Every morning I turn the light-filled corner into my kitchen, and I almost can't believe my eyes. The past two months we've burned the midnight oil and spent seemingly every spare moment in our lives working on our kitchen transformation. I've almost forgotten what it looked like before, so these before and after shots below are a little shocking. I've always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen, but these days I'm practically kidnapping friends just to come hang in my kitchen while I cook for them. I think I need a larger refrigerator for all of the feasts I want to prepare for all of the dinner parties we need to host.
The biggest impact of the new kitchen is all that white! It's so cheerful compared to the old, dark cabinetry. Because I adjusted my camera settings for the low light of our old kitchen, it's difficult to tell how much brighter our kitchen is now. It really is incredible how much light is reflected by the white paint. I also love that the dark, lower cabinets keep everything grounded, while the wood counters warm it all up nicely.
Now that I have some open shelving, I know I'll enjoy changing things around from time to time. Being able to actually decorate in our kitchen without sacrificing counter space is a real joy for me. As far as style goes, I was aiming for a contemporary take on a mid century-meets-country kitchen, and I'm pretty happy with how it worked out. You probably can't tell by our home's interior, but the exterior of our home has some pretty inescapable country elements to it, including a long, arched porch area and white barn siding. I think the new kitchen appropriately reflects that country sensibility without feeling like a rustic time capsule.
I don't even know how people manage life during extensive kitchen renovations that take months— just one month in this destruction was enough to cause incredible anxiety in my life. Look out! Toddler on a ladder! Oh yeah. It was a little stressful to say the least. (For the record, Lucy never got far up the ladder before we swooped her down and resorted to baby gates and television to keep her safe.) Our sink and counters were out of commission for at least three weeks, and during that time, all of our dishes and pantry items were stored away in boxes throughout our house. We ate a lot of frozen, sodium-rich meals and pizza. Since I couldn't make coffee (I use a French press), I ran to Dunkin almost daily— and I couldn't say no to a cake donut most of the time. Yikes! I kind of miss those mornings, actually. But I'd be lying if I said I can still easily fit into my pants.
I'm the kind of person who likes to work my butt off until a project is finished. Full steam ahead, I always say. But when you're counting on help from others, you can't just snap your fingers to make people jump. They have things called day jobs and choir practice and softball games and social lives. Waiting around was a really difficult part of this project for me. It wasn't easy to rest and wait when there was still work to be done, but I didn't have much of a choice when it involved things I couldn't do alone. So I did a lot of sitting on my hands.
There were a few nights Phil and I stayed up until at least four a.m. (Now you're understanding why trips to Dunkin were a must!) I really appreciated Phil's willingness to work alongside me at times like this when I know he was completely exhausted. That's true love, folks.
Once we got our cabinets back up on the walls, I could finally put away dishes and clean up the dining room. What a tremendous relief! It was all downhill from there— the countertops went in next, then shelving, then the greatly anticipated Return of the Sink (extended edition)! Once the area was livable again, I felt like slowing the pace wasn't the worst thing in the world.
Now that my life has returned to a more normal pace, I start every morning right here at my kitchen's bar. I usually have to tear myself away from this sunny place where I enjoy my coffee, NPR, and social media scrolling. Though I really just want to sit for a while on my reupholstered stool and soak in all the joy I feel at having completed the renovation.
Reflecting on the project, there isn't really any part of the design I would change, but I do have some wisdom I gleaned along the way.
Semi-Gloss Paint— I always knew the truth about semi-gloss paint, but it never felt real until our kitchen renovation. Semi-gloss paint shows every single flaw in the object you're painting. Because of how reflective it is, it will show texture from brush rollers (see the sink vent area above), and any dents, bumps, or scratches. I don't notice it too much from day to day, but it sticks out to me when I look at these pictures. There are a few places I wish I would've spent more time filling and sanding when we were repairing old hardware holes on the doors.
Semi-gloss paint is a must for places that will be frequently wiped down, like kitchen cabinets. I love how easy it is to clean, but I hate how quickly it smudges. I wipe down our drawers and doors way more often than I ever did before, but the paint holds up to it nicely.
I noticed the semi-gloss paint took longer to cure than other paint (eggshell and satin finish), and oddly enough, the darker-tinted paint was worse at setting up than the untinted paint. I have no idea if this is a normal thing, or if it was an anomaly for me, but I'm storing that away for future projects– You might need to allow for longer cure time with semi-gloss paint.
Painting Brick– Don't be afraid to paint brick! I had it in my mind that it would be a huge undertaking, but it wasn't. I was also afraid of what people on the internet would say about me painting brick— a fear which probably stems from my days as a writer for Apartment Therapy. But it's my house! It's so bizarre that I even worry about what internet commenters would think about a change that made me so incredibly happy in our home. This post explains my experience with removing tile from the brick wall, repairing its badly cracked surface, and why we decided to paint it.
Open Shelving– I grew up with very pragmatic family members always raising an eyebrow at clutter. Because clutter=more things to dust, and it seems good housekeeping runs in my family. (Though that buck might stop here.) I can just imagine my grandmother raising said eyebrow at my open shelves. But I like to think of this mix between closed cabinets and open shelving as a nice compromise between vanity and practicality.
I will say, I have already had to dust everything on the shelves a couple of times since finishing the kitchen, so I get where they're coming from. Even items I use every day still gather dust— like my canning jar food storage. But it's not too much work, and I don't mind it.
