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  • Tara

DIY kitchen reno plan and progress - we might be crazy

You might have seen on Instagram last week that we have been planning our kitchen renovation. If money was no object, I have a really nice kitchen planned up in my head that involves moving a water heater, AC blower, and moving a bunch of HVAC around, all new cabinets, a professional gas the tune of about $75,000. Since that's just a teeeeeeensy bit out of budget, we are going to DIY a kitchen refresh instead.

Now you might be thinking that since I am a designer and have blogged for a few years that I know all the things about renovations and am completely qualified to handle this job.

You would be wrong.

But here's the thing. At our old house we said we weren't going to mess with the kitchen until we could pay to have it done right. Then 5 years later it was time to sell, and we found ourselves adding stone countertops for someone else to enjoy. And now we've been in this house 4 years, and we don't want to wait another 10 until we could possibly afford to do what we want (which is no guarantee, mind you, because LIFE and money and who has $75,000?! Well, OK, some of my clients do. But I don't). So we are going to do a simpler renovation that keeps everything mostly in the same place but makes it look a whole lot better.

And I'm super excited about it.

Let's start with our kitchen before:

I acknowledge that it's truly not the worst kitchen. I've seen SO many worse kitchens over the years. I'm not trying to be meodramatic. We have a decent layout that's functional and the white cabinets look OK in pictures, but are kind of grody close up because we have kids and actually use this kitchen.

But I LOATHE the open space above our cabinets. And the backsplash. And the counters. And sink and floors and pendant lights and broken microwave and faucet. So basically I don't mind the cabinet doors (I think the shape is kind of cool in a vintage way) and the hardware that we put on a few years back from Anthropologie.

Which brings us to The Plan:

Here is the minor facelift we're planning on doing (I've hidden the giant pantry cabinet that would be dead center in this rendering, because if it's there you can't see anything. Which is precisely why I wish we could remove it, but again, the money). Doesn't this look so much more fun and fresh?! We've raised our original upper cabinets and added an open shelf below for all of our pretty everyday dishes. Fun fact - I am a dish junkie. I have quite the collection of beautiful new and vintage dishes that I hoard unapologetically and they deserve to be on display.

And here's the palette. I held a little vote on Instagram to help settle which base cabinet color we should choose, and currently the bottom color is winning. It was my top choice, so that shouldn't be too surprising. ;)

To keep us from going insane in DIY land, we are tackling this project in 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: Raise upper cabinets to ceiling, repaint them, and box out the refrigerator.

  • Phase 2: Install new countertops, sink, faucet, backsplash, and open shelving.

  • Phase 3: Repaint base cabinets.

We will be hiring out the countertop and sink installation. We think the former homeowners DIY'd this when they updated the kitchen, and the seams are very visible and collect a lot of dirt. If we're going to spend the money on quartz counters, we want them done correctly. We plan to do everything else ourselves. I know my limits, y'all.

Plan in place, we got to work this weekend. As a swan song to our old kitchen, we had some friends over Friday night and cooked and laughed and gave the kitchen a proper send off. Goodness knows we won't be having anyone over again for awhile (!!!) so I'm glad we made it happen.

Here's what we've done so far. We took the crown molding off the cabinets and removed the doors and hardware. And had a minor freak out when I realized there was no turning back, but drank more coffee and got on with it.

Then we removed the cabinet boxes.. We were so sure this was going to be a GIANT pain, but as it turns out, the cabinets are just held in with 4 screws each. We only had to bust out the reciprocating saw once for one stripped screw. Winning!

With the cabinets gone, it was time to take off the mosaic tile backsplash. We used a small crowbar and mallet and gently tapped each of the 1" square tiles from the wall.

Had a bit more trouble here. Things started out alright, but a couple of giant holes were created during the demo process. WHOOPS. We felt pretty down about our abilities until we looked closer and saw that the 2 spots that had holes had prior drywall patches. And it appeared that the patches weren't done correctly. You know, based on our expert opinions after watching 3 YouTube tutorials on drywall repair.

So one more trip to the hardware store later, and we were underway with drywall patching. This was actually incredibly fun. There was something so soothing about spreading the joint compound. I'm not going to quit my day job to become a drywall installer or anything, but we were pretty proud of ourselves for adding this skillset to our tool box. Methinks the giant hole in our garage ceiling is about to meet its maker.

Drywall patches drying, we moved outdoors and began sanding the cabinet boxes. I wielded the power sander (which I prefer doing) and Steven used a sanding block (which he prefers doing) and generally just worked happily alongside each other. We are both at this point concerned that things have been going so well and we hadn't fought yet like we normally would during a home improvement process, so we just enjoyed the bliss and didn't ask questions. After a vacuum and cleaning, we brought them back inside.

The only modification we needed to make was to enlarge the hole for the duplex outlet that used to be above the microwave cabinet but will now be inside of it. This is connected to a light switch and used to run the above cabinet lighting, but we'll be reworking it for under cabinet lighting.

And here we are now! We were convinced we would need an extra pair of hands (and by hands I mean a dude with some upper body strength, because I have noodle arms) to get these babies up. We had a gracious friend on call (thanks Jesse!), but we managed to do it on our own in under an hour. We've left a 3/4" gap across the top of the cabinets that we will cover with trim. Our house shifts a lot, so we knew we needed to leave some space up there to allow for that.

Next up we need to build the fridge cabinet, and then, you know, prime and paint all of the cabinets and doors. It's definitely the part I'm dreading the most, but is obviously necessary. I'll be more excited (maybe) to paint the base cabinets since they'll be changing colors, but since the uppers were already white, it's not going to be quite so WOW when they're done. But it's a super important step that must be done.

In case you're contemplating a DIY kitchen facelift, I wanted to link to all the resources we've used thus far:

Has anyone tackled a project like this? Any words of wisdom for us? We will take all the advice (and whiskey) we can get!

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