Tanja and Mark live in a 1000-square foot condo in Los Angeles, and they've wholeheartedly turned this space into a personal, comfortable home. They haven't been afraid to tackle some pretty major projects, too; their latest is the kitchen, which they just finished renovating on a budget, with environmentally-friendly choices. (Cork floor! Original cabinets, fixed up!) They managed to do it all for under $7000, which is a good deal anywhere, let alone pricey LA. Come see how they did it, and how the kitchen looked before.
The kitchen BEFORE renovation.
Tanja and Mark couldn't change most of the structural limitations in their galley kitchen. They couldn't knock down walls or add windows, but they could lighten it up in other ways. They decided to keep the costs light, too, as well as their environmental burden. Tanja explains, "We tried to make the most environmentally friendly choices possible (kept the existing cabinets, used a renewable and nontoxic cork floor and laid it over the existing tile so we didn't have to scrap those, used wood instead of granite for the counters, Energy Star appliances of course, low-energy halogen bulbs, etc.)."
We think that this is a good example of a smart kitchen renovation, where instead of knocking the whole thing down and starting from scratch, the owners cherry-picked wise upgrades and updates.
Here's a taste of what Tanja and Mark did in this kitchen: Changed the light fixtures, repainted the cabinets and changed the cabinet hardware, replaced outdated appliances and added a built-in microwave, and changed the countertop to smooth butcher block. They got rid of the old mirror backsplash and put in classic subway tile, updated all of the electrical outlets and switches and swapped in a new, more functional single-bowl sink with a new faucet and sprayer. They covered up the floor tile with comfortable, environmentally friendly cork. They also added quite a bit of storage (my favorite part!) with a new wine bar and wine refrigeration unit, plus an IKEA buffet outfitted with baskets. This and the other hidden storage they added, says Tanja, "makes the whole kitchen function so much better."
• Read more about their renovation: The big kitchen "after" at Postmodern Hostess, Tanja's blog
• See more of their home: Tanja & Mark's Contemporary Live/Work Home at Apartment Therapy
making smart, economical use of previously empty space.
In the end, their little galley kitchen went from boring and drab to lightened-up and fab. "It turned out far better than we could have expected!" says Tanja, and we agree. The extra stretch of countertop over the wine storage unit seems especially inspired, to us. And all this for under $6000, including appliances.
10 Questions for Tanja (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I love entertaining, and I would have people over for every meal if I could. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: People won't remember what you cooked, but they will remember how you made them feel. So I always try to go for feel-good food and a feel-good vibe.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Our new continuous grate, five-burner gas range. It gives us room on the stove for so many more pots and pans, which saves counter space and lets us cook more at one time.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
The whole kitchen wasn't done yet, but the new appliances were in place for last Thanksgiving, which is my absolute favorite meal to cook. We did a pretty awesome roasted turkey which we brined and then put truffle butter under the skin, and we cooked two different stuffings (one with white bread and sage, the other more southern-style with cornbread and sausage). But the best part was the three friends who traveled to spend the holiday with us.
4. The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen:
I could go on and on about challenges before we renovated, but we fixed nearly every issue. So the biggest challenge is getting the kitchen clean again after we cook, but I don't think that's unique to us.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish we had done it sooner! We spent a whole lot less than I would have guessed, and so it was definitely something we could have tackled right when we moved in, instead of waiting almost two years. I thought I'd want nicer counters, but I actually love the wood, which was the cheapest choice after laminate.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
All the wine, and the fridge to hold it.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
Since there's no room for a larger pantry and we can't take down walls, a solar tube for sunlight or a skylight would be great.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Experimental. I was vegetarian for my entire teen and adult life until I met my husband, so I still feel like cooking meat is an experiment every time. And I love trying new techniques and recipes. I even break the cardinal rule of entertaining and try out new things on guests - but I warn them first!
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
From Julia Child, to be fearless in cooking (and all things). And never to apologize for something you cook.
10. What are you cooking this week?
Right now, I can't get enough of the early sweet corn, and I've been experimenting with all sorts of cilantro pesto to use up my big cilantro crop before it goes to seed.
Looking back out of the kitchen to the dining room.
• Wall paint: Sherwin Williams sandbar
• Cabinets: Original to the condo, painted Sherwin Williams high reflective white
• Refrigerator: Samsung counter depth from AJ Madison
• Range: Frigidaire Gallery from AJ Madison
• Microwave: Maytag from AJ Madison
• Dishwasher: Maytag from Home Depot
• Wine fridge: N'Finity from Wine Enthusiast
• Corner cabinet: Ikea Perfekt
• Counters: Ikea Numerar
• Floor: Athena Sorrel Cork from Home Depot
• Faucet: Concord Modern Pulldown Faucet from Overstock.com
• Water filter spigot: Continental from Overstock.com
• Sink: Elkay Signature Plus universal mount 22x25" from Home Depot
• Subway tile: Lowe's
• Cabinet hardware: Ikea Metrik
• Shelves and sideboard: Ikea Lack and Expedit
• Café table set: Winsome Kallie set from Amazon
• Posters: Art Source International in Boulder, Colo.
• Knife holder: Bodum via Amazon
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
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(Images: Bethany Nauert)