A year ago, if you told me I'd be renovating my kitchen myself, I'd laugh. But after mortgage payments, daycare, and budgeting become a reality, compromises need to be made. And sometimes that means picking up a hammer is the only way to get the job done. That said, being a very Martha-like person, taking on a total kitchen redo seemed more exciting than daunting. And, that’s exactly what my husband and I did.
When we bought our charming Victorian-style home four years ago, we knew that each room was going to need some TLC. Built in 1905, this house had great bones: working pocket doors, detailed woodwork, and a doublewide lemonade porch you’d be hard-pressed to find in newer homes today. We fell in love and so we signed up for a lifetime of renovations.
The previous homeowners had themed each room, but none of them felt like a cohesive story. Our kitchen was the worst offender: drab, old, and mismatched everything. The floors were vinyl tiles that were peeling around the edges and the pantries had makeshift doors that were once old window shutters.
We didn’t have the money for a gut renovation, let alone a contractor, but we also knew the kitchen needed a complete overhaul. Another hurdle: we needed a working kitchen throughout our project. So, we decided to work in sections, which made it easier to pay for items as we went. There were two things that we spent the bulk of our budget on: new countertops and refinishing our solid wood cabinets.
To start, I needed a vision board: I spent hours looking at paint samples because paint is the one thing that can instantly transform a space -- make it brighter, happier, even more inspired. I wanted a neutral color that felt clean and could take on fun accents, plus, if we ever sold the home could be a blank space for others. I went with a Behr paint in Ancient Stone -- a blue-based, cool gray (did I mention I love the color gray?). We spent about $250 on paint and another $150 on spackle.
Next, came the demo work on the pantries. We removed old molding and shelving, patched up and sanded the plaster walls, and gave everything a fresh coat of paint. My husband had the great idea to use unfinished steps as shelves because they would never bow and they already had a bullnose edge. Plus this meant less sanding for him. We purchased 15 solid oak stair treads that we cut to the right size for each pantry. We spent about $360 on the stair treads and another $12 on polyurethane to seal them in their natural color. We also needed wood to create the base support for each shelf and spent about $150 on that.
Since our pantries were an uncommon size, we had no choice but to invest in custom doors. We found a great local store in our area that was able to accommodate our needs and for a very reasonable price. We paid about $575 per door. And, we were more than happy to support a small business in our town.
With the pantries complete, we moved onto the floor. We wanted a large size subway tile in a dark grey that was easy to care for and still felt modern. We found the perfect match at Home Depot and then came home and watched about 45 minutes of how-to videos. As with all renovation work, when you demo something, you uncover other problems. As we removed our old vinyl flooring, most of the subfloor came up with it. Once the vinyl was up, we had to head back to Home Depot for new subfloor. In total, we spent about $700 on flooring materials.
Having just aced our first pass at laying tile, we wanted to move onto the backsplash but needed a new countertop in place first. We spent roughly around $2,000 on new counters. I needed a material that didn’t require much, if any, maintenance and in a color that lightened the room. They are also a statement piece in the kitchen and a big investment. We went with Silestone – a mix of natural quartz and other raw materials -- in Blanco Maple, a white color with varying grey flecks. Once the counters were in -- literally 6 days after we paid for them -- we were able to install the backsplash. We chose tiles that were on a mesh backing, making it easier to install the sheets than single tile, one at a time. Playing up the white and grey colors in the countertops, we chose a Grecian white interlocking tile, again keeping everything neutral but not sterile looking.
Finally, the cabinets. Since ours were solid wood and in good shape we decided to have them refinished, rather than replaced. My biggest concern was finding a company that would be able to transform my dark cherry cabinets to a light grey with a finish that felt manufactured -- smooth, grit-free, and that looked like it came right from the warehouse.
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and with kids, we needed to ensure that the wear-and-tear would compete with little hands opening and slamming doors. After some research, I landed on N-Hance, a company that specializes in refinishing wood surfaces and are able to take any paint color (from any brand) and match it to your desired cabinet color. The refinishing happened over a weekend we were away, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the professionalism, results, and price tag! While this was the most expensive part of the renovation, buying new cabinets would have cost four to five times as much. It took, in total, about 8 weekends to complete our kitchen project, and we truly love our new space.
I’d love to hear about your #imsomartha DIY home renovations, so be sure to leave a comment below!