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Elizabeth's Bold, Under-$500 Kitchen Makeover




St. Louis, Missouri



Square Feet:


How many people live in home:

Two: Me, my barber husband, (and two cats, Tia and Zoe)

What makes your small kitchen so cool?

1. The small size makes it easy and quick to put dishes away. 2. The small size allows for a bolder statement since there is so little of it (black cabinets). 3. The small space gives my barber husband excuses to "bump" into me or sneak in a grope as he squeezes past me (this is the best reason of all).

One challenge you overcame in your small kitchen, or a good resource you've found.

How to stay within my $500 budget and redo my entire kitchen! Paint and elbow grease was the answer. I painted the floor, the counter tops, the cabinets, and the walls. I found a $50 sink at Habitat for Humanity, the faucet for $120 at Home Depot, and Boos butcher block for the top of my dishwasher for only $35! My entire kitchen make-over came in about $497.

Favorite Meal to Cook in Kitchen

I LOVE my vintage stove and my Boos block counter top. So chopping up mushrooms for my Rustic Cream of Mushroom soup and slowly cooking the soup while baking bread is the best. And the reward is hearing my barber husband yell out, "Something smells great in here!" as he walks in from a hard day on his feet.

Favoriting and voting have ended.

Comments (64)

i never thought of blue for a kitchen. this dark shade is great.

posted by bensmagginolia on July 10, 2011 at 8:29pm
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I just love that stove so much....

posted by flyingchange on July 12, 2011 at 9:23pm
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Stunning transformation! I love the modern french country look of the room - charming yet sophisticated. And all for $500 - amazing.

posted by BrooklynKid on July 8, 2011 at 11:16am
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Wow. What a difference some paint makes!

posted by jarobinson1 on July 8, 2011 at 11:34am
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This is just stunningly beautiful. Many congratulations!

posted by laetitiae on July 8, 2011 at 11:36am
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Lovely! The way you painted the walls looks great with the patina on your vintage finds.

posted by heypielady on July 8, 2011 at 12:24pm
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It looks so warm and inviting. I could just snuggle up on a stool and watch someone cook and chit chat in this kitchen - no matter how small!!!

posted by Jeanne52 on July 8, 2011 at 12:35pm
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I love the old grain sacks and all the ironstone. What a remarkable kitchen on such a little budget. Kudos

posted by debbmac on July 8, 2011 at 3:08pm
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Love it! Amazing how while painting cabinets a bold black the kitchen still looks so country and cosy. And for under $500! That inspires me to do something about my own drab kitchen.

posted by EdensOasis on July 8, 2011 at 3:08pm
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Thank you all for the lovely comments! I just only now found out that my kitchen was even accepted for entry! Very excited to be in the company of so many unique kitchens. Thanks everyone for stopping by and visiting :-)

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 8, 2011 at 3:42pm
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I've had the pleasure of dining in this kitchen, and it(as well as Elizabeth) is amazing! It's beautiful!

posted by PaigeH on July 8, 2011 at 4:03pm
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Amazing. LOVE it.

posted by Shauna on July 8, 2011 at 6:04pm
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This kitchen is just amazing! It looks like it just evolved organically into something quite perfect (even though quite a lot of work actually went into it!)

I really think too this kitchen is the perfect compromise to the 'total white kitchen' trend.

posted by Ms. Vickie on July 8, 2011 at 6:04pm
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Hi Pipstar,

I chuckled when I read your comment - I have a blog on design, travels, and photography - and yes, I sometimes use my husband, Randy, aka, "barber husband" as unsuspecting fodder in some of my posts. (Poor guy.)

Within my blog readers, they are used to my affectionally calling him "barber husband" as it goes with my first encounter of meeting him only four years ago running in a park, which is part of our story. You are right, it is weird, but a good weird

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 8, 2011 at 6:43pm
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Wait a minute, is your husband a barber or something? Just teasing.

I've seen your kitchen on the internet somewhere before. Cute kitchen, cute gropey barber husband, cute stove, and CUTE BUDGET. Your budget alone is reason enough to vote for you. I appreciate a person who works with what they have instead of clogging the landfills!

posted by Put A Bird On It on July 8, 2011 at 7:56pm
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I think everything you do is FABULOUS and your kitchen is no exception!! You have so much talent and you are always so generous to share it with us!! Great job!!

posted by Myrna1958 on July 8, 2011 at 8:21pm
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Thanks for the vote trufflesauce! And he is a cute "gropey barber husband" (that made me laugh). Your online name made me wonder if you have a good recipe to share?? :-) Thanks for visiting - I appreciate it.

