Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Blood, Sweat and Tears: Our Attempt at a Low-Budget Kitchen Redo

Nate and I LOVE our new house, but we knew when we bought it that it would need a bit of fixing up. The layout is fabulous (big, open ranch with a family room addition), the structure was great (new roof, heater, AC), but cosmetically....well, I know you've heard me mention wallpaper, valances....

The kitchen was something we knew we would want to do some work on. We didn't like the colors (peachy beige, iridescent fruit wallpaper), and there was a display cupboard with frosted glass doors that completely closed the kitchen off from the dining room, and made about half the couter space virtually useless.

However, we are attempting to fix things up on a budget, and are hoping to do (almost) everything ourselves. This kitchen redo would not include new cupboards, major construction work, flooring or appliances. This is NOT Extreme Makeover Kitchen Edition.

But, with a scraper, a sledgehammer, paint, primer, screwdrivers, drills and a TON of elbow grease, we're pretty happy with where we've ended up (and I'm pretty proud of my burgeoning handiness).

Here's where we started (that's our Realtor, Brenda, on the day we looked at and bought the house):

Here's a similar shot on the day we moved in. I prefer to list pictures of the house since we've owned it, but included the one above because you can see the interesting display cupboard that I mentioned.

One more to highlight the placement of the evil glass-front cupboard. And yes, that is a pink valance handing over the doorway. I have no idea. (Hi again, Brenda!)

We hadn't lived in the house for more than a few days when I walked into the kitchen and found Nate with a crowbar and hammer, tearing down the cupboard. We had no idea what we were going to do in it's place, but it had to go. We could only stand a few days of being at the cave-like kitchen and not being able to see someone sitting at the table.

It didn't take too long to get the thing down, and we both breathed a huge sigh of relief.

However, we did spend the next three months living with that ripped up section of the wall and ceiling. It had giant nails sticking out of it, and big slivers of wood where Nate had literally ripped pieces off. Classy, huh?

Next came the painting of the kitchen cupboards. I've always been partial to white kitchens, and while these cupboards aren't exactly my dream, they're in good shape, and we can't afford new ones.

I would like to point out at this point that from here on out, I did almost all of the work entirely on my own. With Nate having a crazy busy work schedule, he was nice enough to bust out the drill and take all the doors and hardware off, but after that, I was on my own. Yes, I am a teeny, tiny bit proud of my accomplishments.

If you're ever considering painting your cabinets, it's well worth it, but let me warn you. It is the WORST JOB EVER.

The doors needed three coats of paint on each side to evenly cover, and then the paint had to cure for three days before I could flip them over and do the other sides. We took off all the hardware (I purchased new handles and knobs for everything), and took off the hinges (which I spray painted a brushed nickel to match the new hardware - new hinges cost a fortune, so we revamped the old ones).

Painting the actual cupboard (which I did while the doors were drying) was also tedious, because it's almost entirely all trim work.

Yes, those are fan blades in the top right of the picture. To stay true to our cheapskated-ness, I painted the blades and got new globes for the ugly old fan. Semi-new looking fan. Total cost: $15.

Since it took the better part of a week to paint the doors (which I actually did in two shifts, so it took TWO weeks), we lived with this crazy mess for far too long. There is a VERY valid reason why cupboards have doors. And yes, my cupboards are usually this messy.

The doors were finished quite awhile ago, but we still had the lovely mess where the cupboard had been, and no idea what to do with it. We finally broke down and hired a contractor to come out and deal with that space. We knew the ceiling would need some type of drywall work, and that is beyond our expertise at this point. We decided to leave the soffit (that way we wouldn't have to redo the entire ceiling), and had an electrician come and put some lights in as this part of the kitchen was abnormally dark (I had placed a lamp on the counter, but it was always in the way).

My friend Ashley had the genius idea of building a small shelf on the wall to cover up the damage, which turned out to be perfect. We didn't have to do any wall repair, the contractor just cut a piece of wood to cover the damage, and put a coordinating piece of trim on the edge of the cabinet, where the wood had been damaged when we ripped the two cupboards apart (next time we'll plan ahead a little better before we jump into demolition).

So, here's the kitchen again on the day we saw the house:

And (drumroll), here it is today!!!!!!

