We've been quiet here on Vanderhouse.com but in real life, we've been hard at work on our long awaited kitchen renovation!
When we first moved into the Vanderhouse in October of 2013, we knew that the "kitchen" needed a lot of work. I say "kitchen" since technically, we had half a kitchen with one side being devoid of cabinets or work surface and containing a freestanding stove and refrigerator.
In fact, the house didn't even come with a refrigerator! Being low on funds at the time (you know, due to the whole wedding and buying a house business) we were thrilled to find our big white monster at a used appliance store just a block down the street. It was cold, it was cheap, and it served us well for more than a year. Not to mention it matched our "charming" old stove that came with the house.
Fast forward a year later and we were more than ready to take this kitchen to the next level. We began planning the scope of the project but immediately hit road block after road block, mainly to do with price and that mythical balance of investing enough to make a really functional kitchen for us, but not so much that we were left in debt or renovated beyond the value of the house. It was a surprisingly frustrating challenge. We interviewed contractors and talked with mortgage lenders about refinancing. All of which seemed to lead to dead ends and more frustration. Any time we tried to scale back the project, it would quickly spiral back up to into the unaffordable stratosphere. What if we didn't redo the countertops? Then how would we install the dishwasher? What if we did it without the dishwasher? What's the point of renovating with no dishwasher? And round and round we went. Every aspect of the project relied on another aspect and all of it somehow needed to be done on a very tight budget.
After that frustrating experience, we decided to let the whole idea rest and move on. It was very difficult to do this after spending countless hours on the Ikea kitchen planner and looking at a million before and after projects online. It all seemed like a waste.
In the meantime, we did upgrade our fridge with an amazing mark down find from Lowe's. Every time we're at Lowe's we go to check out the discount appliances. This is a great tip for any of you out there looking for brand new appliances at a discount. Usually, there is nothing wrong with them. They have either been floor models or are open box for one reason or another. And they are covered by the same warranties and return periods as brand new appliances plus Lowe's will deliver them for free. Sold! We installed our french door beauty and had at least one piece of the kitchen puzzle completed at last.
But the renovation itch never goes away. Finally, in August of this year, we looked at everything again and made a plan. We knew we wanted to buy the majority of our kitchen from Ikea which is a 3 hour one-way drive from here to Dallas. This complicates matters because if we forget a part or bring home something that is broken, it's tough luck until we can either order a replacement or get back down there in person, a trip we make maybe twice a year. So it was a risk, and a shopping trip that needed a lot of planning beforehand.
I used the Ikea kitchen app to visualize what we would need. The app is super glitchy and frustrating to work with, but I honestly would not have been able to plan this any other way. It helps you to make sure you get every little stick of wood and every hinge which is essential because Ikea is a DIY place and you are responsible for making sure you're buying what you need.
We decided on an extremely pared down version of our original plan that didn't include any extra counter space but did add plenty more storage in the form of a new pantry and upper cabinets above the stove and fridge. The upper cabinets would allow for a wall mounted microwave which would free up the space for the pantry. There are several other Ikea items in our renovation that I'll talk about in future posts. Those include a new sink, new countertops, and a new pantry.
Off to Ikea!
Here is the south side, pre-renovation.
Boring step #1 was to prepare the walls to be painted. We've learned a lot by doing these projects over the years and one of the things I still struggle with is doing projects in the right order. I mean, who doesn't want to jump ahead and just got on to the fun parts? I don't care about sanding or painting or moving electrical boxes. But unfortunately, to do it right, all of that has to be done before the fun stuff.
We did have one major score with the electric. Disclaimer: we are not licensed electricians. All that we know we have learned through trial and error and YouTube videos. We definitely hire out certain electrical projects but for this part of the kitchen, we felt capable of doing what we did and it all turned out okay in the end. Just know where to turn off your breakers, kids!
The major score was that we needed to move the existing electrical box up by more than a foot so that it would sit inside of the microwave cabinet instead of right behind the microwave. Denny measured and cut the new hole in the wall only to find a second, miraculous electric box already in place exactly where he had cut out the hole! What a lucky find! The box had two capped wires, just waiting to be put to use again. Gotta love old houses, you never know what you might find hiding in the walls. So we installed the new plug and sealed up the old rather than removing it. Who knows, maybe someone down the line someday will need an electric box exactly where that one is placed.
Now we could paint at last! The entire south side had to be painted because we were going to install the cabinets and didn't want to paint around them at a future date. We chose a subtle blue/green for the color. This was a last minute decision because we hadn't given any thought to the color yet and we needed to get going on the install. So we made one trip to Lowe's where we grabbed every blue and green paint sample available and then hurried back to make the choice. Luckily, it turned out great and adds the perfect level of sophistication to the kitchen.
Finally, the moment we've all been waiting for: installing the cabinets. Ikea includes an easy to use rail system to hang the cabinets. But when your house is 90 years old, problems inevitably complicate things. We spent a lot of the day trying to do math, scratching our heads, sticking our tongues out in concentration, and finally making a good-enough call as to where to place the rail so that the cabinets were at the right height and were level.
Ikea includes filler pieces to make sure everything looks uniform and custom. We used two filler pieces, one against the wall on the right side and one between the cabinets so that we could have the proper spacing for the appliances. We definitely felt justified for spending so much time in the planning phase because everything came together perfectly.
The finished product:
Our new microwave and stove both also came from Lowe's. The microwave was open box and cost significantly less than even a countertop model would. Previously, our microwave was from a thrift store, the only button that did anything on it was "popcorn", and the whole thing had to be controlled with a surge protector or else it would randomly start up in the night. So to say that this microwave is an upgrade for us is a huge understatement!
The stove we bought during the Labor Day sale so we got a good deal on it too. Again, nothing fancy, but a huge upgrade from what we had previously. We were also able to sell our old stove on Craigslist and make a bit of money to put toward the new stove. We also did this for the refrigerator. We are huge Craigslist fans! Even if someone simply takes your item for free, at least they haul it away and you don't have to deal with it anymore. Best case scenario, you get free haul away and a little money in your pocket as we did here.
There is so much more I want to show and tell about the kitchen, but as I said, it's a project that requires patience and that extends even to writing about it. This is only the first in a series of several posts that will follow our kitchen project. We have a deadline of Thanksgiving to finish all of this up because we are hosting this year! So a fully functioning kitchen is a must.