So many of us have heard the expression, “the only thing you can’t change about a house is its location,” but I’m a staunch believer in liking some other things about your house besides its location, too. Sure, you can change everything about a house besides location, but if that’s your plan then I sure hope you have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around.
Even though we knew when we bought it that our house needed so much work, there was a lot we loved about it. Location, absolutely, but also the floor plan (you can see that here), most of the flooring, the brick fireplace, stained glass windows, and, yes, this kitchen:
I knew that underneath the brown back door, skinny trim, almond switch plate covers, forest green laminate counters, fluorescent light fixtures and dated appliances was a great layout, good access to the backyard, plenty of storage space and lots of natural light — in short, this was a kitchen that we could work with as opposed to one that would eat up half of our renovation budget.
The very first thing we did was clean it and, guys, even if you have a room that’s so dated and you hate it, it makes such a difference if the surfaces are clean. We unpacked our dishes and sorted out our pantry and it really has been such a joy to cook in, forest green counters and all, over the past year and a half. But of course we still wanted to make updates, within reason.
I’ll have to ballpark our total spend because some work was done in conjunction with other work (e.g., the trim went in at the same time as the den and bathroom trim so it’s hard to say the exact amount) but our kitchen is done (for now) and no longer looks stuck in 1993 for a grand total of… $20,000. That is a far cry from what it would’ve cost to gut a kitchen of this size and, for such a hardworking area of the house, a reasonable 20% of our total house renovation budget.
This number could have been a lot lower had we settled for a budget-friendly countertop option like laminate (I really think pure white Formica with a squared off edge profile would’ve been reasonably attractive and the quote was just $2,000); this would’ve cut our total spend in half, to just $10,000. But we sprung for a Cambria quartz countertop (the pattern is Dovedale), knowing we’re never going to replace it. That’ll be a job for Oak House’s next owners; no doubt they won’t want a kitchen that looks “stuck in 2018.”
Here’s what we did for around $20,000:
- Replaced all the cabinet and door hardware
- Removed the run of upper cabinets around the stove area
- Added a huge piece of art in their place
- Painted the walls, ceiling, window frame and doors
- Spray painted the window screen and replaced the crank handle
- Replaced (and painted) all the trim to match the historic trim in the rest of the house
- Added a cellular window shade
- Replaced our hood fan
- Swapped our fluorescent light fixtures with this one and this one and replaced the under-cabinet lighting on the one remaining upper
- Capped our stove’s gas line and rerouted it outside to serve our BBQ
- Replaced all our appliances
- Replaced our countertops, sink and faucet
Here’s what we didn’t do:
- Replace the linoleum flooring
- Touch the layout or any oddities (like the shallow “spice cupboard” that I turned into an arts & crafts closet for Frankie)
- Replace the cabinets
Regrets? I actually have a few!
First, I would’ve done a little bit more research into our flooring options before making the difficult-to-reverse decision to keep the 1990s linoleum. Now that our baseboards are on, we’re sort of stuck with it, but had I posed the question on Instagram a little sooner, I would have realized there were lots of stylish, inexpensive, easy stick-on options that could’ve gone right overtop of our existing floors. When I was weighing my decision I was only seeing option A (keep the floors) or B (tear them out with our two-year-old running loose). I didn’t realize there was a hidden option C. Oh well.
Second, I would’ve double-checked the height of the fridge we ordered to make extra sure it would fit underneath our over-fridge cabinet. Alas, our fridge is slightly too tall for its cubby and we had to remove the doors on that cabinet to make it fit. It’s not ideal, but neither was the $1,000 price tag to get that cabinet resized.
Third, I would’ve stuck with a gas range. Not because I don’t love our electric stove (I do — I’m one of those oddballs who prefers cooking on electric over gas), but the cost to cap the gas line and install a 220v outlet for our stove was far more than it was worth to cook on electric. Not to mention the headache that was having our gas line capped (rendering our old stove useless) and then finding out our new appliances were going to be two weeks delayed — during Christmas.
It’s probably a good time to point out that we made all our kitchen decisions slowly and sequentially. We didn’t have an image in our heads of what we wanted before we started, we just started making decisions and then every subsequent decision played off the one before it. I think the result is super cohesive, not only within the kitchen but with the rest of the house, too. If we’d chosen our sink first, for example, we might’ve ended up with a totally different look, one that maybe wouldn’t play with the rest of our space as well. (I most definitely would’ve chosen a white ceramic sink (farmhouse style), which is a style of sink I’ve always adored.) But, in the end, the matte black sink we chose (it’s this Kohler one) really was the best complement to all our other choices, even if it wasn’t my straight-up first-choice sink. Two of my three regrets, above, have to do with our appliances, the only decision we really felt rushed on, because my dad promised us a good deal if we could choose something by the end of the year. I think I’m so pleased with the result because we were (mostly) able to take our time figuring out what we wanted.
Even though we’ve been working on the kitchen bit-by-bit since we moved in, the final step — getting our new countertops and sink/faucet installed — was such a game changer. Updates to hardware, paint, light fixtures, etc. were no doubt impactful, but we have so much counter space (29 linear feet!) that I felt like the kitchen retained its dated look right until the end when two men, four hours of work (and $12,000) finally brought our kitchen into 2018. Plus, because of the aforementioned great layout, the kitchen can be seen from every room in the house (the counter even wraps around into the dining room) so updating the countertops has given the whole house a bit of a facelift.
I said at the beginning of this post that the kitchen was done “for now” and by that I mean that we plan to be in this house another 20 years, until our youngest has well and flown the nest, and I can’t imagine our kitchen will look exactly like this by the time 2038 rolls around (though we sure are committed to these countertops). I could see us doing something about that linoleum floor eventually, fixing that cabinet above the fridge or painting our oak cabinets one day (especially if there’s original hardwood under that linoleum).
In the meantime, I’m most looking forward to serving up football season chilis (favourite chili recipe links welcome below) and nacho plates on our beautiful new countertops and bathing baby girl in our new sink (you better believe I’ve already checked the fit of our infant Puj tub).