Kitchen Renovation: Before and After

When we started this kitchen renovation (back in August – EYEROLL) I told everyone I was going to take a before picture of the kitchen and have it framed to hang outside the new kitchen so that I could remember how far it has come. I fully intend on doing that – just as soon as we pay off the $38,000 dollars we spent on the kitchen so that I can afford a frame.

In the meantime, I’ll share it here. Along with some thoughts on what we did right, what I would do differently, and where we got all the stuff.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post we decided to renovate the kitchen after refinancing our house last spring in order to fix the siding. The siding on the house is still totally busted in case you’re wondering what ever happened with that.

We did add some solar panels back in August so at least we were able to take the direct sunlight that was ruining our siding and turn it into enough electricity to power the whole house. It was a kind of a spur of the moment decision but totally gratifying project. I had always assumed solar panels would be too expensive but it turns out with all the federal tax credits and incentives they actually pay for themselves right off the bat (we just replaced our electric bill with a low-interest loan payment through GreenSky that we used to pay for the panels and install). I have lots of info on this and happy to share all the numbers so definitely shoot me an email if you have questions because this is a totally do-able project for anyone with a house that is well-positioned for solar. It’s free to get an on-site consult from Revision Energy, which is who we used and would definitely recommend.

Once we decided to renovate the kitchen instead of dealing with the siding the first step was to meet with a kitchen designer. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Since our old kitchen was incredibly inefficient and awkwardly designed with a huge double chimney right through the middle, I knew we needed an expert to help us make the most of the space. I assumed we would have to pay someone but it turns out you can work with a kitchen designer for free at most home improvement stores or lumber yards.

Thing to Know: This process takes many hours. I would say at least 6-8 hours all in. Expect at least a couple two-hour visits with the kitchen designer to get a complete design put together. Also expect to need marriage counseling afterwards. When the design is mostly finished, the kitchen designer will actually come to your house to take final measurements and go over everything with you in the space.

Working with a kitchen designer has SO MANY benefits (especially since it’s free). They help with getting accurate measurements so you don’t have to “cut twice” if you know what I mean, they help you design a kitchen that is functional and fully maximizes the space, they make sure you don’t make rookie mistakes like putting the dishwasher next to a drawer that then can’t pull out all the way when the dishwasher is open, and they connect you with all the other vendors you need like countertop people, etc.

Final Kitchen Floor Plan

Kitchen Designers can also help with details like paint colors and cabinet hardware if interior design isn’t your cup of tea. I love interior design and have a really specific style so I handled this part myself – but if you hate looking at paint chips for 400 hours and deciding between 46 styles of tile that according to Dan “are all exactly the fucking same” then you can totally let the KD do that part for you πŸ™‚

My final kitchen design board

The less fun part of this initial process is the budget. But….you have to do it. At least if you don’t have infinite cash flow. We had $30,000 dollars that we were able to cash out during our refinance, so that was our hard and fast budget (hahahahahaha). I made a spreadsheet with every expense I could think of relating to the renovation – from labor to lighting to paint cans and dump fees. Then we started reaching out to contractors to get actual estimates. We met with 3 different contractors. Two actually showed up, and only one actually called us back. So, thanks Steve. After a little gentle prodding, Steve provided us with an itemized estimate for the labor and basic materials, which I cross checked with my spreadsheet and, then added $1,000 for contingency (FYI this was WAY TOO LOW and in the future I would allocate at least 25% of the overall budget to contingency) – and then we signed on the dotted line.

I know 30,000 dollars seems like a huge budget. I thought so too. I quickly learned that it is not.

Apparently a complete kitchen renovation typically costs like $50,000 or more, soooooooo, there’s something to know. That said you CAN do it for less. It’s just not as fun because you have to compromise on everything you want and do some stuff yourself. Or maybe that’s just me with my champagne taste on a “you should really stay sober” budget.

Anyway here’s how we broke out our initial budget (we had already replaced all the appliances in the kitchen by the time we got around to renovating it so if you need new appliances, I would set aside at LEAST 5,000 for that but you could spend WAAAAAAAY more if you want to get fancy).

Cabinets – 8,000
Quartz Countertops – 3,500
Drywall (including ceiling) – 2000
Hardwood flooring (oak) -3500
Interior door – 500
Exterior door – 1000
New window – 500
Poplar Trim – 1000
Cabinet install – 1500
Electrical (including recessed lighting) – 2500
Plumbing – 1500
Backsplash tile (including install) – 800
Paint – 400
Faucet and Cabinet Hardware – 500
Sink – 500
Lighting – 500
Vent hood – 500
Reclaimed wood shelving – 200
Dump – 100
Contingency – 1000

We stuck to this budget for the most part (give or take a few hundred dollars in various places) – except the contingency area where things went a little haywire thanks to asbestos flooring and previous renovations that had no regard for the structural integrity of the home or not burning it down. Also in the cabinet area we decided that if we were spending SO much money on a new kitchen we should make it a kitchen that will last for a long time and splurged on higher end cabinets (which are really middle end cabinets but feel high end to us).

