Every project has a beginning and in my mind the beginning always starts with an idea or as I prefer Inspiration. Inspiration is always followed by planning. However, in the case of my kitchen, my temporary dream kitchen started with desperation rather than inspiration. But with some help from my favorite design show, I stepped up to the bar and said to myself, “I will not let this kitchen beat me.”
So here is what I was facing…the first picture is what the kitchen looked like at the time of our inspection. The clutter hid a lot. You can see that almost every inch of space was cover. It hid grease and dirt as well as damage to the counter, windows and cabinets.
The next set of photos is what the kitchen looked like after my mother and I spent days, yes days, scrubbing to get it clean which only partially worked. A lesson in cleaning your cabinets regularly…we were able to get most of the counter clean with the exception of some deep stains and cracked tile, and this included the grout. But no matter how much cleaning we did, even when we used a steam cleaner and bleach, the cabinets had such a thick layer of grease built on them that we could not get through with cleaning alone. The stove top was an even worse situation and we found out it was not installed properly (it actually leaned at a rather sharp angle that you could only really see once the lid was lifted) and had a major gas leak. This would be when desperation set in…I couldn’t live with knowing they were still covered in grease. The track lighting above the stove and the ceiling fan were so caked in grease that it was a unanimous decision to trash it. Our yellow dish gloves turned black on the palms and fingers by the end. What’s more I hated, not just disliked, but hated the yellowy, orangey, country reading cabinets. Combined with its white mottled tile and Coke wallpaper border, I felt like I was stuck in a bad sitcom kitchen from the 80s…perhaps the Bundies from Married with Children???
Thanks to a rerun of my favorite kitchen episode of Sarah’s House, I had inspiration. I loved this kitchen design and loved the transitional style with its moody grays, sleek masculine counter tops, traditional cabinets with modern bling hardware and feminine accents. Why not try to evoke the same feel on a tiny budget? So with any design project…and yes I have done many including three major bathroom renovations…I start with the design. I sketch it out, draw floor plans using scaled down representations, and I take pictures or clip pictures of what I ideally want in my space. I even do color boards to make sure I like everything together. In this case I also had to consider the impact it would have on our attached family room. The two rooms needed to read as separate spaces but one design. I think my design inspirations shown in the pictures from Sarah’s House were definitely a jumping off point!
So after I dreamed, I developed a plan. Here was my list of wants/things to accomplish:
- Remove the Coke wallpaper boarder
- Refinish the cabinets by painting them in one tone of gray on the top and another on the bottom – in the process the sanding and sealing with paint would solve my dirt, grime and yuck problem.
- Hardware Upgrade – I was thinking refinishing but was happy to replace
- Tackle Lighting – Deal with Florescent Area, change ceiling fan, get rid of track lighting
- Clean floor grout or remove and replace grout – Ultimately the colored worked out so in this area, I did not have to remove grout and re-grout the kitchen. The laundry and garage entry would be another time consuming project for another post.
- Tackle the Stove – Replace or professional cleaning
- Eating Area – refinish my husband’s old table and chair set
- Decorate – Use existing appliances from wedding gifts and supplement with new window coverings and existing decorations
- Tackle Countertop
- Replace broken windows
- Find an affordable fridge…must be black per husband’s request
The next step I take in my process is to decide what I personally am willing to take on and is it worth the time it will cost me or would it be simpler to hire someone. Having lived through one kitchen remodel before, they are lengthy. So I decided if I’m going to have no kitchen for a while, might as well save some money in the process.
Then we budget…and in design I follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple Sweetie). I take each project and one by one make a list of ALL the supplies I am going to need. Then I head down to my favorite stores, which include big box stores, little treasure stores and rehab stores, and always the internet sources. I price everything and I do mean everything, from the cost of a bucket of paint, to the paint tray liners, to nails for hanging pictures…if it has to be bought, then it goes on the budget. I add everything up and to get my true potential costs, I add 10% for contingencies. Contingencies are important to account for on any project because you never know what you have forgotten, didn’t know about, or hadn’t considered. If your pricing comes in within your allotted funds for the remodel, then great! Get started but if you are like me, even the temporary dream kitchen was going to cost more than the funds we had allotted. Truthfully, the biggest to swallow was the windows.
So then comes decisions. I have three guidelines that are all kind of similar that govern the decisions I make when things have to get cut or altered in my budget.
- What can I live with as is versus those that I can’t? – In the case of my kitchen, it was the grout in my tile floor and the tile countertop. I would never have selected either. The tile on the floor was not my favorite but the grout was such a huge dark contrast to the almost white floor tile. Against the yellow cabinets, the lines stood out like a bad psychedelic trip but I thought with the change in the cabinet color, it was something I could live with. I really can’t stand tile countertops. I just feel like they never get clean. Dirt and debris gets stuck in the grout and stains it. And did I mention I have a teenage boy and a man child living with me that somehow almost always forget to wipe the counter? Despite that, replacing them with a solid surface was not in the budget and spray texture coating didn’t seem the most aesthetically pleasing so I decided I can live with them until we do our major kitchen remodel. Not having a refrigerator was something we could not live without.
- What are the immediately tackle projects versus the ones that can wait for a little bit? – My husband and I have different philosophies here. I have always taken the approach, I’d rather save my money and get what I really want versus what I consider throwing good money after bad by getting something I don’t really want just because I can have it now and it cost less now. My husband takes the opposite approach. If it means he can have it now and save money, he will settle for something he really doesn’t want. Since our major kitchen overhaul is several years away, some projects to have a temporary dream kitchen make sense to do, while others, like replacing tile counters with a granite top only to have to try to salvage it when we gut the kitchen seem like a bad idea. That said, we have a sliding glass door that needs replacing and the frame itself is warped, the screen is missing in action, the one panel went from a two pane to a single and its neighbor is depressed and after its moisture adventures is all fogged up. Its friend the garden window is in a similar state. Our windows are something that need replacing, not just repairing. So it made more sense to wait, take that project out of this budget and save to get the replacements needed. The same can be said for our sink that needs resurfacing. We have several counters and sinks that need resurfacing. So since the sink is usable, despite the repair needed, we are waiting till the funds are there to do all of them.
- Be flexible when hunting for bargains – When I am on a budget with a design or project, I always have to remember that I need to be flexible in the design. A 36” black French door fridge might not be what I ideally wanted as a fan of stainless steel, but when the fridge is only $600 and meets your needs while still looking stylish, then you need to be flexible in the design.
Once you have found your inspiration, allowed yourself to dreamed, priced the reality and made sure you are within budget, then the only thing left to do is get to work. I still have a few projects yet but for the most part, it’s done; my temporary dream kitchen. And while not my dream kitchen, it does meet my needs, I feel comfortable in it and it will work for the next 5 to 10 years until I get my dream kitchen. I’ll show more angles of the kitchen throughout the series but what do you think? Not bad huh? Kind of feels like the inspiration kitchen in my mind.