My kitchen remodel: rethinking the whole thing

KitchenremodelIn the years since my husband Bill and I moved into this house, we’ve spent many fine hours fantasizing about what we could do with this kitchen — punch up the ceiling, pop out the wall into the dining room, create a big island with a cooktop. And so on.

But two growing concerns — the economy and ecology — have me rethinking these grand plans.

Is this a good time, financially, to spend our savings gutting and redoing this kitchen?

And even if money was not the issue, is this kitchen so bad? What if it was tuned up rather than replaced? Wouldn’t that be more in line with the green building mindset Bill and I are constantly promoting?

And so I’m rethinking . . .

The floor: We installed this parquet flooring with the thought that it was temporary, just until we could afford something great. But maybe it’s already a great floor and simply needs to be sanded lightly and refinished. Anyone done that with parquet? (Estimated cost: 10 hours labor, $50 materials)

The cabinets: Though this house is at least 30 years old, the wood cabinets had never been painted before I took a big brush slopping with orange paint to them. Did I do the right thing? Should I have refinished them? And why orange? I really can’t recall. I’m ready for a different color, and maybe some moldings. But rip them out? Why? (Cost: 10 hours labor, $50 materials)

The walls: I chose this wonderful blue when we first moved here. But maybe I should go for something a little more dignified? (Cost: 10 hours labor, $50 materials)

The knobs: Here’s where I could really get creative, adding some cool knobs and pulls. I’ve seen you homeowners having fun doing this for years, and now’s my time. (Cost: 5 hours labor, $200 materials)

The counters: This is where Bill and I would usually come to an impasse with our fantasies. He’s talking tile or laminate, while I’m seeing granite or concrete. But here’s the truth: I love the existing green laminate countertops. I call the color sage green, but I’m sure when this house was built, it was called avocado. (Cost: n/a)

The sink: This sink is really fine, and the same great sage green. Not an amazing sink, but OK. (Cost: n/a)

The faucet: We put this faucet in a few years ago, and it’s already crummy. I could go for something a lot nicer. (Cost: 2 hours labor, $150 materials)

The backsplash: Here’s another place I could make sweet, sweet music. What fun I could have finding just the right glass tile (or whatever) for this very visible spot. (Cost: 10 hours labor, $200 materials)

The light fixtures: I think I can do better than these old-fashioned globes (which I could drop off at the thrift store). Maybe some kind of low-voltage track lights? Or something else unusual? (Cost: 2 hour labor, $150 materials)

The windows: We seriously need new windows in the whole house, including the three windows in the kitchen. There’s no way we’re keeping these old, rattling, leaking, single-pane, cheap windows. We won’t go super high-end, but mid-range. (Cost: 15 hours labor, $1,000 materials)

The island/cart: We love the extra workspace this gives us. This works fine, but I think it could look better. I’m just not sure how.

So, for about 65 hours of labor and about $2,000, we could tune up our kitchen pretty nicely. And, we won’t be hauling a bunch of stuff to the landfill.

How about you? Is the economy or ecology causing you to reconsider any of your remodeling plans?

12 Comments on My kitchen remodel: rethinking the whole thing

  1. TTF

    I think you have good ideas for our kitchen. I wold start with lighting, since it will really change the look and feel of the room. Once you have that in place, I think ou can make better decisions about the rest of the changes you want to make.
    Make sure you blog the details as you go…
    10K Kitchen Remodel.

  2. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Ann, great memory! Yes, I did paint the exterior brick red with green trim. And you can actually see the exterior of the house from inside the kitchen (I’ll post a picture soon to explain that), so there needs to be some relationship between inside and outside colors. I’m totally thinking of white cabinets with sage walls. And the red in accents is brilliant. Thank you! I do want to feel inspired in my house.

