I am all about a budget….

Have you ever heard of “Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget”? Basically, that is the story of my life….

My husband is an “Obsessive Saver” and, when let loose, I can be a “Big Spender”. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, when choosing between two things, I will always pick the more expensive one.

It is the cross I must bear! I gravitate towards a ‘high end look’ or product every time but then, reality sets in.

There is a very small percentage of people in this world where money is never a consideration….I am not one of them and probably, will never be. So, my reality is how do I get the look without paying the price?

Ever since we purchased our first home in 2000 and began that remodel, this question has led me to find creative solutions. The most positive of all the solutions is that my Hubby and I have become die hard “Do It Yourself”-ers! We have made it a hobby, which is totally not for everyone, but for us, it works.

So, when we moved to this 1960’s Fixer and, the kitchen had to go, we knew we could do it!! But, as with all projects, it came with a very strict budget from the Hubs….Boooo!

Well, that is what I always say at first. After the initial shock wears off, I always see it as a challenge…..and funny, I always end up using my creative abilities to keep costs down. The kitchen project was probably my biggest challenge to date in all of our homes and the budget I am most proud of.

We did it over a period of 6 months, performed most of the work ourselves and paid cash for everything.

First came the unexpected initial cost of tearing down the drywall. The old drywall had been skim coated with plaster around the old cabinets, so it was more cost effective to have it all redone. This cost plus, the initial tear out of the floor by the contractor, cost us $1300. Money well spent and boy, were we happy we did that! That opened Pandora’s box of electrical issues, so the Hubby rewired the kitchen before the new drywall went up. We replaced all the insulation too, after we found a few critter dwellings….Grossss! Then my contractor came, put up new drywall ready for us to paint. We knew we could physically put up the drywall, but would rather not finish it. In our previous home when we finished our basement, we learned that drywall is something you leave to the professionals. It saves you time and money in the long run!

kitchen at paint

Then we installed the new hardwoods which saved a ton of money! We researched installation online and rented the flooring nailer from Home Depot. One weekend of our time and a fabulous flooring sale only cost us about $470. Golden!

The next big expense were the cabinets. I did tons of research on this and had a very long list of requirements. I went to three major home Improvement stores and bid the kitchen. Home Depot came in at the lowest price with the best value.


The funny thing was, I had this Martha Stewart inspiration photo from Pinterest (above) that I was carrying around with me everywhere. Home depot carried the cabinets and I could actually afford them?!?! The stars were aligned. I was so impressed with Home Depot’s kitchen designer, Brian! He threw in a few ideas, I had not thought of, and we came up with a great design. Above and beyond that, the Martha Stewart Cabinet line came standard with so many requirements on my list.

My two main concerns, ‘Quiet Close Drawers and Doors’ and ‘Pull Out Drawers’ in the base cabinets…..Got it! Done!

pots and pans cabinet

Check out the above picture. I have those pull out drawers on both sides of my oven for pots and pans. Organization! Woot! Woot!

all wood lazy susan

All three corners of the kitchen have tons of storage now. I love Martha’s Lazy Susan. I have had one in each house we have lived in, but, other cabinet companies, like Merillat and Aristokraft, have plastic shelves which start to collapse under the weight of canned goods. This one is all solid wood and looks pretty too!

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drawer in a drawer

Martha had fantastic drawer choices. The one under the microwave is perfect for my daughters dishes and cups….totally self service! The other ‘Drawer in Drawer’ action holds utensils galore along with my cutting boards and knives, right next to the sink.

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I got a pull out Trash and Recycling cabinet which, was a must for someone who has OCD and hates to look at a kitchen garbage can. Love it!

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We even made our own tray cabinet on a budget. We just ordered a 12″ base, and installed the wire tray dividers you can buy for $15! We saved about $75 on this cabinet alone.

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For the rest of my serving platters, we ordered an extra shelf in the refrigerator cabinet for $20. It is crazy deep and, turns out, I needed it for all of those serving trays.

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I really did not want standard upper cabinets. I wanted my kitchen to have a custom look and, I think I achieved it, with installing the cabinets on top of the counter top. I added the glass cabinets stacked on top of the 42″ wall cabinets, for display. We saved on the glass cost by getting ‘doors cut for glass’ and then, using Plexiglas instead of real glass. I saved about $300 by making that small modification. Does anyone know they are not glass? No!

