Thinking About a Kitchen Reno? Do It Yourself! Step 1 Figuring out your design!

I’m so excited to share with you how I designed, sourced and became my own general contactor for our kitchen reno!  This is the first in a series of posts about our kitchen renovation experience, I hope it inspires you in your projects!  So, how did we did we design it?  How did I source materials?  How did I decide on the finishes and materials?  And how did we stay on budget?  All great questions I am going to answer in this series of posts.  We did this project over the course of a few months in the spring of 2015.  Today I am going to share with you what our issues were with our old kitchen and how I came up with the redesign (sort of) for the new kitchen.

So in March of 2015 we began a 3 month long journey of renovating our kitchen, pantry and bar area.  When we moved in our kitchen was the one thing that fell short for our home and we always knew we wanted to redo it, 4 years later it became a reality.

Here’s a shot of our kitchen before.  It was tiny, the island was big, but then there was this odd pie piece shaped jut out that was actually shorter than table height.  It jutted out at a weird angle into the bay window.  Clearly meant as an eat in area but with the height so low it was uncomfortable for adults to sit comfortably for very long.  There was very little prep and usable counter space (the outer half of the island was great but so far from the cooking surfaces it wasn’t practical to use it as prep space)  For someone who likes to cook (and cooks A LOT) and has a large family (most of whom are in the kitchen at any given time) it just didn’t work for us.

I thought I would love double wall ovens, turned out I loved having 2 just not in the wall.  With little ones running around and me with short arms I was always nervous about reaching in and over the door when it was opened or having small kids accidentally run into it and getting burned.

I’m also not a fan of stainless steel sinks or microwaves above your head (another safety hazard for me as well as my kids who always climbed onto the counter to use it).  The dishwasher, when open, blocked the fridge as it was directly across from it.  So when you have kids trying to get snacks and you are doing dishes it’s a struggle DAILY.

The cabinets were low from the ceiling which I always felt looked awkward, what do you do with all that dead space?  If you put stuff up there it looks cluttered and busy but if you don’t it just looks naked.

The pantry had a door that swung inward so in order to get to half of the pantry you had to squeeze yourself in and then shut the door.  I can’t tell you how impractical that is when you have armfuls of groceries to put away or little ones that want to come in with you.

The bar/butlers pantry area was essentially a walk through hallway with a few upper and lower cabinets and a wine fridge.  It closed everything off and ended up being a catch all for stuff (other than the wine fridge of course!)

When we got serious about doing this reno it was fall of 2014 and I called a couple of different companies for quotes, after we drew up a rough layout of what we were looking for. (Here’s my super rough sketch in a notebook.  The bay window was to be a built in window seat with a small table.   And in the bottom right corner is a section marked HVAC, this pocket contained all the HVAC stuff from the basement up to the second floor so we couldn’t mess with that without a humongous expense)

The first was a well known well respected company that builds and renovates homes.  I told them the finishes I wanted, the layout I was thinking, keeping the old appliances (which were ok but I didn’t love) along with a new hardwood floor (we had bamboo that was looking awful and a huge square of carpet where the family room meets the kitchen).  The quote came in at a mind blowing, nauseating $120,000.  Who has that kind of money to spend on a kitchen?!  Definitely not me and remember that quote includes KEEPING all of our old appliances.

Quote number 2 was from a specialized Kitchen design company and turns out they did the original kitchen.  They downgraded my finish requests (keeping our original cabinets but adding in for the new areas we wanted to expand into, replacing soapstone with granite and keeping old appliances) They came in at $80,000 better but still WAY over our max $50,000 budget.  Plus, I didn’t want to do a renovation and not get what I wanted.  What’s the point?

This is when I did tons more research feeling totally dejected and I found a local guy who acts as a sort of freelance consultant.  I was confident I could run this myself but I needed someone who had a great team and the knowledge I clearly didn’t have (as I had never done a reno before) to provide the answers if I came up stuck.  He was the perfect fit for us.  We met with him talked about his services (al a cart type company) he can do as little as set up a budget and schedule or all the way up to running the whole project (essentially acting as a general contractor).  We opted for the basics which was the budget and the schedule.  After that we were on our own.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This is a better shot of the layout I roughly sketched in a notebook earlier.  The wall where the microwave and cooktop are are on the left where it says 60″range is the back wall. (the bottom wall in the original rough sketch) I had originally planned to completely open up our kitchen, blow out the fridge wall into the pantry and completely remove the butler pantry wall, creating a second island.  I planned for a huge island that flipped so it was facing into the family room and a large wide open kitchen with new appliances.  We found the blueprints for our house and discovered that the wall that goes from the front post straight back along the refrigerator and double wall ovens was a MAJOR load bearing wall.  This was a big problem because that wall runs through the center of my new plans. The front corner post in that wall goes all the way down to the basement and up through the second floor.  It was going to cost way to much money and time to go with my original plan, in structural engineer fees as well as a steel beam and labor installation costs.  Back to the drawing board and keeping the budget restraints in mind I played around with keeping most of the original footprint but making it much more functional.

(My apologies this is flipped again from the previous shot but if you look along the back wall where it says 60″ range at the top you can get your bearings) I extended the cabinets all the way around the bay window and moved the sink and dishwasher over there.  Then I eliminated the double wall ovens in favor of more counter space and designed an island that would be large enough for great prep space but also for all 6 of us to sit and eat at as well.  I opted to open up the wall (but keeping the outer posts/mini walls) where the butler’s pantry was (mostly as originally planned, this was not a load bearing wall) and get rid of the upper cabinets to create more of that open feel while maintaining the posts on the corners and giving us a great bar area.  The pantry is the same footprint we just took down all of the cheap wire shelving, pulled out the door frame and designed it with base cabinets and open shelving.

We ran through this plan with our consultant and he couldn’t figure out any other improvements based on our constraints with the load bearing wall and size and shape of our kitchen.  So that was it, we had a kitchen design plan!!  Next up it was time to begin picking, sourcing and assembling finishes, appliances and materials!

Stay tuned for my next post in the series of how I sourced out and kept within budget (!!!) all of my wish list materials, appliances and finishes along with demo day!!

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