Before + After = The Monstrously Huge Kitchen Remodel is DONE!

Okay y’all, seriously, it’s DONE! We are cooking, we are baking, we are prepping, we are cleaning, we are LOVING our new kitchen. And for anyone who’s been following, it hasn’t been pretty, and at times has been even painful. From taking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room only to find another layer of tongue-and-groove underneath, to hiring the drywall-contractor-from-hell (then learning doing drywall may be dirty and slow, but ain’t that hard to be honest…),Β  to going into the ugly cry on multiple occasions as I built the three base pieces (island, work table, sink/dishwasher open cabinet) out of 80% reclaimed wood, to the umpteen number of squabbles we had (as we always do when working on DIY projects together), it was quite a project. WAY more than the kitchen remodel back in our old house (which, afterwards, I’d said I’d never DIY another kitchen again, HA!).

First: the overall pictures, before (AKA: the actual picture from the listing), during (AKA: hell) and after (AKA: taken a few hours ago). Second: some details. And third: I’ll go over all the specifics for those who want to know where we got everything!






Now, a few closeups of our new kitchen…

Clockwise from top left: 1) our delicious induction range, backsplash and range hood, along with our spice racks and kitchen tool rack; 2) us, from Dia de los Muertas; 3) lower shelf pots/pans storage on the work table (I’m pondering a pot rack but we have so much space that this doesn’t bother me too much for now, we’ll see how that goes); 4) spice racks that were hell to install (and turns out I didn’t buy enough so they are currently jammed in there); 5) finally realized our existing knife bar was magnetic to the fridge – no wall space required!; 6) we built our countertops extra deep (30″ instead of 24″) allowing the microwave and other goodies to fit in there while not getting in the way of prep work (if you’re short, do NOT do this – we are 5’8″ and 5’10” so the corner shelves are a stretch which is why we put lesser-used things like the souffle dish on the top corner spot); 7a) open shelving is my addiction, and this time I drilled in hooks for mugs so they don’t take up space on the shelves (thank you, Pinterest, for that idea); 7b) where we keep our food and cookbooks…this used to be a cabinet with big heavy country oak doors so I chucked those and painted it white, including the shelves. Yes, you have to keep your food neat, but it keeps you honest and encourages minimalism – and creative merchandising!; 8) this is the lower shelf storage to the left of the dishwasher which I wasn’t sure what to do with and then I saw the idea – yep, on Pinterest – of storing things like cookie sheets and cutting boards and muffin tins upright using one of those heavy metal dividers you get at office supply stores. Kick ass.

NOW…The Project Specifics:

