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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Bechen

Easy & Affordable Ways to Add Cozy Cottage-Style Charm to a Ho-Hum Kitchen

Updated: Jun 8

Budget-friendly kitchen update
Our easy budget-friendly cottage-style kitchen updates, Summer 2023..

I hope you and yours are having a fun summer filled with cozy pretty things.

It's been HOT in the Phoenix, AZ area, where we live. +119F degrees yesterday and record breaking temps before that for days in a row. Every year we have our AC looked at by a pro company before our HOT season begins and they tell us they wish everyone did that. It seems only prudent, and we are planners in most things! We could not have planned our power being out the other day though, and that was a little unsettling in these scorching temps. Thankfully it was resolved in around an hour. We keep "Grab & Go" bags packed though in the event we'd need to go to a hotel. These work great for that. The power outage came on the end of us being without water for two days because a workman in our housing community hit a pipe or some such. Anybody who knows me knows I don't "camp" well, and it was kind of like camping, but I did my best to stay positive and do what I needed to do with dishpans. Good thing too we keep LOTS of bottled water behind our sofa since there's a lot of room back there as it's angled in the corner of the room which gives us a nice "storage space" for water and you can't see it hiding back there.

An old saying that's always made me smile is, "Plan ahead; it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark!"

Well, all that said, and what I am sharing here below is what has kept me from posting for quite some time. (Sorry Edna, but I am back!) :)

Steve and I have been working on more home projects this summer and our biggest accomplishment to date is adding more cottage-style charm to our small kitchen using our budget-friendly kitchen updates. But before I show you the details of our recent particular method of "DIY madness," let's take a little walk together down memory lane to see what our kitchen looked like five years ago when we bought our little Arizona home new.

Before our budget-friendly kitchen update.
Our kitchen when it was new in 2018.

Circa 2018. Nice if you like brown, but not exactly our preferred colorful cozy style. But since the overall bones were good, the home was clean as a whistle, and all appliances were new etc., we knew we could turn it into our style of cozy cottage - one that felt a little more "historic" if you will, but still with a modern sensibility.

By an "historic" feel for our home, I mean as in this example: There's a creak in our bedroom floor that refuses to be quiet no matter what Steve has done to it, so I told him oh well, then let's just pretend our cottage was built in 1600s-or-such England as an historic cottage behind a stately Downton Abbey-ish estate instead of in a U.S. factory in the middle of the Arizona desert. Or how about we imagine that it's like one of these charmingly-old English cottages? It's all in the attitude, after all, so now I feel at peace with our bedroom floor creak every time I walk over it to go the bathroom six times a night or so in my Downton-esque PJs. I simply conjure up a cozy historic English cottage in my head since a real English cottage is supposed to have creaky floors, and I call it a happy night!

It pays sometimes to look at life through an imaginative lens, don't you think? :)

But back to our budget kitchen revamp ...

Steve Bechen budget-friendly kitchen update Summer 2023.
Steve measuring and leveling!

Of course, things never go exactly as planned when you are doing home updates, DIY or otherwise, in our experience. You've heard of Murphy's Law? I thought so. That's what happened here when I got the bright idea that I would like to add a greenhouse/garden plant window to our kitchen window like the charming one we had in a house we bought long ago in Omaha, NE. I loved that plant window over my kitchen sink!

But then Steve diplomatically pointed out to me that we now live in Arizona, not Nebraska, and it gets hotter here in the summer than you-know-where, as I just mentioned above, and so real plants in a garden window here would probably not wilt, but fry in two minutes or so. Also, the cost of a plant window has gone way up since we bought our house that had one in 1986. Imagine that; prices have gone up since 1986! Um yeah, and they've even gone up since yesterday. :)

So anyway, it was time to put on my creative thinking cap because I was determined to have a "garden window" -- and one that did not kill my plants nor our careful-spenders retirement budget.

Budget-friendly kitchen updates cottage style by Kathryn Bechen.
The green shelves and plants are in place!

And so, I suggested to Steve that we "just" install two shelves on brackets inside in front of the kitchen window, and he was game. "It'll be easy!" I said, and he good naturedly said, "Yep." (As of this year, this man has put up with my DIY home ideas for 43 years, God love him, and he just goes with the flow.)

Two brown shelves that didn't look so great as they blended in too much with our cabinet color, two coats of sealer on the brown shelves as they smelled like pine and that bothered my allergies, one coat of primer paint, four coats of Peg's Promise green semi-gloss paint, ten days of dry time, and black touch-ups to the new-but-scratched brackets, plus finagling the shelves around the shade and window latch so we could still open the window, and we were home!

I told you it would be "easy." :)

Kathryn Bechen living room cottage-style decorating.
Our postcards we wrote each other on our 43rd anniversary this year. We've survived many a DIY home update together!

Steve Bechen budget-friendly kitchen shelves.
Steve painting our new kitchen shelves.

Steve insisted on doing the panting outside in the heat so I made sure he had copious amounts of water. He insisted because he said the heat bakes the paint to a solid finish! Fortunately he had our cabana ceiling in our Secret Garden to shield him from the sun, as well as our carport cover over the cabana too.

Steve Bechen kitchen update budget-friendly.
Steve installing our self-stick brick wallpaper.

Did I mention that when we took down what was on the end of the cabinets, it pulled the finish off the cabinets so it was problem-solving time once again. I suggested we use the same wallpaper that we had done in a couple other places already in our kitchen as the wallpaper would only add more cottage charm. He liked that idea since we still had some of that brick wallpaper on hand which that also meant it would save him money. (My husband was a career banker for 40-some years before he retired from that career, so trust me, he likes saving money!)

