Our kitchen reno – small budget, big hopes.

Our kitchen...stripped.

Okay, so it isn’t about happy motherhood exactly, but since this month’s theme is “home” I hope you’ll indulge some kitchen renovation talk! We’re right in the middle of ours – which also happens to be our first real remodeling project – and I wanted to share our progress and plans.

First of all, I have to admit that I had no idea how all-consuming a house renovation can be. I figured, “Hey, pick up some new appliances and cabinets, bingo! We’re done!” Um, not quite. I really under-estimated how many decisions each step would involve: everything from where to put the lighting (and what kind to use) to how deep a sink we’d need.

We’ve also run into some surprises, like when we discovered that the hardwood floors beneath the vinyl-subfloor-vinyl-subfloor layers were not salvageable even as a base for another kind of flooring: they needed to be completely torn up. A crew has been here tearing up floors and laying new subfloor over the last few days, meaning our refrigerator is in the dining room and we have no stove. (I’m on the hunt for microwaveable recipes.)

Since we’re on a tight budget, there isn’t much room for mistakes…and I want to get as many of the details (big and small) as possible “right” from the get-go so the kitchen is as functional and pretty as we can possibly make it (and so we don’t have to do this again any time soon!) I feel like I’ve done nothing but work on the kitchen for the last week, and the funny part is that we haven’t even personally done anything yet besides shop and plan and discuss and plan and discuss and shop.

Still, that’s felt like plenty. Here’s what we have done:

We’ve picked out a refrigerator and range.

For appliances, we went shopping at our local overstock/scratch-n-dent/used appliance warehouse. I’d intended to look for a Whirlpool or Maytag brand, since they tend to be firmly in our price range and have a lot of the features I was hoping for. But, we discovered a matching, gently used Jenn-Air stove and side-by-side fridge. The range has a double electric oven (top of my wish list) with convection, and a gas cooktop. The price was unbelievably low for Jenn-Air, which is considered top-of-the-line, and both appliances had cool features like fridge shelving that raises or lowers by turning a little crank. I was literally ooh-ing and ahh-ing in the store. You’d think I’d never had a “top of the line” fridge before. Okay, that’s because I haven’t (though I think our current fridge may have been considered top-of-the-line when it came out…in 1979.)

Jon and I had disagreed a bit about color – I actually love the look of white appliances and think stainless is really over-done, but because black and stainless are more popular right now,  it’s really difficult to find a nicer gas stove in white – and especially hard to get a good deal on a used or overstock one!! I still tried to shy away from stainless, but Jon thought black was too dark. And then we ran across this pair…and got such a great deal that we couldn’t pass it up. So, stainless it is. (Lesson learned: don’t make loud claims about things you will NEVER do or NEVER buy because chances are good you will have to eat your words.)

We’ve picked out cabinets and countertops.


We’re going IKEA all the way on this part. After extensive research, it seems like the best value we can afford, and I really like the cabinet style above (Lidingo) with butcher block countertops. The photo above is a user’s finished kitchen from this thread at IKEAFans – in this photo the countertops are actually not IKEA but look very similar to the IKEA counters in other photos.

Speaking of cabinets, that was another decision that I agonized over. We’ve finally decided to put up only one upper cabinet, directly above the dishwasher (for mismatching mugs, plastic bowls, etc). We’re hoping the fridge on the other side of the sink will balance out that side, and then on the other wall, flanking the range hood, we’ll have open shelving – inspired by kitchens like this one from Better Homes & Gardens:

We’ve had open shelving in the kitchen for the last year and a half, and it was one of the only things I loved about our “old” kitchen. We don’t have that much plastic ware and other mismatched stuff that I need to hide away, and though I’ve heard a lot about dishes getting dusty, with five kids we use everything on those shelves – even the larger bowls – regularly enough that they do stay clean!

For lighting: we’re doing a few pendants. I bought this pendant light at Lowe’s for my office a few months ago:

But it’s kind of wasted in there because it doesn’t hang down quite low enough to be visible from other rooms and also isn’t really bright enough for an office.

Then I saw this matching, smaller pendant:

So we are thinking of getting 2-3 of these for the sides of the room and then moving the large lamp from my office to the center of the kitchen.

Sink: I’d wanted a farmhouse sink with an apron, but they’re pretty salty ($400+ from what I have been able to find.) But we did find a brand-new Kohler double cast-iron sink on Craigslist for about $100 (supposed to pick it up tomorrow.) I’m definitely realizing that costs add up quickly and sometimes you have to let go of certain elements your “dream” kitchen to make room for a new dream.

Our biggest compromise so far has been flooring. We originally wanted to use Marmoleum click, but just couldn’t swing the cost, especially after the unexpected surprise of having to tear up and rebuild the whole floor. We considered ceramic tile, vinyl, sheet linoleum and every other imaginable choice, and have finally settled on…cork! The more I read about it the more I think I’m going to love it, and we can DIY the installation, which will help us save money (we weren’t prepared to take on the job of laying ceramic tile!).

Cork flooring from The Corkhouse

See? Almost done! All we have to do is choose a paint color…decide on a backsplash…purchase a range hood and/or microwave…put together the cabinets…lay everything out…put down the floors…oh, man. I guess I better get back to researching.

Thanks for coming along for the reno ride with me! Would love to hear if you’re planning a kitchen remodel, big or small, or have been through one and lived to tell about it. What would you do differently this time around?

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