the little reveal

Just about 2 years ago this month we started our biggest house project yet: a kitchen remodel. It’s pretty much done!  After reading many kitchen design books and websites, I can tell you that an incremental DIY project like this will never really have a “BIG REVEAL” stage, but in the balance, we got to celebrate a lot more mini and major revelations and celebrations along the way. The other side benefit of the long-term remodel is that we spread out the cost over a long period.  We had a few months with big outlays, but for the most part absorbed the entire project into our regular monthly budget. But yes, you have to be able to live with some chaos for an extended time frame: it's definitely a trade-off.
Before, a functional but well-worn and dated space.
Despite the long time-frame, the kitchen was mostly functional almost the entire time. This is mostly due to the flexibility of the DIY, the fact that my spouse is awesome (he temporarily installed the sink about four times), and because we had two kitchen carts that acted as work spaces and could be rolled out of the room for the day and pushed back after the cleanup was done.  Our old lower cabinets were re-purposed for storage and rearranged along the way. We did have dishes/gear spread around the house over the course of several months, but by I think January we had almost everything back in the correct room.
August: Second round of dry-walling
The biggest cooking gap we had was when the entire space was (mostly) gutted and we were installing the floors, but to be honest those work days were so intensive cooking was the last thing on our mind—we were too tired to even eat out at the end of the day.  We had a second gap when the new sink and cabinet went in (and the insulation and drywall behind it): I think we had four or five days of washing dishes in the basement.
May: Reclaimed floor going in
The two hardest parts of the project, probably the two we could have saved the most time on, were the things we wanted to do the most, so there we were.  First the floor.  We had a laminate floor floating on top of two layers of vinyl/tile and an underlayment.   We went back and forth on options but we both really wanted hardwood and for the floors to be on one level.  This meant pulling everything out and going down to the sub-flooring.  We also opted for reclaimed flooring from our local Habitat for Humanity Restore. We loved this option as it matched our vintage oak in the rest of the house, and hit all the buttons of saving money, recycling, etc.  BUT, it also meant removing hundreds (thousands?) of nails, and scraping the joints to remove any tar paper/finish etc. 
November: Last upper cabinet on this side going in.
The second time-consumer was that D wanted to build the cabinets himself. In some ways this made the project really flexible, as he could build one at a time and customize each one to the space.  But it also took time, and made us dependent on warmer weather as his shop is mostly in the (unheated) garage.

Layout-wise, our our biggest change was to remove the cabinets from the back wall and add a window that looks out into the back yard and garden. (D's idea, and a brilliant one.) To compensate for the lost storage, we added extra cabinets to another wall, and a long counter with drawers replaced one of our rolling carts.  Originally an L-shaped eat-in kitchen, now it's more of a wide galley. We also widened the doorway to the living room.   

So here we are today.  There’s still a bookshelf to add, and some trim-work in a couple of spots.  The flooring has its original finish so eventually we will sand it down and re-varnish. Most mornings we are still amazed by the transformation when we walk in to make coffee.  There are certainly flaws—any DIYer (and heck, probably most folks who have contracted jobs) can point you at mistakes or compromises we made along the way.  But I like that our kitchen is handmade, that it doesn’t look that it came from a store, and that we can use it every day knowing we did every damn thing with our own effort.  (Special thanks to two siblings with renovation skills that came up and helped for a weekend each, and also provided consultation and trouble-shooting along the way.I will add, while we had tackled most of the elements of this job before (windows, drywall, tile) having so many factors in ONE room made me very glad we waited until we had built up our skill-set before taking this on. It was daunting, but really rewarding.

A few details (based on things I was looking for when researching this project): 
Sink: IKEA farmhouse sink, by way of Craigslist
Faucet: a ubiquitous Kohler from Home Depot 
Dishwasher: 18 inch Frigidaire (Energy Star rated and perfect for a 2-person household) 
Range Hood:  Kobe (purchased sight-unseen online but well-built and works great so far) 
Stove: BlueStar RCS (my splurge/reward for all that we saved on's somewhat quirky but I love it.)
Cabinet color: Persian Blue milk paint from General Finishes
Counters: Maple butcher block from Forever Joint Tops, a wonderful Wisconsin family business.
If I've forgotten something, leave a comment or send me an email.
We love the curved counter cut to our specs. There's space on the end for dog dishes and/or a stool. Eventually a bookshelf will go where the framed photos are. We kept our old fridge for the time being, it's relatively new.

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