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 8, 2011 at 8:58pm
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Your are so kind with your comments. I love to share .... what good is it to keep it to yourself, anyway? I always get great emails from people who share the coolest ideas ever after they have read something in my blog...so I think I am the one who really gets the best of the best in the end. :-)

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 8, 2011 at 9:01pm
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Your photos depict the wonderful feeling that is found in your cozy kitchen. Your hospitality is evident and your love for what you do is present. Thanks for sharing your talents with us. I just stand back and wonder.... you are amazing!

posted by Singer Sewing Room on July 8, 2011 at 9:35pm
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What a spectacular transformation. It is pure genius. My hero. rlg

posted by Renee-vation on July 8, 2011 at 10:53pm
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I absolutely love your eye for detail and what an amazing transformation on such a small budget...I think my kitchen needs an elizabeth touch :)

posted by cathy from Australia on July 9, 2011 at 6:22am
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not my personal style, but what a great job!

posted by kjansson on July 9, 2011 at 1:36pm
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ElizabethM...I love your kitchen. The transformation is amazing and reflects your personal style vividly. Your kitchen obviously struck a chord with me because I know I have seen it a couple years ago(?) featured in a magazine or another publication. Where was it??!!

posted by sillybee on July 9, 2011 at 5:54pm
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Thank you Sillybee for such a sweet comment :-). (I just realized the pun with your name..haha). I and my crepes were featured in Where Women Cook last year which showed photos of kitchen (and my crepes). And the steps and "how I did it" are on my blog www.elizabethhousestlouis.blogspot.com and under labels just look for "kitchen". Thank you again for your kind comments.

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 10, 2011 at 4:25pm
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Love it! How did you transform your walls and countertops, what paint and technique did you use??

posted by Ginamee on July 11, 2011 at 2:44pm
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I can't believe all it took was paint! You did a lovely job and the counters look fantastic! Under $500 is phenomenal; you have my vote.

posted by Ban Clothing on July 11, 2011 at 3:15pm
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Thank you for encouraging comments - makes me even happier that so many like the results. Ginamee, all the paint Behr (Home Depot), interior, latex, flat. Most people freak that I use flat paint in the kitchen (actually everywhere) and NOT oil base. I just REALLY, REALLY prep the surfaces with TSP (to degrease) and lightly sand all surfaces. I then seal the surfaces really well with polyurethane and do this really well too.

The wall, I used joint compound and just scraped it on "here and there" to give it a textured look - and I did it right over the tile in some areas where the tile was still remaining on the wall. Let it dry completely for a day or two - it will shrink, so you may want to reapply it again to get the look you want. Then I just rolled on the pain right over it and I then used a light glaze (by brush, which is really hard, a sponger or rag is much easier) to "age" down the walls. I use FLAT paint because glaze will "slide and slip" all around on eggshell walls (for me it does at least) and it makes it harder to control. Although almost 99.99% of my artist friends freak out that I use flat paint and not eggshell when using a glaze because it IS so hard to use a glaze on it. So, you just try it both ways and see which is easier for you. I am totally self-taught, so you might want to listen to my artist friends who are professionally taught.

The counter, again, TSP (found in Home Depot) I use the liquid, FULL strength, wipe it off good, lightly sand, and I used a mix of paints I happened to have and just mixed my own color, and then sealed it with THREE coats of poly. The trick is to lightly sand (200 grit) in between coats of poly. It is hard as rock and has not chipped once.

The floor: Again, TSP, I painted right over the floor linoleum, I use FLAT PORCH paint, Behr, and designed out my design with painter's paint, and sealed it THREE times - again - NO chips.

Kitchen cabinets: TSP, lightly sand, paint, and seal. I seal the cabinets only once - they aren't walked on, or worked on, so no need to go overboard with the sealing.

This is just a quick, cosmetic fix until we can afford to do our kitchen the right way. We don't have the budget to do a total rehab so this will have to do for now.

The entire kitchen took me only 8 days. And really, truly it was $497 for all the supplies, sink, faucet. I already had my beloved stove.

Thanks for asking - I hope this helps you some.

My biggest tip? STIR the poly, do not shake it, and stir it often. Sand lightly between coats, and be patient and let is dry completely - this is how you get a hard, hard shell - and a long lasting result! :-) Oh - I used water base poly - hate oil.