We found some savings by doing the demo and painting ourselves (DO NOT RECOMMEND. I mean, it’s totally doable but it sucks. If you want to read more about the demo process and how much of a nightmare it was – check out my progress post here or you can watch my Kitchen Reno story in highlights on Instagram) and I took on some freelance work to help cover the cost of the asbestos flooring nightmare. My parents came through with a short term loan to help us cover the rest of the budget discrepancy. THANKS MOM AND DAD!

Once we were ready to roll I made sure to order everything we needed in advance – things like the sink, lighting, hardware, etc. It is super duper helpful to have all this stuff on site when construction starts so that there are no delays waiting for things to arrive. Construction scheduling is like a game of Tetris and if the plumber can’t install the sink because it’s backordered, the countertops get delayed and that pushes the tile work, etc. etc. One day waiting for a sink turns into two weeks of waiting for everybody else.

Just have everything ordered in advance. Trust me.

In total, but not including the planning phase, the demo and construction took 9 weeks. We lived in the house the whole time (except the week the floors were finished) but it 100% totally sucked and if we had had the budget to move out I definitely would have. We survived on crockpot meals and microwave mac and cheese and topped everything with an (un)healthy dose of construction dust. I complained every single day of the process.

But in the end. THIS.

And it was totally worth it.

Here’s a few more before and afters, a 360 video and some info and links on our design choices.


We took down the wall dividing the kitchen and dining room (there was a pony wall there before) and it opened up the space SO MUCH – it also allowed the morning and afternoon light to flow between the two rooms which has been incredible.


We also moved the refrigerator from standing randomly against a wall to built-in next to a full size pantry (hallelujah!) and added a breakfast bar with counter seating for the kids.


We have been SO happy with it so far, even though we still have a bunch of painting to do. The original plan was to paint the trim but now we’re thinking we might want to stain it? Except then it won’t match the rest of the house so…..what do you guys think?

Like what you see? Here’s where we found everything:

Cabinets: We went through Hancock Lumber and they originally quoted us the Kabinart line which is very cheap (7,500) but has very so-so reviews online. I did a LOT of research on cabinets since there seems to be a LOT of variation in quality – even from the same manufacturers depending on who they are manufacturing for. I evaluated brands from Hammond, Home Depot, Lowes, and Cliq Studios (online) and eventually landed on the Medallion silver line from Hancock Lumber which is semi-custom. We went with a basic shaker style door (Lancaster, painted in White Icing) but upgraded to full plywood construction and soft close hinges. It was definitely a splurge based on our budget but since cabinets are the most permanent part of a kitchen we decided to go for higher quality. If you’re flipping a house or doing a pre-move reno you probably don’t need to upgrade but we are never moving again ever so….total cost was right around $10,500.

Thing To Know: The Medallion gold line comes with full plywood construction and soft close hinges BUT it’s cheaper to go with the silver line and upgrade those features than choose the more expensive “gold line.” Apparently the only benefit of going gold or platinum (vs. just upgrading features) is additional door styles but half of those styles are the same as the cheaper styles with fancier sounding names (Lancaster vs. Potters Mill) so…don’t fall for that shit.

Countertops: I knew I wanted a solid surface countertop because an undermount sink was basically number one on my must have list (after years of scarping mold out of the sink perimeter I was OVER IT). I immediately ruled out marble because it stains and my kids stain EVERYTHING. It came down to quartz or granite and in the end we chose quartz (even though it’s slightly more expensive) because of its durability and the fact that it’s maintenance-free. I wanted a white marble-looking quartz but Dan said I couldn’t do white cabinets AND white countertops so we compromised on gray quartz with white flecks. Its called Uptown Gray (glossy) from HanStone Quartz (installed by Surface Creations) and is part of their “classic” line (aka the cheapest line). We had about 40 square feet of countertop and it cost $3,500 installed.

Cabinet Hardware: I have always loved gold – yellow gold to be specific. My wedding rings (and 90% of my jewelry) are yellow gold and I knew I wanted gold hardware for the kitchen, too. Dan was worried that it wouldn’t look good with the stainless steel appliances but apparently mixed metals are in so, it works! These are the bar pulls I chose for all the cabinets (in golden champagne). I did everything the same size (5″) except for the pantry (10″) and the small cabinet above the fridge (3″). I’ve read in a few places that bar pulls are “out” but I think they’re classic and I love them and they’re pretty easy to change if I ever decide otherwise.

Sink: Our old sink was one of those split “one and a half” sinks that are basically useless. You couldn’t even fit a typical saucepan in either side of it. I may have overcompensated a bit with the 32″ single basin stainless steel sink that I bought but I LOVE IT. I ordered it on sale through for around $300.

Faucet: I knew I wanted gold hardware for the kitchen so a gold faucet was also on my wishlist. I like a pretty sleek, modern feel so I went with the Delta Trinsic Pull Down Kitchen Faucet in Champagne Bronze. Dan and I debated the upgraded model that had one touch on/off but it was $300 more and we decided it wasn’t a must have.

