Our Big Kitchen Makeover: The Reveal

Ok, we’re calling it. The kitchen is officially done! Of course that’s a lie and we still have a bunch of little things to complete, like:

  • adding decorative molding to the back of the peninsula
  • adding a message center/chalk board to the side of the pantry
  • adding the last of the transitions/reducers to finish the floors (and that rectangle of fireplace tile)
  • replacing the broken light in the fireplace area – most likely with a spotlight that washes down the fireplace wall
  • adding some sort of window treatment (colorful roman shade?) over the sink

And of course we dream of refinishing the surrounding oak floors to match the dark mocha cork in the kitchen so our whole house is more seamless (more on that here) but that’s a down-the-line thing. Thankfully all of the big stuff and most of the small stuff in the kitchen is checked off the list and we’re so excited to see how this room has transformed in the last five months. Can you believe we’ve been slowly chipping away at this renovation since October?! Things have definitely come a long way…

Just to save you from scrolling back, here’s the before again for comparison’s sake.

It really doesn’t even feel like the same room anymore. We can hardly remember the dark paneled kitchen that we lived with for almost a year while we planned our remodel and saved our pennies.

Here’s the makeover from the other side of the room:

And here’s a before and after shot from a similar angle where we opened up the wall to create a nice big doorway between the kitchen and the dining room:

Oh and here’s another fun before and after comparison (from the doorway of the office that leads into the kitchen):

Here are a few more POVs of the room as it looks now:

Lots of things are still in flux (items on the counters and shelves will definitely rotate in and out, which is fun for a kook like me). And these two 4 x 6′ rugs from our first house’s kitchen and third bedroom aren’t permanent…

… we just tossed them down for a few shots, but we envision getting something new to help define those areas (they’re old and stained and not as soft underfoot as a few other options, so we’ll keep you posted).

Oh and when it comes to the bar stools that we debated spray painting anything from a bright color to oil-rubbed bronze, now that the floor is so dark the silver color ties into the stainless appliances and looks nice and balanced in person. So we might live with them a while before we decide to defile them with spray paint or anything. Of course we’ll keep you posted.

And we actually have one more tweak that we’re seriously thinking about ever since a reader sent us a photoshopped picture of our hood with the top as wide as the bottom part (thanks Brooke!). She actually sent the pic on the 15th of February, but we decided to wait to finish up the kitchen (add the flooring, etc) before making any rash decisions…

The good news is that we’re still smitten with the idea, so all signs point to beefing up the neck of the range hood someday! Of course we’ll keep you posted on that too.

But back to the overview of our big kitchen makeover. We definitely got really hands-on with this transformation (especially when compared to our first kitchen reno, which we managed but mostly outsourced, my how things change). It just goes to show you that over time you can learn as you go and five years later you might be way more comfortable doing a lot more than you did the first time around. Here are some of the things we did in our current kitchen to save money:

And here’s an actual budget breakdown:

  • New cork floor + underlayment from Lumber Liquidators (including the cork in the laundry room too): $848
  • All new stainless appliances (originally priced at $3,776): $2,129 (we originally spent $2,384, but later switched the microwave)
  • Opening the doorway into the dining room, which was done by a local contractor and then finished by us: $790 (which includes $90 of materials that we bought to drywall and trim it out)
  • Additional base cabinets from the Habitat For Humanity ReStore to create peninsula: $88 (they would have been $500+ new)
  • New pendants over island and sink: $149 ($60 for each globe pendant and $29 for the one over the sink)
  • The cabinet we built around the fridge so it looks built-in: $90
  • All electrical work (done by local pros over three visits): $711
  • Wood filler, primer, and paint for refinishing the cabinets: $69
  • JennAir range hood scored on craigslist (worth $350): $60
  • Wood and brackets to hang/frame out hood: $115
  • Wood & brackets & all hanging materials to make shelves: $141
  • Corian counters in Glacier White from Home Depot ($33 a square foot): $1,700
  • All new cabinet hardware and hinges: $173
  • Backsplash (penny tile from The Tile Shop): $280
  • Four industrial lab stools (from a school supply store): $168 (they were just $33 each plus shipping)
  • Miscellaneous (screws, nails, glue, little cords/connectors for appliances, flooring & tiling supplies like grout and sealer, shoe molding, etc):  $194
  • Items we sold on craigslist to get money back to put into our reno: old black microwave: +$90, old fireplace insert: +$60, old dining table and chairs: +$120, old bisque dishwasher: +$90, old granite: +$350, old bisque wall oven: +$40 (total back: +$750)
  • TOTAL SPENT: $6,955

