Reader Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen Before & After: A Battered Old Kitchen Gets a Lovely Traditional Update

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Susan Weston via The Kitchn’s submission form)

Susan’s kitchen was in bad shape: “Every surface was starting to break down,” she wrote to us, like “loose light fixtures, slipping wallpaper, places where the vinyl floor was shrinking away from the walls, scarred Formica, and badly battered doors on the lower cabinets.” So with her house fully paid off and a home equity line sitting unused, she and her husband jumped into a renovation. Check out her kitchen now, and a detailed look at what she did and how much it cost!

(Image credit: Susan Weston via The Kitchn’s submission form)

Crisp yet traditional! Here’s what Susan tells us about the renovation:

After a fast two months work, our new kitchen was done this past Monday. Here’s what got done:

  • The wall around the fridge (visible in the first picture) came down.
  • The floor is now linoleum (Forbo’s Bleecker Street).
  • New can lights went in over all the counters, with a Jefferson fixture from Rejuvenation in the center.
  • New doors and drawer fronts on nearly all the cabinets match leaded glass doors from one upper cabinet and Shaker doors from one lower cabinet—probably original to the house, while some unusable cabinets near the ceiling were walled over.
  • New cabinet and drawer knobs are a close match for the one that works the lock on the kitchen door.
  • Bead board went up everywhere except the sink wall. That’s subway tile with a half-inch liner pattern (last picture) to break it up.
  • HanStone quartz counters replaced wood-look Formica, and a Corian sink is so much easier to keep clean. The backsplash below the bead board is two inches, not the common four, to keep the bead board dominant.
  • The paint, so different from the dark fruit pattern, is Sherwin-Williams August Moon on upper walls and Roman Column below.

Though we weren’t giving historical accuracy much conscious attention, we either stumbled on it or were steered by our contractor so gently we never noticed. We found linoleum below three other layers of flooring, and the light fixture I loved turned out to be exactly as old as our 1915 Foursquare. And I saw the first four feet of bead board in place, I suddenly felt nearly certain we’d restored something the house included when it was new.

(Image credit: Susan Weston via The Kitchn’s submission form)
(Image credit: Susan Weston via The Kitchn’s submission form)

Budget? We didn’t exactly have one. I’d estimated costs for everything I wanted using experience with two bathroom renovations by the same contracting team using similar materials. I’d been thinking of three phases, done as we saved up the money. Only when the contractor came to discuss phase one, he lured me into talking about all my plans, and imagining having it all done, and then it turned out my husband had wanted that all along. With a house fully paid off and a home equity line sitting unused, we just jumped in.

Actual cost? A bit below $25,000. I’m estimating the counters and doors based on the costs of custom vanities by the same subcontractor, but we’ve paid for floors, shelves, lighting, and four of the six weeks of labor. That’s in line with what I hoped for, and I’d made sure we could afford to pay twice that if our old house sprung the kind of surprises they often do—and somehow it just didn’t try any tricks at all..

I wake up every morning thinking of things to cook so I can spend more time in there, and my husband grins every time he sees that bold, bright floor. There’s a seam in the linoleum that could have been positioned better and one backboard joint we wish had been done differently, and other than that, we love it all!

Thanks so much for sharing, Susan!