Kitchen Tour: Tamar’s Labor of Love Renovation

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Do you have an old, tired kitchen — maybe in an old, tired city apartment? Are your cupboards caked with layers and years of paint, your floor covered in strata of linoleum? Well, take heart from reader Tamar’s DIY renovation. She took an old, sagging city kitchen in Jackson Heights, Queens, and transformed it with a small budget and plenty of elbow grease. Here’s a look at the transformation.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

This entire renovation took over a year from beginning to end, during which Tamar really didn’t have use of a working kitchen. She admits that this was crazy and probably not for everyone. But in the end the renovation only cost about $5000-$6000.

1. What’s your cooking style?
I’m a new graduate student with very, very limited time, so I only cook on the weekends. Most weekends, I’ll cook several simple dishes that freeze well (braises, homemade pasta sauce, quick breads) and freeze individual portions I can eat throughout the week. When I have time to make anything I want, I love to bake.

2. What inspires your kitchen?
When I bought it 2 years ago, this apartment had been a rental since 1929. Everything was original (cabinets, floors, etc), but broken and disgusting and covered in lumpy, chipping lead paint. I tried to restore as much as possible back to the original condition while making it functional for modern life.

3. Favorite tool or element:
My paint stripping gun (the Silent Paint Remover). It made a messy, exhausting, endless job slightly less messy, exhausting and endless. Close second: my vintage 1950’s Wedgewood stove. I lusted after a vintage stove, and then magically found one on eBay nearby for $50.

4. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

5. Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Time, money. I did almost all the renovation myself with lots of help from [my now ex] boyfriend. There were times when I was putting in 60-80 hour weeks at my real job, and then spending my weekends stripping paint from 80 year old wood. I spent a fraction of the price of a normal renovation, but I lived without a functional kitchen for almost 2 years (during this time I also renovated the bedroom). I might not recommend this for everyone, and it even seems crazy to me in retrospect. There were many moments of doubt.

6. Biggest indulgence:
I have a weakness for colorful vintage kitchen items that I compulsively buy on eBay. I always liked this stuff and had a bunch in my old apartment, but it got a little out of hand during the renovation. I started hoarding boxes of eBay finds, probably as a way to cheer myself up and have something to look forward to.

7. Dream tool or splurge:
Excellent knives. A copper saucepan.

8. What are you cooking this week?
I’ll probably cook and freeze some kind of large roast this weekend, and I have some bananas that will need to be turned into banana bread soon.

9. Desert island cookbook?
Impossible to choose. Zuni? Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Lately I’ve been cooking a lot out of All About Braising.

10. Proudest DIY:
Without a doubt, the cabinets. They are the original built-ins from 1929, that I stripped, refinished, and reglazed all the glass panes. This was, by far, the thing that took the longest and made the biggest difference.

Recommended Resources
• The Silent Paint Remover (which I already mentioned) was a very useful splurge for a massive paint-stripping job (and has been used all over the rest of the apartment — much wood to strip).
• A lot of stuff is vintage and was purchased at thrift stores, Etsy, and eBay.
• Rejuvenation was a great source for finding matches for the original hardware and things like that. • The fridge is LG and is very cute, efficient, and has freezer drawers.
• The portable dishwasher is Danby. I’ve never had a dishwasher before, so I can’t really say anything comparative about its performance. Having a dishwasher at all is pretty magical.

Thank you for the peek into your kitchen and all the hard work of your renovation, Tamar! It’s completely inspiring. If you’re interested in more photos of Tamar’s renovation (and plenty of captions!) check out her Flickr set here: Kitchen Remodel

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