Thing To Know: The cabinet hardware I ordered was called “golden champagne” which looked like the same color online but is actually more gold and less bronze than the faucet. It doesn’t really bother me but if you are the type of person that needs everything to match perfectly, “golden champagne” and “champagne bronze” are different colors.

Range: As I mentioned before we had already replaced all of our appliances before starting the kitchen renovation but we spent a LOT of time researching ranges when we got this KitchenAid one. Dan does all the cooking so he picked it out – it’s dual fuel so it has an electric convection oven and gas range. When we replaced the dishwasher and refrigerator we just chose the matching models.

Refrigerator: We went with this standard depth model for more space (vs. counter-depth) and did a custom built in around it. We just got it earlier this year, but so far so good.

Dishwasher: When our dishwasher finally quit a couple years ago we got this one to match our stove. It’s super quiet and pretty easy to use – long cycle time, though.

Range Hood: I did quite a bit of research on range hoods because nothing makes me crazier than stove fumes in the kitchen (our old house had one of those recirculating microwave vents that didn’t work AT ALL) so I went a little overboard and selected a 36″ Zline hood with 760 CFM. Our range has pretty high BTUs and the more BTUs you have the more CFMs you need so this model met all our requirements and Zline comes with a 3-year warranty which is pretty good compared to other brands. We spent about $350 on this one which I would say is middle of the road, price wise. 

Backsplash: Dan initially wanted something a little more bold for the backsplash but I really wanted to keep the primary features in the kitchen neutral so that we could change the paint and decor as needed over time. I like the look of subway tile (we did it in our last house) but wanted something with a little bit more of a unique and high end look so we chose this textured glazed porcelain tile in cloud white, glossy. We spent about $250 on tile and $450 on the install but it was so worth it. Tile really changes the look of the space and taking it all the way up to the ceiling is such a nice feature. I think backsplash is one of the cheapest ways to make a kitchen feel expensive so I’m glad we decided not to hold back here. 

Paint: Since paint is the easiest thing to change, and the rest of the kitchen is very neutral I knew I wanted to go bold with at least one accent wall. A few years back an interior designer that I follow on Instagram had painted a door this color (Benjamin Moore Blue Note). I fell in love and have been waiting for the right time to use it ever since. It goes on pretty dark but brightens up in the light and I absolutely love it. The rest of the walls are Benjamin Moore White Dove which is what I painted the rest of our downstairs a few years ago. Benjamin Moore paint is definitely on the pricey side ($50 a gallon) but it goes on so much smoother and with way better coverage than big box store brands.

Reclaimed Wood Shelves: Since we couldn’t move the chimney in the middle of the kitchen (unless we wanted to spend like $100,000 dollars) I decided to use it as a feature wall. We originally considered putting a cabinet on this wall but it made the rest of the kitchen feel too closed in so we opted for open shelving instead. I got these reclaimed wood floating shelves at West Elm on sale for 30% off (about $100 each), and picked them up in store to save on the (incredibly expensive) shipping. At first I wasn’t sure what to put on them but instead of going out and buying more stuff I’m going to let it evolve over time. So far just the essentials – ha!

Dog Bowl Stand: It seems super silly but Harley’s food bowls did not match the new kitchen and were driving me nuts so for $25 at Target we gave Harley a little kitchen makeover as well πŸ™‚

Lighting: Dan and I got in a, ugh, little tiff over the lighting situation. Dan felt we could re-use some of our old lighting and I felt we absolutely could not. The solution was to sell the old lighting and get super thrifty with the new stuff. I bought both the pendant lights over the island (gold ombre) and the chandelier over the dining table (blush) from West Elm. I waited until they went on sale and then used a 20% off coupon (it doesn’t work online but if you call sometimes they will do it manually for you) and ended up getting all three lights for about $400. I also bought a flush mount Sputnick light for the other side of the dining room on Amazon for $100.

Thing to Know: All of the lights I purchased call for Edison bulbs. I usually hate Edison bulbs because they do a shit job at producing basically any light at all. So I did some research and found out that you can get LED Edison bulbs that are way brighter than the incandescent ones. I was still skeptical so I ordered daylight LED Edison bulbs with the highest number of lumens (brightness) I could find. We put them in and it was like trying to look at the sun. You literally needed sunglasses to walk through our house. So I had to return those and replaced them with these soft white LED Edison bulbs from Amazon. They are dimmable which is great and SO MUCH CHEAPER than the ridiculously expensive ones from West Elm.

And that’s all she wrote. We’re still in the market for some new counter stools, ideally something comfy with a full back, and also an accent cabinet to store all our crap like flashlights and bandaids and approximately 4000 pens. But even though I want to run out and buy something RIGHT NOW so the kitchen can be finished – I think I’m going to wait until I find something I love, and my bank account doesn’t hate me.

In the mean time I’ll just be standing in the middle of my kitchen smiling, and picking out a frame for my before picture in case I ever forget how far we’ve come.















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