Renovation Diaries

This Couple Learned How to DIY Their Kitchen Renovation — And It Was the Best Decision They Ever Made

published Nov 27, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Erin Burke and family in kitchen.
Credit: Liz Daly

Erin Burke and her husband, Nick Wildman, turned their run-down 1950s New Bedford, Massachusetts, kitchen into a bright and airy space they absolutely love. And when you see the before pictures (we’re talking vegetable-themed wallpaper and oddly stinky cabinets) it’s pretty amazing. Looking at the open shelving, white subway tile, slatted ceiling, and smooth quartz countertops, you’d never think it could have come from such humble beginnings.

On its own, the makeover is super impressive, but all of this is made even cooler by the fact that the couple did 90 percent of the work themselves. And, no, they don’t have interior design or construction backgrounds; Erin is a whale biologist and Nick works in river restoration. On top of all of that, did we mention they did this all with a then 4-year-old and 6-year-old running around at home? 

While the couple also redid the mudroom in the house, Erin admits the kitchen was by far their biggest project to date. Plus, this wasn’t just making over a room — there was also a full demo involved, and they had to learn what to do when they stumbled across a squirrel’s nest in the vent hood. (Yikes!) Despite all of their hard work and mishaps along the way, their best decision, they say, was learning how to DIY their kitchen on their very own.

Credit: Liz Daly

To keep things cost-effective — and because they didn’t want to deal with a contractor — they managed to push forward even with everything going on. “We couldn’t mess it up more than a squirrel’s nest and terrible-smelling cabinets,” Erin says. Good point. So, they ended up installing their own floor, ceiling, appliances, counters, cabinets, and backsplash tile! They only called for outside help for electrical work and to have someone finish the floors. 

Credit: Liz Daly

How did they do all of that with no prior training? “You piece it together,” Erin says. Sure, they watched a few YouTube videos, but what helped them the most was that they decided to take the time to give it a go on their own. Most of the time, it went smoothly, although some hiccups were unavoidable. For example, they built the vent hood from plywood, but it took three attempts to create one that had the ideal angles and size. 

The thing the couple is most proud of doing themselves is the work on the stove wall — which is across from the window and sink area. It took a lot of careful measuring because they needed to work around three doorways and a radiator. The end result is just perfect. It’s the ideal kitchen workspace, and because Erin cooks often, it’s a major win. 

Credit: Liz Daly

Because Nick and Erin were able to save so much on labor costs, they opted for bigger budget items like quartz counters and a 36-inch stove. Plus, there’s just something super satisfying about knowing they did a majority of the work all on their own!

See Erin’s Full Reno Diary

Credit: Kitchn

Thanks for sharing, Erin!