When we bought our home in 2012, the kitchen was not in great shape. The cabinets by the sink had water damage, the floor grout was pocked, and the design reflected its early 1980s build. The interior cabinets also still contained some of that popular goose contact paper we all remember from the 80s.
But we knew we would need to save up to do the kind of remodel that we wanted. Our family grew, other expenses came up, and we kept putting it off. Then the pandemic and our marriage ending delayed things further, though by this point, we had enough in savings to make it happen.
In September, exactly nine years after buying our house, I embarked on a 10-week remodel of the kitchen and adjacent dining room. Now that my family and I have been using it for a few months, I am delighted to share it here. I hope this post is helpful to people considering their own kitchen remodel, or just to learn more about the process.
The Before & After Kitchen Reveal
The things I love most about the kitchen is how the white brightened the entire space and how the dining room and kitchen flow together. Isn't it incredible?
Creating a built in pantry around the refrigerator added a lot of storage space. I also love how we got rid of the small half wall and added more pantry space. I use this smaller cabinet for a lot of baking supplies, canned goods and snacks for the kids.
I also love the black shiplap accents and black hardware from Battle Creek Hardware (gifted). I think the black accents, such as the doors and dark tile floor, really tie everything together. We did spend a lot of time considering if we should carry the wood floor into the kitchen, but because the floor is original to the house, felt it would be difficult to get a perfect match. I am extremely happy with the tile and think it was the right choice.
I also love the wood shelves in the dining room and the custom wood beam. The dining room built in unit is perfect for storing large serving pieces, vases, and art supplies for the kids. Having everything so accessible to the kitchen has been a game-changer.
The lights create a lot of added texture and dimension to the space. One tip that my designer shared (more on her below) is that you don't want to have matchy/matchy lights. So you'll notice in the pictures that my lights work well together, but are not the same. They are a mix of metal, glass and wood. They compliment, but are not the same.
How to Design a Kitchen
Without question, I do not think I could have gotten this project done without Robin Johnson Interiors. Robin works with busy families to help them design functional kitchens they will love. I had a good idea of what I wanted before hiring Robin, but she took these ideas to the next level with design and vendors for the products needed.
The best recommendation that Robin made was to completely knock out the wall between the kitchen and dining room. I had thought about doing this 2/3 of the way, but by completely removing it, the flow between the rooms changed in the best possible way. It is incredibly open and beautiful, and I am so glad I trusted her experience and recommendation.
Robin offers several different options to people needing help with kitchen design, from group coaching to 1:1 design. She offered her 1:1 full-service design package to me in exchange for some social media content and truly was a delight to work with. She provided me with a binder of options for every aspect of the kitchen, including cabinets, flooring and lighting.
As I said above, this project would not have happened without Robin. I didn't originally plan to hire a designer, but in retrospect, this was foolish. The expertise Robin provided was well worth her fees and I know I wouldn't be as happy with the kitchen were it not for her.
Splurge vs. Save Items
A kitchen remodel is one of the most costly things you can do in your home, but the payoff is immense in terms of house value and enjoyment!
Save: Didn't Hire a General Contractor
I saved money by acting as the general contractor for this job. For me this was a good decision, especially since I work from home and had the flexibility to manage the project. That said, I think it would have been really hard if I had taken on this project when I had my traditional 9-5.
Save: Prefab Cabinets
I decided not to use custom cabinets, as they were substantially more expensive. I still went with solid wood prefab cabinets from USA Distributor, but saved a lot of money vs. custom. (Custom can cost 2-5 times as much, and take longer to get.) I am also happy with the decision to have the cabinets go right to the ceiling vs. doing molding at the top because it gave me more cabinet space.
The Walker Zanger Backsplash tile is, without question, the best thing I did in the kitchen. 100% of people who enter the room comment on it and I receive messages on Instagram nearly every time I post in the kitchen. It is spectacular and so much better than the subway tile and herringbone that we first looked at. The backsplash cost was $1,900. Had I gone with something simpler, it would have been less than $500, but it was the very best choice I made.
Save: Kept my stove and refrigerator
Many people think that because you are doing a kitchen remodel, you should replace all of your appliances. I got a new stove and refrigerator about 6 years ago, so didn't see a need to replace them right now. And because people always ask — I LOVE my dual stove and think it is a total game changer in the kitchen. I cannot recommend it enough! Mine is a GE.
Splurge: Quartz Counters I Loved
When I went to the quartz yards to look at counters, every one I picked was in the top tier for pricing. Because of the importance for the visual in the kitchen, I did not cut corners and went with the design I liked best. That said, I saved money by shopping around for installers. If you are in Nashville, Sulit Countertops was amazing to work with and an incredible value.
Splurge: Adding Cabinets to the Dining Room
My dining room is a great size and I knew that built-ins would provide additional storage that I needed and be great for entertaining. But doing this at the same time as the kitchen added cost for the extra cabinets and countertop, but was also incredibly efficient from an installation standpoint. I am SO glad that I did this and cannot imagine the space without the built-ins.
How Much is a Kitchen Remodel?
The cost for the kitchen & dining room combined were approximately $55,000. I debated whether or not to share this, but in my research, so few people did, which I found frustrating. I hope that by sharing, it is helpful. The most expensive parts of the kitchen:
Labor including demolition, drywall, tiling, plumbing, electrical, cabinet installation, etc.: $21,000
Countertops + installation: $4,500
Cabinets: $18,000 (kitchen and dining room)
Appliances (range hood, dishwasher and microwave): $4,500
Kitchen Remodel Regrets
I do have a few regrets. I do NOT like where my trash is at all (to the far left of the sink) and honestly, I don't like it in a cabinet drawer. It is much too small for our family of four, not convenient when cooking, and I just don't like it. Right now I am planning on using it just for recycling and keeping a larger can on the other side of the kitchen. That said, I might convert the drawer to a standard cabinet with shelves because I wouldn't mind the space.
I also regret buying an touchless sink faucet, despite many people recommending it. It goes off when I don't want it to, and I don't use that function enough to make it worth it. I wish I had gotten a standard faucet.
I made a mistake and ordered a dishwasher with a handle (the one I was going to get didn't have a handle, but it was on backorder). One of the drawers next to the dishwasher can't open all the way when the dishwasher is closed — whoops! It only has towels in it and isn't a huge deal, but definitely a mistake I deal with every day.
Design: Robin Johnson Interiors (clients nationwide!)
Construction: G & A Construction
Counters: Sulit Counters (Nashville)
Cabinets: USA Distributor
Hardware: Battle Creek Hardware
Tile floor & backsplash: Traditions in Tile & Stone (Nashville, but located in several cities!)
Lighting: Overstock (island); Amazon (peninsula); Zulily (dining room)
New appliances: Home Depot