Thursday, July 16th

Kitchen Renovation: Lightening and Brightening

When we bought our house a few months ago, there were a few cosmetic changes we knew we’d be making right away. Painting and replacing the floors were the first order of business so that we could move in, and then all other upgrades would happen while we unpacked and settled.

The heart of any home is the kitchen and just because our kitchen is small, it pulses with love nonetheless. After living with an apartment galley kitchen for years, it’s not like we’re used to something huge. In fact, with a pantry that holds a ton of food and a few extra cabinets and drawers than we had before, this small kitchen is ever-so-slightly more spacious.

Before pictures of a kitchen home renovation

The cabinets—while nothing special—were in pretty good shape. We didn’t have room in the budget to replace them anyway, but we wanted to freshen them up and refinish them in white. Now, just slapping some paint on cabinets can ruin them, so this was a risky undertaking. But I found a good YouTube tutorial and we followed it to the letter, save painting the insides. We also chose to prime the cabinets before painting. The quality of the paint is non-negotiable as is the time spent sanding and prepping. I think we spent about $100-$150 for paint, good rollers and brushes, a small electric sander, etc. It took a few weeks to do it in stages, but we’re happy with the result.

We also wanted to get rid of the ugly countertops, cheap sink, and rickety fixtures. Originally we thought we’d get granite tops, but ultimately decided that the cost wasn’t justified as it would eat up too much of our budget. We found one of two people in the Austin area that install laminate and perused his hundreds of samples, knowing that we wanted something black. A swirl of holographic ocean colors makes the dark counter pop and we like that we don’t have to treat the counter with kid gloves. We widened the area on the upper ledge so I could showcase my gorgeous, but not-used-too-often KitchenAid mixer and other space-hogging items.

Brown laminate countertop

Installing laminate countertop with Austin Laminate Countertops

We spent about $1,000 on the counters and installation, which included putting in our new sink and faucet. I made sure to order those in advance and had them ready on the big day. We wanted an industrial style chrome faucet and chose a Ruvati for their good reputation and moderate pricing. Industrial spray faucets can range from crazy expensive to dirt cheap. We landed somewhere in the middle with one normally priced at $280 and found it on Amazon for $175. Score! Kevin completed the job in one day and was simply fantastic.

Ruvati Commercial Style Pullout Spray, Polished Chrome

The sink was a topic of discussion for awhile, as we went back and forth debating between stainless steel or something else. I spent hours and hours pouring over sinks online. I was hoping to get:

– Something with one hole so we didn’t have to deal with plugs

– A standard size sink that looks enormous and deep

– A single (rather than a split) basin that wasn’t likely to scratch, stain, burn, or crack.

In the end we went with white composite for its durability, affordability, and modern look. I cannot tell you how many people have complimented this sink that we bought for $203.

Swanstone Dual Mount One-hole Composite Sink

One of the areas we were most eager to see improved was the cheap laminate floor which was destroyed with concrete stain from our earlier construction. We opted for a light gray tile. In hindsight, we probably picked something too inexpensive (something like .49 a piece) so we’ll see how it holds up. So far we know that it gets dirty pretty easily but also mops up easily. The mounting labor costs as well as the grout and mortar were why we skimped in this area. Also, I should mention that hiring someone who worked “cheap” was fraught with timing issues, unprofessionalism, and frankly, just not worth it. So lesson learned there. But this person (who I won’t name) also installed tile in our bathrooms, as well as new toilets, and baseboards in the entire house. So indeed, it was cheap. The tile came from Floor & Decor. I did not find their selection to be anything special.

Laminate floor before, Tile floor after

We saved the walls for last. We painted over the existing beige with a neutral gray and took our time choosing a backsplash. It was hard not to pick something flashy, but ultimately decided on bright white subway tile for a few reasons:

1. It’s a classic that never goes out of style.

2. Going neutral is best for resale value.

3. With no kitchen window, brighter is better.

4. It was inexpensive, costing less than $90 for all the tile.

Bright white subway tile

The Tile Guy came highly recommended and it was the staff there that recommended Derek Knowles (512.669.1510) as an installer. Can’t say enough good about these vendors and I’d use both again in a heartbeat! Derek gave us a fair price and repaired the wall where the builder had incorrectly mounted electrical outlets. The whole backsplash was done in a weekend.

What else did we do? Mr. Betty replaced the flourescent lighting with an Ikea ceiling track that cost about $100, including the lightbulbs. I placed chevron Contact paper in the cabinets and drawers to complete the modern feel and to help protect it from wear and tear. I also made a little family command center on the outer kitchen wall so we have a place to store mail, leave notes and lists, hang photos, etc. It keeps things tidy and looks cute, too.

Chevron contact paper in cabinets

Family Command Center with corkboard, magnetic chalkboard and file organizer

Corkboard and Magnetic Chalkboard

Now that we’re finished we’re enjoying our bright, modern kitchen and I look forward to cooking lots of meals here. We felt that we used our limited budget wisely and stretched it quite far. Our one regret, a luxury I was excited about, was hiring a cleaning company to give the place a top-to-bottom cleaning before we moved in. More than $200 got us two young girls who did a sloppy, rushed job, skipping big areas like the fridge, oven, showers and tubs, windows, air vents, and more. Because we were renovating they didn’t have to do the floors, so there was very little actual cleaning done, despite the place being filled with dust, debris, and all kinds of dirt.

It was disappointing enough that we emailed the company feedback and photos in the hopes to get a refund. They offered to send another crew out to do the job correctly, which we were happy to accept. Unfortunately, they sent the same two girls, who this time were angry and instead of setting to work wanted me to walk around and dictate what needed to be done. It was unpleasant to say the least, and they stayed all of fifteen minutes on this return visit. So Boardwalk Cleaning tops my list of businesses that I’ll never patronize again. Sad trombone.

Kitchen after renovations

Anyway, how do you like our bright little kitchen?

Check out how we renovated our small closet here

3 Responses

  1. […] Austin’s got a lot of experts. I mentioned in a previous post that we’d hired help with our renovations and got a mixed bag. Some of the people were great, […]

  2. Lee says:

    it looks fantastic!!!!

  3. Amy Drohen says:

    Your kitchen remodel looks amazing! I have similar cabinets and would love to paint them white. Thank for the tips.

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