Budgeting– I talked a lot about budgeting in my planning post, and spent more money than anticipated due to some personal choices (such as a fancy faucet with a far reach) and also some unforeseen expenses (see the end of my planning post for an idea of what those expenses entailed). I definitely think planning the money you'll need for a renovation project is a necessary step, unless you have unlimited funds. I really profusely discourage anyone from going into debt to finish a home renovation project, but that can easily happen if you hastily begin a project and put everything on a credit card.
When planning your budget, I suggest adding 10% to your foreseen expenses to include error in planning or expenses you didn't plan for, like fixing something that breaks or buying lumber to replace pieces you cut incorrectly. If you're working with an older home, you might want to overestimate your budget even more than 10% to include potential money pits like electrical rewiring, plumbing, and ventilation issues.
Scheduling– Taking the time to make a renovation schedule is a smart idea even if you might be way off in your time estimation. A schedule keeps you motivated to work, even when you feel like ditching it all for a night on the couch with Netflix. (Not a bad idea, I might add— but perhaps you could schedule in rest days.) Sharing your schedule with people who have offered to help will also help them stay committed to your project, knowing that there's a schedule to stick to. Just make sure you're gracious about it— your helpers will appreciate every iota of kindness you send their way.
The most time-consuming aspect of this project was definitely refinishing the cabinets. You can see my timetable for our cabinet refinishing right here. All of that sanding, hole-filling, and wet sanding was the bulk of it. I would be happy if I never sanded another object as long as I live, but I'll settle for just a month off. Sanding is a pain, yes, but I always scoff at cabinet refinishing tutorials that skip this step. Paint builds up over time and affects the fit of your cabinetry. Also, wet sanding after priming really improves the feel of the paint finish– it's like silk after wet sanding. If you're going to do it at all, you might as well put in the extra effort to do it well.
Another time intensive part of this project was the countertop. We did a lot of practice cutting with templates, lots of measuring, and so much planning. It's worth the extra time to make sure you don't make a mistake when cutting into an expensive countertop material. You can read all about the process (and the mistake we made, which forced us to widen the gap between my sink basins) here.
Splurging on Hardware– The biggest sticker shock I felt during the planning process of our renovation was when I added up the estimated cost of our new hardware. I ended up compromising by mixing the expensive solid brass bar pulls I loved with cheap brass plated knobs from the hardware store. It turns out I adore the end result of mixing the two styles and wouldn't go back in time and use all brass bar pulls— even if I had the money. It still was a splurge buying the solid brass bar pulls for the drawers, but I think it really paid off. The hardware really is the icing on the cake, isn't it? I don't think I would love the result of our renovation as much if I had compromised completely on the hardware. Was it worth the extra money? Definitely!
Before & After
And now I bring you a few more before and after shots. These images practically send chills down my spine! I chose to photograph our kitchen with the typical clutter that we see from day to day, like bread, fruit, my French press (it only ever gets cleaned right before I refill it every morning), and magazines— just so you could get a feel for what it's like being there in real life. Too bad you can't really come over for a cuppa!
Here are some handy links to all of my kitchen renovation posts:
-Planning a Budget Kitchen Renovation
–Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets
–Cleaning, Painting, and Drilling into the Brick Wall
–Reconfiguring Existing Cabinets for a Fresh Look
–How to Make an Inexpensive Plank Backsplash
–Installing Butcher Block Counters with an Undermount Sink
Next I'll be sharing the space adjacent to our kitchen— the dining room! It underwent some changes recently too, and together they make this area my favorite place in the whole house. Definitely well worth the waiting and saving!
-cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore's Black Panther in semi-gloss
-wall paint: Benjamin Moore's Bright White in Eggshell
-trim and backsplash paint: untinted white paint in semi-gloss
-butcher block sealer: Waterlox original low VOC in satin
Hardware, Fixtures, & Furnishings:
-butcher block counters: Lumber Liquidators (maple)
-brass bar pulls: Lewis Dolan
-brass plated door knobs: found at a local hardware store for $2
-espresso machine: Krups from Amazon
-pendant light: Amazon
-under cabinet stemware holder (brass plated): Amazon
-utensil rack: DIY
-landscape collage art: Jesse Treece from Society6
-photobooth panel: vintage
-paper towel holder (brass plated): West Elm
-tea kettle: Amazon
-radio: Vermont Country Store
-rug: Urban Outfitters circa 2009
-Le Parfait canning jars: from Marshalls & Grow Organic
-blue Ball jars: from my departed grandmother's kitchen
-bread box: Amazon (small and large)
-enamel tray by sink: West Elm
-soap dispensers: Amazon (dish soap and hand soap)
-tea towel: vintage
-baskets above refrigerator (fair trade): Amazon
-stools: eBay reupholstered with fabric below
-faux cowhide upholstery fabric: Amazon
-whale sponge holder: World Market
-refrigerator note station: DIY
-clamp light: Lowes
-cutting board under the bread: made by my dad in his high school wood shop!
-speckled bowl: hand thrown by my friend Austin
-enamel utensils and little white colander: World Market
I've tried to include as many sources as I could, but feel free to ask about anything unmentioned in the comments. Thanks for following along with this renovation journey! I've loved hearing your encouragement and advice along the way. Hopefully you feel inspired to get down with the DIY in your own kitchen. Remember— reusing old fixtures can produce beautiful, inexpensive results with a little hard work! -Mandi