Kitchen Renovation On A Budget

We’ve been in our house one year now and still have a lot to do, but were able to complete at least a few rooms. One space I’m thrilled with is our kitchen.

My big wish when we bought our house was to have a kitchen that would make me excited to cook. Every kitchen I’ve ever lived in was old, and for the most part, tiny. I mean, this is Chicago. Spaces are usually old and small, especially for a young person on a tight rental budget. I love to cook but felt uninspired when my oven was older than me and looked like a bomb went off in there at some point in recent history. Gross.

The house we bought was built in the 90s and had some “updates,” but none to our liking or style. The houses in our development were also built without pantries. Say WHAT?! How am I to live without a pantry when I have two young boys, Y’all? That’s just impossible. If you’re a boy mom you know that’s just crazy talk. A pantry was top on the list along with an eat-in space and homework workspace in the new kitchen.

Before I get into what we did and how we saved tons of money to make the most use out of the smaller space, I’ll show you the before pictures. Take a look:

Original kitchen
Narrow opening, short cabinets, no cabinet handles.
Original Eat-In space

As you can see, not terrible – but not what I wanted. The floors were beaten up, which we sanded and stained throughout the entire house. The gas stove wouldn’t turn off unless we cut the power in the house. The aisle in the kitchen was very narrow. The cabinets were small and didn’t have hardware, and the countertop was definitely not staying. When you tried to turn on the water the whole sink lifted up from the countertop. It definitely needed some love as well.

My initial thought was to keep the lowers and have them painted, replace the uppers and countertop, and get a new stove. When we started looking at pricing, it turned out replacing all the cabinets and counters would be less expensive – so we went with that option.

Now for some tips:

Tip: When you’re doing a renovation you need to shop around, a lot! Get tons of quotes so you can compare and also use them to negotiate.

Tip: As a person who’s been in a sales role her whole life – DO NOT BE AFRAID to negotiate. There’s nothing wrong with asking. Also, businesses, contractors and the like usually high-ball on purpose in case people ask for deals – but most don’t. With that said, you want to be respectful. People deserved to be paid for their work but you also don’t want to be overcharged.

Tip: The first question I ask is, “What can I do to bring the cost down?” They’ll give you answers. Do the demo yourself. Cut some things out, or use different materials. There’s always a way to bring costs down you may not know about – so ask!

Tip: We decided to do remove the kitchen ourselves to save the $1000 demo fee. How did we do this? I posted a picture of the old kitchen on Facebook Marketplace and requested only contractors could come to pick up. I didn’t want a random person tearing up the plumbing or walls. It worked! We actually sold our kitchen for several hundred dollars and a guy came with his team and took it away to use for one of his flips! SCORE. From this realization, we basically sold everything from that point on FB MP. Closet doors, old appliances, lighting, etc! In sum, we saved money by not paying a team to demo and MADE money by selling it to a contractor!!

Tip: Ask if you can pay by check our cash to get a discount. If you pay with a credit card the business usually is charged a percentage processing fee. They might pass those savings on to you if you don’t pay with a credit card.

Tip: If you work with a mom and pop business, they’ll usually meet or will be lower in price than your big box stores. Don’t count them out. They’ll appreciate the work and do a stellar job.

Now, back to the kitchen. I wanted a clean modern look but something fun. We decided to go with a small local business, Boca Cabinets. They helped us design the space and gave great quality to create the kitchen we envisioned.

We went with a gray shaker style cabinet with glass accent inserts. We pushed out the island so the aisle wasn’t so narrow. By doing this, we were able to put in a lazy susan cabinet for additional storage. I also wanted a large sink so we went with a stainless steel under mount sink.

We chose Cambria, a white quartz countertop, which has some light grey veining and a white subway black splash to tie it all together.

Across from the kitchen we had banquette seating built in with cabinet space underneath for additional storage. I scored some amazing custom made cushions from Hearth and Home on Etsy. I found the perfect table to fit the dimensions of the banquette seating from Cost Plus World Market, and snagged these amazing chairs from Amazon. We also had a row of cabinets added on the opposite wall with space for a beverage refrigerator and a pantry built. Hallelujah! This extended our kitchen and gave it a large open feel.

We put white shelving above the lower cabinets to hold some decor items. We did a gallery wall of photos from our recent travels on the opposite wall. And, because I love Chicago we found an amazing city flag made out of wood on Etsy to hang. Finally, we replaced the lighting to bring it all together.

We did all this for under half of what the average kitchen renovation costs.

Some more helpful tips:

Tip: Install extra outlets when adding cabinets. Extra outlets are lifesavers when using the additional counter space for hot plates and crockpots.

Tip: Wait for Black Friday deals on appliances. We scored a new stove, fridge and washer and dryer for almost half the retail cost. Also ask about interest-free store credit cards, which most places offer.

Tip: All the accent pieces and gallery frames I picked up from Home Goods, Wayfair and Overstock. They are amazing!

So without further a do…. here are the after photos.

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Holly Rust is a native Texan currently living in the great city of Chicago with her husband and two sons. Aside from chasing around two lunatic boys all day, she is a writer, author, and runs a global skin care business. Her blog was featured on The TODAY Show’s List of Funniest Parents on Facebook. You can find her work on HuffPo, Good Housekeeping, Town & Country, Scary Mommy, Dot Complicated, TODAY and many more. You can also find her essays published in several anthologies. Follow her random thoughts on Facebook and Instagram – but no judging.

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