26 miles + Denmark = kitchen reno....on a tight budget


When we first bought our turn of the century four square I updated an earlier 70’s/80’s kitchen reno as best I could making it aesthetically pleasing, but not really upgrading its functionality all that much. You can see the inexpensive and simple kitchen facelift from an earlier post here. And for five years our family of seven lived in this space and made the best of it. During that time, I made mental notes of how I thought the space would better function for the family of today. In 1907, when our home was built, keeping the kitchen small and separate from the living areas was preferred and therefore how these old four squares were designed. For contemporary living, however, I wanted a more open flow from our kitchen to our eating and living areas. I knew this could be achieved, but I also knew it would take a huge amount of work and construction.

I’m the gal who can never have too much information. Knowing how much a project will cost, whether I do it or not, is very valuable information in my book. So I decided to have a local, respected builder come in and give me an estimate for carrying out my vision for a more open flow kitchen and living space. Talk about an eye opener! After scrolling to the bottom of the estimate and seeing the $80,000 price tag I knew if this design concept was to be achieved it would have to be done by me. There is no way with three girls in college I could begin to justify that kind of price tag! And so there my design concept sat until October 7, 2018.

What special event happened on that date, you ask? My dear friend and sidekick, Cindy, ran the Chicago marathon with a grace and determination that only months of challenging training and dedication can create. As you know from our blog, Cindy does everything with 110% effort and does it to perfection. She really does inspire me on a daily basis! And as I watched the race on tv and cheered on my sister-friend, I was overcome with a resolve to take the first step towards creating the kitchen I had designed for our family in this glorious old house. Prompted by all of Cindy’s endless hours of training for this 26 mile event, I picked up my saws-all and started tearing out walls, tearing up floors and creating a glorious pile of rubble all while repeating the Danish word “hygge” over and over in my head like a construction mantra. Hygge (pronounced HEW-guh) is defined as a quality of coziness that makes a person feel content and comfortable and it really is a great descriptor for how I design and create our homes’ spaces. Relaxation, togetherness, connection, comfort all work together to create a hygge space. Brilliant!

So now that you know how 26 miles and Denmark helped me to accomplish our kitchen renovation, I’ll take you through a photo gallery of our renovation journey. I’m not gonna lie, it was a lot of work! Several broken fingers, cuts and splinters, broken toe, elbow pain are just a few of the gifts that accompany major construction when I am at the helm-ha! My hands will never be confused for those of a hand model and I definately developed more grey hair with this adventure! Along with doing this project myself (except for hiring plumber and electrician) I wanted to do all of this as inexpensively as I possibly could. Almost everything was purchased used on Facebook’s Market Place and/or Craigslist, so I was able to do this entire renovation for around $6,500 with over half of that being spent on plumbing and electric. On top of the physical dings and financial contraints, came the complications that accompany doing major construction/demolition while still trying to keep a functioning kitchen for your family. I joked with the ladies in our fitness class that it was like living in a camp site for 5 months. So my family deserves a huge round of applause for their patience and abilty to go with the “crazy mom flow” of this huge undertaking. There are plenty of how to/home improvement resources for those of you looking for that. I will just share with you my simple photo diary of the process along with some funny moments that happened along the way in the hopes that this may inspire you to look around and see how you could add some hygge to your spaces.

Demolition is dirty!!!! There was a layer of construction dust all over everything for what seemed like an eternity! Plaster and lathe walls are not only messy, but they are heavy. This portion of the program was definately a substitue for a hard core cardio workout! I used multiple dumpster bags and hauled all demo debris in buckets out to the dumpster bag. My assistant, Mekdes, really liked the process and took an interest in every stage of the renovation. I love empowering my girls to be strong and try something new!

There was a lot of electrical and plumbing that needed moved. My plan involved moving a powder room from the middle of this space over to an exterior wall. As this is our only toilet on the first floor, we did leave the toilet hooked up for quite awhile even though there were no walls for privacy-tee tee! We would just shout out that the toilet was occupied to keep people from entering the area. Like I said, my family were all trooper!!!

My fingers were crossed that I would find original hardwood floors under the layers of floors that were added over the years. And here is what I found: layer #1, 80’s/yellow maple floors; layer #2, luan sub floor (this material left me with more splinters than anything I have EVER worked with! I hated the stuff!) ; layer #3, 40’s linoleum (I felt a bit like an archeologist unearthing all these layers of history and I loved the look of the vintage linoleum!); layer #4, tar paper (this was sticky, thick and very difficult to get up in high traffic areas); DRUM ROLL PLEASE…..layer, #5, original hardwood floor! YAHOO!!! Tearing out all the flooring was exhausing and time consuming. It was a killer core, shoulder and back workout! I was able to find some maple flooring on marketplace that was the same width as the original for $40 and this find allowed me to fill in the holes as needed.

Here’s the part of this project I am most proud of….I GOT MY CABINETS FOR FREE! How is that possible? Well….I bought the cabinets from Craig’s List for $500 (you can see the original listing in the first photo) and I sold my cabinet on Marketplace for $500. My husband has been such a supporter of this quest to do this project myself and to do is on a crazy cheap budget, but I really put him to the test on cabinet pick up day. It was an icy and snowy Saturday morning when I asked him if he was available to go with me to pick up “a few” cabinets. You can see how full the rented U-Haul was with cabinets and then we had to unload them into our very small garage all while trying not to die sliding on the icy U-Haul ramp! To say it was an adventure would be an understatement, but I just knew that I could turn these used cabinets into something special. Thanks, Shawn, for always supporting my crazy!

