Heading Out for “Island Fun”

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I’m happy to announce that I’ve been feeling overall pretty good throughout my third trimester aside from lack of sleep in addition to making lots of headway on my book. I am so excited to finish it and get it into your hands early next year. 

If you have questions for me, make sure to submit them here because soon I will be going on maternity leave and want to get enough episodes queued up to sustain the weekly release schedule while I’m gone. 

This episode, we discuss…

[0:22] 3rd trimester updates and write in woes

[06:56] Kitchen remodel on a budget (Ranae)

[13:52] Styling a condo without an inspiration piece (Kelly)


Hi again Betsy! How might a regular person on a budget approach a kitchen remodel? My cabinets have reached the don’t-pull-the-drawer-out-it’ll-fall-on-your-foot stage. My sister doesn’t love her double wall ovens and now they quit working so both of us are rethinking out if necessity, not a grand wish for a dream designer kitchen. Both of us have DIYer handy husbands.

Does your firm help with layout? We can’t reach the sink if the dishwasher is open and the fridge and oven doors hit each other. 

What order do you choose: floors, cabinets, counters, tables? 

How do we make sure it doesn’t look outdated in 5 years?

Do you have any go to finishes? White? Gray?


Ranae, you know I always love getting your questions. First thing is you should go to a kitchen designer or kitchen planner. I know you’re probably saying Betsy, we’re on a budget and looking to DIY. Well, even IKEA has kitchen planners and designers. You could do IKEA, you could do Home Depot and they have different levels where you can install it yourself or you can pay for their installers. 

Oftentimes, those measuring services and planning services are absolutely free. Or they deduct the cost of the measuring service from the cost of the cabinets when you decide to move forward. The reason that I recommend that versus having somebody at my firm plan it out is because all these different cabinet lines have different offerings from corner cabinets to the different accessories and pullouts and dimensions. They’re quite specific to that company and that company has software based on what they offer. If you just go to just an interior designer, they’re going to give you a generic plan and then maybe the items that you actually find at the kitchen cabinet place you choose won’t work. In order to get a plan that you know you can move forward with, it’s best to just start at a store that you know you can afford.

Say you were going with IKEA, you’d have them map it out for you and then they can give you different scenarios and different price points based on different cabinet finishes. When I’m designing a kitchen, what I would do is first I would start with some inspiration photos, no matter what my budget was. These photos would be of kitchens that I was really excited about that I liked that I could see having some similarities to either my kitchen’s layout or to sort of a path that I could afford in terms of the finishes. Once I created that Pinterest board of looks that I like, I would go to one of those vendors I mentioned, whether it’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot or IKEA, and I would work with one of their designers there and show them what I’m thinking and have them come do custom measurements and the layout for me, then I would decide to move forward. 

What you’d want to do is start with the cabinet bases first, and then the doors because it’s going to be quite a limited selection depending on where you’re going. Certainly, if you’re at that IKEA price point, it’s going to be quite limited. Then what I would do next is I would choose the countertops. 

Oftentimes you can get the countertops at the cabinet company that’s making the kitchen cabinets but in the case that you want something more upscale, there are some like stone source places I like to go and actually look at my slab. Depending on how large your kitchen is, you can go to these overstock type places that have access from builders, and you can get great deals on pieces there. Then you would go for the countertop. 

What I would choose next is the flooring so deciding what type of tile works well, pulls out any veining from the countertop, coordinates well with the cabinets, and then I would go for that backsplash. So that’s kind of the order in which I would do things. In terms of avoiding a dated look, it’s hard to know what’s going to be dated in the future. One thing that’s completely out right now are white on white on white kitchens. And I don’t want to say I told you so. But guys, I told you so I hated those from the start. Also, I think gray cabinets are sort of done having a moment. I think gray in general is somewhat done having a moment and looking at the pictures you’ve sent of your home. I think either a gray beige or a beige works better anyway for things like flooring, the countertops, etc. 

Then you do a fun backsplash. Now your kitchen is open to a dining area and potentially like a small seating area so I would choose a backsplash that pulls a color from those areas to kind of bring something bright to tie the two spaces together and just add some personality to the kitchen. 

All of that can be done on a very low budget, just depending on which initial vendor you go with because the cabinets and the countertops are going to be your biggest expense. 

I think in a small galley kitchen like this, I would avoid doing two tone cabinets. I think that works much better in larger kitchens where it would look almost overwhelming to have the tops and bottoms be the same color. Once you’ve created a schematic with your tile, with your countertops, with your cabinets, you can write in again with your mood board or your Pinterest board and let me see what you’ve selected and I can weigh in before you install it. Just make sure that you do that before mid September when I leave for my maternity leave. 


Hi Betsy, Thank you for your podcast and congratulations! Wishing you the best with the last trimester and your maternity leave. 

I’m struggling with my condo. My style words are ‘island fun’ and I like bright and bold with traditional accents. I did not start with an inspiration piece (oops!) and as a result, the living space feels disjointed. I am slowly moving out of the hand-me-down phase and it’s a work in progress.

What do you suggest to help pull this space together? I think large art above the couch would help, as would a rug, but I’ve tried several options and don’t want to keep making expensive mistakes. I can handle a Betsy smackdown – looking forward to your suggestions. Thank you!


