I have been sharing bits and pieces of my home but this week I wanted to delve deeper and talk a little bit about the process. First we start with the before pictures…
This is how the house looked when we moved in. It was clean and functional. It needed a fridge. I was planning on buying something nice and fancy but we realized we weren’t sure what our kitchen renovation was going to look like so we decided to get a temporary fridge off craigslist that we could resell when we were ready to renovate. I ended up finding this pretty red Smeg for $300 and we still have it two years later. For the renovation we decided to do it ourselves (with the help of Paul’s parents), partly to save money and partly because it was our first house and we were curious about doing renovations ourselves. We decided to keep it really simple and just redo the finishes and add more lighting. We thought it would take 3 weeks max. Most of it ended up taking about 2 months with lots of little projects dragging out to almost 2 years later. Looking back (now that it’s done) I’m glad we did the renovation ourselves but living in the middle of it was pretty miserable. We were without a kitchen sink for almost a month. We found all the things everyone says about renovations to be true: it costs double and takes twice as long as you anticipate
Before we started I began to make plans. I found inspiration from a few things. First off, restaurant kitchens, I love how they always have floor to ceiling tile. I also knew I wanted open shelving and I liked the look of white European kitchens with vintage brass faucets. Here are some pictures I’d pulled together.
Once I had decided on a basic layout for the kitchen, I called my childhood best friend (who was a kitchen designer.) She talked through some of my decisions with me and sent me a CAD drawing of our kitchen. It was helpful to have the tips of people who knew what they were doing. I also did a bunch of research on finishes. I looked for the perfect brass shelf hardware and the perfect vintage faucet and we talked about doing different countertops (at one point I was gunning hard for Carrera marble.) Eventually we decided on the ikea butcherblock because it was $300 and I decided It would be nice to live with things for a year or two before I committed to an expensive finish. I could always upgrade pretty easily to the nicer stuff later on.
Once we had our plans we started to demo the entire kitchen. It was rough work and took almost four days. We hired someone to take away the old tile and waste. The walls weren’t in condition to tile and we decided to install a tall crown moulding to mimic the rest of the house. It took quite a bit of time to prepare everything and install floor boards before we were ready to tile.
Flooring. We had several ideas for flooring but in the end just went with an easy overlay PVC tile from Lowe’s. It’s not my first choice but it was the simplest and it’s fine. We installed it in just a day or two and it was inexpensive. I really wanted to do radiant heating and handpainted- graphic ceramic tiles but we’ll have to save that for when I have more time and money.
Tiling went pretty quickly. We bought the white cheap subway tiles from Lowe’s and they have built in spacers on them. It was really easy to lay tile. I would work on it late into the night, it was kind of therapeutic. (Paul was a genius on cutting tile, he would make all the complicated tile pieces on the edges and corners.)
We built the new ikea cabinets and put them into place then attached the countertops and sink. I remember getting really frustrated at this point because I was so sick of take-out and doing dishes in the bathroom sink and living with a layer of dust on everything. When the dishwasher and sink got hooked up I remember crying I was so happy. It is funny now but it was NOT funny then.
The kitchen was functional and we cleaned up all the dust but it still took a long time to get all the details finished. A friend told me that all the little things take as much time as the big stuff. Maybe we were just sick of working on it at that point but we didn’t put on hardware or install things like the kickboard on the cabinets for a month or two. We didn’t install the kitchen island until a few months later or the lighting until a year later.
If I could do it again I think I would just hire a contractor but it was a good lesson and I’m glad we did it. Special thanks to my in-laws who without their help we never would’ve dared attempt it. And thanks to my friend Ashlynn Mitchell for help with kitchen design and my friend Jared Rusten who lent us power tools and gave us advice.
Sources: Ceramic Serveware – Mud Australia, Faucet – Vintage Unlacquered Brash from eBay, Shelving – Painted Pine Boards with Anthropologie Brackets, Pendant Light Fixtures and Cabinet hardware – Schoolhouse Electric, Refrigerator – Smeg, Metal Shelving – Costco (similar here), Counter Stools – Design Within Reach
Photos by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day