Brittany and Greg bought their first home in 2012. It wasn’t the house of their dreams but it fit their budget and had potential. One of the biggest pitfalls was the kitchen situated between the dining room and a side entry.
What little cabinetry there was was outdated and in disrepair. Doors and drawers didn’t open and close properly. The (emerald green laminate) countertops were perpetually cluttered due to lack of storage. An undercabinet radio hogged one of the rare outlets. Too few overhead lights didn’t provide enough lighting at night.
A freestanding stove blocked access to a nearby base cabinet and countertop. There was no exhaust fan. A shallow pantry was inadequate.
The location of the refrigerator was such that it jutted out into the already cramped room and impeded traffic flow to / from a side entrance.
However, the kitchen did boast good natural lighting and new stainless steel appliances which Brittany and Greg took full advantage of when they overhauled the kitchen after living with it as-is for over a year.
Working on a tight budget, the couple scored a set of custom cabinets via craigslist. The top of the line cabinetry typically sells for >$1,500 PER CABINET! Brittany and Greg negotiated a price of $1,000 for the entire set, including molding and side panels. Armed with mad math skills (they’re both engineers by trade), google Sketch-Up, a little imagination and a lot of DIY ambition, they created an open, functional kitchen that better suits their casual lifestyle. Spoiler alert: a game-changing wall was demo’d. I asked Brittany several questions about the remodel. Find her answers and the “afters” below!
What were the limitations of your original kitchen?
The biggest limitations included lack of storage and countertop space. With the limited counter space on each side of the sink and an awkward last minute spot for the stove, it was impossible to use the bottom cupboard. Having >2 people in the kitchen utilizing all of the appliances was next to impossible.
Aesthetically and functionally speaking, the biggest source of pain was cooking and entertaining. Anyone cooking was completely segregated from the rest of the house. Too many people standing in the way wasn’t helpful for preparing food either.
How long did you live with the original kitchen? Did you make any short-term improvements?
We lived with the kitchen for a year and a half, through our wedding planning and actual wedding. We were very lucky that the last owners installed new appliances about a year and a half before we moved in, so we did inherit three new beautiful and functional stainless steel appliances which helped aid any limited short-term improvements and allowed us to focus attention on other rooms in the house.
What were your goals for the remodel?
Our original goals for the kitchen remodel focused mainly on practicalities: <$5k, add resale value to our house, improve functionality. As our first home, we understood it may not be our forever home but it very well could be. Therefore, we tried to ensure it not only met our tastes now, but our needs in the future as well as others’.
We also knew that we wanted to get rid of the wall between the kitchen and dining room, leaving no header and no ledge on the floor. The consistent opening of the space would improve natural light and daily traffic flow throughout our house. Any perks of additional storage, counter space and efficiency would also be required seeing that we’re both engineers and functionality is our #1 priority by trade.
Where did you find inspiration for the remodel?
Inspiration for the kitchen really came from everywhere: blogs, Ikea, pinterest, Houzz, real life kitchens in our friends’ and neighbors’ homes. My husband needed visual pictures before he’d commit to something, so we’d share a photo stream just for our crazy ideas with notes on what we loved and where they would and wouldn’t work.
The ultimate layout of the cabinets was determined after many hours on google Sketch-Up and ultimately on graph paper. My husband was impressed by the fact that in a roughly 12′ x 12′ space we could fit in 40 sq.ft. of countertop, an eat-in bar, a pantry and a wide open space around the stove to prepare food. We were aiming for a flare of modern paired with a classic / vintage-y vibe.
Which came first: the design or the cabinets? And how in the world did you score those cabinets?!
Cabinets! After we put our offer in on the house we knew the kitchen wouldn’t last forever and that we’d have to remodel at some point. As we were putting in our offer, a co-worker recommended, if we weren’t in a hurry, to keep our eyes out on craigslist. Thinking that was a next to impossible feat, I did some quick searches and spotted the listing for the cabinets. The homeowners were remodeling and anxious to get their two Mercedes back in the 3-car garage where the “old” cabinets were camping out. Their contractor suggested they put the cabinets up for sale on craigslist as they were in great shape.
We ended up getting their entire kitchen worth of cabinets for $1,000. They also provided images and each cabinet’s size / layout attached from when they were originally installed by Wood Mode.
While we were happy to stumble upon them, the biggest challenges were storing them for a year and a half and coming up with a functional design that incorporated them. We have <8′ ceilings and the uppers we acquired were 44″ tall. That left <12″ between the countertop and upper cabinetry. Standard work height is at least 18″. Therefore, we ended up having to modify some of the cabinets and, once we learned additional uppers would be ~$1,200 each, we agreed open shelving was the best option for us. In addition, one window is on a brick exterior wall and is not counter height. It posed a challenge when coming up with a layout.
FYI – We’re deciding whether to retrofit the upper cabinets, extra base cabinets & pantry into a hutch for the sunroom or use them for custom built-ins in the basement family room.
Did you do all the work yourselves? What help, if any, did you hire out? What was the most difficult project you tackled?
We conquered almost every project ourselves with help from volunteer family & friends. From demo to electrical, to drywall, to support beam, to 1.5″ wood floor installation, to cabinet install, tile work, plumbing and sink hook-up, cabinet modifications & shelving and paint and aesthetic styling. Youtube and DIY blogs were definitely our friends during that time…and necessary!
As first-time home buyers of a 1950’s house and learning DIYers, it seemed each task came with its own set of challenges. For example, deciding on flooring left me mailing off a sample of our VCT floor for asbestos testing just in case. And the electrical wiring that we thought would take two weeks actually took 4-6 weeks due to two wires being cut during demo that provided power to the rest of the house. It’s worth noting while we were generous with our original schedule, we forgot we’d occasionally want a project-free night or day of rest.
We hired out:
*ceiling plaster repair – We had attempted this before and got a great recommendation of what I would call a plaster “artist” who seamlessly patched all of our damaged spots. After ceiling paint, no one is the wiser as to where the holes or wall used to be. I would hire this out again anytime in the future! Worth. every. penny.
*gas line moving – I hired this out thinking it would be a more complex task to move 4′ of piping for the stove. However, after seeing them run to the store and move it with flexible pipe, we wish we would have saved our money and done it ourselves.
*load bearing calculations & approval – Despite my husband & I both being mechanical engineers, we brought in a PE (professional engineer) just to confirm our thoughts and calculations on the load bearing aspect of our wall removal. Nothing surprising, but worth the extra insurance.
How long did it take from design to completion?
We started Labor Day 2013, used the long weekend for demo, and worked mainly on weekends and weeknights when necessary. The final project as it looks today was probably completed Labor Day 2014. We are both working engineering & management professionals with long weekday business hours and frequent weeks of business travel. A majority of the work was left for the remaining weekends.
However, we had cabinets installed by Christmas 2013. Countertops arrived a month later in early January. The finishing touches were completed somewhere between then and Labor day. Once the kitchen was functional in January, we tried to return to a normal life and complete smaller tasks each weekend to bring it up to its new identity as seen today.
What is your favorite aspect of your new kitchen? Least favorite?
Overall, we both love the improved flow and functionality. Separately, I think we both love some of the smaller and finer details as our blood, sweat and tears are in almost every corner. For example, I love the open shelves for ease of cooking and cleaning, in addition to having the ability to display all of our wonderful wedding gifts. And my husband loves the USB outlets for charging devices, the instant hot water heater (makes oatmeal and tea in the morning super easy), and the tiled wall and the wood floors (where most of his tears were shed).
On the flip slide, we each have small flaws that bug us. Mine being the missing topcoat of paint on the end of the peninsula, and his being a few imperfect marks on the open shelves. But we’re the only ones who notice, and we have to remind ourselves of that every now and then. My least favorite thing (but not my husband’s – ha!) is that I didn’t take the half wall opening near the stove all the way back to the stove hood wall. *I think* the extra 2′ would have opened up the space even more and resulted in better sight lines while adding an extra few inches of counterspace. But, by the time I thought about it, the electrical and drywall were done. My husband just laughed because there was absolutely no turning back.