  3. Ann

    Brainstorming …. If I remember correctly, you recently painted the exterior of your home barn red with dark sage green accents. Your kitchen is full of bold colors. If colors/bohemian are your thing and that vibe is throughout the house, then that’s great. Otherwise, I’d consider a few changes to keep the vibe continuous: paint cabinets that martha stewart pale sage. Countertops could stay the green or replace with a green countertop like avonite that comes in a white with earthy flecks. Or keep green counters and paint cabinets creamy white or taupe. Use red accents (to carry the red exterior into interior) in towel, tablecloth, such as a white background with touches of red and maybe yellow, green, beige. Lace curtains work well if they are used elsewhere in house. Your dream bathroom is the romantic claw foot tub and pedestal — lace would work there. But if you have a mix of window treatments, I’d pick one style, like bamboo shades to put everywhere. Floor: I’d keep if it works with the rest of the house in color or style. I think for expressive people it’s important (within reason) to feel inspired in their spaces.

  4. minhus

    Comments such as the ones by Snapoutfit are asinine. The ideas Kathy described in this post are extremely reasonable. She never mentioned not being able to afford them, or whether they’re impacting any other savings goals, and frankly that’s none of our business. It’s rather pompous to assume that Kathy’s family isn’t already doing both; many people manage to do renovations AND save for retirement.
    And there’s always people in better and worse situations, so what? Some people are more sensitive to their surroundings than others and there’s nothing wrong with improving them. Kathy never said she was going into debt to renovate, nor did she say she’s renovating because her neighbor did. Doesn’t sound like an envy situation to me. There’s also nothing wrong with just living with it, but there’s no need to try and impress your personal decision on someone else.
    Snapoutofit needs to get over it. Maybe he wouldn’t be so moody if he liked his home more. 🙂

  5. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Thank you all for the great feedback on my kitchen — finding a coherent style, backsplash ideas (thank you Mr. Baltimore), undercounter lights, can lights, white cabinets, getting rid of so many colors, maybe a new floor, and giving up envy. All so good! My gratitude!
    Hey, if you want feedback on your own design dilemma, email a couple of photos to me at, and I’ll post them so you can get some of this great advice.

  6. Snapoutofit

    Or, you could just live with what you’ve got. Billions the world over do. You’re not deprived, you’re not poor. You just want more. And more.
    I bought a fixer house ten years ago with ugly, ugly, I mean hideous old vinyl flooring in the kitchen. Bizarre pattern of red, black gray, brown and yellow. Clashed with everything. But after moving in, I had little enough money to replace the filthy carpet and fix everything that was broken in the house, let alone the vinyl floor.
    When I was whining about how much it was going to cost to re-do the kitchen floor, a friend, who has a lot of insight about what is necessary and what is luxury, said, “You could just live with it.”
    I was so struck by the simplicity of his statement. He was right. The floor was just ugly, not worn out, or a threat to health and happiness. Worrying about how things look, especially to others, is a luxury in most of the world, and to those of us for whom money is tight, it’s an insidious form of self-destruction.
    So instead of replacing the floor, I funded my IRA….
    Ten years later I have a nice fat IRA, and the same kitchen floor.
    Just let go of envy and desire, Kathy…. You have a much nicer kitchen than I have!

  7. sasjeh

    To me the kitchen looks dark and there are to many colors. So since you love the green and you really need to light up the kitchen, I would use as the main color a toned down white (add a little yellow to it to make it more beige). And then go with the green/olive scheme suggested.
    I would then go with a southern french or italian more country look. There are several painting books around that show you how to create an antique look, just using paint on the cabinets.
    I would sand down the floors if possible (and try to let the natural wood color come through). The same for the island in the middle and then do not give it the yellow finish. I like the color of natural wood so if you could find a finish that gives it that look (it would be cool if you could do the same to the table and chairs). Or if you would like more contrast in this very light kitchen, how about some dark wood paint?
    As a backsplash, how about finding a nice white tile, with an olive theme (I really like that idea from a previous poster).
    And I would go for those knobs on the cabinet doors that are modern, but still have that timeless feel (metal, where it looks like they have been used for years, because there is black shining through).
    I would increase the amount of lights. I like the idea of under the cabinets lights. But adding some lights on the ceiling would be nice (maybe the ceiling could use a new coat of color?).
    And in front of the windows, how about those curtains with the vertical wood tubes in.
    And finish it of with a little herb garden pot 🙂

  8. Inland Empire

    Be sure to find your knobs online and cheap instead of at the big box hardware stores. The price online is only about 20% of what you would pay at the store. Add a little for shipping and you have saved a lot.

