Sarah’s Design Dilemma

When we heard Sarah’s plea for a young, hip and modern kitchen, we couldn’t wait to cook up something stellar for her space. Here’s her letter:

I am so excited to get your advice. I love your style, and the moodboards I’ve seen look awesome. Here’s my dilemma: our kitchen is small with very limited counter space and we need more. We have 3 kids 3 and under, and just don’t have the time or budget for a large remodel, so we thought we could live with it by doing a little mini makeover. I’m thinking that we can lose the small pieces that surround the room. (we eat in the dining room so we don’t need the table or the cart that the trash is under). I’d like to create a recycling center and add another Simple Human trash barrel next to our existing one for cans and bottles (paper is in the hallway). I’d also love to change the paint color, but it has to work with our gray-green laminate countertop and the cream colored floor tile. Our style is definitely casual modern and I love cool colors and would like to keep the room light and bright. I had the idea of adding an island with storage (Ikea’s Varde Base Cabinet) to the middle of the room, which would give me added storage and more counter space. I’d also like to paint the cabinets (but need a color suggestion), replace the cheap beadboard backsplash and I wouldn’t mind a countertop suggestion, as we might be able to do it in the future. I want the kitchen to be young and hip and fun. Can’t wait to see what you come up with. Thanks! -Sarah

The potential is evident (those stainless appliances! ample room for an island! a great working triangle!) so without further ado, a modern moodboard makeover:


Here’s the moodboard breakdown.

1. Our color palette is a nice balance of warm and cool colors. The creamy tan tone represents the kitchen floor while the muddy gray-blue-green tone in the middle will be our new wall color (Glidden’s Limoges Blue). It’s just green enough to work with the current gray-green counters (in fact, it might just make Sarah appreciate ’em a whole lot more) and still cool enough in tone to complement all the modern stainless steel accents that we’ll be bringing into the space. It’s basically one of those great colors that will look silver, gray, green or blue depending on the light throughout the day. Gotta love such a stimulating yet subtle choice. And for some nice contrast, we selected the lighter gray tone for the cabinets (Glidden’s Satin Sheets) which will transform the white cabinets into shimmering silver-gray showstoppers. These colors will also look fabulous with all of Sara’s current stainless steel appliances, and once she gets around to replacing her black oven and range hood with stainless steel versions, her entire kitchen will look brand spankin’ new.

2. Sarah also requested a backsplash idea, so we searched high and low until we found just about the coolest mosaic glass tile that we’ve ever seen (with two tones of shimmering silvery-gray to complement our color palette). It’s sure to add some seriously sleek detailing to the soon to be swankified space, and paired with concrete counters (it doesn’t get hipper than that) Sarah’s kitchen will be cool enough to warrant its own fan club. And if concrete seems a little too industrial for Sarah, any medium toned gray stone (granite, marble, Silestone, CaesarStone, etc) with a bit of movement (veins, flecks, inconsistent coloring) will look absolutely fabulous in there.

3. Painting the cabinets silvery gray will crisp them up big-time, but adding this super sleek (and super affordable) door and drawer hardware from Ikea will be the icing on the cake. All Sarah needs to do is remove the old pulls and fill the remaining holes with wood putty so after she primes and paints the cabinets will be ready for their new jewelry.

4. Since Sarah so smartly suggested losing the small tables around the room and bringing in a center island, we think a hanging pot rack will really help define the new layout while making the Ikea island seem like less of an afterthought. And this sleek stainless steel version will hold her pots and pans in style. We also thought this stemware holder would look über sleek mounted under one of her cabinets for an instant cocktail zone that glitters in front of those fabulous new backsplash tiles.

