I’m sure you’ve all seen those contests advertised, where homeowners submit photos of their kitchen and whichever is deemed the ugliest wins a complete kitchen makeover! I never submitted an entry, but I would bet money if we did, ours would have won, hands down! Yes, it was functional. It had running water and semi-working appliances. And that’s about all it had going for it.
We had a very open floorplan, but with only 8’ ceilings in the kitchen, the two large soffits made things even more claustrophobic. The white laminate countertops had begun to peel apart. The plastic-y coating on the cheap white cabinet doors had begun to separate. Some cabinets were literally falling apart. There were white floor tiles and white knobs. I love a white kitchen but this was ridiculous!!! But for the pop of color, we had….get ready for it…..colorful fruit wallpaper border!!
On move in day, we found that our refrigerator would not fit in the designated space, so my husband had to remove the upper cabinets. There were even some upper cabinets that had had the doors removed previously (can’t imagine that it was an intentional design choice!) as this only exposed even more of the shotty craftsmanship and low quality materials. Our kitchen was so ugly, it became the brunt of many an insult! One time when I was discussing ideas for the new kitchen with my mom, I unintentionally referred to that area of the kitchen as “where the “open shelving” is”! Well, of course open shelving is a kitchen design trend now, but ours was purely by accident, and not a very good example at that! We laughed so hard until we cried!
The island had 2 tiers with “wings”. This builder shortcut reduced the amount of counter space trifold! What a misuse of space! It was so non-functional!! The 12” white floor tiles were one of the first things I decided to demo once we moved in. Huge mistake!!! I am embarrassed to say that we went on to live with those awful, dirty, cracked concrete floors for five long years before we were able to redo the floors throughout the house and put in a new kitchen. But now that it all is just a distant memory, I can honestly say it was so worth it! Read about our floors here.
Of course there are always electrical and plumbing expenses that drive up the cost of a kitchen reno. Ours was no exception!! We had to relocate a 220 due to the location change of the oven. We replaced the fluorescent lights with recessed lighting and installed under cabinet lighting. And of course we removed the soffit over the island and put in new pendant lighting. All of this of course meant new drywall everywhere.
Because we had five (long) years to think about our kitchen redo, we had already decided on a lot of our design choices and finishes. But, boy I had no idea how many more decisions would have to be made. I think for me, that was the most stressful thing about the whole renovation (and of course living in the house while all this was going on was a biggie too)!
Flexibility is definitely key. When the electrician or plumber or cabinetmaker said we were unable to do whatever it was we wanted done, we had to be prepared to talk things through and brainstorm together with our contractors to come up with a solution that would work for all of us. But whatever you do, don’t let them make the decisions for you. Insist that you are to be consulted before any changes are made, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem. It is your money and your house. I found that the majority of contractors we interviewed were accustomed to doing the same boring thing, over and over and over in every house they worked in. Who said you have to be dealing with a million dollar house before you could personalize it and give it some character for heaven’s sake?? Just because that particular contractor has not done a specific thing does not mean that it can’t be done. It does mean that you may have to find another contractor to do the job! We had a pretty unpleasant experience with our cabinet maker. I would never, ever refer him to anyone. And there were times that I knew it would be easier to just let things go so I could be done with him, but don’t let anyone lead you into that trap!!!
The standard advice given by real estate professionals was totally lost on me. Never once, even for a minute, did we think about resale or potential buyers when planning our renovation. We were doing this for our family to enjoy! We didn’t have a kitchen designer or contractor. We just flew by the seat of our pants! Probably took longer, but I’m not even sure about that. It was very stressful, but in the end it saved us thousands!
We knew we would only be doing this once, so we did spend a little more for finishes than were absolutely necessary. But being the bargain shopper that I am, I feel good about our choices and believe we got the most bang for our frugal buck!
Can’t wait to share with you more details of our kitchen redo!