Resources of note:
cabinets – Wood Mode hallmark cabinetry in winter white oak
wall paint – Benjamin Moore northern cliffs mixed in Behr Ultra
trim paint – Benjamin Moore simply white mixed in Behr Ultra
flooring – 1.5″ solid oak from a local supplier called National Lumber. It was finished in Golden Oak to match the original flooring throughout the house. (We LOVE the seamless transition.)
backsplash tile – American Olean (1/16″ spacers), Lowe’s
grout – dove gray, The Tile Shop
side entry floor tile – clearances porcelain with charcoal gray grout, The Tile Shop
EZ mount cabinet levelers – My husband thought these were amazing.
granite countertops, sink – a local supply store called Shell Fab (They actually cut the stones and do the installation for the local big box stores, which allowed us to save $$ and shop direct from the local supplier.) We LOVE the deep sink and granite.*
appliances – Frigidaire, c/o the previous homeowners
charcoal vent hood – eBay
open shelves – DIY, inspired by Young House Love / Ana White
spice rack – wine bin from flea market
spice jars – Ikea
faucet – Moen motion sense in spot-resistant stainless
hot water heater – Amazon*
garbage disposal – Amazon*
hanging pendant lights – Hampton Bay, Home Depot / ebay
pod lights – LED Sylvania 6″ retro fit to standard j-box, Lowe’s
knobs – satin nickel, Home Depot
motion lights – Lutron dimmable LED 3-way*
USB outlets – Leviton*
cake domes – Amazon, Macy’s
bread boxes – Ikea
clock – Target
glass jars – Amazon
copper bowls & colander – ebay
marble rolling pin – Amazon
mortar & pestle – Amazon
dishes – white Corelle (no worries about breaking them!)
dish towels – Etsy
apron – Ikea
*Denotes items / features we’re especially fond of and highly recommend.
Thank you so much, Brittany and Greg, for sharing your space!
I love the ingenuity and hard work that went into this budget-friendly remodel. $1,000 for those cabinets? Are you kidding me?! And, of course, I love the open shelving and subway tile. Bringing down the wall between the kitchen and dining room solved two problems. It opened up the kitchen AND allowed more light to shine into the windowless dining room. This kitchen a far cry from the jumbled, dysfunctional space it once was. You can read more about this project on Brittany’s blog.
Have you ever thought of sourcing kitchen cabinets from craigslist? It seems like a cost-effective option if you aren’t pressed for time and are willing to be imaginative with your design.
images: Brittany Semrau
(shouted) WE HAVE TWO FULLY FUNCTIONING BATHROOMS AND I FEEL LIKE I WON THE LOTTERY. Let’s do this.
The main bathroom is located in a small hallway just off the open kitchen-living room. The original fixtures were outdated and in disrepair. There was no overhead lighting or ventilation fan. The one thing it had going for it was a window which let in a good amount of natural light. Before renovations started, we had planned on living with the bathroom as-is for a while. But when we demo’d the other (kitchen) side of the wall on the left, we discovered black mold. A few of the shower tiles were cracked, allowing water to seep into the wall.
We ended up gutting the entire room, updating the electrical, installing ventilation to the outside, replacing the window, adding foam insulation to the exterior wall & a can light above the shower / tub area. We lived with the unfinished, non-functional bathroom for over two years while all five of us shared the master bathroom. It was such an eyesore and we hated that we weren’t using usable space. We finished the bathroom at the end of 2014 after working on it off and on for almost a year. It mainly serves as the kid / guest bathroom.
To keep costs down, we worked with the original layout and brought in new materials and fixtures. We chose elongated subway tile for the walls. It reaches to the ceiling at the shower and is 36″ high around the rest of the room. It’s the same tile we used for the kitchen backsplash but here we paired it with white grout. I didn’t think the small bathroom (it’s ~5′ x 7′) could handle the busyness of contrasting grout lines. At the last minute, I added a black pencil liner to the design to tie in to the floor which is a tumbled travertine hexagon. I chose a light gray grout for the floor. The black travertine and dirt-colored grout are super kid-friendly.
