If you ever needed proof that a total room makeover doesn’t have to drain your savings account, Erin Sparks’ Nashville kitchen would be it.
“I spent about two weeks of focusing on planning every day,” says Sparks of the extensive thought process that went into upgrading her kitchen on a tight budget. “You have to consider everything.”
Taking advantage of her business’ down season, Sparks (who owns a vintage furniture rental business named Vintage Sparkle) decided to tackle her kitchen project largely on her own. The first thing to go? An unsightly soffit above the entire perimeter of the kitchen, which Sparks says only cost $1,000 to remove and made a huge difference in opening up the space.
Sparks and her husband bought the home in 2009 and while the kitchen was functional, the laminate countertops and drab decor were in need of a refresh. One month (and minus one soffit) later, the couple had transformed the kitchen into a space Sparks describes as eclectic bohemian with a hint of Moroccan influence. All done under $8,000 and without the help of a designer.
[In the lead image: Sherwin-Williams cabinet paint color in “Blue Peacock”; Bella Tucker decorative finishes cabinet painter; Hamilton Bowes via Amazon copper cabinet hardware; Delta Faucets Essa Kitchen Faucet in “Matte Black”]
Using Justina Blakeney’s bold bohemian kitchen as her inspiration, Sparks incorporated more vibrant, modern elements to make the space feel personalized. She kept all the plain white appliances, but added a deep teal coat of paint to the cabinets, a new light fixture, and rustic open shelving.
One thing that sets apart Sparks’ kitchen: She’s not afraid to show off her personal mementos, a refreshing change in the era of minimalism.
“My husband and I buy mugs when we travel, so our mugs are a collection of where we’ve been. Each one is a special memory,” says Sparks of the impressive array of mugs adorning one of the shelves. “There’s an organization here in Nashville called Poverty in the Arts that gives homeless people who are artists a platform to sell their art. I went to a show a couple weeks ago and found a piece I loved, so I put it in my kitchen too!”
As for sticking to a budget, Sparks says her DIY approach to the renovation helped keep everything affordable. Aside from the heavier lifting—such as installing the drywall, tile, and countertops as well as painting the cabinetry, which were done by professionals—everything else was done by the couple. They built the open shelving, painted the window frame, and took out the screen. And of course, the conceptualization and design of the finished space was done entirely by Sparks and her husband.
While she doesn’t advise that everyone follow suit and undertake a big renovation without the help of a designer purely for the sake of sticking to a budget, Sparks believes that making similarly small changes are an inexpensive (and low-risk) way to make a big statement.
“I could not believe the impact painting my window frame had; it made it pop so much. I removed the screens, which isn’t practical for everyone, but here in Tennessee we’re either hot or cold and we don’t open our windows a ton, so doing that made it so much clearer.”
Another one of Sparks’ tips for keeping a makeover project affordable is learning to prioritize. You may not get everything you originally wanted, but if her kitchen is any indication, it will pay off in the end.
“The cabinet paint was going to cost a little more than I had anticipated so I had to balance that out with the backsplash and decide whether I wanted to go big or go home…. And I just kind of chose to go home,” says Sparks. “But now I’m so happy with it and I love the high contrast!”
Images by Samantha Nelson Photography.