the make it do or do without kitchen un-reno

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

When I find myself getting caught up in the societal trend to buy things, renovate or endlessly redecorate, I repeat these words.  It is a great litmus test to determine if something is truly a need or is simply a want.  Which category does a kitchen makeover fall into?  Probably a want.  Okay, for sure it is a want.  I could leave my kitchen the way it is and we’d all be fine.  And indeed I’ve left it the way I found it when we moved in and we’ve all survived.  If I am being very honest I left it alone because 1. the to-do list was long when we moved in 2. money was short 3. having experienced wallpaper removal of epic proportions in the old house I wasn’t up for it after the move to the new house 4. this kitchen has…er, ‘quirks’ and I thought I should live in the space before making any adjustments…

Fast forward a year and I’ve started to experience intense itching upon entering my kitchen.  I’d look at the handyman special of a cabinet beside my awkwardly placed stove and feel my face twitch.  I swallowed hard when I had to reach for my dinner plates, stored not in the upper cabinets (because they are too narrow to fit plates), but in the lower, afore-mentioned handy man special of a cabinet.  My eyes would protest when they looked upon the brown wallpaper with orange flowers and the brown “dead leaf” pattern on my ceramic backsplash…tension was building.

It seems everyone around me has recently renovated  their kitchen or they have plans to.  I have found myself dreaming of a complete gut job after letting my hands spend too much time fondling someone else’s brand new faucet, or offering to cut up the vegetables just to find an excuse to get closer to the rustic yet modern butcher block counter top, or complaining of thirst so that I could procure myself a glass of water at the elegantly appointed apron front sink…must resist!

“This backsplash is perfectly functional” I’d tell myself.  “These cupboards have been here since this house was built.  You don’t get that kind of quality anymore” I’d say.  “No one has noticed that you hung your pictures up on the random nails and hooks that were already in the wall” I’d lie.  Blarghhhhh!!!!!!!!

The truth is I kind of like my kitchen.  I want to give it a new life without buying more stuff or sending perfectly good cupboards to the landfill.  I like the idea of putting my money towards other things my family would enjoy.  There are bigger problems in this world than an outdated kitchen.  But I don’t want to be ridiculous either.  There is work to be done.  And I have some ideas.  If you want to hear about them keep reading.  If you think you might have some awkward space solutions, take a look at my photos and suggest away!  The placement of appliances is the hardest bit and solutions might be possible but will likely have to wait for a more serious reno with more cash behind it, but I’m open to and welcome all input.

And so without further ado, I give you…my kitchen…

the awkward stove

We’ll start the tour with the view from the doorway to the dining room.  Here you will notice the previously mentioned “awkwardly placed stove” ($200 on kijiji BTW).  It has been “joined” to the rest of the cabinets by a homemade cupboard with a tiled top.  This cabinet is in front of the real face of the original cabinets.  When you get real close you can see the drawer and the cabinet door that it is in front of – not exactly a seamless placement.   This is now to be known as “conundrum #1”.  If I remove it the original cabinets will look the way they were intended to look, but then there would be a stove in front of them…still awkwardly placed.  It can’t be worse than having this cabinet there though can it?

What else can we see?  Hmmmm, the terrible state of the flooring (conundrum #2).  Its okay I’m aware.  It is tired and worn and oozing nothing close to vintage cool.  There is the wallpaper I mentioned and the backsplash (#3 and #4).  I’ve kept quiet up until now about the hideous colour of my cupboards but, well, there it is (#5).

fridge and dishwasherFollowing along, we can now reveal the ill placed pictures that I hung on the already existing wall nails.  The fridge was not located here when we moved in, it was beside the door to the backyard all by itself (see next photo).  It is better here but it does look like a happy gathering of all appliances in one cramped corner don’t you think?  The dishwasher is the rolling, hook it up to the sink kind (which we are forever grateful for Karen and Jason!!!!).  I’d love a built-in, but where to put it?  Also, in the future  an above the fridge cabinet would be nice…yes?  no?  I need your thoughts.

the cornerMoving right along, we have come to “the corner”.  This is where the fridge used to be.  I have big plans for this corner.  One day I’d love a metal door with a long window in it to let in light.  For now I’ll get rid of the thread bare curtains with holes in them and maybe paint the door.  I’ve already removed the wallpaper.  I’m searching for a table, maybe an enamel topped one (if I can find one small enough) with tall skinny legs so I can put our rubber boots or “house shoes” under it so trips out to the garden are made easy.  I’ll need some hooks for our aprons (and a sweater or two to grab on the way out to the garden I think).  We’ve found a lovely piece of board in the garage to make into open shelves to display our dinner plates (remember they won’t fit anywhere else), small plates, bowls and glasses. Conundrum #7 is finding acceptable brackets…so far all searching has yielded decidedly uncool hardware.  I think I’ll need a receptacle for my herb scissors and garden twine…maybe a wire herb drying rack hanging from the ceiling….yes, I think I’ll like this space eventually…it looks better already.  It used to look like this:

rubbermaid pantry

You can understand now can’t you.  Who could resist pulling down the wallpaper with those seams and edges pleading to be pulled!!  The rubbermaid pantry is already gone.  Thanks Kijiji!  Getting rid of it meant making the other cupboards really work.  After we reorganized things a bit we realized that we probably never needed this pantry to begin with and when you have more space you just end up with more stuff.

hideous wallpaper

And here is a good look at the hideousness that was the wallpaper.  Wanna know what is worse?

dirty wallpaperThis.  Look. At. How. Dirty.  Just look at it.  Oh dear.  Why didn’t I take this down when I moved in again?  Right, I had been scarred by wallpaper removal in the old place.  Turns out this stuff had been on so long there really wasn’t anything holding it on anymore so removal (with water and vinegar) was a breeze.  And an equally unappealing mushroom colour paint job was revealed.  Fun thing is the paint under that paint is probably the colour I’ll paint the walls…I know right?  Wait long enough and anything will come back into fashion.

