Life, Love, Travel & Home Revamp Edition ~ Kitchen & Dining Room Renovation for under $1,000!

Well this year has not turned out the way that any of us has imagined that it would but might as well make the most out of being home, right?  When it became apparent how serious this COVID-19 situation was, I realized that not only would I be home for what could be the foreseeable future, I was going to have lots of time on my hands, so I decided that I would tackle some home improvement projects.   And as any one who has decided to change ONE or TWO thing in a room knows, that it often snowballs into something quite bigger and this is how I found myself renovating my entire kitchen and dining room!  

I LOVE my house and have done a lot to make it really feel like my home as I have detailed in this previous post about combining my loves of travel, design and home.  But there has been one area that I had been really, really wanting to tackle for some time but never had things line up to get it done so it’s been neglected….until now.

BEFORE (TOP TWO) PICTURES: what I have wanted to do since I moved in was deal with the electrical wiring (the chain leading to the ceiling fan), replace the ceiling fan, and repaint the ceiling. I couldn’t figure out what to do with that electrical wire as not only do I have a sloped ceiling but the clearance in the roof is a scant 3-4 inches plus I was having a really hard time finding a light fixture that I liked that could be mounted on a slant. I’ve repainted most of the other room’s ceilings in the house so I knew how much of a pain that job could be and also that it’s really hard to retouch a ceiling if there’s multiple spots (typically looks better to repaint the entire thing) so everything would have to be done as a package deal and thus the project was left on the back burner. But timing worked out that I had someone that had some time on his hands to help with this project and I found the perfect light! PROGRESS PICS on the bottom left show how we had to cut into the ceiling to ensure there was enough clearance and create access points to drill through the ceiling studs and the center beam. I learned how to repair the ceiling using a 2×4 for support and perfected my patching technique. And luckily, I also had my amazing sister and brother in law to help with the first coat of ceiling paint. As you can see that this ceiling is a BEAST with how large it is, the sloped ceiling and the recessed areas but three coats later…the room is instantly brighter and completely transformed once I successfully put the light fixture in as the LOWER RIGHT comparison photos show.

But it’s like if you give a mouse a cookie…and or if you give Rosemary a project, I am going all in. I realized that I didn’t really like the wall and trim colors. They looked white compared to the coffee colored ceiling but were now revealed to be a warm beige – so not my style (or of the house really). I have already moved everything out of the space so I debated if I should repaint those now since it would be such a pain to move everything again vs knowing that there would be so much to paint and how big of a project this would be. I was a bit impulsive about this and should have taken more time to really decide on my course of action but then again hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?

Top left picture showcases exactly how many things I would have to repaint and choices I would have to make plus how a project snowballs! First we have the top trim (which you can see left of the top of the door I am debating between two colors), then there are the walls (which at this point I have already repainted but am not keen on the color), the trim around the door, the door color (plus I will have three additional doors in the area to paint), the baseboards (to paint or not) and by then I have decided that I will also redo my cabinets. How did I get to this point? I have always wanted to redo my kitchen but the layout is nearly perfect for me and the cabinets were in pretty good shape. Now was a great time to do something about them! So based on ecological and economical factors plus wanting to limit my exposure to other people, I decided that I’ll just paint them myself. I knew that I wanted a dark lower cabinet color so that was the first choice that I made: Cheating Heart by Benjamin Moore. I looked on Pinterest and found some amazing kitchens that had been redone in this color and it just resonated with me plus it would tie the kitchen to the rest of the house. I did pick up five whites and a couple of light grays to test out and went back and forth between two white colors but ultimately decided on BM White Dove because it looked phenomenal as an upper cabinet color plus I wanted the other colors in the room to complement the dark grey.

LOWER LEFT PIC: As with any paint project, the most important part is the prep work and that took up a full 2.5 days for me between cleaning the cabinets, taking off and labeling the cabinet/drawer fronts and prepping/sanding the cabinets to minimize the wood grain. Then three days of painting (two coats of primer, two coats of the paint color and lots of dry time between the top coats) and then I realize that I HATE it (if you look closely at the RIGHT PIC, you can see why!)