One of the many things I learned during this project was that you really have to be knowledgeable and stand your ground with the subcontractors. My plumber really gave me a hard time with the powder room. From wanting pipes moved to using a vintage sink ($40) to using a toilet bought on Marketplace ($30) he gave me push back every step of the way. What I realized is that some of these contractors just don’t have vision. They don’t like to think outside the box and they don’t like working with someone who does. I was willing to take risks and I think that made Mr. Plumber uncomfortable. Our plumber is a great guy, but I had to continually reaffirm my plan with him and not allow him to change it. With all that being said….the powder room is funky and I love it! I love the sink and the dramatic color on the wall (dark olive oops chalk paint from Lowe’s $5). I knew I needed to use a barn sliding door since I had to run plumbing in the walls and as luck would have it, I had this door in my garage from a previous project. I bought the hardware for $40 on Marketplace and voila! A powder room with proper privacy!

Table island or cabinet island…that is the question. Our kitchen, while more open, is still relatively small in square footage. Initially, I thought I would do an industrial style table island that could house 3-5 bar stools. After living with that for a bit, however, I realized I could really use some more storage and I still had some unused cabinets in the garage. So after playing with some different layouts (and consulting with Cindy all morning, thanks bunches!) I decided to go with the cabinet island. It can still house a bar stool at the end for one of the girls for doing school work and it gives me a tremendous amount of storage. Sorry about the candid photos in this gallery! I did share that we’ve been living in a camp site and these photos are a glimps into what that looks like-yikers!!!

These cabinets came out of a kitchen with 10’ ceilings and lots of strange wall angles (as you can see by the Craigs List posting) so I knew they would require a lot of modifications. I used wall cabinets as base cabinets to create a panty, I took out glass and replaced it with wood, I pulled the dental molding from the original trim and replaced it with some other trim to create a cleaner, more contemporary look. Working in a 112 year old home mean NOTHING is plum or level! So my biggest challenge in this stage of the renovation was trying to get the cabinets anywhere close to level-ugh! After MANY of adjustments, I came up with a layout that utized every square inch of both kitchen square footage and every square inch of purchased cabinets. I reused trim, reused hardware and made use of every single item we threw in the back of that U-Haul back on that cold November day. I sold my old cabinets for $500 and purchased these cabinets for $500….FREE CABINETS FOR ME!!!! How can my husband argue with that?!

I knew I wanted to go with a light colored countertop and this is what I had saved a bulk of my budget for. After looking at a granite warehouse near me, I landed on a man made quartz product that looks like Carrara marble. I was able to find the piece I wanted for $1200 and I love it! By going to the granite site myself, pricing it out, choosing the slab and contracting my own granite installer/fabricator, I was able to cut the cost considerably. I walked into a granite shop near me and had them price out some pieces I said I liked from their show room (none of which thrilled me, by the way, but they were in my price range) and the cost came back at 3 times what I ended up spending by doing my own leg work.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel at this point and I didn’t want to make a wrong move with color choice. I knew I wanted to paint the cabinets for several reasons. One, I had done so many modifications to the cabinets that I needed to unify them using paint and two, painted cabinets are very appropriate in a historic home. Do I play it safe and paint them white or do I venture out on a limb and go with the unexpected? As you can see I climbed out on that limb and I’m so glad I did. It’s a Benjamin Moore paint product that was highly recommended by those in the business. I did a lot of research in this area as I know painting cabinets can go horribly wrong if you do not prep properly and/or use the proper products. After two days of prep (lightly sanding and wiping down then taking off all doors and drawers and making a map so I would remember where it all goes), it was time to prime. That took a day to roll base cabinets and a day to spray doors and drawers (the spraying was done by a contractor) and that’s the grey color you see. The final color (Sherwin Williams pewter green) took another couple of days and by the end of the week I had glorious deep green/gray kitchen cabinets. As of now I can say I loved this Benjamin Moore cabinet paint product. ($150 for a gallon of primer and a gallon of paint, sanding blocks and small felt roller). The color coat is a self leveling, latex paint that is a dream to work with. As for its durability, its sold as being as close to an oil base as you can get….thus being very durable. It’s only been a week so the verdict is still out on durability. I’ll let you know if a couple of months if the paint is holding up to the beating my family puts on our kitchen. I am in love with the pewter green!

Finally, it was time for the backsplash. There were lots of options, but I landed on a simple subway tile that could be done for $75. It’s easy to install and is very in keeping with the age of our home. Of course, it wasn’t until after I started tiling that I realized I forgot to buy spacers. So, I improvised and use coins from our coin jar. Problem solved! I choose a grout that would create a seamless look and allow the quartz counters to be the star of the show. I’m pleased with how it turned out and I did it all for under $100 including grout and tile adhesive.

And now with the switch plate installed to the left of the sink, our kitchen renovation is done! The floors are still untouched, but I’ll get to them eventually. I’m thrilled with what I was able to accomplish on such a tight budget (under $6500) with this kitchen renovation. It took 5 months and a lot of hard work, but I do feel it increases the functionality of our home while still honoring its historic nature. This vintage drafting stool was a resale shop find and it fits perfectly under the island. It mirrors the industrial nature of the powder room barn door hardware-yippee! I’m still waiting on some fantastic roman shades for the windows by the stove and I will post an update as soon as they are in. So now you know what I’ve been up to for the last several months….I hope you find some inspiration in here somewhere to try something new, create a hygge space or to just find beauty in your surroundings. We all deserve to be surrounded with things we find beautiful! A big salute to those of you who made it to the end of this post!!!!! Tee tee! Bravo!

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kitchen reno. www.cardiocoffeeandkale.com
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