  9. riley

    I love big wide open modern spaces and I live in a small Traditional. I am learning that with minimal and purposeful furniture my space can feel large.
    I am trying to hang on to my mantra, “this is not my end house” so that I do spend wisely. I dream of space I could obtain by bumping, blowing and building out all the time. But then I dig deeper (into my wallet) and realize I just need to clean out the house.
    P.S. Invasive contractors love to quote $300 sf — and that is with no plumbing involved!

  10. sheila

    Theme is the starting point, in my opinion. You are all over the place, here. What is the idea you are looking to create? An Era, a Feeling, a Culture, a Color Scheme?
    I hope you don’t mind me observing, but you seem to have like 20 conflicting (if individually good) ideas competing here, so if it were me (and it is, as I am doing the same thing right now), I would spend the first phase determining what the “vibe” or “theme” is you wish to carry through the entire space, then build coordinated details out from there…
    The only way your kitchen will feel “right” is if there is a coherence to the parts. It doesn’t have to be some lame, suburban, cookie-cutter copy, just coherent. Figure out what you CANNOT get rid of, if anything, and keep that style in focus for the rest. Most things can go in a few directions, but that means steering all your other selections in one of those directions.
    If you love the green counters, for example, then either make that a stylistic centerpiece (zen/asian theme, Marimekko, 50s modern, etc.) or a color centerpiece (cool greens and pale yellows or bright primary colors). Colors should relate to the tone of the natural light that comes in, and your lighting tone should follow those colors.
    I hate to say it, but whatever you decide, the floor should go, in my opinion. Eco-friendly cork or linoleum might work, again, depending on the direction you head (one type, though, no separate tile). i can’t imagine keeping the tangerine with the blue with the green under any theme, nor the kitchen table with the other built-ins, but you may figure out a way to tie them in. Oh, and maybe painting cabinets will be 10 hours and $50. Refinishing them will be more like 100 hours and $250 in materials (assuming you already have a good sander). It is hard and messy!!
    So, that’s my personal decorating mantra, for what it’s worth — follow a consistent design theme and the details will fall into place. I love looking through Taschen books for ideas of colors/ architecture/ design/ cultural styles which help me flesh out themes i’m considering…

  11. lil_gaucha

    Wow. I actually really like this kitchen the way it is. Some fresh paint, new hardware pulls and maybe a custom island cart and you’ve got it looking good.
    With that green countertop, you could really do some interesting color schemes — like a very zen olive tree inspired something. Or a bright yellow.
    I see it like this, kitchen is tiny and the cabinets are 25 year old particle board (no kidding, particle board, painted white). And while we have a grand scheme for ripping everything out and replacing it with custom built cabinets, it’s really because th cabinets themselves are no good.
    If yours work for you already, as far as storage and convenience of placement — keep em!
    You could even replace some of the wood front cabinets with glass fronts and paint the inside. That’s a look I’m really digging right now, especially near windows (and away from stoves — you don’t want grease on glass, it’s a pain to clean!).
    And with the floors, if you’re not hot on the parquet, consider freecycling it and replacing it with repackaged wood floors (like Lumber liquidators) or cruise craigslist for contractors selling extra tile from big jobs. That way you’re not really contributing to packaged waste, extra mining/logging and you stll get a great floor.
    Replacing the windows is great. Needs to be done. But you should think about some new window coverings too. There are some great online sites with easy directions for do it yourself roman blinds and things. Could really make the room amazing with those big windows.
    Have fun!

  12. Corey

    Sounds like you are on the right track with refinishing floors, painting the cabinets (hopefully white), and I think the counters would look good with the green counters. A backsplash similar to mine (follow link to my blog) would prob help lighten up the area, especially if you installed some under cabinet lights.
    I’d also consider some recessed lighting, as it looks as if your kitchen is pretty dark. It’s amazing how much lighting will make a room feel bigger.