Have a great week.

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 11, 2011 at 4:31pm
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You completely transformed this place. The floors, wow! The new sink makes a huge difference. So much creativity - congratulations.

posted by skatz12 on July 11, 2011 at 7:08pm
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So many of us can't afford an expensive remodel, but you inspire to stay within the budget. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. Bless you!

posted by kimberliann on July 11, 2011 at 7:47pm
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Well you didn't have an ugly kitchen to work with but you did add a lot of personality to it. It looks great.

posted by House Voyeur on July 11, 2011 at 11:07pm
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Thank you kimberliann and House Voyeur for your comments. Yes, kimbelainn, I admire and support so many make-over projects on the Internet, in magazines, on TV and so on, but bottom line is, our bank account doesn't at this point. It is nice to have an "until I can do it for real" solution...and basically, what it comes down to is if I can make a change, create some beauty, and use things I love in the process, then the wait to "do it for real" isn't so painful. :-)

House Voyeur, your comment is very much appreciated and made me think of the very true saying: "beauty is in the eye of the beholder!" Our old kitchen was so bad, I kidded my barber husband one morning at breakfast and said, "if I have to look at this kitchen one more time, I am going to stick needles in my eyes...." And then I told him I am sure I could do it all for less than $500! To my shock, he agreed, and after he left, and stood standing in my "sick hospital yellow" kitchen (as I used to call it) I worried and thought to myself, what did I get myself into? But I was happy to finally just get myself going on it.

The old kitchen has PLATIC broken tiles coming off the wall, cracks (not the good kind) in the walls, about a zillion coats of chipped paint on the window trim, and torn and peeling floor linoleum in places - all in frog green.

The light fixture (I wish it was in the photo) was that really gross, round retro (but not the good retro) outdoor looking light for a patio that had really, really bright bulb that truly cast a hue as if you were in a hospital room - hence my nickname. And it would buzz when you turned it on, and it took a few minutes for the bulb to warm up and then flicker a few times to finally turn on.

And the pale greenish, white formica counter tops were burnt in places and scratched down to the surface.

So between the greasy, pale yellow walls, the deep frog green walls, the bluish, flicker hue of the light, and the pale greenish white counter tops in the room, when entering from our living room, it looked like you were about to enter a science lab - and if I had my mortar and pestles all out ready to crush spices - well then - all that would be needed is a lab coat! Hahaha :-)

Okay, thanks for allowing me to relive those memories. Actually, even though not fun to look at, our old kitchen gives us more appreciation for our new temp make-over and even more enjoyment since having cooked in a "science lab" :-)

Thanks again for taking time to comment. Have a great week.

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 12, 2011 at 1:50pm
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I adore this kitchen.it's fab!

Interesting to me with the comments is a few people who have made disparaging remarks about some entries because of unsightly electrical etc....and this kitchen is ok because they are hidden behind platters etc....One must wonder when reading comments what picture they actually looked at.LOL!people are nuts,blind or stupid!

Still Laughing!

I was one of the first votes you got.I love your kitchen!

posted by hello123 on July 12, 2011 at 5:38pm
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Hello, hello123, you are so funny! You have a KEEN eye....love that! Yes, I hate looking at cords myself - in real life, not just photos. And if you look REAL, REAL close, right behind my platter, you can barely see my cord hanging (from the light fixture on the cabinet in the window). I get so fixated, (okay, anal....) that I painted the cord the same color of the wall, AND....(I know, I hate to admit this) I painted the cord also black, underneath the cabinet down to where the cabinet stops and the wall starts. So the cord, actually, is part black, then it is cream, because I hate cords so much.

And if you look at my French pot shelf.....? Well, again, if you look at the wall, REALLY look, you will see a cord hanging down, that is the switch for the lights under the shelf. I hated that cord, but our house being so old, hardly any outlets, I had no choice. So I painted it to match the walls and aged the cord with glaze!....(I know...kinda getting high off the fumes of paint by then, I think) Hahah. But, it does make a difference - to me at least, not to see so many darn cords.

Thank you so much for your vote - how cool of you and how sweet to write me and let me know. You made my day come to a nice end.

Thanks again - :-)

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 12, 2011 at 6:39pm
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8 receptacles......geez...I meant four.

