We're Maryal and Chris Carter, the crazy-in-love couple behind the blog and the specs. Our love of chambray and mutual blurred vision unites us, and this is where we share our adventures in love, style, food, DIY and so much more, seen through our bespectacled eyes. Thanks for joining our journey!

Our 48-Hr (Surprise) Kitchen Makeover

Our 48-Hr (Surprise) Kitchen Makeover

surprise kitchen makeover

Our 48-Hr (Surprise) Kitchen Makeover

*This post is sponsored by Formica® Group and SheKnows Media

Hey, guys! Maryal here. I’m kicking off this post on my own because we absolutely had to tell this story separately. Telling it together like we usually do here on Love and Specs just wouldn’t do it justice! Now, there are few things I love more in life than a good surprise, and of course, Mr. Chris Carter. And after a magical, unforgettable year of Chris surprising me over and over again with little things like, oh, I don’t know a proposal, I finally found the perfect way to give back to the guy who gives so much to the people he loves, and surprise him with something I not only know he’s been wanting, but something I knew he’d absolutely love… a new kitchen!

I know I know, that’s a pretty big surprise, but I had the help of a few friends to make this magic happen. But first, the backstory.

Chris and I are getting married in August. Woo hoo! And after we got engaged and Chris officially moved into my beloved little mid-century ranch home in Arcadia, we’ve slowly been updating our little love nest together and turning it into a shared home that will fit our needs for years to come. As a couple, the kitchen is where we spend most of our quality time, and it’s definitely our most-loved room in the house but it’s been in desperate need of a makeover.

I was recently chatting with my friend, YouTuber and interior design genius Mary Elizabeth about our kitchen issues, and by the end of our conversation she had completely convinced me that not only could she help turn our lackluster kitchen space into something out-of-this-world amazing, but that she could also help maximize our budget and increase the kitchen’s functionality, all without sacrificing one ounce of style. Sold!

Now that I’d gotten over my kitchen remodel fears, we started scheming and came up with the totally ridiculous plan of conquering this kitchen overhaul while Chris was away on a business trip… for 48 hours… and surprising him with the new and improved kitchen when he came home. Are we nuts? Possibly. Would it be awesome? Definitely.

Of course, there was no way we could make this happen by ourselves, so Mary Elizabeth called in the help of her friends at Formica® Group to execute one of the pillars of her grand kitchen plan – replacing our hard-to-clean, unsightly pink granite tile countertops with new Formica laminate countertops from their 180FX® line in the stunningly gorgeous Café Azul pattern. These new countertops would be the centerpiece of our new kitchen, and will really brighten our space with their white quartz-like background and veins of cool gray and warm brown flowing throughout. This pattern is gorgeous, and it includes Formica® EliteForm surfacing technology built in, for a more durable countertop surface. Not to mention that this countertop is much easier to clean than those yucky tiles. Score!

Seriously, you guys these countertops are a revelation and couldn’t be more beautiful! The high resolution 180FX pattern I chose is granite-like and doesn’t repeat for 5 feet, so it looks just like real stone, making this a great way to maximize our budget and spend on other updates for the kitchen that we desperately needed. The colors and pattern of Café Azul also gives us that perfectly stylish mix of masculine and feminine that’s always such a delicate balance to strike in our house.

Once that very important piece of the puzzle was in place, we called in a few more helpers from our partners at SheKnows and our friends at The Countertop Center in Phoenix, and we were off to the races ready to shed blood, sweat and tears to get this project completed and polished by the time Chris got home from his trip.


Here’s a little breakdown of some of the problems our old kitchen presented, and some of the solutions Mary Elizabeth and I came up with to fix those problems.

New Kitchen Fixes

New colorful runner for the cold tile floor (with extra Scotch Guard for this high traffic area!)

White paint for the cabinets

Brand new Formica® Brand laminate countertops in Café Azul

Matte black pulls and knobs for the cabinets

Large white farm sink

Large, easy-to-use brass faucet

Old Kitchen Problems

Ugly, pink, tough-to-clean granite tile countertops

Dark, lackluster color scheme

Outdated mismatched appliances

Mismatched cabinet hardware

Unfinished, dark cabinets

Small sink with no room for faucet

Outdated, hard-to-use faucet

And now that you’re all caught up, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for and my very favorite part of this whole surprise - the incredible before and after pics of the kitchen remodel and Chris’ reaction when he got home and saw this insanely beautiful makeover! Take it away, Chris!


I absolutely love to cook. It’s my favorite hobby, probably because I’m constantly snacking on whatever I’m making. You know you do it too! I live in a world that revolves around restaurants, chefs and food. Lots of delicious food. I also happen to really enjoy photographing food. According to my beautiful fiancé, the kitchen is officially “my space”. I’m not going to claim that out loud in the house ever, but I will claim it here in writing where I can get away with it without getting a one-way ticket to the doghouse!

So last week, I’m in California to teach a hospitality class at one of our restaurants, North Italia. After a few days surfing, working and eating, I’m excited to get home and see the babe. Then, the most amazing thing happens to me! I can only attempt to articulate my exact feelings as I walked into the house because to say the least, it was an incredible few minutes. I walk in the door and there stands Maryal and one of our dear friends, Mary Elizabeth (a master in the art of interior design), inside a brand new kitchen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It absolutely stopped me in my tracks, and I couldn’t believe the transformation our funky little outdated kitchen had undergone in the two short days that I was away, and I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that these girls took on this huge project with such a short timeline, just to surprise me!

Check out my reaction and the full video of the surprise kitchen remodel here!

Engagement Photos: Part 2

Engagement Photos: Part 2

Engagement Photos: Part 1

Engagement Photos: Part 1