Space of the Week: This San Diego Kitchen Reno Included Painting the Countertops 'Marble'

A couple used stay-at-home orders as an opportunity for DIY upgrades. 

Space of Week, Kitchen Makeover Cabinets and painted countertops
Photo: Christine Amorose Merrill

Travel blogger Christine Amorose Merrill, who also works in ad sales at Spotify, jokes that her kitchen renovation came together last spring when she and her husband David had a lot of unexpected time on their hands. Before the pandemic hit and their San Diego community went into lockdown, they were already working on changes. "The nook was luckily installed the day before California's stay-at-home orders went into effect," she says. "Thank goodness, since we had demoed it ourselves a few weeks before." But as soon as they were hunkered down, they decided to speed up the process with manageable upgrades.

Space of the Week, Wood Kitchen Cabinets Before
Christine Amorose Merrill

There was nothing necessarily wrong with the original kitchen's design, it was simply from another era. "Although we loved the layout and all of the storage, the oak cabinets and dark countertops felt a little dated," she said. The couple had lived in Australia before they met, and looked to it for an airier style where their two pugs, Gertrude and Matilda, could relish the sunshine as much as their snacks. Not only would a brighter palette reflect their past, but it would also fit into their present surroundings near the Pacific Ocean. "I loved the idea of an all-white kitchen, but my husband isn't quite as big a fan of an all-white look," she says. "We compromised with white open shelves on top and darker blue cabinets on the bottom."

Space of the Week, Kitchen Dining Nook
Christine Amorose Merrill

They painted the cabinets during the first week of quarantine, removing half for shelving, and installed a new range hood. In April 2020, Merrill moved on to sourcing furniture for the nook, and getting a gallery wall above it framed and hung. "It features our favorite travel photos," she says. "One of my favorites is a sepia-toned photo of my maternal grandparents on a cruise in the 1960s—they look so glam!"

At that point, the rest of the project was put on pause. "We were debating whether or not to get brand-new countertops as a final stage of the project once stay-at-home orders were lifted, which were going to be really expensive," she says. A year passed, and in April 2021, they came up with a solution. "We decided to paint the existing countertops after a friend told us about Giani marble epoxy kits," Merrill adds. They also opted to remove a few unused cabinets from the nook, and worked with California Closets to install white bench seating topped with custom cushions.

It's been a couple of months since their kitchen was completed, and Merrill loves that they were able to do it on a budget. "We didn't want to spend money on a full renovation right now," she says. "Painting the cabinets and countertops refreshed the space at a fraction of the price."

Get the Look:

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Faux Marble Countertops

Marble Countertop Kit
Home Depot

If you've always dreamed of marble countertops but an expensive kitchen reno isn't in your near future—consider a DIY marble epoxy counter until you can splurge on the real deal. The three-step application process will take a weekend to complete (along with some crafting skills), but the end result is a marble-effect counter with subtle veining.

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Colorful Cabinets

Cape Verde Teal Lower Cabinets

To balance out the minimalist white open shelving above, vibrant teal lower cabinets give the room a jolt of energy. The color is Cape Verde by Sherwin-Williams.

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Banquette Seating

Space of the Week, Kitchen Dining Nook
Christine Amorose Merrill

To create the cozy dining nook, California Closets crafted custom bench seating outfitted with soft cushions and plush pillows. If you have a tiny kitchen, bench seating tailored to your specific room will maximize every inch of space.

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Modern Dining Table

Round White Dining Table

The classic Saarinen dining table gets a slightly updated shape, but is every bit as timeless as the original. Paired with the cushioned bench seating, the dining nook balances cozy design with contemporary style.

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Timeless Chairs

White Dining Chairs
Home Depot

Match the table with Windsor-style chairs and you'll having a dining set you'll want to eat at for years (maybe even decades) to come. Plus, the curved chair backs fit snugly around the table, saving space.

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