It's hard to do it justice with my photography skills, but the difference is remarkable. It's bright and airy and open (there are actually no windows, so we wanted to brighten it up), and the cupboards actually almost look new.

Here's the cupboard tear-out during the process:

And here it is after:

We also did some work to the dining room, scraping wallpaper, painting trim, texturing walls (which are actually primed wood paneling, but now can pass fairly well for drywall).

The part I hate about any kind of project around the house? Things always have to get worse before they get better. It's so discouraging when you put in hours of back-breaking work, and take a break and your house looks like this:

One of the things we did decided to save up and spend a little $$ on was a new dining room table. We got a little dinette set from K-Mart as a wedding gift, and while the chairs bit the dust a few years ago, we were still using the little 4 person table (which is now a game table in our family room).

Before we moved, I found this beautiful table at Homemakers in DM. We had to wait a few months for it to be delivered (they don't make frequent trips to our corner of the state), but it's finally here, and we love it!!

It has two leaves, and can seat up to twelve people, so feel free to drop by for dinner any time!

Here's another view of the dining room on the day we moved in:

And here it is after the redo, with the new table:

Our kitchen has a great little corner with a desk, and a bunch of storage, which is great. Our computer is here, and it's nice to have it right in the middle of the house (it's where I'm sitting right now). This corner got a little makeover as well.

I toyed with the idea of painting the couters in the kitchen, but was warned that it wasn't a very good long-term solution (thanks Nealy!). However, the desk had a different formica than the kitchen (a dark, ugly faux-wood grain), so I decided to give the paint a try on the desk.

I love how it looks, and while I agree it probably wouldn't be great for a kitchen space that takes a lot of abuse, it worked great for this little spot.

The very last thing we did was update the back entry a bit. The door got a coat of chalkboard paint (I love that stuff!) and is where I keep our dinner menu for the week. We have a big pantry in the kitchen, which had sliding double doors. They were big and heavy and it bugged me that you couldn't open it up all the way, so we finally just took them off and decided to leave it that way. Now I just have to make sure I always keep the pantry organized!

So that's pretty much it! While it won't win any design awards, we love what you can do with a little bit of paint and a whole lot of patience. We're working our way through the house room by room (the living room is almost done, too!), and are loving the house more and more as it slowly starts to feel like "us."

There are a few more changes I'd love to make in the kitchen...the off-white fridge is out of place with the white cupboards (anyone have any opinions about appliance paint?), and the floors are kind of grungy (you can paint tile floors, too!), but for now, I think this is good enough :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Everything's Coming Up Roses

When we first looked at our house, it was mid-December. It was February when we moved in. Since we live in the NW corner of the state, that means the whole world is pretty much blanketed under three feet of snow from November to March.

Needless to say, we had no idea what the yard looked like. We were hoping there was more than a scraggly patch of dirt under all that snow.

We were in luck, because once the snow melted, we discovered that the previous owners had done an amazing job of landscaping. And we are greatly enjoying the fruits of their labors!

I am now that crazy lady in the neighborhood who is out wandering around the yard, peering closely at plants on a regular basis (sometimes with my camera in hand). Every time people come over, I point out some new, beautiful plant, and ask them if they know what it is.

So far, we've discovered lilacs, lilies, hostas, hydrangeas, hibiscus, and about ten or fifteen other beautiful flowering plants and bushes that I cannot name.

And this week? Roses. Unbelievable hot pink roses.

Coupled with the raised garden bed full of veggies that we built and planted, you'd think I have a green thumb! In the past, that hasn't been the case, but I'm hoping this summer to keep at least a few of these things alive!

Once the garden starts blooming, I'll have pictures of that (and the awesome garden bed my husband built me).

In other house news, we've been doing projects like crazy! The kitchen cabinets are painted, with all new hardware. The kitchen and dining room walls are done (textured and painted). A few light fixtures have been switched out. The wallpaper in the living room is gone. The glue is scraped off the paneling, and new paint colors have been applied! I've even gotten some art work hung, so I'd call that progress!

For some reason, taking pictures and writing posts about that has seemed overwhelming...we're too busy hanging out in the yard! Hopefully soon I'll have something to show for all the work we've been doing.

