’ve ever seen in my life…and I live in NYC! Congrats on having the vision and ingenuity to improve on it.

  • Beth, the light fixtures are Kichler Style #2666 in polished nickel. The gray paint color is “Dolphin” by Martha Stewart Living from Home Depot.

    Finishing Touch, the claw foot table in the first photo is an antique I found in Adamstown PA at a flea market.

    There are more pics on my blog if anyone is interested. Thanks, SO

  • Brett’s kitchen re-do is fabulous, not least of all because it was so hideous before. Wow. I’ve never seen a before space so desperate for a renovation. Brett should offer to let the landlords keep it that way after she moves out!

  • What was going on with that kitchen wall?! Makes me dizzy trying to figure out that “mural”. Yikes!

    What an amazing transformation. It looks so much better and without any major structural changes. Genius!

  • @Deb: I was thinking the same thing re: fire hazard. Also, pegboard is typically not all that robust. With all those pots and pans banging against it, it will look pretty rough pretty quick.

    Having said that, it’s a sight better than the ulcer-inducing tile splash that was there before.

  • I hate to say it, but I kind of like the “before” back splash. The pegboard is great too, and the fabric on the cupboards is a nice touch, but I sort of appreciate anyone who would have the chuzpah to go all funkytown on their walls like that. Lends character. Especially in a small utilitarian kitchen, I don’t really mind a little bit of vertical chaos. Then again, I don’t have to live with it :) Well done Brett!

    And, I love the color palette in the floral studio. Reminds me of Jane Austen or something. Lovely.

  • Oh my, it is amazing what you can live with and only when you look back you think, why. Similar to many other things in life.

  • Congratulations to Brett for turning such an unappetizing kitchen into a welcoming space. I think it’s so important to make a space your own, even when you are subletting, and you’ve done so in the most amazing, non-invasive, inspiring way!

  • Both re-do’s are inspiring, but Brett’s may have been sanity saving. Just looking at the before kitchen gives me such a headache that I can’t imagine wanting to cook anything in there. Love the wallpaper on the glass cabinets, too.

  • I will never complain about the kitchen in my rental ever again!

    Congrats to both of you on amazing makeovers.

  • That backsplash was gawd-awful! I would have asked the landlord for a discount for having to stare at that every day. -Nice job with the peg board.

  • Brett, way to turn lemons into lemonade!! I think I wouldn’t have even bothered to rent that place after seeing that kitchen!! Absolutely horrendous.

  • I simply CANNOT believe how amazing the “after” kitchen looks. Such an amazing transformation, with so little investment! Amazing work, Brett! You give other renters hope. :)

  • So interesting to see how renters make improvements to spaces they can’t permanently alter. Hopefully there will be more before/after submissions that showcase other examples of temporary makeovers.

    Also, that workspace is sooo beautiful! Congrats on both makeovers! Very inspiring work!

  • wow ….. WOW …. I really can’t get over that first picture. (Dear God, I’m sorry I ever complained about my apartment kitchen! Amen.) It took me several minutes to convince myself that the first pic was NOT of a construction progress in place on the tile … nope, that was actually how it was originally SUPPOSED to look.

    Most dramatic before & after I think I’ve ever seen. You are a miracle worker.

  • Wow! I really appreciate that apartment makeover. Having lived in a zillion places that I couldn’t do anything with, I wish I’d that kind of talent.

    I’d love to see more examples of temporary makeovers like that, now that my kids are getting to the age where they’ll have their own vomitrocious backsplashes to deal with!

  • Thank God for the kitchen renovation!!!! OMG I never in my life see something so horrible in a kitchen,that get anyone a headache, she did a great, great job.

  • What is going on with those tiles? Even though the cover up transformation is great, I don’t know if I can ever forget that I saw those!

  • Gorgeous kitchen makeover! May I ask where you got the wallpaper from for the cabinets? I love that flower print!

