This past summer my husband Ryan and I gave my kitchen the remodel it had been needing for years. My family and I spend a huge majority of our time in this space, and we found it to be dark, cluttered, lacked storage, was very dusty, and uninviting. On a modest budget, we were able to makeover the outdated space and turn it into a place our family loves to be. This is the story of how we did it.
Last March we started talking about doing a major kitchen overhaul. We’d been living in the house for 6 years and really hadn’t done anything to update the kitchen. We were coping with a bright mustard yellow color on the walls and ceiling, outdated black track lighting that provided a very low amount of light to the room, no upper cabinets-- fairly useless and impractical shelves on 3 sides of the room, a floating commercial style stainless steel island, and an over-stove microwave that wasn’t built in. It was time to do something!
So we put a plan together to make some updates including new lighting, upper cabinets on 2 sides with cool new farmhouse style shelves on one side, a new matching island, recessed LED can lighting, task lighting over the sink, a granite counter on the new island, new paint on the walls and ceiling, and a shiplap backsplash.
I did a lot of research to find just the right upper cabinets. Our existing base Plato Woodwork cabinets are shaker style, but I quickly found out that not all shaker styles are the same! Some have thicker rails, some have thinner ones, some are a full overlay, some are a partial overlay or the hinges are different, some have beveled edges, and others have straight edges. I made trips to many local cabinetry stores, got quotes from Plato, Standard Kitchens, Home Depot, Lowes, and RTA Cabinetry. I quickly learned that there was no way we were going to be able to afford the high-end Plato cabinets that I really wanted, and so I had to find an alternative supplier that would get us as close as possible to a match. Also, our base cabinets are matte black, and so I had to decide if I was up for the challenge of repainting them to match any new uppers we picked out, or if I wanted to do some kind of contrast.
I spent hours on Pinterest looking at kitchens that had black base cabinets with white uppers to try and decide if I liked that look or not. I do love the way black and white go together, and much of my wardrobe is a mix of blacks and whites. In my design practice, I find that the colors my clients have in their closets/wardrobes are the ones they feel most comfortable being surrounded by in their homes. Knowing how much I like to wear black and white together helped me decide that I would be okay with a contrasting kitchen and that it could actually be quite a statement! I ended up finding a very very close match in shaker style rails and overall look from RTA Cabinet Store. They’re a ‘ready-to-assemble’ direct to consumer cabinet manufacturer, and they make the ordering process pretty seamless. Once I ordered a cabinet door front sample and confirmed style, color, and finish, they assigned me a kitchen designer from their company to work with. I sent him the floor plans for my kitchen, along with horizontal and vertical measurements of the space. In addition to the upper cabinets, I also had their designer mock up what a new kitchen island made out of base cabinets, trim, and finish panels would look like and had him add that to the quote. Then they were able to provide me with a 3-D drawing of what my kitchen would look like as well as a pretty good idea of how much it would all cost. I was pleasantly surprised with how cost-effective this solution would be, and it met all of my aesthetic needs! Plus, I read a ton of online reviews that praised their product and went on a site visit to someone whom I know recently installed the same line of shaker cabinets from RTA in their home. I was also able to get a recommendation for an installer that was very familiar with how to put these cabinets together (they come shipped flat in a box on a pallet). Finding him was super useful because I really did not want to try to tackle hanging cabinets for the first time and possibly messing it up, even though I love to DIY and am generally pretty fearless about it!
Once I had the cabinet manufacturer, line of cabinets, style, and finish selected, it was time to get them ordered! It took about 2 weeks for them to come in, and then we just stored them in an extra room in our house (to get acclimated to the indoor temperature in our house) while we waited to get the lighting contractor to come put in the new recessed LED can lights. I drew a plan for how I wanted the lighting laid out, spaced evenly from the walls and each other, with everything being symmetrical in the room. I was able to find a wonderful master electrician whom I would highly recommend (contact info below), and he came to remove the old black track lighting, install the new LED cans, added a task light above the sink, and put all the new lights on dimmer switches. He was in an out in a day, and was very reasonable!