In the early stages of planning, I got stuck on the idea of a clawfoot tub resting on a wood base. We found a 4½’ vintage clawfoot tub on craigslist. The interior was in good condition but two of the feet had broken off and the exterior needed a fresh coat of paint. We DIYed two wood saddles from a reclaimed beam to support the tub and painted the exterior black. The chrome plumbing fixtures are new but have a vintage look. We went through two matching shower heads but each of them leaked so, for now, we’re living with an inexpensive one that I picked up at Lowe’s. It doesn’t pivot and we wish it did.
I hung a white fabric shower curtain liner on either side of the ceiling support (two liners total) to enclose the shower when necessary. The liners hang outside the tub for baths and inside the tub for showers. On the side visible from the door, I hung a single linen curtain in front of the liner. I love the natural texture it adds to the space. The curtains hang from rolling rings.
We had planned on using the original toilet but it was accidentally broken during renovations. Oops. Steve had always wanted a sleek, modern toilet (#mandreams) and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try one. He chose a dual flush model with clean lines. The kids have a ball showing off the toilet and its buttons to guests.
The angle of the camera stretches the appearance. In real life, the toilet takes up significantly less floor space than the toilet in the master bathroom due to: 1) the small tank and 2) the ability to install it closer to the wall. The exterior is much easier to clean, too, but it takes a little elbow grease to clean the corners of the bowl (do bowls have corners?) inside. And it isn’t exactly easy to plunge. TMI? It’s worth noting that I don’t know what we’ll do if the seat or lid needs replaced. Special order from the manufacturer?
I snuck in a seagrass trash bin between the tub and toilet. FYI – For bathrooms, I use a textured bin and place a smaller plastic trash can, lined with a plastic bag, inside. I removed the plastic can + bag for this shot because I didn’t think anyone would want to see our bathroom trash. I couldn’t find a black register cover so I bought an oil-rubbed bronze one and spray painted it matte black to blend in with the floor.
We installed a simple metal shelf above the toilet. It’s a great spot for artwork, flowers and jewelry catchalls. (The vase is actually a bathroom tumbler.) The shelf isn’t the highest quality but I like the way the metal brackets pick up on the pencil liner. I painted the heads of the screws black so they would be less conspicuous.
To keep things light visually, we chose an open vanity that stands up off the floor. I stash trash bags and a microfiber cloth in the bottom drawer. A woven basket holds toilet paper and a cup for rinsing the kids at bathtime. We couldn’t bear to drill into the vanity or wall tile to hang a toilet paper holder.
The door to the bathroom opens up into the room in front of the vanity. We needed a stool for our toddler to reach the sink but I didn’t want it to impede the opening / closing of the door. I found a small folding stool at HomeGoods that fit the bill. It isn’t much to look at but, thankfully, it folds up and slides in next to the vanity so we don’t have to look at it all the time.
My only issue with the vanity is that the solid surface top is creamier than the bright white subway tile. I think it’s probably one of those things that no one else really notices but it stands out to me. The faucet matches the tub fixture. I adore the labeled porcelain handles.
We chose a simple, recessed mirror / medicine cabinet for the sink area. It has a narrow stainless steel frame. This is where the microfiber cloth in the vanity drawer comes in handy. I use it for quick once-overs to remove the kids’ fingerprints from the mirror.
The mirrored door opens to reveal hidden storage. The shelves are adjustable. I used several small organizers to corral the kids’ toiletries.
On the opposite side of the room, we installed a trio of wall hooks. There’s one hook for each kid. I found peshtemal towels that mimic the linen shower curtain.
This stool was the missing piece of the bathroom reno puzzle! It finally arrived last week. Not only is it pretty cute, it’s functional too. It saves my back when I bathe the younger kids. And, I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will be the perfect spot for a lit candle and a glass of wine when I give the tub a spin myself.
I bought a vintage rug to add some color and pattern to the room. The low profile allows the door to swing open without getting hung up on the rug.
