Before and After: A DIY Kitchen Remodel

I love designing kitchens. This is no secret. I think it's because I love to cook (and eat... obviously), and so the kitchen is where I spend a lot of my time when I'm actually home. I also know that a good chunk of my social media followers stick around and check my posts for design inspiration, either for future design/remodeling ideas for their own home, or if they want to get into flipping themselves - but then aren't really sure if they're ready to tackle a remodel for whatever reason. So I wanted to show off a kitchen that has been remodeled that I love, that's made a huge transformation, and show you that completely transforming your kitchen doesn't have to be ridiculously expensive or involve moving plumbing, walls etc. This is also a kitchen that I DIDN'T do!

Yep, this kitchen is not one of my flips or a design client's. This kitchen belongs to my BFF and her hubby Chris, who live 6 hours away from me - and they did ALL of the work on it themselves, except for the granite countertops. Truth be told, I didn't help with the design of this at all, except for one FaceTime session where I explained to her (and walked her through examples in my house) the different ways she could finish off the edge of the tile backsplash. Did I mention they did all the work themselves? Since they did such an awesome job, I asked if I write about it here to show you all what's possible as a DIY - and they said yes! Thanks guys!

First things first: the after photo!


Gorgeous, right? Let's see where they started:


These are the listing photos from when they bought the house. Not bad by any means, and everything was in good condition and (most importantly) functional. But, it definitely lacked personality - something that can easily be fixed! Almost immediately after moving in, they painted the whole first floor to make a quick and easy difference, until they decided what they wanted to do with the kitchen - and honestly, had the time - they were both starting new positions at work so were working crazy hours. An outdoor paver patio came first, and then they were ready for the kitchen! Here's how they did it.

The Plan:

The layout of this kitchen was pretty good to start with. It's open to their living room, the sink is under a window which looks out into the backyard, and just outside of the kitchen space is a sliding glass door that goes out to their deck.

There were a couple things that they wanted to address: The glass window that was above the range looks into their laundry room, which was a bit weird and unnecessary. There was an open space in between the kitchen and living room that was meant for an eating area, but they didn't use that space, so it was just kind of empty space with no purpose (there's a separate dining room). And, the island was tiny.

When they were ready to take a few weekends to tackle this project, they knew the overall goal was to update the aesthetics without changing the floor plan. In order to address the (minor) issues, they decided to close off the window looking into the laundry room, and extend the island to allow for more counter space and also seating.

Even better (for when you're doing a renovation on a house you live in): They completed this in chunks. This allowed them to never be without a functional kitchen, and gradually make a difference over time without working around-the-clock for a week straight and then being completely useless at work for the next three days while you try to recover. Remember that they both work full-time jobs (and Chris has a long commute) and they still did this around their work schedules.

Phase I:

First, all of the hardware was selected and installed, so they didn't have to worry about drilling through freshly painted cabinets - and I think this already makes a difference. I will never understand why tract home builders don't put hardware on cabinets. After paint colors were chosen, the cabinets got emptied, all of the cabinet doors came off and hardware removed, and everything got taped and sanded. All of the perimeter cabinet boxes and doors were painted an off-white (Benjamin Moore White Dove), doors put back on, and hardware re-installed. Phase I complete!


(sorry there's not more pictures of this phase - picture a bunch of cabinet doors laid on plastic in their garage)

Phase II:

Next up: extending the island. Chris started by drawing out the plans to extend the island:


And set to work building the T-wall off the back of the existing island, which would support the extended countertop to allow seating. He built the frame first, then applied rough plywood to box it in. The metal brackets are to support the weight of the granite countertop without needing posts underneath it, so they don't get in the way of chairs/your legs (which is the setup I always recommend to design clients). Then he applied tongue-in-groove beadboard on top of the plywood for aesthetics, and carried it around the sides of the original island for consistency, and applied trim around the edges. For paint, they picked a grayish marine blue for the island color to add some contrast and color. Phase II complete!


