They say the kitchen is the heart of the home…so I guess our heart is dirty, broken, and in need of a replacement. In fact, a kitchen/heart transplant is in order! But where, oh where, to begin?
When you are considering a big project like a kitchen remodel, it’s easy to get overwhelmed! Rather than getting frustrated and resigning yourself to living with a kitchen that doesn’t work for your family, however, I invite you to follow along with me as we remodel our kitchen, hopefully doing most of the work ourselves.
The very first order of business is to ask yourself a few questions:
- What do I like about our kitchen?
- What are the problem areas in our kitchen?
- What can be replaced?
- What needs to stay as it is?
- How much can I spend?
- What do I hope the end result to be?
The following are my answers as I begin this quest.
What do I like about our kitchen?
Honestly, there’s not a lot about our kitchen that I really love, but the thing that most people comment on is the brick wall in the kitchen. The brick wraps around into our living room, and it is definitely a focal point of the kitchen. My mom helped me limewash the brick last year, and I like it much better than I did originally.
I also like the countertops; I don’t love the color, but after years of laminate countertops, I love being able to pull hot cookie sheets out of the oven and rest them directly on top of the counter without worrying about damaging anything. A worry-free countertop material is a must for me.
Another thing I like about the kitchen is how much light comes in. Our house sits on a lot with many large trees, and sometimes it can feel a little dark in the house. But the kitchen has two sets of double windows that let in a lot of light, and as you look out the windows, you can see our backyard, which I really love. I wouldn’t want to change anything about the windows.
The last thing I like about our kitchen is probably the same thing you like about yours: it is the place where people gather. In fact, that is one of the main reasons we want to update our kitchen: we’d like to expand it into the room that was originally the formal dining room so that we don’t feel cramped and have plenty of room to accommodate guests in the kitchen area. As much as we enjoy sitting in our dining room, we also really enjoy casual meals together, and right now there is no space to sit down and converse in our kitchen. Standing room only, for sure, and lots of maneuvering when you are trying to prepare a meal, put dishes in the dishwasher and carry on a conversation in that small space.
What are the problem areas in our kitchen?
There are several areas that need to be addressed in our kitchen. The house was built in 1963, and the cabinets are original to the home.
It’s definitely time for a refresh.
- The upper cabinets above the peninsula are sagging. These cabinets have shifted noticeably in the 10 years that we’ve lived in this house. In fact, I moved all of our plates and bowls out of those cabinets because I was concerned that the whole thing might come crashing down and take all of our dinnerware with it!
- Because of the sag, the cabinet doors don’t close. We plan on expanding our kitchen into the room next to it, so we will remove the upper cabinets here completely. This will clean up the sight line in the kitchen and make the room feel more spacious and open. We will also have to relocate the smoke detector which is attached to those upper cabinets. A contractor told us it needs to be mounted to the ceiling and farther from the oven, so we plan on moving it closer to the laundry room.
- The refrigerator’s location. I can only assume that refrigerators were smaller when they built this house in the 1960’s, because our current refrigerator doesn’t fit in the space…and its not a big refrigerator. It sticks out into the traffic pattern on one side, and on the other side, you can’t open the door all of the way because it bangs into the cabinetry. When I clean the refrigerator, I have to pull the whole thing 10 inches away from the wall in order to fully open the refrigerator door to wash the glass shelves and the plastic drawers. Not only does the refrigerator not open all the way, it also blocks one drawer and one lower cabinet door from opening, thus rendering them basically useless or at the very least, awkward to navigate.
- The lack of a home for the microwave. Because there is no designated space for the microwave, it sits on the counter at an awkward angle. It takes up a good chunk of valuable counter space and is a bit of an eyesore also.
- The placement and paint of the sink. This one is a bit of a mystery to me, but one of two things must have happened when they installed the current sink: 1) they cut the granite countertop wrong or 2) they installed the sink wrong. Whichever mistake occurred is irrelevant, but the result is that our undermount sink has noticeable caulk issues (and the lack of dirty caulk seams should be one of the benefits of having a sink mounted under the countertop!). Not only do we have an incorrectly installed sink, the stainless steel sink was painted (I guess???) and that paint has been chipping away as long as we’ve been in this house. Even when the sink is clean, it looks disgraceful because of the places the paint is coming off.
- The cabinet door details are dated. At some point, a previous owner decided to stencil and spackle an ivy detail onto almost every cabinet door in the kitchen. The ivy stencil is an eyesore and sadly, is not to my taste at all.
- Awkward, hard-to-get-to storage. It’s frustrating when you have space available in your cabinets, but it’s so deep and inaccessible that it’s barely even usable. I have plastic containers and serving bowls that rarely see the light of day just because I would need to move a pile of other stuff just to get to them.
What can be replaced?
In our case, this is a pretty major renovation. We will remove:
- all of the existing cabinetry
- The refrigerator
- The dishwasher
- The countertop
- The light fixtures
- Most of the wall that divides the formal dining room and the existing kitchen
- The peel and stick vinyl tiles
What needs to stay as it is?
There are a few things that would be nice to change, but are outside of the scope of our project. We will leave as is:
- The basic footprint of the kitchen
- The windows (it would be nice to raise one set to be able to run cabinets underneath it, but it’s more than we want to take on).
- The brick wall (which means the oven will not change, as it is set into the brick).
How Much Can I Spend?
This is a big question, and one I’m still researching for our own project. I can’t give you an estimate for us right now, but it looks like IKEA kitchen installs can vary pretty widely. Here’s a few prices I’ve seen (mostly from folks who did some or most of the work themselves):
- Halfbanked.com $14, 493.45 (in 2019)
- Southern Hospitality $8,790 (in 2013)
- OakAbode.com $8,645 (in 2020)
Your price will vary widely depending on the scope of your remodel, and there will inevitably be unforeseen expenses. Try to pinpoint an amount for your estimated cost, and then set aside another 15-25% for contingencies (additional expenditures you did not anticipate).
What Do I Hope the End Result Will Be?
At the end of the day, we all want beautiful, well-lit and well-appointed kitchens that are inviting, functional, and have plenty of storage.But what that actually looks like is different for each person. Beauty resides indeed in the eye of the beholder.
If I am answering that question, my primary goals for our new kitchen space are threefold:
- Plenty of space to converse with friends and family as I prepare meals.
- A designated cabinet or drawer for every item (clutter-free counters and being able to locate kitchen tools easily is a must).
- An inviting space that is pleasant to inhabit and welcoming to all.
I hope this series of questions helps! I know it helped me. Follow along as I document our frugal kitchen renovation journey on Instagram, YouTube and right here at susananyway.com. Be sure to subscribe if you don’t want to miss any updates!