So there is it.  Hit me with your suggestions.  I already have an idea of where I am going with this but all help is welcome.  Taking down the wallpaper was kind of nice actually.  I kept thinking of Flora, the woman who lived in this house since it was built and raised her family here…she likely pick the wallpaper and had someone make the handyman cabinet to solve the problem of the awkward stove issue.  Under the wall paper I found other nail holes that made me wonder how this room might have been arranged before…might a calendar have hung in that spot? Was there a breakfast table here?  Kitchens are the heart of the home after all.  We spend enough time here and I can’t wait to give it new life and make it our own.

I’ll add updates here as we go!


6 responses

  1. Hi Kelli. I can completely relate to your disdain of removing wallpaper. I did it in an old house once and literally refused to buy a future home based on the amount of wallpaper it contained. Good luck! I am sure you will make your space beautiful.

  2. so, being in somewhat the same position as you – caught reno fever, but lack the bucks to do it – and being completely honest in admitting that due to the age differences in our houses, my kitchen is, by default, more modern than yours, here are my suggestions, in no particular order: 1) NO to the over the fridge cabinet. I absolutely hate mine, it is a junk magnet. 2) Rip off the wall paper and paint. I know you are scarred by the last house, but this will seriously update things (This is where I spent my bucks, and remember the transformative effect of light grey paint vs. early 2000’s moss green?). 3) Paint the cabinets, too. Something glossy (read: easier to clean), maybe? Or totally matte to hide imperfections. 4) “New” (or actually new) cabinet hardware – check habitat restore. 6) New flooring – as budget permits. I love my vinyl which everyone thinks is stone! 7) Like the idea for the wee corner by the door…again try habitat restore for brackets, or Lee Valley sometimes has options with a rustic vibe that could work well here. 8) Wait to paint the door until after you’ve painted the kitchen walls and cabinetry…you may be able to do something totally unexpected and fun, like your entry door in the old house. 9) Painting the walls also lets you reposition those nail holes and give your favourite kitchen art real pride of place. Get super good (yes, more expensive) paint, it is well worth it…i love Benjamin Moore for wall paint.

    • Wallpaper down now – check!
      Painting walls will happen – future check!
      Cabinets to be painted…getting quotes – check!
      Colour of walls and cabinets – to be determined!
      Quotes for flooring to happen in Feb…
      Habitat for brackets – great idea!
      yes to waiting on the door…as soon as I have cash in hand for that it will be a new door for sure!!


      Thanks for all your suggestions!

      • HI,
        I agree with everything Tracy has said. A couple of additional thoughts. Fill ALL the nail holes (remove art etc) and then when the fresh paint is in place, hang pictures where they make sense, not just where an old nail is. Painting the cabinets is easy, you can do it yourself (save bucks by not bothering with a quote for this). Take note though that you can no longer buy oil paint and will likely have to get a special primer to paint over the cabinets before using a new paint. I agree with the Benjamin Moore recommendation – I’ve used so many cheaper paints and lived to regret it. New stylish door handles is worth the investment, it will perk up the entire room, I wouldn’t worry about getting reclaimed stuff unless you find something you love. Don’t forget about Ikea for shelves, brackets, handles also. The door looks like it has a really nice patina to it, I would agree with not painting it until you see the rest of the space painted – it might be a really nice vintage nod. New curtain for it, you can whip something up, yes? Cabinet beside the stove – not the greatest but probably better to have it than not have it? Flooring – wait until you’ve painted, that way you don’t have to be careful about the paint spills. You can paint backsplash – I’ve seen it done on home reno shows. Maybe google for materials to use and how-to’s? Same with countertops, but I would worry about the paint wearing off. And maybe after all that, later when you’ve recovered financially, you could splurge and get a new faucet. It’ll be a nice finish to a nicely (economically) renovated space.

      • Thanks so much for all of your suggestions Ally! So far I’ve painted the walls and trim and already I love the changes. It took a long time though so unless the quote is crazy I think it’ll be money well spent to have someone else paint the cupboards. Oil paint is still available until the end of the year here so we would be able to get in under the wire. We have wood for the shelves in our garage and Josh is currently sanding them…I think they are going to look great. I picked up some great vintage brackets…I would have been okay buying new but I couldn’t find any that I liked!! Currently looking for fabric for curtains (yay for sewing skills). Oh and we are going to paint the backsplash…primer is already on and it looks loads better already. Once the cupboards are done I’ll post an “after” photo…can’t wait!

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