And that’s it! Since the bathroom is near the main living space, I wanted it to feel like a continuation of the great room. I repeated certain elements (subway tile, black & white contrast, rich wood tones, woven textures, vintage rug, etc.) for a cohesive look. The room really feels like a part of the house – not a separate, themed kids’ bathroom. Incorporating larger pieces (tub, vanity) that stand up off the floor visually lightens the tiny room and makes cleaning a breeze.
After sharing one bathroom for the last 2+ years, we feel completely spoiled now that we have TWO functioning bathrooms. No one is waiting for a turn. Everyone has their own towel hook. We’re able to give the two younger kids a bath while our oldest takes a shower in our bathroom to speed up the bathtime routine. Guests no longer have to walk through our bedroom to use the bathroom and they have their own shower, too. It’s nice having a bathroom so close to the main living space. You know, because walking down the hallway, through the master bedroom and into the master bath is just too much work. Like I said, spoiled. But our favorite thing is that we’re finally using previously wasted space. I don’t know how many times I apologized to guests about the state of the main bathroom during its gutted life.
We have two bathrooms. Life is good :)
Resources of note:
2″ x 12″ subway tile – imperial bianco gloss white from The Tile Shop*
black pencil liner – noir honed somerset from The Tile Shop*
wall grout – standard white unsanded from The Tile Shop*
floor tile – noir hex from The Tile Shop*
floor grout – whisper grey sanded from The Tile Shop*
wall paint – Ace Paints lost spur mixed in Clark + Kensington paint + primer in one
trim paint – Benjamin Moore super white
tub – vintage, craigslist
tub base – DIY
tub exterior paint – Sherwin Williams enamel latex color-matched to Benjamin Moore black jack
plumbing fixtures – Randolph Morris from Vintage Tub & Bath
fabric shower curtain liners – Wayfair
linen shower curtain – Restoration Hardware
shower curtain rings – Amazon
toilet – Fresca salerno dual flush square toilet from TradeWinds Imports
trash bin – Target
floor register cover – Lowe’s, spray painted matte black
wall shelf – Urban Outfitters
amber vase – Target (it’s actually a bathroom tumbler!)
dried craspedia – FayeMarie etsy shop
art print – Printwork etsy shop
frame – Amazon
vanity – Home Depot, discontinued
basket – HomeGoods
folding stool – HomeGoods
towel ring – Lowe’s, spray painted matte black
hand towel, washcloth – HomeGoods
recessed mirror / medicine cabinet – Wayfair*
wall sconce – Barn Light Electric Co.
rug – vintage from etsy
dip-dyed stool – Serena and Lily
wall hooks – Amazon
peshtemal towels – Amazon
*Denotes items from brands that kindly sponsored this project. We selected and installed the products on our own.
Interested in seeing how this bathroom came to be? More bathroom-related links…
FIXTURES & DECOR
For ease, you can access this bathroom tour under the “see my house” tab in the sidebar along with a general house tour and individual room tours. Thanks for reading!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Ikea debuted their new kitchen system, SEKTION, earlier this week. Mabrey and I took a field trip to check it out. I brought along my camera to document the things that caught my attention and I thought I would share them with you. There’s one caveat: the pictures aren’t the best quality. I was in a time crunch and chasing a toddler so…yeah…my focus and white balance are all over the place. But, whatever. I have pictures!
The first thing I noticed right off the bat were the drawers – specifically the drawers inside drawers. I like this option because the outside appearance doesn’t dictate the storage inside. You can have several drawers behind one drawer front for a uniform look. And you have the option of drawers that pull out all the way or only ¾ of the way if they’re layered over another pullout. The drawers themselves are available in several widths and depths that weren’t offered in the previous AKURUM line. I saw the widest, most shallow drawers I’ve ever witnessed in a kitchen in that island above. They would be perfect for flatware and servingware. Fortunately, the soft-closing hardware is still available with the SEKTION line.
Drawer lights (seen above) that turn on when the drawer is opened were an oooh-ahhh feature but from what I could tell they only lit the top drawers. I’m not sure how practical they would be for our household. Don’t people usually turn lights on anyway? I hear the new SEKTION line also features USB outlets, electrical outlets and remote-controlled dimming / power but I didn’t see this on display.
