Kitchn reader Cathy was not a fan of her outdated 1980s kitchen. The layout was terrible and it had hardly any cabinets. But she lived with until she could afford to renovate, which finally happened after she refinanced her house. Her renovation is pretty spectacular, in no small part because she tracked down most of her dream elements — a 48" Viking range, a French door refrigerator, mahogany and Carrara marble countertops! — on Craigslist and cut and chopped her way to a custom kitchen design, all without the help of a contractor.
Here's what Cathy says about her impressive, mostly Craigslist-sourced kitchen makeover:
We finally were able to renovate our kitchen after we refinanced our home and folded in money for the renovation... I bought all of my cabinets from Craigslist — cherry uppers and lowers that I chopped down height wise and put them back to back. I bought the lighted 60" glass cabinet that for $150 (cut in 2 pieces to hang next to windows). The almost-brand-new high end shaker cabinets with the African Mahogany countertops for the rest of the kitchen were $1200, and built by a woman who builds Gibson Guitars.
I bought a used 48" Viking range which included vent a hood for $1200. I also bought an old marble mantle top and used that above range instead of Viking's stainless steel backsplash with shelf. (They no longer made the shorter part for the range in back for airflow so we chopped it down ourselves and attached the one we had. Needless to say it sounds easier than it was!)
Frigidaire makes the separate freezer and refrigerator units with the trim kit to look more high end like subzero or Viking, but is around the same price as the French door units. The kitchen island (stained darker) came from a mansion in Birmingham for $350.
We shaved off inches from many cabinets and then built a few custom nooks to make up for the exact fit, i.e. the microwave with open shelves to keep produce.
I also had seen somewhere an IKEA hack of one of their sinks that includes a drain board converted to an undermount. We did this ourselves by cutting the mahogany and making the hole a little larger. I also added the sink in the island. (It's great to have two sinks for a party!)
The brass pendant lights came from someone's pool room, and I got those for $15 each. I did splurge on the Carrera Marble countertops for the island.
I also thought about a farm sink there but saved by taking the stock sink from fabricator for $50. I was also going to do just a bar sink there but my main thought is that if people are helping clean after a party it sure does go so much faster if more than one person can wash. So glad I made that decision.
Cathy also tells us she didn't hire a contractor, and was glad about it. There were so many last-minute changes and adjustments that she thinks she would have driven the contractor crazy, and gone way over budget! Overall, she says she's very happy with the result and always dreamed of having a 48" commercial range!
But be warned, she says. Her DIY kitchen wasn't easy:
I learned a ton from the experience but it is one of those "don't try this at home!" warnings. We had tons of stuff go wrong like the dimensions of the refrigerator and freezer being wrong and having to rebuild what we had just done. My husband's uncle also saved us because I needed more mahogany countertop and found some (yes, from Craigslist for 80% off what they would have cost). He glued boards together for me and I stained them to match having to mix to get color right. Still hoping to build a compact banquette in corner where table is in picture. Maybe I'll cut a long church pew. It is still a work in progress...Thanks for sharing, Cathy!
(Images: Cathy Lancaster)