  • DIY Deconstruction + Contractor Work:
    • Dividing wall – After verifying with a structural contractor that this was not a load-bearing wall, I personally took down all the sheetrock in the wall that divided the kitchen from the dining room. Learning there was floor-to-ceiling tongue-and-groove wood underneath meant my husband got to use his Sawzall to eliminate those. Yes, kids, this was all us. Cost: N/A.
    • Existing Cabinetry – As the countertops were granite, I put up an ad on Craigslist for $100 for someone to take them all, with a bonus that they could take the base cabinets and island for free if they deconstructed all of it themselves. I had at least 6 offers in the first day. Sure I could have made more $ off of it, but the fact that we didn’t have to pay a dime to get rid of these ugly cabinets and heavy-ass countertops, and I was able to work while a nice family spent 4 hours doing this? Awesome. Repurposing rocks. Cost: -($100).
    • Old Appliances – Everything had to go. Dishwasher and sink – donated to locals via Craigslist “free” ads. The former was in good shape but it was black and I do not like shiny black appliances. Sink was gross, I think the lady who took it was using it for a garden sink. As for the cooktop and wall oven – recycled. No one deserved those nasty ass things circa 1983. Fridge? Believe it or not we have kept it, moving it into the garage, not as a secondary energy hog but rather as a large “clean room” box for meat curing that can be rigged to control humidity, etc. Cost: $10 (appliance recycling fee).
    • Walls – Pulling out the cabinets and light fixtures and the like meant that there were too many to simply patch up, and they had to be just torn out and completely replaced. So being new to Astoria, we asked our roofing general contractor if he could hook us up with a good drywall guy. Lesson learned – the GC obviously needed the business so bad he referred us to the scum of the earth that he’d actually never used for drywall work, claiming at one point it was “one of his best guys” and then, 4 days later when he came back to see the mess that was left (terrible tape work, lumps everywhere, cut plumbing pipes, crap everywhere, disconnected electrical, asking to use our personal stuff for his cleanup, not putting up plastic, and removing window screens and leaving them outside in the yard, etc.), admitted he’d only used him for a deck building job, NOT for drywall, and that his regular guy just wasn’t available and he “thinks this guy must have been on drugs”. Christ. Anyhow, most of it we were able to cover up but there are a couple areas that we look at and just grumble. This was one of two contractors work we had involved, and they couldn’t be more different in service & quality. Cost: ~ $1,800. See next bullet.
    • Ceiling – After the experience above, we decided that Dan would watch a zillion online videos on doing ceiling patching, and he patched the whole damn thing himself, from a 3’x4′ piece to all the small bits. As he said, it was not hard, just time consuming and requiring attention to detail. If we had to do it over again, we’d never have hired a drywall guy and probably never will again. The GC had no ideas beyond replacing the entire ceiling or tacking on ANOTHER ceiling’s worth of sheetrock to the existing stuff, and after some quick Pinteresting? I realized that glue-on ceiling tiles (something the GC guys had no idea about how those worked, oh my lordy) would be the answer. Got the sheetrock cut and tiles/glue at Home Depot online and it all went up in three mornings’ time. Cost: ~$500.
    • Electrical – Thankfully, the polar opposite of the drywall creep. Props to the guys at Bogh, who fixed up the electrical, wired for a range hood, and re-did the wiring to establish both fixture locations for the five pendant lights as well as installing new light switch locations for them (since they were in the removed walls before) and the dining room light. About $1,000. Worth it.
    • Appliances – Definitely the major investment, which we were prepared for thankfully. Stainless French-door refrigerator and dishwasher: KitchenAid. Induction Double-Oven Range: GE. All ordered from Lowe’s only because Home Depot sucks at appliance delivery. That being said, Lowe’s sucked as well in that they lie on delivery times when you order it and right after you get your receipt via email they send you a delivery date of at least a week or two later than promised. Then they call you the day before (which should be to schedule it) to tell you they actually don’t come to your area but once a week, so can they deliver it in another week? And you say fuck no, and raise a stink til they agree to drive it out there on the promised day. Oy. Anyhow! We decided on the French door fridge rather than a simple bottom-freezer fridge because of the fact that when you open the doors, you don’t block another person from walking by, and it needs less clearance to open. We chose the induction double-oven range not because I’m cooking two dishes at once but rather for my crappy back, a double oven means the majority of my cooking/baking is done in the top oven, making it WAY easier to put things in and out, both with the height and shorter-depth door. I’ve literally only used the bottom oven once. We chose induction because a) I refuse to use fossil fuels in this house so propane was out of the question (husband finally came around to not using gas, as I showed him how multiple big chefs are now agreeing that induction cooking is not only awesome, but allows more control). Both our cast iron and All-Clad pots & pans work on it, so the only loss was our aluminum stovetop Bialetti (we’ve heard there is an induction version for that, but are French-pressing it til that purchase happens). All appliances were installed ourselves, minus the range hood (as there was NO kitchen venting (!!!) we had to get a licensed HVAC person in to do that), giving Dan some new mechanical prowess and saving some $ as well. Cost: ~ $6,000.
    • Sink + faucet: I quickly learned in shopping that those gorgeous white apron-front sinks cost two to three times more than the stainless ones. However, the stainless ones – like we had in our Portland home – do not have a curved bottom, meaning gunk would frequently get stuck in the crevices, plus Dan wanted a white sink, so I found this sink by Kohler on super-duper sale along with the black Moen faucet (love it so much more than stainless – matches the little iron-details in the shelf brackets and makes the sink stand out more I think). Lesson learned from the PDX remodel? It’s SO much easier to install a faucet if the sink has the holes in it rather than trying to drill into the countertop and fish that crap in there right, at least if you DIY your base cabinets like we did!Β  Cost: ~ $400.