Both upper and lower cabinet frames are available in more sizes (width, depth, height) which I see as an improvement over the AKURUM line. When we were designing our kitchen there were a few places in the layout where we didn’t have much of choice when it came to cabinet size. It wasn’t a deal breaker but it would have been nice to have more options. Also, in the AKURUM line a 15″ cabinet wasn’t really 15″ wide. It was something like 14 5/8″ which made things a little confusing.
The new SEKTION line measurements are true measurements. That means a 15″ cabinet is really 15″ wide. This also means the two lines aren’t compatible or interchangeable. I asked an Ikea kitchen specialist about how Ikea was handling customers needing AKURUM parts. She said AKURUM parts would be available until October 2015. After that, only if there was a warranty issue, Ikea would work to get the customer something comparable. I don’t quite know what that means though, seeing as how the new system isn’t compatible. (I’m hoping we never need to replace anything!) I did see where SemiHandmade will continue making doors / drawer fronts for the AKURUM line so AKURUM owners will be able to switch out their fronts if they want to.
The new sizes allow for an array of configurations. The hutch-like setup shown above was a unique feature that felt somewhat custom as far as Ikea goes. (Notice the shallow, short drawers at the bottom of the upper cabinet.) With the new system, the base and upper cabinets can be installed via a wall rail whereas with the old AKURUM line, only the upper cabinetry had the option of a wall rail. I’m guessing this will help DIYers (and professionals alike) who may be installing on their own or in a home with uneven walls or floors. We used the upper rails so Steve could install the wall cabinets on his own (I was preggo at the time) and they worked out really well for us.
The one feature I’m so, so happy to see (and a little jealous of, quite frankly) is the brown wood lookalike color option for the cabinet frames. I was surprised this wasn’t an option when we were designing our kitchen. Slivers of the white cabinet frames are barely noticeable in between a few black drawer fronts / doors on our base cabinets. Guests say they don’t notice, but it’s the one thing I would change about our current setup if I could. I’ve contemplated painting those areas black or applying strips of black veneer. No need to worry about that with the new system though. As seen above, the “wood effect brown” frames work well with darker colored drawer fronts and doors. They look less cheap when opened, too. No white box staring you in the face.
I noticed a few other interesting design elements like open shelf base cabinets and freestanding units made up of cabinets + legs. I think both of these could help lighten a room visually.
One new option I didn’t like was this undersink pullout. It’s made to look like two drawers from the front but it felt flimsy because the front panel is so tall. Plus, I don’t think it’s very practical. What if one person is washing dishes and another person needs to grab something from under the sink? You can’t move to one side like you can with two doors.
As far as aesthetics go, many of the “new” drawer fronts and doors look a lot like the “old” options. There are a few new finishes in the mix including glossy yellow and glossy green if that floats your boat. I really wish Ikea offered an unfinished wood option that would be less expensive than the ready-to-hang designs and could be painted any color of the rainbow for a truly custom look. Ikea, are you listening?!
I totally understand that Ikea caters to the masses but I do wish they would push the envelope a bit more when it comes to their kitchen displays. It was nice to see an island sporting a waterfall edge and a herringbone backsplash.
I didn’t get a chance to scout the countertop and hardware selection but I did see a walnut butcher block! On a fauxdenza no less! Ikea must read blogs. They’re on to us. Update: it appears the walnut butcher block is actually solid wood veneer over particleboard.
Some more drawer-in-drawer action because I couldn’t get enough…
In conclusion, I’m pretty impressed with the new system. I was a little afraid Ikea would veer off course with the SEKTION line but I feel like they made smart improvements upon the old system that was so popular. Here are my take it / leave it suggestions in case you’re interested.
*varied selection of new true cabinet sizes
*dark wood lookalike cabinet frame option for darker fronts
*freestanding units / open base cabinets
*integrated drawer lighting
Have you checked out the new SEKTION line in person? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If not, you should make a day of it and go open & close a bunch of drawers and doors. You know, if that’s your thing. (It’s my thing.)
P.S. – A great write-up on the new SEKTION line.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking