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dreaming of a white kitchen

Main kitchen

From Day 1 we knew we were going to have to invest a lot into the renovation of this home.  As earlier posts have noted we had a laundry list of things that “had to be done” and then things we “wanted to do”.  Along with the mortgage for the purchase of the home we also got a renovation loan (technically a 203k) but I won’t get into the specifics on how all of that worked right now. Just know that we had a set budget with this renovation loan and projects we were required by the bank to get done to stay compliant with the loan.  These major projects were:

  1. Master bathroom remodel
  2. A covered front porch
  3. New driveway
  4. Carport
  5. The repainting of the interior and exterior of the home
  6. And a 1600 square foot composite deck

Anything and everything else we were hoping to do to the house needed to be squeezed into the budget from the bank loan received to do just these things.  Knowing this we (Brandon) thought he could also squeeze in a lot of the other things he “wanted” to do by just putting in some sweat equity with my dad (the general contractor). So in almost every project we were trying to count pennies so the “savings” from those “had to be done” projects could be diverted to the “wanted to do” projects.  All in, this became a tedious task of searching the world for the “cheapest” EXACT tile we were looking for, getting upwards of seven bids from every subcontractor trying to find the best talent at the lowest price and excessive use of corner cutting. Of course all of this got us a little bit of traction but ended up leaving us with several projects started that we ran out of loan funds for and the beginning of what left us at the end of the day 110% over budget, close to broke and very thankful for some emergency monetary assistance from our family.


Oh right.  Here is how this one happened.  With Brandon under the belief that we could squeeze in twice as many projects into our loan funds we ended up being pretty close to getting everything on both our “Needs” and “Wants” lists and then his eyes fell on the kitchen. Now the kitchen was fairly modernized, looked pretty good but was just not what we had envisioned and overall poorly laid out. I will fast forward through all of the conversations Brandon and I had about his rationale to how we could “do an IKEA kitchen really cheap”, why this was the right time because the tile floors had to be changed anyways and how weird it would be if everything else in the house got remodeled except for the kitchen and just get to the part were one day while the boys (Brendan, Jackson, Matt and Devin) were helping to demo our old sun room travertine floors and Brandon decided to just go ahead, without listening to anyone else, start ripping out all of the kitchen cabinets.

As with everything else with a home remodel, when you dig too deep you always find more projects and problems your weren’t expecting.  So as day one of our tile floor and kitchen demo came to a close and I was just finishing up scrapping the last sections of linoleum flooring we found under the travertine to get us down to the wood floor something odd started to occur. Every time I would hammer a loose nail down or hit a piece of glued down tile with a hammer, the floor would shake a lot. I mean it would SHAKE.  So when we got to the section under where the sink cabinets had been Brandon and I found ourselves in a hole trying to look under the floor to see what we had going on.  What we found was a whole lot of nothing.

With a kitchen that spanned 20’ long by 10’ wide we found three support beams running length wise holding up the entire kitchen with absolutely no posts touching the ground between the two ends. On top of this tightrope style support structure it also turned out the previous contractors from sometime in the 1940s also didn’t take the time to find beams long enough and instead just bought six 2x12s and nailed them together in the middle.  Needless to say our entire kitchen floor had more bounce to it than Dawn Gallaher’s trampoline in 6th grade.   With this problem we now realized our little kitchen project took us all the way to the dirt and we had to begin from the ground up first rebuilding the floor with new supports, posts and sturdier sub-floor plywood sheeting.  Of course once you have all your floors up why not re-plumb everything too.

Once we had a floor again we could get back to designing the IKEA kitchen Brandon had already done a little price research on. This new cheap IKEA kitchen we had envisioned was nothing of the sort, so please believe me when I tell you that no kitchen not even an IKEA one is ever cheap.

We went with the white Lindingo series that most closely reflect our historic style and had the clear glass top cabinets with mulligans we were hoping for.  Designing this kitchen quickly became a nightmare as we realized our limited galley kitchen was almost impossible to design around and was going to feel really tight.  We went around and around with dozens of different designs. IKEA has a helpful program to design and redesign…and redesign your kitchen layout.

One design we considered to help create more floor space in the kitchen was to move the refrigerator slightly outside of the main kitchen space and to use the 12” deep top cabinets as base cabinets on our northern wall to pick up an additional 12” of room in the kitchen.  We ended up scrapping this design when it came to purchase time and bought the standard 24” depth base cabinet for both sides of our galley kitchen.  Once home, we had a pizza party to get a large crew of friends over to help with the prepping stage of the IKEA build and split our friends up into their couple groups to each put together a few of the sections for us.  This is a great idea, saves a lot of time and is a project that any of your friends can easily do as almost everyone has put together something from IKEA.

The next day, with all of our components (base cabinets, wall cabinets, floor to ceiling pantry units, etc.) put together we set out on rough fitting all of the units and instantly realized the 24” deep units on both sides of the kitchen we far too encroaching and Brandon finally admitted that my vote for the shallow design was the right option all along. IKEA’s very open return policy allowed us to easily return half of these large, now built, 24” deep units and pick up the 12” deep pieces.  Now, these units aren’t traditionally designed to be placed on the ground but their construction does allow for it.  Just note that in a design like this you will never have the traditional amount of counter depth you are use to in these areas but with the use of metal shelves and hanging pot holders we really got this area to open up and came out with a pretty good look.

The key to making an IKEA kitchen look good is to spring for the “cool” components.

We decided that we would get more historically accurate hardware from another vendor.  We kept our eyes out and waited for one of Restoration Hardware’s annual sales and ordered all of our hardware from them (latches, pulls and handles).  We also went with a still-under-warranty used subzero refrigerator from Craigslist.  Brandon also ordered new stainless steel panels from the manufacturer to go on the unit to match the rest or our new IKEA appliances (the price on these was just too good!).

Probably the most impactful upgrade we made to the kitchen was installing white Carrera marble counter tops. We found a local dealer and spent the extra mula to have the upgraded triple bevel finish. Beware that marble is very hard to maintain – so use at your own risk! It’s very finicky and doesn’t like hot things (pans, boiling water), wet stuff (wine, coffee) or pretty much anything else you could normally put on a kitchen counter. It sure looks pretty though.

There are many other ways you can separate your kitchen from the standard IKEA. A tiled back splash can make a huge difference and for us was only a fraction of the overall budget. Materials and labor for the back splash work was minimal and makes a big impact. We went with the white subway tile with the dark gray grout.

Finally, due to their value and quality construction there are many vendors that provide alternative cabinet fronts to go over the IKEA frames.  This is an option I’m sure we will consider in the future for other projects, but due to time constraints and the ease of buying the IKEA fronts we went with the Lindingo series you see.  At the end of the day we are very happy with the way our white on white on white kitchen turned out and always find our guests shocked when we tell them where it’s from.

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