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My husband installed all of the cabinet lighting after we pre-wired for it during the electrical rough in. I also could not seem to find pendant lights I loved and, this being a remodel, I had to leave the pendant lights in this spot. There was no option to hang them over the peninsula…..so the wheels started turning. I made my own pendants out of Ball Jars, as seen on Pinterest. Minimal money was spent…..about $30 total. Do I like them? Yes! Will I have them forever? I like to change things up way too much for that but, they will do for right now!

The back wall of the kitchen has become a focal point. When we first moved into the house, my father in law told me not to look at the kitchen, just turn around and look at the lake view in the opposite direction. Now, when I look into my house from the deck, on the lake side, I love the kitchen view! ┬áThe focal wall left the rest of the kitchen walls open….just what this 1980’s dark oak kitchen needed.

So where do you think we are on cabinet cost? When I look back at the Hubby’s spread sheet, I can barely believe it myself! $6150!

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And that price includes knobs!! Lets talk about that for a second. This is an old lake house and I want it to have charm and character. I always look at knobs for cabinets as “jewelry”….maybe someone said that to me once? I don’t know? But, I do know, I hate things to be “matchy-matchy” and contrived. When I chose my knobs, I did not just choose one style, I chose three. I really think this gives the kitchen more character, that it has evolved over time, rather than just your standard ‘Builder grade’ kitchen that is in every new suburban home.

Next came appliances. We knew that we would save if we used what we had and really, the dishwasher and stove were in great shape, so we kept them. All we needed was a larger refrigerator, hood fan and new built in microwave. I got a great deal on the fridge because I had time to wait for a sale while we remodeled. Frankly, I struck gold on Black Friday! I knew I wanted the largest refrigerator money could buy and, I planned my kitchen cabinets accordingly. I am not a fan of “counter-depth”….it sacrifices much needed space inside the fridge, so why not extend the cabinet out? I also sold the old one on Craigslist which kept costs down and afforded me more money for the budget.

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The microwave was a counter top model, plus a trim kit, to give it a built in look. Why spend the money on a ‘microwave cabinet’ if you are not going to trim it out and make it look finished? Notice all of those different knobs working together in that photo, by the way….who says you have to match everything?

The hood fan was a bit tricky but we did our research and ordered it online. We installed it ourselves and saved there too.

The total cost for all three was $1630….pretty much the cost of a mid range refrigerator and we got all three just by taking the time to shop it!


The next piece of the puzzle was the counter top. For this kitchen, I really considered wood at first. I thought we could install it on our own and, it would go great with my lake house theme. Well, after discussing the logistics nightmare with my contractor, and my husband, and asking about 4200 questions, I wimped out. So then, I went to price the ‘Carrara Marble look’ in Silestone or Quartz….very pricey! This lead me back to Granite. I found a great fabricator and picked a slab they had in stock for a very low price. The dark gray will still allow me to have the marble on my back splash. It really was the best option and, the install will allow me to have that apron front stainless sink that I have always wanted! Deal done! $3800 plus another $800 for the sink, faucet and plumbing done by the contractor.

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The last step was the back splash. I bought all of the tile and supplies at Home Depot. We laid out a plan and away we went. We have done other back splash projects in other homes. In my opinion, every kitchen should have a back splash. It adds so much to the character of the space and makes your space unique. Since I did not have upper cabinets, we only tiled two rows plus a trim piece on two sides of the kitchen, which saved a ton on cost.


The focal wall got tile up to the hood fan and a river rock mosaic that kept with the coastal theme. The back splash was so simple but, adds so much to the overall design.

So, the kitchen remodel is complete. Now it’s time to be shocked by the numbers!

On average a Kitchen remodel with new cabinets etc. will cost around $30,000.

Mine cost $15,000 total!!! I cut that in half…..Champagne Taste on my Beer Budget plus what I learned along the way was priceless!


The Land of Ugly Kitchens….

When I moved to the Detroit area 7 years ago, I was shocked by what I saw. Every existing home we looked at was over priced, outdated and beyond that…..OAK! There was Oak trim, Oak floor and Oak Cabinets. I think prior to this, I may have had a nightmare about this exact situation. Here is the deal, people….this was 7 years ago!!! Am I still seeing Oak? Yes!! Does it bring me back to 1991? Yes!!

We bought a spec home with Cherry Cabinets, because at that time we had a two year old and did not think we could handle a remodel. Years went by and I met a neighbor who had just relocated to Ann Arbor from Atlanta. She was sharing her house hunting horrors with me and I think she asked the best question, “Why is Michigan the Land of Ugly Kitchens?”. Of course, I laughed but really, there is no reason it should be. Maybe its just the Detroit area….but no, when we moved here to the West Side, same problem! OK, Grand Rapids is Furniture City and full of Interior Designers!! Get With it people!!! And then my best friend from Indy moves to the Detroit area two months ago. She calls me immediately and the first question, “What is up with the Oak? This is not OK!!” So, my mission is to get rid of each and every oak kitchen one by one….Just Kidding! But, this leads me into the story of our kitchen remodel…..

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When we bought this house, I fell in love with the view….the rest was cosmetic and had to be changed. The kitchen…..gutted! In the pictures it really doesn’t look terrible, although I noticed photos of the kitchen were never displayed on the MLS listing. Also, excuse the cat…we had just moved in and I figured she was probably cleaner than the kitchen counter itself, so she got to sit there. Let me just give you a brief overview of what we had……

Cabinets that were from the 1980’s that were greasy and dirty with 72 layers of shelf paper

Very few cabinets were deep enough for plates….kind of an issue…and all three corners were dead space

Live electrical wires above the cabinets were hanging out of the wall….why leave it like that?

The walls were originally drywalled but someone skim coated plaster after the cabinets were in place….hot mess!

A dishwasher in the corner of the kitchen….I am not even going to try to guess why?

Tile counter tops with oak trim laid over the laminate counter….talk about thick! Oh, and they used 12×12 Green and White fake Marble floor tile! Why not?


The same sweet Green Marble on the floor….Yesssss!

Enough said!!!

I was not cooking in this room…..so this became our first project. We moved in August and by September we were gutting it!

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The happiest day of my life when the Hubs is starting to rip it out. Oh! But we hit a snag! Layers upon layers of floor….we had to call in the contractor for assistance. He happily tore it all out in 2 hours, cabinets included!

Looking better already!


And how were we living with out a kitchen?? It was pretty rustic….almost like camping! (Sorry, the cat is very photogenic…she likes to be in all pictures)

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The more we opened it up, the more we decided that we needed to remove the drywall as well….


It was a good thing we did because, we found electrical problems galore plus a few bonus critters mainly dead in the hood fan!


kitchen at drywall

So the weeks went on and we worked like crazy along with our contractor, who did the drywall and plumbing.

I went to Home Depot and collaborated with the designer there and we came up with a fantastic and cost effective design.

kitchen at paint

My husband and I painted the walls and laid the hardwood floor ourselves. The floor was not my dream wood floor but it matched the rest of the house so we went with it. This was our first time laying hardwoods and I have to say, it wasn’t bad. I am thinking we will probably rip out the rest of the carpet in the house and put it in all the bedrooms to keep things consistent. Did I mention I don’t like carpet? Or that I don’t like 42 flooring breaks in a house? Yes, I have lots of opinions…just wait!

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By Christmas, it was starting to come together! We installed all of these cabinets ourselves as well. Thank the lord The Hubby is handy…..it saved us thousands on installation costs. We did keep the Kitchen Aid Gas Stove and Dishwasher. We bought a larger refrigerator and notice that cabinet above where the refrigerator should go….Doors with glass?? That was a mistake by the cabinet company but they sent me new doors. A lot of silly little things like that happened through the process but you just have to take a deep breath and roll with it! It will all get fixed.

I did have to concede on my dream granite to keep costs down. I wanted the white Cararra Marble look, but marble in the kitchen is always a bad idea for function. The granite that looks like Carrara is pretty pricey. Then I went to wood, but it made me nervous (I did get that in a later project though). So, I did a dark gray that isn’t common and got a great deal on the slab.


But, the backsplash is all Carrara Marble Subway Tile with a river rock inset over the stove. I worked it in and am happy. My Hubby and I did the back splash too….so proud of our skills!

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By St. Patrick’s day of 2012 the kitchen looked like this!!

I could not be happier with the outcome. I got everything I wanted and more. In my mind it is still not totally done but, I am sure I will blog about all the little tweaks here and there in the future. Some have even taken place since these photos were taken. The kitchen is truly the heart of my home now and I am so glad we chose this project first. Next time, I will have to tell you about our budget and how much we spent….you wont believe it!

How much do you think it all cost??