    • Base cabinets + Island: Built these myself! Husband helped with the countertop install but the bases I built 90% on my own. The island was a combination of two Ana White designs (love that site). The legs and shelves are 100% repurposed from our barn and old items we’d deconstructed and brought over with us (we definitely know the value of good wood!). The legs are all 2×6 cedar taken from lengths of fencing that we’d taken down from the pasture where they just weren’t needed, dried, sanded, and painted the same white as the walls (zero-VOC white paint). The base shelves on the big work table were pieces of wood I found in the barn in an unused stall, believe it or not, that I sanded and painted, and the base shelves on the island are from our old DIY bench seating in our last house (which were repurposed from our old fence to make those! That cedar rocked in repurposing!). We did invest in our countertops, with the work table and island tops being reclaimed Doug Fir 2×12’s I got in Portland from the salvage place and drove out here, then had planed/joined by a local woodworker. I sanded and stained (all eco: zero-VOC water-based General Finishes stain which I love, and water-based topcoat as well), then Dan used hardcore wood glue to join them, and we lifted these bad boys on to the work table and island bases. Because I hadn’t yet designed the sink/dishwasher base cabinet, I was a doofus and didn’t have more of the fir to use for that side, so decided this would be the one section that I’d buy the countertop planks for. The base is also 2×6 repurposed fencing and the plywood underneath is reclaimed from our barn, and the countertop is made from 1×12 poplar that I stained and sealed as well. Building furniture is a bitch and I have always had immense respect for those who do this, as “measure twice, cut once” in my world is actually “measure nine times, cut once, realize you still fucked up the cut, do it again, and hope for the best”. But it’s way cool to look at these pieces and say, dang, *WE* made these. Can’t be beat. So glad we didn’t go the Ikea route. SO glad. Cost: ~$550.
    • Open shelves: We were planning to repurpose ones we’d used as bookshelves then I realized they were only 1x10s and in really shitty shape, so I bucked up and bought more poplar 1×12’s like I’d used for the aforementioned sink cabinet and cut/stained/sealed them with the same stuff used on the countertops. I’d fallen in love with the “lip” style steel brackets on Etsy and unfortunately the seller wasted weeks of my time promising a custom width to fit my shelves… only to send 12 that were off by 1/4″ (and I’m still battling to get a refund – glad I put these on my visa so I can dispute the charge immediately!). In the meantime, I found a cheaper version at Home Depot in one of their Portland stores, so we picked them up while out there last week and they fit like a charm. Cost: $200.
    • Pendant Lighting: Who’d have thought this would be such an emotional decision-making process! Here’s the thing for any newbies to kitchen renovations – if you want to install these for the first time, you need to know EXACTLY where and how many you want well before you install them – so even though we weren’t sure how they’d look or if we’d like them once everything else was in, we had to trust our instincts on how many we wanted, and even worse determine exactly where the island would be BEFORE that ever went in (so hard – even now I wish they were about 8″ further back as once everything went in and the dishwasher door went down, it’s a very narrow space to walk around between it and the island, which pendants have to be directly over to not knock your head on ’em). Anyhow, the two big ones are by Seagull Lighting and the three small ones are actually cheap ones from Home Depot, so a fairly economical investment! Don’t ask my husband about the bitch it was to get those mini pendants strung up perfectly through the chains though, heh…Cost: $175.
    • Microwave + everything on the shelves: Fortunately, all stuff we already owned. I think I’m ready to go more colorful with the dishware, but for now the Anchor-Hocking clear glass made-in-the-USA dishware I got a few years back at Fred Meyer is just fine. Cost: N/A.
    • Backsplashes: The wooden one on the work table was easy, as we had to trim one of the three 2x12s to make the 30″ depth, so it was simply glued to the top to make a nice backsplash. I’ve not put one on the sink one and am not sure if I will, but I did get a sexy stainless one for behind the stove by Ancona which included that nifty little shelf & hook thingamabob. Bonuses? It hides some of the shitty drywall wrinkles from that crap contractor AND keeps the spatters from messing up the white wall. Cost: $110.
    • Spice racks + Tall stuff rack: After looking for seemingly FOREVER for spice racks that were both affordable, not cheesy, and would fit my 50+ bottles of every spice imaginable, I ended up getting cheap ones from Ikea and staining them myself.Β  You see, I had cool-ass built in shelving in my old house (formerly an ironing board closet that someone added a couple shelves to and I just added more to accommodate more spices) so this is the first time I’ve had to look for something as I was tired as HELL of building wooden things and just wanted something easy and quick. As I mentioned earlier, the cookie sheet / cutting board holder thing came from Staples and, well, is awesome. Cost: $50.
    • Floors: As all the hardwoods flow throughout the house, you can’t just refinish one section – you gotta do ’em all. So we painted the kitchen section, using Annie Sloan zero-VOC paint (custom combining black and white to make this shade of gray), using the transition section where the wall used to be to create a temporary border. Eventually we want to finish both the floors and ceilings all the way through to where our French doors separate the kitchen/dining from the living room, but dang I’m too tired to think about that! Filling in the transition strip with scrap wood was a bitch too…I can see why flooring folks charge an arm and a leg! Cost: $80.

So, while this cost us a tad over $10K to do, more than half was springing for new appliances, and a quarter was for contractors. A lot, yes, but a fuckload less than getting brand new cabinets and paying folks to do the rest. And sustainable as all get out.

Questions? Bring ’em on!


4 thoughts on “Before + After = The Monstrously Huge Kitchen Remodel is DONE!

  1. You made quite a change! Glad you were able to donate/recycle some of the items, it always bugs me when people just destroy everything when they do a remodel because they don’t like it. Someone else could put them to use. I like open shelves but I am afraid I would be cleaning all the time, kudos to you and your hubby on a job well done, enjoy!


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