Thursday, July 28, 2011

a labor of love

No, not THAT labor.
Not yet anyway.

Our kitchen.
It was a four month labor of love.

It all started on this day.
After months and months of listening to me talk about how I wanted butcher block counter tops and a farm sink, Christian gave in and took me to IKEA.

That was just the beginning...
This is a long story so I will tell it mostly with pictures, since that is always more interesting.

This is our kitchen before:

 My least favorite part was the way that the oven sat on the end, off center from the cabinets.
I was so tired of looking at the side of the oven and that outdated hood that hung over it.

Now really, it wasn't that bad and we were lucky to have a functioning kitchen at all.
I realize that.
But while I'm at it, I'll point out some other things that bothered me:
-the microwave taking up counter space
-the over-crowded counters in general
-the constant water spots in the sink 
-the outdated cabinet doors and hardware
-the weird piece of white wood that was added on to the right side of the counter, presumably to make room for the dishwasher?

The only thing that we changed right away when we moved in was the refrigerator and that was only because the one that was in there was falling apart.
The kitchen fit the 1950's style of our house because I'm guessing it was mostly original, (except for the appliances), and for the first two years that we lived here, we tried to see it as "charming".

Refinishing the kitchen was just a dream that we would probably never act on.
Until that day that we headed to IKEA...
That was the first day of my spring break.
We had decided to take on the kitchen instead of taking a cruise.
We honestly thought that we would finish the whole project that week.

We didn't.

On day two of my spring break, we jumped right in, removing the counter tops first.

Did you know that something crazy like 40% of landfill waste is due to construction projects?
Did you know that you can donate things like used sinks and counter tops to organizations like Habitat for Humanity?
Just because you no longer want something doesn't mean someone else doesn't need it.

Well, I did.
However, that memo didn't make it out to our garage and Christian chopped that thing up into tiny pieces and threw it in the garbage before I was able to save it.

I cried for over and hour then slept for four more.
(Pregnancy hormones).

It was just a small bump in the road to a happy wife with a new kitchen.
I forgave and we moved on.

Of course, as I talked about here, the project grew.

I decided I wanted a subway tile back splash.
It was very easy, except for the spots around the electrical outlets.
I would draw cut marks on the tile with dry erase marker and Christian borrowed our neighbor's wet saw to make cuts.

While I tiled, Christian got started on another huge project.
We found this microwave on clearance at Lowes.

There was nothing wrong with it.
It just didn't fit in some woman's kitchen and she had already thrown away the box, so they had to mark it way down.
Christian talked them down even more, (of course).
They sold it to us for $100 AFTER taxes, (that was his stipulation).

We were so excited to replace that old hood.
It was also our opportunity to move the oven over and center it under the overhead cabinets that Christian was going to build.

Then came speed bump #2.
We took off the old hood and ripped out the old cabinets.
Then we realized that the new microwave was actually deeper than the cabinets.
This led to many unexpected hours (and trips to Lowes) as Christian had to cut out that old vent pipe and build a microwave sized nook in the wall for it to sit back in.

I love all of Christian's chicken scratch on the walls in these pictures.

He had to cut through the studs, (we did a lot of research to make sure that was safe), and re-wire all of the electric back there.

When it was all said and done, we had a nook.

Then, he spent many more hours building cabinets around it.

We had accomplished a lot that week.
We installed the new counter tops, sink, tile and microwave, moved the oven, and built new cabinets to accommodate all of the changes.

Then, the week was over and we both had to go back to work.
So we lived with our kitchen looking like this for a while:

We didn't have cabinet doors and the new cabinets weren't painted, but it was functional.
We no longer had to eat dinners like this in the living room... it was an improvement.

We thought we would finish the following weekend.
We didn't.

The weather got nicer and the weekends filled up.
I started taking on other house projects, (like the nursery), and Christian started taking on outside projects.
Before we knew it, months had passed with little progress in the kitchen.

Suddenly, it was summer.
My due date was nearing and we were terrified that the baby would come, life would get even busier, and we would spend the rest of our days trapped in a house with a half finished kitchen, so we got back to work.

We wanted to save money by building and painting the cabinet doors ourselves.
Christian taught himself how to build mortise and tendon joints by watching YouTube videos and through LOTS of trial and error.
We researched internal hinges and bought them online for much cheaper than we could find in any store.
We used Benjamin Moore Trim and Cabinet paint with enamel, which I spent hours applying coat upon coat of instead of spending the money to rent a professional grade sprayer.

One man at Home Depot told us that he had been an professional cabinet maker his entire career and that he just didn't believe that there was any way that we could build our own cabinets and install 3/8" overlay hinges without it turning into a total disaster.
He wasn't trying to be mean.
He was genuinely concerned about our plan.
According to him, we simply did not have the tools or expertise necessary to pull off the very difficult project with precision and accuracy.

We tried anyway.



Sweet victory.

Don't get me wrong.
It wasn't easy.
We made mistakes.
The wood warped on a couple of them.
We had to start over more than once.
But we did it.

Before shot of the kitchen again:

And the fabulous after:

No more microwave on the counter.
No more off center, outdated hood.
No more staring at the side of the oven.

No more weird white piece of wood between the counter and the refrigerator.

No more over cluttered counters, thanks to the shelves on our new island and the new spice shelf on the wall.

Oh, and the sink...
I love this sink.
It's HUGE and beautiful.

Early into this project, we asked ourselves this question:
"Why would anyone spend $30,000 or more to have their kitchen professionally refinished when we are doing ours for under $2,000?"

Now we know the answer:
It's really hard and it takes way too long to do it yourself.

Now that we are finished, however, we couldn't be more happy or proud.
All of those hours of hard work definitely paid off and now we get to enjoy this kitchen for many years to come.


  1. Your kitchen is beautiful!! I can tell that you and your husband are really handy. The cabinets look perfect. And I especially love the island, sink, and faucet you chose. Is the faucet also from Ikea or from somewhere else? Thanks!

    1. Thank you! The faucet is from Lowes. It's a Price Pfister. :)

  2. Love your reno! Just wondering what kind of hinges you used?