I will need to write an entire separate post about what I learned AKA what mistakes I made when it came to this project but here’s a quick rundown of what went wrong. I did research on painting oak cabinets as I am painting the walls and trim and rushed into the project. Plus the fact is that I am too much of a perfectionist to have attempted to brush and roll the cabinets as the roller and brush marks were SO noticeable. So I sanded everything down to a smooth surface, bought a spray gun and started again. I wanted everything to be perfect so I set up a spray and drying area in my garage and decided to spray the cabinet boxes as well. So this part took took more than a week (three days was dealing with a spray gun fiasco) to finish. The prep work to get the spaces ready and the re-coat times were what took the most time as the spray painting only took about 1.5 hour each coat (and that included cleaning out the spray gun in between the two different colors).

Slide the arrows back and forth for an interactive experience with the before and after photos: See how much the paint colors brighten up and the lighting choice modernizes the space! I was debating about getting a new dining table and testing out digitally new pieces when I took the after picture so that’s why there’s empty space in that photo 😂

Slide the arrows back and forth for an interactive experience with the before and after photos: Amazing that this transformation is purely with the power of paint and how it can lighten up and modernize a space so much!

I really love spreadsheets and data, I think this shows how much so! I did mention how I spent less than a thousand dollars so I wanted to show you how this was possible and I include every expense no matter how small because that is just my nature (this is what I do with all my spending spreadsheets including travel). So we’ll start with the smallest categories and move up. PLANTS are the two new plants I bought for the space. I obviously saved an incredible amount of money by doing the vast majority of the work myself so LABOR costs were just beers and food to my friend and family because that’s what people would accept. TOOLS I originally had this on another page (because yes the spreadsheet is massive and includes the entire house and all projects) but I decided to move it for this post since technically I only bought the spray gun for the kitchen cabinets. MATERIALS was the category that made the most difference in elevating the experience but not the appearance of the kitchen as I replaced all of the hinges. Luckily the cabinets already had Blum hidden hinges installed but they were starting to show their age when opening/closing the cabinets. So I decided to go with soft-close Blum hinges and dampers as they are the best though not the least expensive product out there. More to come in the next post about what I learned from this part of the project and how it caused a big delay in completing the project. LIGHTING – this was a really nice surprise to find such a great light and light bulbs on Amazon and the price! PAINT + SUPPLIES: this should not be a surprise that 53% of the budget went to paint as I did repaint almost every surface in the kitchen and dining room! For the ceiling, I used Behr Premium Plus in Ultra Pure White / Flat Sheen and ended up using right over 4 gallons to paint the three coats. For the upper trim (everything above the top of the walls), I went with Behr Marquee in Ultra Pure White/ Satin Sheen and used about 3/4 of a gallon. For the walls, I painted them with Benjamin Moore Regal Select in White Dove / Pearl Sheen using about .5 gallons and the lower trim and baseboards were covered in BM Regal Select in White Dove / Satin Sheen (.4 gallons). I used BM Advance / Satin in White Dove for the upper kitchen cabinets (ended up using about 2/5 of gallon) and BM Advance / Satin in Cheating Heart for the lower kitchen cabinets and island using about .7 of a gallon.

Two important things that I didn’t include in the spreadsheet but I want to comment on are how much time I spent on the project and the enormous pride that I have looking at this area now. I really do owe you a second post because the project ended up being so long because I made so many mistakes along the way! Luckily I tackled this during 2020 when I had lots of time on my hands and wanted projects to keep me busy so it was only annoying in not having my kitchen for that long and living in a construction zone (or so I tell myself now). The project took almost eight weeks to complete – 1 full day to move everything out then back into the space, 3 full days on the ceiling including rewiring, repairing, painting and installing the light; 5 partial days to paint walls, trim (upper and lower) , doors, and baseboards (drying times affected this more than anything plus I didn’t go in the best order); almost seven weeks for the cabinets to be completed – the first five days were LONG full days but then it was mostly just waiting for supplies/equipment to come along with waiting for the cabinets to cure before I reinstalled them. While I wish that I had taken more time to figure out the logistics first (surprising right?! but I had a lot going on at this time so maybe it was for the best), I am really proud of the end result and the fact that I was able to save so much money. One day I may decide to gut the kitchen or more likely at least replace the counter tops but hopefully, I will be able to travel again soon so future me will be even happier with past me having not spent a lot on this. Plus I do love to cook and bake and maybe even more so now that I have such a great space to do it in!

Any one else tackle a home improvement project this year?

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