A kitchen renovation completed in under a month is any homeowner’s dream. Design expert and Emmy-nominated TV host Bobby Berk completed this reno feat in a Los Angeles home whose kitchen’s layout and design hadn’t been updated in over 50 years. It was still the 200 square feet it was when it was built in the 1950s.
“Kitchen renovations are a big undertaking because not only is it the lifeline of a home and [a] necessity, but it involves major updates like plumbing and electrical,” Berk tells MyDomaine. “The goal for this one-month renovation was to make as big of an impact with as little work as possible.”
Berk, who is known for his work on Queer Eye on Netflix and as the leader of his eponymous brand, used just five product categories to complete the renovation: cabinet fronts, paint, backsplash and countertops, hardware, and appliances.
A 'High Impact but Low Lift' Change
“The cabinets are really the main focus of this small space,” notes Berk. “Since the green cabinets are largely the entire room, it was important to make this design moment high impact but low lifting." Because the cabinets were in good shape and the project had a short timeline, Berk's team opted to paint the frames and replace the fronts with custom cabinet doors from Nieu Cabinet Doors, which offers made-to-order doors for any cabinet that DIYers can install.
Take a closer look at where the dishwasher was and you’ll see that it still is there, just concealed behind a custom Nieu cabinet front. (The original dishwasher had to be replaced with one designed for custom fronts.)
“Painting the cabinet frames to match the Nieu cabinet fronts exactly saved time, money and made for even better results,” says Berk. The actual cabinet fronts couldn’t be painted, since those spaces are high-touch, but painting the frames was completely doable. “Had we not simply painted the cabinet frames, our costs from demo-ing, installing, purchasing and matching the cabinet front color, would have tripled.”
A Careful Partial Demolition
“Demolition of the countertops and backsplash was the biggest construction part of this project,” explains Berk. “Demolition” might evoke images of full-on construction sites, but the team had to protect this kitchen's bones. “While demo-ing can be messy, and often easy to do yourself, the challenge was we needed to ensure the cabinet frames stayed in excellent condition because we were still using the boxes (the cabinet foundation).”
The speckled countertop and squares-and-triangles backsplash are gone, in favor of a sleek and polished stone. In the face of supply chain delays, Berk opted to use the same material for the countertop, backsplash, and countersplash—Silestone’s Ethereal Glow—and source it from one company. “In addition to creating a more seamless and contemporary aesthetic, its easy installation helped us save time on the labor front,” he notes.
Creating 'Design Moments'
Besides the countersplash, Berk found other places to have what he calls a “design moment” in this small kitchen.
One of them was open shelving, installed in the place of a removed cabinet beside the fridge. “We knew that removing an entire cabinet would limit storage but we would gain a design moment that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get in such a small space,” Berk explains. Incorporating the open shelving also made the room feel more open, he says, “but the clients are also able to really use them for everyday items.”
And you can’t forgot the rug. “We think a rug is the perfect piece to ‘soften’ all the hard lines and surfaces in a kitchen,” notes Berk. It’s an idea that could definitely elicit mixed feelings—for some the idea of a rug in the kitchen in a no-no. There’s spilling to worry about and extra maintenance involved. But ever a source of design solutions and smart home ideas, Berk has an answer to that: “You can always choose a washable or indoor/outdoor option that can easily be cleaned!”
Keeping It on Pace
The space is truly a beautiful one, with the striking mix of modern stone and laid-back sage, all accented with moments of natural woods. But what makes you do yet another double-take is the fact that it was finished in a month. "We were on a tight timeline so [we] had to look at the space and determine what would be worth our time," says Berk, noting that supply chain arrivals and delays were among the concerns.
Limiting the serious demolition work to just the backsplash and counters was key. Preserving the cabinet frames was essential, too. “We decided we would save weeks, even months, if we kept the foundation of the cabinets, painted what already existed, and elevated the fronts," Berk explains.
The team's savvy materials sourcing played a role, as well. "By picking only two dedicated vendors, we also streamlined the ordering process and construction, choosing quality services and cabinet fronts that were the heroes of the space," says Berk.
Through smart planning and DIY workarounds, the team was able to make the most of the limited time and budget. As the designer rightly knows, when it comes to a renovation, "We all want more of both!"
Headshot Photo Photo by Max Montgomery / Courtesy of Bobby Berk
Before Photos Courtesy of Bobby Berk
After Photos Marisa Vitale
Graphics Amy Sheehan