Until then, happy summer!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Homeschooling 101

Chairs are so confining.

Sometimes, the best thinking is done upside down.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Recipe (Take My Word For It)

Nate came home from work and asked me what was for dinner. I told him, and he looked horrified. "That sounds terrible," he told me.

"Pretend it sounds good, "I said. "I want Macieo to eat it."

One of these days, that man is going to learn to trust me when it comes to food. I have yet to steer him wrong.

Once he was actually sitting down and EATING the dinner he said, and I quote, "This is amazing! This is seriously so good, I can't believe it!"

Obviously :)

But in reality, this recipe was great. Even Macieo loved it. So that means you should try it for dinner tonight. Or tomorrow. Or whenever. Just try it!

Grilled Goat Cheese and Strawberry Sandwiches

  • 8 strips of bacon, cooked

  • 2 oz. goat cheese

  • 8 slices whole grain bread

  • fresh spinach

  • jalapeno jelly

  • butter

  • strawberries, sliced

Butter one side of each piece of bread.

On the other side, on 4 of the pieces of bread, spread a layer of goat cheese (I bought goat cheese crumbles at Trader Joes, warmed them for 15 seconds in the microwave, and it was very spreadable).

On the other 4 pieces of bread, spread a layer of jalapeno jelly.

Arrange bread in a frying pan, butter side down, over medium heat (you may have to do this in shifts, depending on the size of your pan). Cook until bread is golden brown (pretend you're making a grilled cheese!)

Take one slice of bread with goat cheese, and one with jalapeno jelly. Arrange 2 pieces of bacon, some spinach leaves and some strawberries, and assemble sandwiches.


How Does Your Garden Grow (Day 1)

Here's hoping we get a few edible things out of this mess!

Friday, April 1, 2011

For Now

I'm still thinking that I'll leave the fireplace "au natural" (for now), but did think there were a few things I could do to give it a little update. The outdated gold-ish metal on the grate was really not my style, so I decided to give it a little facelift. I bought a can of spray paint, and some frog tape (which is SO worth the extra money), and went to town. BEFORE: DURING: AND AFTER: Before: After:

I think it gives it a much more updated look, which is great! And the whole project only cost about $15, so you can't beat that.

I'm learning you can do some pretty amazing things with a little paint. A friend of mine recently painted her tile floors, and they looked amazing. I didn't even know you could do that, but now I'm seriously considering it!

I did decide AGAINST painting the kitchen counters. From what I heard, they don't hold up that well, so I guess I'll learn to live with blue.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dining Room (Progress)

Goodbye flowered wallpaper! Goodbye painted brown trim (is it just me, or does that color look EXACTLY like band-aids?)!! We tackled another big project in the house this weekend! Actually, my mom came up a few weeks ago, and we started tearing off the wallpaper. Unfortunately, in the process, we discovered that the walls weren't actually made of drywall. It took us a while to figure it out, but we've decided that they're actually some type of flat paneling. They were covered with a wallpaper primer, but in one spot, the white primer had worn away, and you could see the lovely wood grain of the paneling. No project is ever simple :) We realized we'd have to patch, spackle, and sand almost the entire surface of the wall (it wasn't in the greatest of shape), and then texture it. We debated about hiring the texture work done, but we did that in the family room, and it cost a bundle. We decided the tackle this project ourselves, and we're so glad we did! We used this product (which you can buy at any hardware store), and it worked like a charm. It was a little on the messy side, but well worth it, considering the money we saved! And then the truly difficult part...choosing a wall color! The dining room is open to the kitchen, which has blue counters, so I wanted to make sure I chose something that worked with the blue. In the end, I decided neutral was the way to go, and ended up choosing the one on the left (Valspar: Urban Sunrise). I had painted the trim earlier in the week (Sherwin Williams: Dover). So after eight hours of taping, texturing, spraying and painting, I've got beautiful dining room walls. And crown molding!! With the molding painted "bandaid," I didn't even think about the fact that the room had crown molding...I just thought it was ugly. But now, I love it! The best part it, you'd never know the walls weren't made of drywall. They look great! Next up...painting the kitchen cupboards (they're currently the same "band-aid" color as the trim). Not sure when I'll get that done, but I'll be sure to share pictures when I do!

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