  • I agree with several others — I’m going back to renting soon and it would be great to see more examples of before and afters for spaces we can’t permanently alter. I’d particularly like to know how to take a boring off-white box of a room with no architectural interest and turn it into something special. Thanks for the inspiration on this one.

  • I thought the backsplash was pretty Memphis myself – but wouldn’t want it in my kitchen either. The only think I don’t understand is why they didn’t bring the pegboard all the way up to the ceiling to hide ALL of the ugly tile work… other than that, a phenomenal transformation.

  • @ Ash: :))))))))))) couldn’t put it better….!
    You are one courageous person Brett, to tackle THAT backsplash… well done!

  • Wow…world’s worst tiling? It looks like the opening for a kid’s game show! The makeover is brilliant and inspiring to those of us on a budget!

  • Amazing makeover. Its really very nice. Great transformation. If our rooms are very clean and if its looks like what our heart felt, it will be very pleasant to our minds. Great advices. Thanks for sharing,

  • I thought this was an April Fools joke…I can’t believe that actually exists! What!?

    Great transformations all around! Nice work. I really like the green hutch.

  • okay, so I read the article & saw that the green hutch is part of a different makeover. either way- that kitchen is MUCH better now!

  • Wondering how you could affix pegboard to an ugly backsplash if it is purely tile and there is no wall area to hang it on. I would love to try this idea but not sure how.

  • If I was the landlord I’d pay you to leave the pegboard in the kitchen when you move out.

  • I love love love Sullivan’s studio! I was also wondering about the shade of gray – thank you for replying with the colour. I am surprised that was MS’s Dolphin! I have picked up and put down that paint chip a few times, but I didn’t realize that the result would be lovely!

  • what is that tile “Mural”?? oh the agony. Hideous is right but the cover up is good.

  • That backsplash has to be an April Fool’s joke. I can’t believe that any person would create that on purpose for any reason other than a prank on the world.

  • Maybe that tile job was part of some brilliant fad diet. You get so nauseous every time you walk into the kitchen that you don’t want to eat.

  • Wow, wow, wow. That studio space really underwent a full face lift! You took all of the steps to open and lighten the space. Excellent work!

  • Well done….those tiles had me giggling. I can’t imagine what they thinking when they put them up.

  • After seeing all the negative comments, I kind of want to wrap that backsplash in my arms and give it a hug. At least that person was trying to do something different and creative. It’s pretty mic the antithesis of the design*sponge aesthetic.

  • I L.O.V.E. Brett’s kitchen makeover! And love that the rental issue was mentioned – since I don’t own my own place, this is an on-going issue for me – but I love what Brett did! Thanks for the share!!!
    Meagan, row house nest

  • haha, that backsplash is hilarious! wow! you know someone thought they were changing the design world with their new, awesome tile pattern :) the makeover looks great, though!

  • hi all – thanks for your comments, they’ve been cracking me up! Yes, this mosaic is not a joke – just goes to show what New Yorkers will endure for an affordable apartment in a good neighborhood. :)

    But even though I covered up the backsplash, I almost want to defend its maker (whoever it was) – he/she put a lot of crafty love into this piece! Makes me wonder how much of what I make today will be laughable in 20 years, too. :)

    Anyway – the wallpaper is from Anthropologie and still in stock now. It is so, so pretty and I hope to use the remainder of the roll in another project soon.


  • What a great transformation in the kitchen, and such applicable ideas for those of us who rent. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • LOL that background was HORRENDOUS! Whoever did it probably got a whole heap of tile samples and remnants and thought they’d get crafty. Nice work around Brett!

  • I agree with Liz. Definitely someone’s “artistic” take on what to do with cheap leftover/discontinued tiles. Great job too.

  • I know this post is super old but hopefully I’ll still get a reply, doe did you manage to get the wood cutting boards on the metal shelfs to the left? I have the same ones and I’d like to do the same. Please please reply im despretly trying to reuse these shelfs in my kitchen. Thank you!!