Before and After: A DIY IKEA Kitchen Reno Brings in Lots More Light

A military family stationed overseas takes on a surprise-filled kitchen renovation, transforming a dated space into a bright and functional room.

When Laura Mattox and her husband AJ purchased their 1932 Dutch Colonial home without seeing it in person, they were in for a surprise when they finally moved in. The kitchen, which appeared charming in the listing photos, turned out to be a disappointment with plastic formica cabinets, broken drawers, and outdated features. Determined to create a functional and budget-friendly kitchen, Laura embarked on a DIY renovation project with the help of her family. The result? A stunning transformation that brings in plenty of light and adds character to the space.

A Disappointing Discovery

Laura and AJ were excited about their new home, but their enthusiasm quickly waned when they saw the kitchen in person. The cabinets were not what they expected, and the broken drawers made the space impractical for their family of six. Additionally, the brown carpet and a malfunctioning window added to their list of grievances.

Planning the Dream Layout

To create their ideal kitchen, Laura used IKEA’s kitchen planning tool to design the layout. However, the cost was higher than anticipated, prompting them to opt for open shelving instead of upper cabinets. Taking advantage of IKEA’s semi-annual kitchen sale, they focused on replacing the base cabinets.

Unforeseen Challenges

During the renovation process, Laura and AJ discovered a major electrical issue. The ceiling wiring was a fire hazard, requiring the expertise of an electrician and blowing their budget by $1,000. Despite this setback, they remained determined to complete the project.

Assembling IKEA Cabinets

With the help of their two oldest sons, Laura and AJ tackled the removal of the soffits and drop ceiling. Assembling the IKEA cabinets proved to be easier than expected, with online tutorials guiding them through the process. They also decided to relocate the fridge to improve the flow and visibility in the kitchen.

Brightening the Space

Replacing the old window with a new picture window, installed by Laura and her father, brought much-needed light into the kitchen. The couple also opted for wood-look vinyl planks in a herringbone pattern, replacing the outdated carpet. These changes significantly brightened up the entire space.

Adding Character and Functionality

Laura’s long-standing desire for butcher block counters became a reality with IKEA’s selection. To protect them from spills, she coated the counters with a marine-grade spar finish. The backsplash, the most time-consuming part of the project, featured a mix of traditional white subway tiles and a mosaic behind the stove, adding a touch of personality to the kitchen.


Laura and AJ’s DIY IKEA kitchen renovation showcases their determination and creativity. Despite unexpected challenges, they successfully transformed a disappointing space into a bright and functional room. The project’s success lies not only in the aesthetic improvements but also in the improved functionality and the joy it brings to the family. Laura’s favorite part of the kitchen? The way it makes her feel, turning mundane tasks like doing dishes into a pleasant experience. This renovation serves as an inspiration for others looking to transform their spaces on a budget while adding personal touches and character.