Once the lighting was done, we started removing the old black floating shelves, the old backsplash and repairing the walls. We painted all of the walls a beautiful eggshell Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore. We did paint behind where the shiplap was going to go as well because we knew that you’d be able to see a tiny bit of the paint in the space between the shiplap. We also decided that we wanted fresh white ceilings to make the space feel a little larger.
It seemed like as soon as we were done with the painting, the cabinet contractor was ready to do our install. It took him about 2 days between opening all the boxes, assembling all the cabinets, hanging the uppers, and creating the island. Meanwhile, as he was busy doing all of that, I was out in our barn workshop fabricating our new modern farmhouse style shelves. We wanted thick dark stained shelves with industrial style brackets, and it was very important to me that the brackets were spaced evenly, symmetrically on the wall, and that the anchors were going into studs. After exploring barn wood options, I ultimately decided to go with 2x12 lumber and to stain and distress it to look like barn-wood. It would be a lot more uniform this way, and I had seen several tutorials on Pinterest that made me confident this technique would work! My original design called for “L”-shaped shelves, but we ran into trouble with getting the brackets spaced just right on the wall. We could have done it with drywall anchors, but it was also very important to me that the shelves could hold heavy things, and that they would be very strong, as we have little kids in the home. So, we did a little problem solving and modified the design so that the shelves would just sit along one wall, and then I’d hang a hand-made chalkboard sign in the empty wall space. I do love a chalkboard in a kitchen, so this solution was perfect. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!
When the cabinets were up, we started our shiplap backsplash project. I wanted the shiplap to go all the way up the wall where the shelves would go, and under the cabinets on the other wall. We talked to many people that had done shiplap projects and deduced that the best way to do it would be to use ⅛” underlayment board from Lowe’s. They will do all of the horizontal cuts for free, saving us a ton of time! This way we could bring home all of our boards already cut one way, and we’d just have to do the vertical cuts. We set up some sawhorses outside the kitchen and painted all of the board edges outside with a small roller prior to attaching them to the wall with our brad nailer. Then, once all the boards were in place (it was a tedious process, I’ll be honest!) we used a regular sized paint roller to roll white paint on, the same way you would with a wall. We went back and trimmed everything out with pencil trim and convex quarter round, and caulked along the counters and edges. Then we put on a finish coat of paint, and the shiplap portion of things was done!
To finish off the project, I searched local granite yards for a small remnant I could use on the island and found the best deal and the most wonderful color of granite at Duca Stone & Tile in Holland, MI. The color is called Alaskan White, and it has lots of grays, whites, and a few browns, as well as some subtle sparkle. Really, it’s quite beautiful! I was also able to find an amazing deal on Amerock knobs in oil rubbed bronze at pullsdirect.com and ordered enough for all of the cabinets, new and old, in the kitchen, to tie everything together.
The benefits of remodeling our kitchen:
- Better lighting means I can see what I’m doing
- More welcoming to guests
- I cook 3 meals a day and clean up at least 3 times a day. I spend the majority of my time in this room, so I should like it!
- More storage for spices, food, plates, cups, medicines, and baking supplies
- More functional space
- Makes it much easier to quickly cook meals and whip up baked goods
- Less clutter - closed storage is essential when you have kids
- Less dust
- Brighter, airier feeling
I can honestly say that we are so happy with how our new modern farmhouse style kitchen turned out! We were able to use much of what we already had, and just modify it a little bit to create a kitchen that works well for our family and our budget. If you’re considering updating your kitchen, I’ve included links below to the suppliers we worked with, and I’ve also broken down the cost of the project, so you can get an idea of how much it might cost you to make similar changes. Please reach out if you have any questions -- I am happy to offer advice on remodeling, recommend contractors, or chat with you about your project!
- Our existing base cabinets https://www.platowoodwork.com
- Our new upper cabinets & island https://www.rtacabinetstore.com
- New knobs https://www.pullsdirect.com
- Master Electrician - Kanduit Electric - Dennis Kroeze - 616-836-4734
- Shiplap Boards - Lowes’ https://www.lowes.com
- Granite Remnant - Duca Stone & Tile http://www.ducatile.com
Approximate Cost Info
- Cabinets & Island - $4,000
- Cabinet Installation Labor - $1500
- Granite Remnant - $400
- Lighting & Labor - $800
- Paint - $300
- Shiplap - $150
- Pulls (36) - $75