Renovation Diaries

Before & After: This Dated Kitchen Needed a Major Overhaul — It Was Done in 2 Phases and Now It’s Pure Perfection

published Feb 19, 2022
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Credit: After Photo: Petra Ford; Before Photo: Courtesy of Tamara Martinez; Design: Kitchn

When Tamara and Rick Martinez decided to attend an open house in a coveted neighborhood of Bakersfield, California, back in 2015, they were eager to see why the 1979 home in such a great location wasn’t selling. But, after taking a quick look, the couple figured it out pretty quickly: It needed serious work for the price. They left and thought nothing about the house … until about nine months later, when they realized it was still on the market. They decided to make a lower offer. After some negotiation, they landed the home, knowing they’d have to transform just about everything. “It was great, space-wise, but it was in really bad shape,” Tamara explains.

Credit: Courtesy of Tamara Martinez

The kitchen would need to be one of the first rooms to be redone — because it was pretty much unusable. Before they even moved in, the couple did a complete demolition of the first floor. Fortunately, Rick is a general contractor so he was able to do a lot of the labor himself, including the demo work, which he completed with the help of a few friends. 

Credit: Courtesy of Tamara Martinez

After demolition, the couple was able to move right in! On move-in day, the kitchen was still just a blank space. “We had plastic tarps over the big openings, and we didn’t even go into the space for a while,” Tamara says. “It was frustrating.” While they worked to get the kitchen up and running, the couple spent nearly six months getting by with one little burner.

The floor plan didn’t make a ton of sense (there was a weird, unnecessary hallway that cut right through the kitchen), so they changed things up a bit. They got rid of that hallway by closing up the wall. And they turned the footprint of what was once the kitchen and the breakfast nook to make one larger, brighter space.

Once the kitchen had its basic shape, the rest of it could fall into place. The couple planned to move the location of the stove (it would go on that new, closed up wall), sink, and other fixtures, so the next step was to have the space rewired and piped for new appliances and pendant lights.

Credit: Courtesy of Tamara Martinez

The couple had to wait a few months for the cabinets to come in (which they ordered from a local company), but they were well worth the wait. Plus, Tamara added sleek brass knobs from Rejuvenation to make them look even more stylish.  

Credit: Courtesy of Tamara Martinez

Everything seemed to be going fairly smoothly until it was countertop time. To keep costs down, Tamara and Rick purchased prefabricated quartz countertops from a local distributor, but there was some confusion about the sizing. When the piece arrived, it was nowhere near big enough to fit the kitchen island, so the couple had to get creative. They ended up topping the island so that half the counter was made out of quartz and half was made out of wood. “It looked cute, but it wasn’t very functional,” Tamara admits in hindsight. (They decided to change it later — keep reading!)

Credit: Petra Ford

They scored a great deal on appliances by buying floor models, and Rick made the wood shelves next to the stove. They also added simple subway tile from The Home Depot, and Tamara chose a wood grain laminate for the floors (her only regret about this space). Rick was working on the vent hood, but it took some time. Tamara asked him to complete it for her birthday at the end of May 2016, which he did within a weekend. “It was a wonderful birthday present,” she gushes.

Credit: Petra Ford

Read more about how the couple’s slow and steady kitchen renovation ended up being a sweet successThis Kitchen Renovation Took 6 Years to Complete — And the Homeowners’ Patience Paid Off in a Big Way

They kept the kitchen that way for almost five years, until they had saved up more money and were ready for phase two. After taking some real time to live in the space, they had a new list of projects, which included some replacements and additions. 

Tamara’s Remodel in 16 “Simple” Steps and Two Phases

Phase 1

  • Step 1: Start demolition.
  • Step 2: Move in.
  • Step 3: Close the random hallway with a new wall.
  • Step 4: Begin electrical and plumbing prep work.
  • Step 5: Cabinet bases get fixed in place.
  • Step 6: New flooring and cabinets get installed.
  • Step 7: Countertops and tile backsplash are selected.
  • Step 8: Floor construction begins.
  • Step 9: Appliances go in.
  • Step 10: Hood is finished.
  • Step 11: Floating shelves get installed and painting is finished.
  • Step 12: Electrical and plumbing are finished.

Phase 2 (almost five years later)

  • Step 13: New cabinets are added to the side wall.
  • Step 14: Old countertops tossed out, replaced with new, beautiful quartz counters. 
  • Step 15: New professional-grade appliances go in.
  • Step 16: Island is repainted white and new lighting is installed.
Credit: Petra Ford

The biggest change during phase two was the addition of a whole bank of upper and lower cabinets along the side wall (plus, two side-by-side beverage fridges). They decided to keep these cabinets in their natural wood finish and left open shelving to show off pretty mugs and tableware.

Credit: Petra Ford

They also found new quartz they loved and installed it as a counter and backsplash of the new cabinet space — and they saved a big chunk to redo that wonky island top. Also, the couple decided it was time to go with professional-level appliances, so they ended up swapping their range with a new one from ZLINE appliances. 

Credit: Petra Ford

The island had previously been painted bright blue in phase one, but Tamara was getting a little tired of the color, so she repainted it in Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore. Now, their kitchen is fully complete — and ready for plenty of cooking and entertaining!

Credit: Petra Ford

Thanks for sharing, Tamara! 

See Tamara’s Full Reno Diary