Home Decor, Home Improvement, Making a House a Home

How to Customize Your Builder Basic Kitchen

When we moved into our two-story single family home nine years ago, one of the things I liked most about it was that it was a blank slate, ready and willing for us to add personal touches to make it our own. Our kitchen has been one of the biggest transformations in our home. It started out as “builder basic,” but with a few upgrades and some elbow grease, we’ve been able to give it the look of a custom home.

Here’s a look at our kitchen when we first moved in.


My favorite features of the kitchen were the light maple cabinets and hickory hardwood floors. Our previous home had a lot of golden oak, so these lighter wood tones were a welcome change. My least favorite feature of our kitchen was the countertops, so that was our first upgrade. We had the laminate replaced with granite and installed an under-mount sink. I wanted to stick with lighter countertops, but my husband preferred something darker. Our compromise was Giallo Ornamental – a light toned granite with black veining which tied in nicely with our black kitchen accents.

On the right wall you get a little peek at our kitchen calendar command center and the children’s artwork display I made to show off our daughter’s masterpieces without them taking over our kitchen. Not exactly part of the “custom kitchen” look, but necessary if you’ve got a family to manage!

Our next step – and the transformation that had the biggest impact on our kitchen – was adding a DIY tile backsplash. This was a project I plugged away at over many weekends, and I’m so thrilled with how it turned out!


The tile we chose is Riviera Beach from The Tile Shop – a mosaic mix of travertine stone and gorgeous shiny glass.  My husband was hoping for a stone backsplash and I wanted glass, so again, this was a great compromise for us. Step-by-step photos of our DIY tile backsplash project can be seen on my personal blog, All Things G&D.

I’d always been interested in replacing the puny pendants hanging over our kitchen island with something a little more substantial, and these large, stainless steel industrial style pendants – found at Home Depot for less than $100 each – were the perfect solution.

After upgrading our light fixtures, we considered our kitchen complete for quite some time, but eventually I decided it could use just a little something more. I loved all the warmth and gray tones the tile backsplash had added to our kitchen, so to tie it all together and really make it pop I decided to paint the walls gray.

Our kitchen today.

The color is “Anonymous” by Sherwin Williams. It’s a fairly dark shade of gray, but the main floor of our house gets a lot of natural light so I knew a darker color would work beautifully against our lighter cabinetry. I opted to add the gray to just two walls of our kitchen, keeping the third wall a light ivory color so the room would have some depth, but still feel light and not closed in.


Here’s one last “before and after” look at our builder basic kitchen transformation:


Has our kitchen transformation inspired you to plan some upgrades of your own?

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Dusty Rogers is the blogger, mother, maker, decorator and drinker of the wine at All Things G&D - a lifestyle blog where home décor, DIY and organization, healthy meals and kid-friendly snacks, party planning and entertaining all happily play together in the sandbox. Dusty lives in Madison, WI with her husband Greg and their daughter Kate, and she spends her days balancing high maintenance tendencies with a desire to keep things simple.


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