The Kitchen: Where We Started

Since our kitchen renovation is in full swing and I plan on doing a few posts in the upcoming weeks about that project, I wanted to give you guys the back story on what we’ve done over the last 15 months in the kitchen. It’s definitely come a long way!

15 months of kitchen progress

We always planned on doing the kitchen in “phases” . Imagine giving a kid a pixie stick, then two pixie sticks, then three.

That would be my excitement level with each phase.

My rough mental phase list went like this:

(1) Refinish cabinets; (2) Buy new appliances; (3) Raise cabinets to 21″ off the counter and paint walls; (4) Purchase new counters; (5) Install new flooring throughout kitchen, laundry room and dining room.

John’s mental list went like this:

(1) Get rid of wife; (2) Buy a grill.W

When we purchased  the house the kitchen looked like this:



Blue base cabinets, stripped upper cabinets, retro wallpaper, broken appliances, circle ceiling light fixtures and linoleum counters. The saving grace in this kitchen was that the cabinets were in great condition, solid wood and custom built for this space so we couldn’t justify replacing them with the other necessary updates we wanted to make. Here’s a close up of the cabinets before I refinished them. I can only assume the old owners had started refinishing them and then stopped?

kitchen 3

We started by removing the wallpaper. Which was a super fun project and didn’t want to make me put my head in the toaster oven.

At all.

PicMonkey Collage kitchen

This wallpaper was so old that it came down with hot water and vinegar in less than an afternoon. Happy dance.

Then, we took down the cabinet above the fridge and re-finished the cabinets using General Finishes Gel Stain in Java. We always intended on buying a bigger fridge which wouldn’t fit with that cabinet there. Since I did all this pre-blog I’m just going to share a few pictures and write a detailed blog post about refinishing a different piece of furniture with gel stain sometime in the future.

cabinet refinishing

I am very embarrassed by my awful photography and unorganized cabinets. 

All this took about a week since I gave each coat of of gel stain a full 24 hours to dry and did multiple coats of satin polycrylic. When I was done John replaced the handles with these 224mm stainless steel bar pulls from D. Lawless Hardware. They have free shipping on purchases over $50 and the prices for pulls like these were far cheaper than anywhere else online.

cabinets refinished

Almost a year later, we decided to start pricing appliances and found out that Sears was doing a 15% off sale for Memorial Day, as well as zero percent financing for 18 months.

I call that free money.

Our old stove (which only had 1 working burner at that point) was a downdraft and we wanted to replace it with a similar, but upgraded model. John ended up going without me since I had to work and picked out the fridge and stove on his own. And he did a great job. Around this time, we decided to take down the back splash and upper cabinets. My original plan was to remove the soffit above the cabinets and raise them from 16″ off the counter to 21″ inches. We even knocked a few exploratory holes in the soffit and had two contractors come out and give us quotes for this project.

PicMonkey Collage

You know what they say about people who assume?

I assumed since two contractors said this would be easy to do, it would! When John actually got into the holes, we found the the reason for building the soffits was not decorative, but structural. The soffit on the wall above the fridge is actually cut in half diagonally by the roof line. The only way to remove the soffit and make it flush with the ceiling would be to redesign the roof.


At this point, we have been working to patch all the holes and get the drywall ready to paint. Unfortunately, the humidity has been really bad so I would describe the pace of this project as…. glacial. I think we are going to do open shelving along the window wall, but the whole oh-actually-you-can’t-do-that-thing has thrown me for a loop so that may change. I’m not a huge fan of open shelving. My cats are jerks and I like to have places to hide the junk when people come over. Not ashamed. But, the longer I live with unobstructed counters the more I think this is a worthwhile trade-off.

In an effort to keep this post relatively short, I’m going to end here. New quartz counters are coming on Friday and I am in the process of writing a post about how we decided on color/brand/type of counters so check back soon!