4 times 2.
Power to the kitchen,people! Right on!

posted by hello123 on July 13, 2011 at 1:02pm
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elizabeth m

Glad your not cross with me.I remember finally renovating my own 1850 kitchen area.The electrical was so sparse we often ran a cord from the stove to use appliances.Nightmare!

Now I have 7 ft of counter that includes a single sink and 8 receptacles!We shall have hydro!

You won't regret saving and thinking about major renos.Do them when your ready.Makes the experience more enjoyable and the results easier to live with.Sometimes decisions must be made that have nothing to do with what we want and all to do with the house.It takes planning.No matter what I want my house always seems to say...NO!It's been no small feat accommodating her.

Kudos for your efforts to deal with cords.I think many people are like me....when they finally get enough 'power' to safely run mod cons,we can live with anything else.I try to be as vigilante as others,but lose steam.I'm so happy no longer have to have emergency services on speed dial!

You have blogs?Where....I need to know.

posted by hello123 on July 13, 2011 at 12:59pm
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Thank you thorndale for the nice comment. It is a little bit of heaven...especially when it is rainy and cold outside and something is baking in the oven and the ceiling lights are on the dimmer. Very cozy :-)

P.S. I see you are a night owl too!

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 14, 2011 at 2:38am
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Please note on my instructions that I posted earlier about the step process: I left out an important step for the floor!

For the floor:

First use TSP to degrease it
Second, lightly sand it and wipe it down
THEN: I used a coat of Kilz primer on it
That is the step I forgot to mention

Then I used porch paint (two coats)
Then seal it three coats with poly (sand lightly between coats, wipe down and repeat after it dries completely)


Kilz primer is really only needed if your floor is a mess, has a finish on it, or like mine, is linoleum. And again, my floor has yet to chip. Just take your time and really prep and seal and you should be fine. :-)

Hope this helps.

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 14, 2011 at 11:58am
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Clever,creative,charming,chic and cheap-all my favorite adjectives. Eager to see what you'll transform next. bet.h

posted by bet.h on July 14, 2011 at 10:13pm
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Formidable. Tres chic.

posted by aychihuahua on July 18, 2011 at 4:52pm
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Awesome! And the stove is to die for!

posted by Cliffie93 on July 18, 2011 at 7:44pm
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Thanks for showing what creativity and elbow grease can accomplish! Already thinking about how I can use the same techniques in my own way ... such an inspiration!

posted by gigimet on July 18, 2011 at 7:51pm
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Thank you bet.h, aychihuahua, MXM, and gigimet for your nice comments. gigimet, if you decide to use any techniques on your kitchen, I would LOVE to see them! I get excited seeing other people's creative work too. And MXM, yes, I do love my stove. I bought it back in 1994 in Texas, and it has never failed me once. I joke that it could be a crematory - it can get THAT hot! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :-)


posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 19, 2011 at 12:44pm
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That is so cute ! For under 500, you sure did a great job at making it look so tasteful and unique.

posted by kitchenhip on July 19, 2011 at 3:13pm
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Haven't read all the comments yet--but please tell me you have a site somewhere with pics of the entire remodel. Do you have an art/design degree? Wow.

posted by Spencer2 on July 19, 2011 at 3:48pm
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Love it because I own your sister kitchen in Jacksonville, FL (of all places) and I painted my cabinets black, too...but I painted the insides of mine red...actually they came that way from the 50's and I just re-painted the same color. I went for the French look also w/ black wrought iron pulls and light fixture! Gotta get that grain sack look though! Congrats...and hope you win!!!

posted by kcash, Jacksonville, FL on July 19, 2011 at 4:24pm
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Hi kitchenhip,

Thank you - I like that you think it is "tasteful" (pun intended?) and especially like that you found it unique.

If I have to have a tiny kitchen, then at least it can be really different :-)

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 20, 2011 at 10:08am
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Hi Act2

No design degree here, but a lot of time designing and working for myself since 1998. And been "scooting" furniture around since I was four! Everything is self-taught. Thanks for wanting to read all the comments - they have all been very encouraging :-)


posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 20, 2011 at 10:12am
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Kcash - I am sure my kitchen misses your kitchen since they are sisters! With red inside of yours, I bet your dishes look extra sweet. Do you have any of the doors left off to show off the red? The pulls and fixture, I am sure, really pulled off the French look too...bet it looks great! Yes, I love my grain sacks. I bought them years and years ago while I lived in Europe, way before they were anywhere trendy and I remember my friend asking me, "Why do you want those old things??" At the time (1984) I said, "Not sure, but they are so cool..." Who knew?


posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 20, 2011 at 10:17am
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Soo cool.

posted by njm4487 on July 21, 2011 at 12:25am
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I'm sure it may take you a bit to get back to me means your kitchen is so unbelievable and done on such a great budget. Can you tell me the details on painting the cabinets and counter tops? We can't afford replacing but would love to update with paint.Thank You
Melanie Ridgewood NJ

posted by melanie7 on July 22, 2011 at 10:16am
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Hi Mealnie 7

Yes, I would be happy to give you tips on how to do the counter top and cabinets. Here are the details in easy steps:

Supplies: I use Behr paint (Home Depot) flat finish. Minwax polyurethane (water base) TSP, 200 grit sand paper, and Kilz primer (water base)

Counter top: I lightly sand, then wash down with TSP (found in Home Depot). I use full strength. Dry counter top with lint-free cloth. Coat with primer, let dry well. Paint two coasts of paint. Dry well. Seal with three coats of poly. DRY WELL between coats. Sand lightly (200 grit) between coats of poly and wipe with damp cloth. STIR the poly do not shake and stir often - that is how to get a super hard shell. :-)

Cabinets: Sand down till smooth or to get gloss coating off. NOTE: If you have paint on them already, and plan to distress them some, then the color of the old paint will show some where you sand to distress. If that is okay, fine, if not, you will have to remove all the paint. If you have no paint on your cabinet, no problem.

Wash down with TSP, dry well. Paint with two coats of FLAT paint. Don't let anyone tell you to use anything else - flat paint is the easiest to distress down with sand paper after it dries!! Any other paint finish is a PAIN to distress down. The KEY is to prep really well and the flat paint will be fine and then make sure to seal it well. Seal with poly, two coats. Brush same direction, do not over brush.

Tips: Remove drawers and paint them on paper or on a table. I paint the inside of doors, so they can remain hung and painted. I paint the inside "lip" of the cabinet for a complete look.

Good luck!

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 22, 2011 at 3:43pm
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I'm completely charmed!

posted by Cayennegirl on July 26, 2011 at 10:28am
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Thank you Betty 14 and Kate (NC) I just found out I am a finalist! How exciting. Thank you for the votes everyone. There are so many really cool kitchens - really loved viewing them!

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 26, 2011 at 1:56pm
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Eight days and $500!!!! You are magical. Congratulations on a beautiful kitchen.

posted by Kate (NC) on July 26, 2011 at 1:27pm
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Just voted for you as a finalist now ... I hope you win! I think you did the most amazing change with the least money!.... Plus it's totally my style ... LOVE IT!!!

posted by VictoriaOC on July 26, 2011 at 6:58pm
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Thank you VictoriaOC! I am totally flattered to be a finalist with a $500 kitchen. :-) So many really nice kitchens, so I am really flattered. Thanks again for your vote...I love my little kitchen too!

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 26, 2011 at 9:57pm
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I of course voted for this fab kitchen. I loved it the first time I seen it. It's the little details that give it such impact. Classy & thrifty, my kind of kitchen.

Lucky 7 Design

posted by lucky7design on July 26, 2011 at 11:36pm
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Your Missouri blogger friend is voting for you to win

Good Luck


posted by Curtains In My Tree on July 27, 2011 at 10:46am
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I'll be voting for you.

posted by Rosemary@villabarnes on July 27, 2011 at 8:12pm
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Beautiful, Elizabeth!

You have wonderful vision for spaces and use your creativity well. :)

The best to you!

posted by T for Edgar Jewelry on July 27, 2011 at 11:09pm
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Thank you everyone for all the wonderful comments and your votes. It was so inspiring to see so many of you that I don't even know vote for my kitchen and to those that I do know, thank you for taking time out of your very busy day to vote and visit this site. My heartfelt appreciation to you all! :-)

Big hug to you all,

posted by Bungalow of Joy on July 28, 2011 at 1:24am
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Perhaps I'm crazy but I like the before - especially the floor.

posted by janet uws on September 23, 2011 at 4:34pm
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love this kitchen,the color is great

posted by patty dennis lewis on October 11, 2011 at 12:18pm
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Elizabeth, I just ran across your kitchen redo. I read how you painted the counters but can you tell me what color paint you used? I have read several articles about painting counters and have seen mixed reviews. How have you found that yours are holding up? Thanks

posted by tnccat1969 on December 29, 2011 at 3:24pm
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