Phase III

Next: granite countertops! This was the only piece of the remodel that they contracted out.


There was a few months' break between countertops and backsplash, since they both are managers in retail and it was time for fourth quarter, AKA retail hell (I can say this because I used to work retail). During this time, Chris removed the window above the range and patched it with drywall on both sides.


Phase IV

Backsplash time! They went with a smoky gray glass subway tile, which funny story, is the exact same one I have in my kitchen, and wasn't picked that way on purpose. This is why we're BFFs.


But, they chose a fun patterned tile as an accent above the range, and used black pencil strips to divide it from the gray glass subway, and also finish off the edge above the cabinets. LOVE this idea and I think the patterned tile brought just the right amount of funky to this space. This works especially well here because they had the vertical space to show it off - their ceilings are 9' and they chose a minimal-design range hood. I wouldn't recommend a pattern this large for a setup that has an over-the-range microwave instead as there's just not enough space to show off a large pattern like this.


The secrets to making a tile installation look professional instead of DIY is to 1) Use a level to draw your starting horizontal line, 2) USE SPACERS - trust me, you need them; and 3) Center the pattern on the space that you're tiling, rather than just starting at one edge and working your way over. This does mean more measuring, more cuts and more time - but I promise, it's worth it. Do what Chris did here - he (and his brother who helped) NAILED it!

If you're a bit uncertain about tiling - Home Depot and Lowe's offer FREE backsplash tiling classes! Check your local store's schedule, they have some sort of how-to class every Saturday, and tiling is a regular in their rotations.

And, since no post about "here's the difference a DIY project can make" is complete without costs, here are ballpark costs that they spent to complete this project:

  • Cabinet paint: $200
  • Cabinet hardware: $150
  • Island materials (framing, support brackets, beadboard): $750
  • Backsplash tile (both subway and printed): $1500, from The Tile Shop
  • Granite countertops, including new granite composite sink and installation: $4600
  • Kitchen faucet: $200
  • Optional tools to make the job faster: sander (for kitchen cabinets), finish nail gun and compressor, and paint sprayer - can all be rented at Lowe's or Home Depot if you don't own them or can't borrow them

They also replaced the kitchen appliances, which was also done in phases. The fridge happened first over a year ago, so they could get the bottom-freezer setup. Next, the dishwasher went out, so they replaced that. Both the fridge and dishwasher were replaced as needed before they started updating the kitchen. Only the range and hood were replaced during the remodel. They went with the new Samsung Black Stainless Steel appliances, which I think is a great alternative to stainless, and also complement the off-white cabinets and the black and gray accents in the granite they chose.

I'd like to point out that neither of my friends have a background in design or construction - they both work retail and have since college or earlier. Chris is a pretty handy guy (obviously) and my BFF picked out all of the materials and colors on her own (I like to think she learned something from my flips over the years, ha!). They also completed this around some pretty demanding work schedules. What I'm trying to say is that DIY doesn't have to be intimidating and that you can do it too!

Altogether, the cost of this project was around $7500, excluding appliances. Which, let's be honest, is still a good chunk of change. BUT - if they had hired this out, it would have cost them probably $12-15k, at least. They're estimating it raised the value of their house about $20k - so, while it's gotten them a great return on the investment they put into it, it's also made their space much more functional. They sit at the new and improved island every day - for meals and whenever they need to get some work done, so the extended island has definitely done its job and made the space way more liveable for them. Plus, it's WAY prettier to look at - both of which make the money worth it!

Here's some more photos of the finished product:


Didn't they do an awesome job?! Proof that you can get a gorgeous finished product for way less $$ than hiring it out, and that you don't have to have a contractor in the family that you can bribe to do it! Great job guys!

Perimeter cabinets paint color: White Dove by Benjamin Moore

Want to tackle your own kitchen (or bath, or basement, or wherever) remodel and aren't really sure where to start or how to get what you want? I can help! Design consulting services available. Click here to learn more, or email me to get started!