David’s DIY Kitchen Upgrade: Inspiration and Planning

created at: 04/29/2015
Like most people, my family spends a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s where we start our day (coffee, papers, kids), and where we inevitably land every evening for dinner. Despite its small size and builder-grade cabinetry and appliances, it’s a space that works for us. But my wife and I have long been looking for simple kitchen upgrades to bring more personality into the space, and allow us to really expand on our passion for cooking.

We’ve grown tired of cooking on our wonky electric range, and we’re constantly exasperated by our tiny, hard-to-keep-organized refrigerator. After enjoying a meal with friends in their very functional kitchen, we decided that the time was nigh – we were ready to do a mini overhaul. 

(Update: The step-by-step process post is now up! Click here to check it out!)

We were very lucky to partner with Lowe’s and Frigidaire Professional on this project. In addition to installing appliances from the new Frigidaire Professional Series, we’re also painting  the cabinetry, installing a new back splash, adding a tube skylight for more natural light, and injecting some much needed “us” to the space.

Here’s the game plan for our week-long kitchen makeover.

New appliances

New Appliances

I love cooking, but doing it on outdated, low-grade appliances make the task more difficult. Our electric range never heated pots evenly, our refrigerator was constantly overpacked, and our oven was finicky and took forever to heat up. We’ve selected the following appliances for the space:

  • Back control gas range: This range has a massively powerful 18,000 BTU burner for searing and boiling in a flash, and the convection oven has a power-plus mode that preheats in just a few minutes. Adios electric range, ever gone are the days of scorched meat that manages to be undercooked in the center! 
  • Microwave hood: The convection oven feature built into the microwave hood is great, and we’ll likely use it as a fast-access warming area for food during meal assembly. 
  • French door refrigerator: This upgrade will add a huge amount of accessible space to our current refrigerator situation. The large gallon-sized doors, adjustable shelves and drawers, and LED lighting throughout will make it easy to see and access our bounty. Additionally, with three little girls and twice as many dirty hands, the smudge-proof stainless steel was an immediate winner for both looks and easy clean-up.
  • Dishwasher: The most notable feature on our new dishwasher is the lack of buttons on the front. This makes it look clean and professional while still remaining fully functional with top access buttons. It also boasts a quick 30 minute cycle, which really cuts down on clean-up time. 

Our kitchen upgrade mood board

Updated DIY Design

My wife is a Pinterest master, so we immediately created a board with inspiration ideas and a few great upgrades for making it all flow together. Here they are:

1. Polished Natural Stone Mosaic Subway Tile

Tile adds color and texture to the walls which give the counter-tops an appearance of more depth and character. Since we were planning on stainless steel appliances, the tile pattern with natural stone accents and grey and white marbled variations was a great way to tie them into the rest of the room. The tiles come in 10”x12” standard configurations so the wall gets covered quickly..


  1. Tiles –  allen + roth Venatino Polished Natural Stone Mosaic Subway Tile These tiles came in a 10”x12” sheet. We covered about 25sqft of wall so that meant about 28 tiles (get a few extra for filling in the ends and any odd angles).

  2. Adhesive – TEC Tile Adhesive (we used about 1 gallon for 25sqft)

  3. Grout – MAPEI Unsanded Grout (use unsanded when the grout lines are about 1/8” or less for a smoother finish, use sanded grout for any gaps over 1/8” for better spanning of the gaps).

  4. Tile installation Kit (gloves, trowel, grout float, sponge)

  5. Tile Nippers or Wet Tile Saw

The project consists of prepping the surface, applying adhesive, attaching tiles, and final grouting. It takes between 2 and 4 hours depending on the size and complexity of the space.

Kitchen inspirationPhoto: Better Homes & Gardens / Chantelaine

2. Painted Cabinets

Changing the color of the cabinets is one of the most ambitious projects that can happen in a DIY kitchen. Painting the upper cabinets white makes the space much brighter and allows for a cleaner look that feels more open. Using a darker color on the lower-cabinets really will make the appliances stand out, adding more visual interest to the space. The key to painting cabinets is preparation and even coverage. This comes from cleaning all surfaces, sanding well, and priming before the paint goes on. Adding new handles with a silver-pewter design completes the update nicely.


  1. Cleaning supplies – Using TSP, or another degreaser is important to cut through the layers of cooking grease on the cabinets. Anything left behind can bleed through the paint and ruin the finish over time.

  2. Sanding supplies – We use 120, and 140 grit sandpaper (& sanding sponges) to give the paint a good surface to stick to.

  3. Drop cloths and plastic – Keeping paint where it belongs is a huge part of the challenged when painting so many items in the garage. I layer the floor (and walls if necessary) to keep it all clean

  4. Primer – No matter what I’m told, I still prefer to use a binding primer to make sure the paint has a good seal and surface to stick to.

  5. Paint – We’re using HGTV semi-gloss paint on this project. This paint is nice and thick thanks to the primer so a few coats offer great coverage.

  6. Brushes and Rollers – I always use a brush whenever possible, with a nice foam roller it leaves a nice smooth finish. I’m partial to Purdy brushes myself.

  7. New Handles – We’re using allen + roth Pewter 3in handles that match up to the handles on the appliances.


Skylight in kitchen

Photo: Velux 

3. Skylight

Just about every space can use a bit more natural light. I love how easy the Sun Tunnel skylights are to install, the kit comes with everything needed to fully install a weatherproof tube of light in any room. The skill level necessary to complete this task is moderate to high due to the need for a tight seal on the roof, so read up ahead of time. The installation can be fully completed in just a few hours.


  1. Sun Tunnel Kit – Velux 10” rigid Sun Tunnel
  2. Hole Saw – I use my multi-saw for most of these types of holes, but a drill and small saw can also make a fully acceptable hole in the roof sheeting and drywall with some careful cutting.


4. Faucet Replacement

Water is a part of just about every kitchen task, and a great faucet makes it all flow a little better. The hardest part about this project is the tight quarters under the sink. A few specific tools make the task a bit easier, but no matter what at least a few hours will be spent getting everything nice and tight. A pull-out spray nozzle that secures back cleanly is a nice touch for getting water exactly where it needs to go during clean-up.


  1. Faucet – The Giagni Fresco Pull-Down Faucet has a nice look that will complement the appliances. A nice stainless finish keeps the water spots to a minimum, water saving spray is great when hosing down a big round of dishes after the party.

  2. Stainless Steel Lines – Stainless reinforced lines are a bit more expensive than PVC, but worth the cost on something that can easily flood the house.

  3. Plumbers Putty or Silicone Sealant – It’s always a good idea to get it all sealed up to keep the water where it belongs

created at: 04/29/2015 


We’re planning to complete this kitchen update in a single week. The bulk of that time will be dedicated to painting the cabinetry. It’s a tight timeframe, but we’ve made a rough schedule to help keep us on track and we’ll report back on how well we stuck to it.

Although it’ll be a hectic week (or so), I know this project will be well worth it. We’re excited for the new look and professional series appliances that will help us cook some great meals for family and friends for years to come.

Check back next week to see how things are coming along!


This post is sponsored by Frigidaire Professional, but all opinions are mine alone. Thanks for supporting the brands that support ManMade.