Not bad since a large kitchen renovation of this scale (our room is 24′ x 12′), if outsourced would probably be around 30K (for a giant new doorway that leads to the dining room, an accent wall of penny tile to the ceiling, all new cork floors, all new appliances, refacing oak cabinets and adding a peninsula to match the original cabinets, all new Corian counters including a giant 3 x 5′ slab for the peninsula, an entirely new lighting plan, a built-in hood with custom built shelves, a relocated pantry, stove, and built-in fridge, etc). We originally budgeted 10K for the job, so we’re really happy to come in under!

By contrast, our first kitchen renovation (from back when we both made bank working in advertising, haha) involved pricey granite, a lot more professional help, and all new cabinets.

It actually came to $20,500 (including the purchase of a fridge and stove that weren’t included in this breakdown since we bought them a year prior). And that room was only 13′ x 10′!

So although this second kitchen reno took us tons of time (we started this project back in October, and have probably put 5-10 hours a week into it since then – for a total of around 155 hours) it was definitely something that we loved doing – mostly on nights and during weekend Clara-naps. We almost never worked on it during the day on weekdays (when the blog is active and the bean’s awake one of us is a stay at home parent and one of us is on blog duty) so that might help those of you with a day job who wonder if you can pull off a major kitchen remodel like this on nights and weekends.

You can! It might just span across five months or so, but as long as you take things one small project at a time (it’s waaaay less intimidating than thinking of it as one big project when you break things down into bite-sized chunks) you’ll most likely live to tell the tale. And all the love and sweat that you put into your “new” kitchen will be totally worth it in the end.

Who’s excited to call this turkey done? Is anyone else out there about to start a big kitchen reno? What have you guys done when it comes to being hands on and saving some money by doing things yourself? We’d love for everyone to share tips about how they renovated their kitchen on a budget so this post can become an awesome resource for anyone out there who is thinking about getting started and would love to peruse a bunch of what-worked-for-me tips! And now we just owe Clara and Burger a big thank you: for sleeping through all the hammering and drilling and just generally being such great little DIY enthusiasts (Clara still loves to measure the cabinets with her tape measure since she remembers us doing it months ago).

A five month long kitchen reno can definitely “interrupt” daily life, but our little ones are such troopers, so we’re sending them both a big virtual kiss for their patience and excitement throughout the loooong and not-always-easy process! Our tip is to try to maintain as many working appliances as possible (which is easier when you’re working with your existing cabinets, but nearly impossible when it’s a full gut job). We only had a few days without most of them, if that, which was no sweat! In fact it totally paled in comparison to the 113 days that we were without our first house’s kitchen during that reno. Thank goodness for extension cords to keep the fridge running and the fact that moving our stove across the room didn’t mean losing the function of it!

Psst- To check out virtually every post about our kitchen renovation, click here, here, here, here, and here (hooray for monthly breakdown posts that have 20+ links in one place!).


  1. Dave says

    You should just screw down some cement board in front of the firplace and lay some new tile infront of the fireplace flush with the cork floor. The tile i would go into the tile store and they will give you several pieces as samples for free which might be enough to do the front of the fireplace.

    • says

      Such a great idea! We have eventually wanted to replace that tile anyway (and tile over it to raise it up to floor level) so whenever we get ‘er done we’ll share all the pics!