You might like to know that when I decorate and DIY, I make an overall "loose plan" but then we go with the flow and let our creativity take over both because that's more fun, and also because as I said, Murphy's Law and all, so sometimes you have to pivot to get it to look just right.

Kathryn Bechen budget-friendly home decorating cottage style.
Our brick wallpaper "chimney" we did a few months ago.

Kathryn Bechen faux root cellar kitchen
Our "root cellar" we created where our dishwasher once stood.

Removing some of our kitchen cabinet doors made a big impact both visually and functionally.

I always decorate for the particular space and our kitchen is narrow, with the laundry area in there too, and also our kitchen goes to our Master Bedroom, so when the kitchen cabinet doors were open, sometimes it felt like they were impeding the traffic flow if one of us wanted to go to the bedroom, or deal with laundry while the other one was cooking. Also one of us is prone to leaving cabinet doors open, (not naming names!), so if the other one was at the dining table conversing with the cabinet door hanging open, they were looking at the cabinet door, not the person, which felt odd, so I suggested we remove (just some) of the doors. It was strategic, and we both really like that it functions so much easier now!

See the green paper hanging up there? Usually I order paint samples and try them in person, but I wanted this to go faster so I simply found the paint color on Ecos Paints which is my fave non-toxic paint, and I just printed it out and then hung it on the cabinet to "test" the color. It worked great!

Hang cutting boards in your kitchen for cottage-style charm.
We hung cutting boards to add dollarwise cottage-style charm.

This was a lot of fun and I chose different colors and shapes for interest. I found them on Amazon.

Kathryn Bechen painting our kitchen shelves green.
We painted the shelves green using the color "Peg's Promise" from Ecos Paints.

As for the plants, I chose faux succulents as I love the varied colors and shapes and they hold up well in the sun plus are easy to just rinse the dust off of in the sink. Easy to order off Amazon and quick delivery. No potting soil required!

Furniture touchup pens work great!
Furniture touch-up pens are one of my favorite dollarwise decorating tools.

We had a few nicks on our cabinets so Steve used furniture touch-up pens which I love and have bought since we were newlyweds to keep things looking nice. I like the ones that are like wet felt markers rather than the wax-like color crayon type. The felt ones may stink a tad when wet, but they work better in my opinion.

Kathryn Bechen kitchen new cabinet handles.
Changing out cabinet handles is an easy way to make an update to your kitchen.

Another thing we did was change out the cabinet handles, which I have not liked since we moved in five years ago as they screamed "cheap-looking" to me, but they were there when we bought the house and we had other projects that took priority.

We liked the new handles so much in the kitchen that we did the bathrooms and our Master Bedroom too. It does not look matchy-matchy but instead makes the eye flow from room to room which is a good decorative thing. They come in different sizes which was great as we needed two different sizes. (Murphy's Law again!) :)

Changing cabinet handles updates a kitchen quickly.
Modern cottage charm!

This is the modern sensibility to go with the cottage charm that I was talking about earlier.

I love how these black handles look and they were budget-friendly too.

Kathryn Bechen kitchen cutting boards create a butcher-block countertop look for just a few dollars.
We used cutting boards to create a butcher-block countertop effect.

I love the look of butcher block countertops, but we didn't want to replace our counters as they are really user-friendly and still look new. We also wanted to add some cooking prep space so by putting three cutting boards down, we achieved both the aesthetic we were going for as well as the practical cooking function. Steve mentioned again today to me how much he likes the added prep space. He put these rubber feet on the bottom so they don't slide around. And we added a Kiss the Cook sign as I like a little whimsy in my home. We use coconut oil on our cutting boards to keep them in good condition, plus it's antibacterial too.

Adding colorful mugs and plants to our kitchen Kathryn Bechen.
Adding colorful mugs and plants perks up a kitchen quickly and affordably.

I also added a "pop of pretty" with these colorful mugs, and the jumbo size is great for soup so there's the practical function of double duty. And I like using vertical space well in a small kitchen.

Kathryn Bechen budget-friendly kitchen updates.
We added signs and a canvas painting for more dollarwise charm.

Our cute sign above the door and the canvas painting added charm to our Master Bedroom door located at the end of our kitchen. Our rug we have had for quite some time and it still looks great so we kept it. I purposely bought one with lots of pattern and color so that in case we spilled on it when we wiped it up it might not show. That worked!

Updates completed in our little cottage-style kitchen, for now. One day we will paint the kitchen cabinets but we have not decided whether we want to tackle that ourselves or hire someone to come in and do it after Covid is not such a thing anymore. We painted our cabinets ourselves in the first home we ever bought and it was not the most fun nor easy project we ever did, and we were only mid-twenties at the time. Pix.

Steve Bechen enjoys one of our home-cooked meals.
Steve enjoys one of our home-cooked organic meals. Yum!

I hope you enjoyed our budget-friendly kitchen updates and perhaps found some inspiration to add charm to your own kitchen, wherever you may live in the world.

Kathryn :)

P.S. If you would like more budget-friendly cottage-style decorating ideas, my eBook has 191 cottage-style decorating and organizing tips that are easy to do. No second-mortgage loan required!

Speaking of dreaming of an historic English cottage, I recently came upon a lovely cottage home and garden in the cottage-cute-village of Kibworth, England. Be sure to enjoy a cup of tea and tour Angela's beautiful minimalist home, Hideaway Cottage. (Be still, my Anglophile and Anglican heart!) Thank you for sharing it, Angela!


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