5. Here’s the kitchen island that Sarah found, and we think it’s just the thing to add tons of storage along with some much needed prep space to the room. The blond wood tone will work with the flooring, but if Sarah’s looking to add a little sophistication she can also prime and paint it to match the darker tone on the walls for a super cool punch of our bold wall color in the center of the room (which will look super chic paired with the lighter cabinets- we’re suckers for a mix and matched effect). Oh but she shouldn’t paint the top of the island as it will serve as prep space, so instead, Sarah can either leave it as-is for a butcher block effect or even try staining it a weathered silvery gray color (and sealing it so it’s still a safe surface to work on).

6. Here are some sleek storage containers that will never look like clutter on the counter. And we just love how our color palette will gleam with all the punches of stainless steel around the room (hanging from the ceiling, on the counters, in the appliances, etc).

7. For the wall that used to house the tiny unused dining table, we think a message center in sleek white and stainless steel will be super functional and majorly easy on the eyes. We like this system from Pottery Barn (on sale no less) that will allow Sarah to pick and choose the items that she’d like to create a heavenly command center for a mother of three kids who are all three and under (!!!).

8. Here’s the second SimpleHuman trash can that Sarah was craving of for her bottles and cans (recycling’s important, and here’s proof that it can look good too). We think lining both of them up next to each other (and losing the cart above the original can, as Sarah herself suggested) will really make the area under her stainless steel shelves look organized and oh-so-sleek.

9. And speaking of sleek, when’s the last time you saw a dog bowl with such fantastic curves? We love this gorgeous piece of sculpture for the kitchen, and the fact that it also happens to serve a super important function is all the more reason to swoon. Gotta love accessories that muli-task.

So that about does it for Sarah’s tasty kitchen transformation. Anyone have any favorite items? I can’t pick between the sexy little dog bowl (who woulda thought I’d ever string those words together?) and the backsplash tile.

Update: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!


  1. says

    Fantastic! Love this kitchen. If I only had the room to do an island in my kitchen. I think that the island must be painted! I really like this look and the idea of the medium stone gray counter looks delightful!

  2. says

    I definitely want to see the “afters” of this kitchen makeover!! I adore the dog bowl, kitchen island, and backsplash tiles. Great job, Sherry and John.

  3. says

    I love the paint colors! And I am definitely scooping up that dog bowl for my pooch. Any chance you could give us your tips on painting cabinets? I notice you suggest doing that a lot and I don’t have a clue!

  4. YoungHouseLove says

    Hey everyone,

    So glad you’re all enjoying our latest mood board. We just got an insane influx of design dilemmas (a veritable blizzard of sorts) so stay tuned for lots and lots of mood board makeovers in the coming weeks.

    Tiffany- painting cabinets is easy peasy and we’re actually planning to do a step by step post about it sometime in the near future. But until then, here are the cliff’s notes:

    1. Remove all doors and drawers and hardware (and fill all hardware holes with wood filler if you’re planning to replace it with something of a different size).

    2. Use oil based primer to prime the frame of the cabinet that remains in the kitchen and all the doors and drawers that you removed (we laid all of ours out on a tarp in the sunroom). Use a roller for fast coverage and a brush to get the little corners that the roller can’t get into.

    3. Wait for the oil based primer to dry and apply two coats of latex paint (in a semi-gloss finish). This can also be applied with a roller and a brush can be used for those hard to reach crevices.

    4. Wait for the paint to dry (we gave it a good 48 hours to be 100% sure) and then rehang all the doors and bring in all the drawers (new hinges make all the difference so if you have a little extra money they are definitely worth the investment).

    5. Attach your existing hardware (which can be spray painted for a new look) or your new hardware (which, like hinges, can really make all the difference) being very careful to measure twice before taking a screwdriver to that glossy new door.

    And there you have it. A kitchen that looks brandy new. Hope that helps!

    Sherry (& John)

  5. says

    Oh my – this is fanstastic! Thank you so much for this. We can’t wait to get started. We are having a yard sale next weekend to purge, and then will get started. Stay tuned for after pictures!

    We’ll have to wait for your cabinet painting tutorial before we get started, so we do it right!

    Thanks again – you guys are super!


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