A new, brighter kitchen in seven weeks


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If you've never completed a kitchen remodel, you and I had something in common earlier this year. Fast forward seven weeks, and I had a mostly new kitchen (shown above) with white shiny cabinets, an almost white Silestone countertop and an off-white porcelain backsplash.

Here is how the remodel progressed:

The "before" photo is at right. There wasn't anything wrong with the layout, but there were a bunch of small things that were getting on my (and my husband's) nerves.

1. The cabinets were old Ikea cabinets installed by the builder (around the 1990s). There were lots of shelves, but shelves aren't always great for organizing larger pots and pans and such. The cabinets were also starting to look yellow a few years ago, so I thought that dry erase board paint would make them shiny and white (and maybe even fun to write on). It sounds good in theory, but dry erase board paint yellows after some time too, so after three years, the cabinets were looking even worse than before.

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2. The builder had put in a brown/pink granite countertop. It was dark and seemed to suck up a lot of the light.

3. We had a lot of stuff on the counters because we lacked storage space.

4. Years ago we thought that a deep blue/green paint was a good wall color for above the cabinets. It wasn't. It sucked up a lot of light too.

5. We had a double sink, but one side was shallow and smaller. Large vases didn't fit under the faucet, nor was it easy to wash and rinse larger dishes when needed.

6. We love our stove, but the built-in extractor fan doesn't do a great job.

So, the renovation began. We opted to hire a contractor for most of the work because we didn't want to do it ourselves and we had the budget.

[Looking to tackle a big home improvement project? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Day 1: Everything torn out. (Photo credit: Katie Hagar, Better Living Through Design)Days 7-9: Cabinets installed. (Photo credit: Katie Hagar, Better Living Through Design)Note: I used my iPhone to take all these pictures.

Day 1, pictured at right: Cabinets, granite, sink, backsplash are torn out. Salvageable pieces donated. Large appliances are temporarily moved to the side.

Days 2-4: Drywall patched and mudded.

Day 5: Wall surface was painted/primed.

Days 7-9: Cabinets installed. We went with Ikea again, because they've improved their offerings and it's a a lot more affordable than getting custom work done. We had an Ikea-approved professional installer figure out the best arrangement to fit our kitchen needs (similar to before, yet improved) and then their team built and installed the cabinets. We could have done this ourselves, but we decided to leave it to the pros to save ourselves time and a significant amount of frustration and profanity.

We chose white Akurum cabinets with white Abstrakt doors. Integral door dampers ensure a soft close, and Grip handles fit the minimal look we were after. We also opted for the Framitid microwave, $249, to be installed above the cooktop, which frees up counter space and allows for extra ventilation.

Day 13: Measurements for future Silestone countertops are taken.

Day 17: Ikea installer returns to do a few custom fittings around the fridge and dishwasher.

Day 18: Our contractor installs temporary plywood decking along with a temporary sink as the countertops are taking longer than estimated. There's no photo for this because I was out of town for the majority of that time. However, use your imagination (it wasn't pretty).

And then…



Day 40: The countertops are installed. It took a little longer than estimated because the countertop vendor was new. I badly wanted a dark countertop, but it wasn't prudent considering the lighting issue.

[Planning to install new counter tops? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Days 41-45 (minus weekend): The porcelain tile backsplash installed. White again for simplicity and to increase brightness.

Day 46
: Ta-da, the kitchen is mostly finished. There's still the under-cabinet lighting to be installed, but that won't matter much for these pictures.

We chose a Vigo 30 Double Bowl Undermount Kitchen Sink for $414.00 (includes two grids and two strainers). The depth is almost 10 inches, so it's perfect for larger pots and vases. Our Grohe faucet is the same one we had from before, at $280.

The room feels brighter and we're quite pleased with the new cabinets, especially as they've allowed us to better store our small kitchen appliances. I'm also surprised at just how nice the soft-close doors are; it's a very worthwhile (and low-cost) option to consider should you choose to redo your own kitchen or bathroom.