  2. claudia says

    i’ve been following your blog for a whole and i love it!!
    Let me just say your kitchen is amazing!!!
    I also have the Corian in my kitchen and I love it! Like yours mine is also white and is the easiest to clean (even though is white)!
    love everything!

  3. says

    This is really amazing and completely inspiring! You guys have accomplished so much and for under 7K! I can’t believe it. I’m in awe. You’ve totally inspired me to tackle my own kitchen now, bit by bit, I feel like I can do it!

  4. Evan says

    Favorite thing about the new kitchen: The penny tile backsplash. The color, texture, and luster are beautiful. The scale of the huge, fully tiled wall is also awesome.

    Thing I will miss most about the old kitchen: Strangely enough, the floors. It was around this picture (http://images.younghouselove.com.s3.amazonaws.com/2012/03/book-shoots1.jpg) that I really got sold on the soft contrast of the greige tiles with the bright white counters and cabinets.

  5. says

    Okay, you guys are SO impressive! Making over a giant kitchen for under $7K? You deserve an award. I’m just blown away.

    It was also interesting to see the budget breakdowns between your old kitchen and this one (I somehow never saw it for the first one, even though I’m a longtime reader). It’s amazing how quickly stuff adds up once you start counting professional labor!

    • says

      Isn’t it? It was crazy for us to compare them since this is such a larger room! I think it was the labor and the pricier granite and all new cabinets that made that first kitchen so much more even though it’s so much smaller!


  6. Michelle M. says

    Photos from dining to kitchen to living room and kitchen to dining are stellar! Love seeing the relationships of spaces along with those details!

  7. Christie says

    Congratulations on your beautiful room! The finishes are amazing, but I also think the layout and new wide opening into the living room are just as great!

  8. Erin says

    You guys, that is gorgeous! I’ve loved following your progress. I’ve learned so much! Living overseas for a while and grad school means we’re still a ways off from owning our first house, but my husband and I love doing DIY things together, and your blog just makes us more excited for the day when we can have a house of our own to pour our creativity, love, and hard work into. :)

  9. mariam says

    HI! Just love, love, love, this kitchen. Thanks for all the amazing tips, and the barstools!

    Where did you find the pendant lamps above your island. I am looking for a similar thing and have not been able to find them.

    • says

      Those were from a local lighting outlet called The Decorating Outlet, but we’ve seen them sold at shadesoflight.com if you can’t find them in an outlet!


  10. Erin says

    The transformation is absolutely phenomenal! And I can’t believe how much you did with $7K. That is really, really super work. You guys have such fantastic vision. We’re 2 months deep into our own kitchen remodel (we’re hoping to wrap things up within the next couple of weeks). It has been great inspiration to read everything you have done (and you totally inspired some of our choices, like dark flooring.)

    I thought I would share a few things that worked for us. We actually bought all but one appliance over a year ago, so we could spread out the financial impact. We also found a great deal on closeout flooring, and bought it a while before construction started. We collected gift cards/cash back rewards like crazy – every little bit helps.

    We had space in the budget to hire out for a few things, so we chose the ones we thought would be the toughest for us to DIY (like drywalling a 12×24 ceiling). Also, we’ve focused on logistics. By having our materials in place in advance, we’ve been able to minimize our down time – we didn’t have to wait for flooring/cabinets to show up while the kitchen was already torn out; by doing demolition and site prep ourselves, we could keep the sink and appliances functional right up until the day before the flooring went in. Everyone told us that with a gut remodel we’d be spending 3 months cooking with nothing but a microwave and grill – but we’re at 2.5 weeks now and we’ll be good to go when the new counters are installed next week.

  11. says

    We just remodeled our kitchen last month. The room was completely gutted. The whole thing took about 3 weeks and we were only without appliances/plumbing for about 5 days. We did do easy things ourselves (painting,etc) but the timing turnaround was a major factor in choosing the company we went with. I was very happy we also stayed under 10k.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *