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Small Kitchen Remodel Before and After on a Budget

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This post has been updated as of 1/21/2024.

The kitchen. It’s where we spend most of our waking hours–cooking, feeding, preparing, learning. Prior to the kitchen remodel, I lived with this kitchen for 8 years. I always disliked it. Not because of its size, although it is small. I disliked it because of its lack of function, bad DIY projects (from previous owners), and closed floorplan. It’s a not a tiny house by any means (around 2,200 square feet or 204 meters). But I ain’t gonna lie–the rooms are dark, closed in, and small! I’ve since moved but I loved this house. We lived here for over a decade.

Floorplan/smore plan–what’s an open floorplan?

Ask Yourself Why You Want to Remodel?

Our house was built in the 1970s so the people who designed homes back then valued different things. In the early 70s, they liked intimate rooms with doors EVERYWHERE. They didn’t seem to care much about closets, bathrooms, laundry rooms, or kitchens surprisingly. Those were spaces you entered and immediately exited upon doing your business.

 

From a 1970s standpoint, my house was quite large. The average home in 1970 was 1,500 square feet (139 meters). We have two young kids, so we had the perfect excuse to upsize. Ultimately, we decided against it. A smaller home lowers our carbon footprint. Smaller homes require less energy consumption for heating and cooling. The average American home is now 2,500 square feet (232 meters) and climbing, with many American homes coming in at a whopping 3,500 square feet (325 meters).

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There is nothing wrong with having a large home that suits your needs. What I’m referring to is the constant desire for MORE. It’s something I battle daily. One of the most important things I’ve learned as a minimalist and an environmentalist is to be content with what I have. So my tiny bathrooms suit me just fine. But the kitchen! The kitchen design was a hodgepodge of DIY gone wrong.

Did I mention the previous owners were bad at DIY?

Instead of moving, my husband and I decided to open the floorplan up…just a small kitchen remodel. I don’t regret remodeling the kitchen, but when we wanted to remodel another room I decided to move to a different house that better suited our needs. I do not recommend remodeling a kitchen if you have to live in the house WHILE YOU’RE DOING IT. It was an absolute miserable experience that I don’t want to go through ever again. 

Things I Wish I Knew Before Remodeling

In this house, we left the remaining floor plan intact. We also had some major repairs to tackle, like a new roof, new ductwork, and soffits. We are not DIYers, nor could we attempt to remove a load-bearing wall (which required licensure and a structural engineer). But we did not want to spend a lot of money, so we acted as our own general contractors (with regard to coordination). We hired contractors individually to keep costs down. This required a lot of phone calls, meetings, difficult conversations, paperwork, bank visits, and never ending internet searchers.

We took out a home equity line of credit and the fun began! Oh if I knew then what I know now!

  • If a contractor wants to start in December, he/she means Christmas! I assume that’s their slow part of the year. It was absolutely miserable.
  • Any remodel will cost more than you think it will.
  • Contractors will not show up when they’re supposed to.
  • Contractors will ask to get paid before they complete the work (But don’t pay them in full until it’s done).
  • The inspections process will find something that needs to be fixed.
  • It will take longer than you think.

Small Kitchen Remodel

Before

Here’s a picture before the kitchen remodel began. Unfortunately, the kitchen cabinets could not be saved. They were a hodgepodge of various cabinetry from different eras. Nothing matched. The previous homeowners tried to paint the old kitchen cabinets but used new kitchen cabinet doors (which didn’t match). The kitchen cabinet above the refrigerator had a big gaping hole. They removed that part of the kitchen cabinet and never repaired it. These folks were major DIYers who made a TON of mistakes. The mistakes they made in their cosmetic kitchen remodel was the tip of the iceberg.

kitchen renovation before and after 1

We removed the load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room. This one change made a huge difference and opened up the floorplan. We also removed the kitchen peninsula and the soffit directly above it. This opened up the kitchen but decreased our storage space significantly. To save money I did all my own measuring for the kitchen cabinets. I measured the kitchen cabinets and countertops at least three times to make sure I had it right.

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The second major mistake we caught during the kitchen remodel was the use of different types of wood in different rooms. The kitchen floors were red oak with Gunstock stain, the dining room floors were white oak with Butterscotch stain. You only notice the difference when you start knocking down walls.

Note to all DIYers, when installing hardwood please use the SAME type of hardwood.

After

kitchen renovation before after 5

There was also the matter of where to put the refrigerator in the new floorplan? I was stumped. So I hired a kitchen planner for an hour-long consultation for $100. She suggested putting the refrigerator in the former pantry, which meant I had to get a new refrigerator. The new refrigerator had to be under 32″ wide, which was not easy to find. The loss of a pantry HURT. Not only did we lose kitchen cabinet space, but we lost an entire pantry.

When we removed the kitchen cabinets, we discovered that the previous homeowners installed a dummy exhaust fan over the microwave. The fan was never connected. I don’t know how this passed inspection. Also, whoever ran the wiring through the kitchen cut through structural joists (big NO NO according to inspector). So the joists needed to be reinforced.

When you start opening up walls you quickly discover your house wasn’t as safe as you thought it was.

kitchen renovation before and after

Another benefit of the kitchen remodel was the decluttering process. I soon realized this kitchen remodel would not accommodate all the “stuff” we accumulated in our old floorplan. Thus began the purge. The good kind of purge! Here’s a sample of the before. The after took 7 months to fully complete. The first phase of construction didn’t take long, but it was the little things that seemed to take forever. When we removed the kitchen peninsula and the walls, the floors needed to be repaired, sanded, and restained.

kitchen before and after 7

Kitchen Design

At first, I didn’t realize I had a particular kitchen style, but upon seeing the final product I realize I’m a Scandinavian farmhouse girl (also known as minimalist farmhouse). I enjoy light airy colors, stainless steel, subtle pops of color and lots of wood finishes. The backsplash is a mixture of dark and light greys. I lost quite a bit of countertop space, so I could afford a really nice countertop. We decided on Calcutta quartz for the countertops with hints of greys and browns.

RELATED CONTENT: Declutter Your Junk Room When You’re Super Busy.

 

The paint color we used was Plantation Moss, a pale greyish green. The great thing about this color is that it’s not just “grey” and it goes with anything. We liked the color so much, we decided to paint the whole interior the same color.

kitchen after with accents 2

kitchen finishes collage shop

Kitchen Finishes

Kitchen Cabinets

The original kitchen cabinets were the color we wanted (white), but the kitchen cabinets were original to the house (over 40 years old). The previous owners replaced the kitchen cabinet doors but did not replace the actual kitchen cabinets. The kitchen cabinet themselves were falling apart. The only thing we reused were the kitchen cabinet drawer pulls and knobs, which were stainless steel or satin nickel and in good condition.

The new kitchen cabinets are Arcadia Shaker White from Lowes. A note to the wise–it’s important to examine your kitchen cabinets upon delivery. There is inevitably a broken or a wrong sized kitchen cabinet in the delivery. It took about two months to get the order correct.

Floors

We already had wood floors, but they were in bad condition after the removal of the wall (and years of wear and tear). As I noted above, the previous owners installed two different types of wood (red oak and white oak) and used two different types of stain for each room (Gunstock and Butterscotch), which made refinishing the floors especially difficult. Thankfully we had an old-world craftsman who knew exactly what to do. We went with the Gunstock color.

 

Kitchen Furniture

We lost a pantry and a kitchen peninsula, which dramatically reduced our kitchen cabinet space. We needed more storage and prep space. So we purchased three free-standing kitchen cabinets from Overstock to replace the missing pantry storage. Admittedly we lost our minds a little while putting together the cabinets. One of the kitchen cabinets was particularly difficult to put together. It was Ikea-level difficult.

The finishing touch was a Craigslist find. I found a VERY solid rubberwood counter height island with chairs for $300. The kitchen island had to serve a dual purpose for both dining and prep space.

kitchen pantry after

kitchen furniture collage shop

kitchen island

Kitchen Appliances

Sink

I originally wanted a farm sink, but it was too heavy for the kitchen cabinets. The kitchen cabinets would have to be reinforced. After multiple hiccups in the construction process, the sink was just one more thing I didn’t want to deal with. Thankfully it was an easy fix. Instead of hiring a carpenter to reinforce the sink I purchased a 32″ 50/50 under-mount stainless steel sink. It looks great and I don’t miss the idea of a farm sink at all. It was also several hundred dollars $$ cheaper. So that is a plus!

Refrigerator

I was content with my Kenmore double-sided white refrigerator. It was in good shape and did not need to be replaced. Unfortunately, the refrigerator did not fit into the old pantry opening. The mammoth refrigerator would have gone in the former breakfast nook, which would have defeated the purpose of opening up the space. So I purchased a 30″ wide Whirlpool refrigerator, which was easier said than done. Going from a 36″ refrigerator to a 30″ refrigerator meant we lost a lot of refrigerated space.

kitchen appliances collage shop

dining room before after

Kitchen Accents

Lastly, we slowly purchased some muted accents with materials like bamboo, ceramic, and rattan. I prefer natural materials with as little plastic as possible. I added some greenery with succulents and spider plants. I like plants that are easy to take care of.

kitchen accents collage shop


So that’s the gist of our kitchen remodel. It was a struggle to say the least! I’m so glad it’s over. I will never embark on a major remodel project like this again. Small changes, yes. Big changes? I’m just going to move and I eventually did! I hope you found my journey helpful! If you have any ideas or suggestions, please share with me in the comments or on Instagram.

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