We do have a whole lot of look in here, there is no question about that. You have a big muted kelly green sectional. In front of the sectional, you have a small round, upholstered ottoman that’s tufted and gray. Those two things are resting on a sisal rug that appears to have a gray or off white border. Then you have white TV stand opposite the sectional. 

One thing that is a major note is that three of the walls are a light sky blue and one of the walls is a deep navy. Next to the deep navy wall is an entryway that’s wallpapered in like a trellis style or it’s actually hard to make out geometric, white wallpaper with a navy pattern. Looking around the space in terms of other furnishings, we have a white table with white chairs with a white cane back and sort of an ornate top, they look like they’ve been painted white. 

Then we have sort of a buffet, it looks like a dresser that’s being used as a buffet that has some really cool bamboo detailing with some ceramic lamps that have almost a drip dye blue stripe on them, but they’re otherwise white. 

Then we have these beautiful gauze drapes that open up into what looks like a sunroom that has two sky blue arm chairs and a table in between but I think we’re focusing on this main room. There’s also a chandelier above or in front of that buffet piece that’s quite ornate and looks like it’s been spray painted white, or maybe it came white but it’s like a bouquet of flowers with these different arms that have lights with little shades upon them. 

So let’s talk about this space, because you mentioned that your two word phrase is Island fun. I’m seeing island with the color palette, the greens, the blues, sky blue, the nautical navy. I’m not seeing Island per se, I think there is one picture, or maybe two flanking the TV that do have a bit of an island tropical theme, but they’re framed in black, which is taking away from sort of that light, airy, beachy type feel and it’s making them feel very heavy, especially flanking this big black TV. 

So the island thing is a bit of a stretch for me except in the color palette and the use of white and maybe that bamboo chest. The other thing that feels like a stretch, is there is no fun in this room. There’s no playful patterns. There’s no unexpected bright colors. I’m just not understanding exactly what you’re meaning by fun because this room does not appear to be having any. 

We may want to get rid of this sort of dowdy tablecloth that looks wrinkled and a little bit sad. You may want to put an inviting vase in the middle with some beautiful flowers, we may want some unexpected colors and maybe those colors come from a big painting above the sofa. I think that this sectional looks like it has this enormous wall behind it that has one tiny piece of art off to the side so a big piece above the sofa is certainly called for and because we have a mirror on the perpendicular wall opposite the windows, I wouldn’t want to put a mirror on this particular wall. 

Now, even if you at home are kicking yourself and saying Betsy, I also don’t have an inspiration piece and I’ve already started decorating my room. It is not too late. All you have to do is pick an inspiration piece that has the colors that you’re already using so we’re using green, we’re using sky blue and we’re using navy. That is going to be very easy to find and maybe we find something that has punches of hot pink or coral, orange, all of those go back to that sort of island palette, but bring in a touch of fun because right now we’re stuck in a very cool palette and I would like at least one warm tone to break that up and add that energy and liveliness and fun.

For me, a painting that needs to be 50 to 75% of the length of that arm of the sectional. So the length of the art needs to be 50 to 75% of the length of the sectional arm in order to remain proportional, and be big enough above that so far, if you’re saying to yourself, Betsy is going to be so hard for me to find a piece of art like that, I just don’t know where I’m going to look or how I’m going to afford it. 

One thing I might consider is that you take those two large pieces of art that look to be Island photographs that are flanking either side of the TV and put them above the sectional, the length of each of those with a good gap in the middle. Then you’re dispersing some island vibes over there. Again, this may not be the perfect inspiration piece because it appears to be all cool colors so you may want to create a little vignette somewhere else that brings in some color. 

The one thing that I definitely want you to do, outside of the two word phrase, is it’s really bothering me that your rug is partially under the TV stand. That’s a huge no-no. Not only is this very large sisal rug, partially under the TV stand, it’s not fully under the sectional so I would swap the placement, so that instead of going vertically from the back of the sofa all the way to the TV stand, it’s going horizontally, more spanning from the other arm of the sectional all the way to the doors to or that kind of opening to the sunroom, I think that will really make the space feel larger and make the rug feel less awkward. 

I do love the texture of the rug being a sisal that’s perfect for that island vibe, you may want to consider bringing in some woven texture. I see that you’ve got woven texture with the placemats but it’s not really a big enough element to register in these pictures. I think it would be really cool to bring that in in terms of some picture frames, or even an accent table, you might want to think about rope in terms of the base of the table lamp. The ceramic table lamp on the table next to the sectional is bothering me because we have these two really cool ceramic lamps on the buffet, just kitty corner from it so I would choose a different texture for the lamp here. 

The other thing that’s missing in order to give me that island vibe is some glass because we want to think light, we want to think airy, we want to think spacious so a glass coffee table would feel more significant than this small, round ottoman and I think it would help to give us that texture that we’re looking for. Lastly, we’ve already got colorful walls and then we’ve got this navy accent wall and it just feels like there’s so much going on. I would paint that navy wall, the same light blue as the other three walls. I think it’ll make this room feel more cohesive. I liked the introduction of navy because it’s in the wallpaper but why don’t you pull it into the living room in some fun pillows, maybe even the cushions on the dining chairs. There’s lots of ways where we could be more intentional with our color palette but really what I want you to think about is what is going to make this room fun because right now the answer is nothing. 






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