Guest Blogger: Colleen jazzes up her kitchen for less than ,000

Tarbubble_3Today's Guest Blogger is Colleen, a stay-at-home mom from Lake Forest, who finally gave in to my pleading for Guest Bloggers. (Was it the praying cat that put her over the edge?)

Here's her story:

When we bought our Lake Forest townhouse, everything was perfect except the kitchen.

It was beige laminate everywhere (applied over the original 1979 faux-wood particleboard cabinets and the countertop), and the sink cabinet had so much water damage that we couldn't keep a cabinet door bolted in place; the screws would rip out. There was a pass-through window from the kitchen to the dining room, but it was blocked by cabinets that hung down, so I would have to bend over to converse with my family and guests while I was in the kitchen.

So after almost four years of beige, we put together a tight budget and figured out what we could do.

We knew we would be keeping the shape and layout intact, since the kitchen worked well — it was just ugly and old and damaged. We wanted Ikea cabinets, but they come in only so many sizes and we couldn't make them work in our dimensions. We got quotes from big-box stores, but the prices were high enough to threaten the budget.

So we went to Chino Cabinets, which made and installed my parents' and uncles' cabinets, and it quoted us a very competitive price of about $5,000 for custom paint-grade maple cabinets.

I should note that the quote was for unfinished wood. They have finishers they recommend, but we did it ourselves. The only problem we had was our own fault for not being crystal clear enough about a change we ordered. Continue reading . . .

We knocked out the old cabinets ourselves, which was tremendous fun, primed and painted the bare walls, and let Chino Cabinets install the new cupboards. Then, with a lot of help from my dad (at the time I had a 1-year-old baby and a 4-year old child), we primed and painted the cabinets: the upper cabinets white with black Mission-style metal knobs, the lower cabinets black with some gorgeous vintage-looking off-white ceramic and metal knobs. I had been hoarding those knobs for years, waiting for the chance to use them.

The white-and-black combination actually made the kitchen seem much bigger than before. (Click photos to enlarge.)

The budget made slab stone impossible for the countertops, so we went with solid black granite tile. Our only mistake was in choosing our installer, the son of a friend who turned out to be competent, but not really savvy about countertops. The counters cost only $500, and we should have coughed up the money and went with somebody with more experience. We also didn’t change the floor tiles because even though I hated them (too slick for a kitchen) they did look OK in the new kitchen, and again, we had that budget. A machine-washable rug solved the problem.

We also chose not to install cabinets over the refrigerator. Instead, I bought two large chipboard baskets that, when set together on top of the fridge, took up most of the empty space and looked really nice to boot. I filled them with less-often-used kitchen equipment, and to us this was genius — one of our best choices. We also left the doors off the new cabinets over the pass-through window as I like my pretty, colorful dishes. And this makes them easy to pull out from the kitchen or the dining room.

My dad helped us a lot, and we did as much as possible ourselves, which really helped keep the budget down. The project came in at less than $10,000.

We made some sacrifices, but it turned out gorgeous and all came together very quickly.

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4 Comments on Guest Blogger: Colleen jazzes up her kitchen for less than $10,000

  1. colleen

    thank you all for your compliments on the kitchen. Ginger, for the appliances we went by fairly recent Consumer Reports reviews and ended up going with recommended models from Kenmore for the stove & dishwasher.
    Kinikia, i finally found the phone # for Chino cabinets. it is 909-628-2368. They are not a glamorous company, but they have been in business for over 45 years, know what they are doing, had everything
    done when they said it would be done, and they installed it all in one day. i would use them again in a heartbeat, but remember their prices are for raw wood cabinets — you have to arrange for staining or painting yourself.
    just make sure you inspect their diagrams throughly, and if you have any changes made, request new diagrams. that was our only mistake — we made one small change and assumed that we were perfectly clear. they did exactly what we told them to do, but we had not been clear about one additional detail. our fault completely. it wasn’t a disaster, the kitchen still looks great, but we learned a lesson.


    The Kitchen looks great. That was a great price you paid for the cabinets. Do you by chance have contact information for Chino Cabinets? I could not find any information for them on the internet.

  3. Jeannie

    I like it but the pink accessories (towel and billowy curtain) don’t really work for me. A more geometric style of window treatment would bring out the beauty of the rest of the kitchen even more.

  4. Ginger K.

    Congragulations, Colleen on a very nice kitchen. It’s amazing that you got new cabinets and granite counters for less than $10,000. I get so tired of seeing $100,000 kitchens with $30,000 in appliances. It’s so nice to see something even I could afford. Nice going.