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Our Kitchen Renovation A Fresh and Neutral DIY Reno

The day is finally here! Today I’m unveiling our kitchen renovation. This job was a lot of sweat (especially for Rob), and while there were no tears (that I remember) there were certainly frustrations! We’ve lived in our house for six years now. The first time we saw it, we fell in love, orange shag carpet, pink laminate countertop, and all. We are convinced our house has a good soul, and each refresh we give her it’s the strangest thing: it’s like she’s saying “thank you.”

Like most new homeowners, we were pretty much flat broke when we moved in. The 5% downpayment was the biggest cheque we’d ever cut in our lives, and we had just enough left to pay the lawyer and have groceries for a couple months. We knew renovations would come, but we were playing the long game. Although the house was dated, it was in great shape, and there was no reason to do anything to it right away. We didn’t spend more than 10 minutes in the basement the whole first two years we lived here.

Aside from being the biggest expense, the kitchen is really the heart of the home. I wanted to see how we used it over a few years to really get a feel for how we lived in the space and what would make the most sense for us. When we were looking for a house, we looked for something big enough that we could picture up to 3 kids under the age of 10 in, so we figured we had at least 10 years to go.

As the years ticked by, we came to accept that this might be our home for longer than we planned. We initially considered just a face lift, but I yearned for more open space and company in the kitchen. I agonized over the cost of removing a load bearing wall, and even started looking at other houses. Sometimes I need a little push to do things – Rob got a few quotes on removing the wall, and all of a sudden the renovation got bigger than planned. They always do!

We put a sledge through the kitchen/dining room wall at the beginning of April, and grinned when we saw the backyard from the kitchen sink. We did the demolition ourselves, but hired an engineer and a contractor to take care of putting a beam in, and had them do the framing and drywall rebuilding as well (though Rob and his friend Sam scraped all the popcorn ceilings by hand). Rob is getting pretty handy at all that stuff, but the main floor of a house is super visible. Any imperfection and he’d be kicking himself. Not to mention working around a full time job makes for slow progress, and there was only so long I wanted to go without a kitchen, even though we’d timed things to be able to eat and cook outside in May when the weather was warm.

It turns out it was a good idea: two weeks into the utter mayhem, when there was a crew of six in our home and we had plywood floors, no sink, and dust everywhere, Rob ended up in the hospital for a week. Construction carried on without him, and he came home to a completely empty house with fresh mud on the walls waiting for him.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram have likely seen short videos of the kitchen renovation in its various stages. I drew floor plans in my spare time for a couple of years before deciding on this configuration. It was born out of a combination of keeping appliances and plumbing where they were to save costs, and being constrained by Ikea cabinet sizes.

Here’s a rundown of what was done:

  1. Kitchen was gutted by both of us.
  2. Load bearing wall between kitchen and dining room was removed and steel beam put in.
  3. Mini load bearing wall in front entrance replaced by doubling up joists.
  4. Electrical was updated to meet code, pot lights put in, old fluorescents taken out, dedicated plugs for appliances added, LED under-cabinet lighting added.
  5. HVAC was moved from load bearing wall to the outside wall of the house. Front entrance the same. Some of it was rerouted below the floor, requiring part of the basement ceiling to be removed then patched.
  6. Plumbing stayed in place We were able to move the sink over 15 inches, giving us extra counter space in the most valuable part of the kitchen between sink and stove.
  7. I built all cabinets and Rob installed.
  8. We used a matching cabinet door dishwasher front to keep the view from being all appliances when you walk into the kitchen.
  9. The fridge moved to an empty wall that was designated for a small eat-in kitchen table back in the early 80s. I found a counter-depth one that didn’t cut in front of the window.
  10. A pantry went in next to the fridge. YAY!
  11. We put a beverage bar next to the sink for coffee maker and kettle, again keeping them out of the main sightline when walking into the kitchen.
  12. Drawers were used on almost all of the lower cabinets, maximizing space, organization, and ease of access. Drawer-in-drawer was used for most of the top ones.
  13. Uppers over the sink are glass to create the illusion of a bigger space.
  14. We tripled our storage space easily, making it okay to have those glass doors since there was plenty room for the not-so-pretty stuff in other spaces.
  15. We quintupled our functional counter space. I know the before photos below look like we had a big chunk in the corner to use next to the sink, but we couldn’t use it at all; the fridge was there and it was giant and cut off access to the countertop.
  16. The peninsula adds counter space and brings some socializing to the kitchen.
  17. There was dead space in the corner of the peninsula due to the bump-out from the duct work. We maximized the space and kept the frame for the countertop by putting a narrow cabinet in there that opened into the dining room.
  18. We went from a double sink to a super deep single. I was SUPER nervous about this, but it’s working very well for us.
  19. New stove stayed in the same place. Opted to keep electric since Rob would have been super paranoid about gas. Over-the-range microwave replaced old range hood.
  20. Countertop is quartz for durability and style. It feels like an operating table. I love it. We had it installed.
  21. Drawer fronts are custom. Thanks to an epic fail by Ikea which included our entire cabinet line being recalled, we had to go this route since we’d already installed the end pieces. It was not an insignificant expense, but in the end we have a cohesive look and better quality cabinet doors.
  22. Our cabinet place offered credit back for hardware, so we got knobs and pulls for free.
  23. The “nook” that was previously bifold doors and a teeny spice cabinet/pantry is now a work of art and my favourite feature in the kitchen.
  24. The bottom of the nook IS Ikea doors. Rob built the frame, and then built interior shelves with grooves to hold all of my awkward sized baking gear so that it wouldn’t take up valuable drawer space.
  25. He custom built all the wood shelves in the kitchen and they are awesome!
  26. The floor is 5″ hardwood, laid by Rob and Sam. They did an amazing job, and the house feels so much cleaner now.
  27. The backsplash is subway tile, and we installed it together.
  28. The front window (and front door, not shown) will be replaced eventually, as well as the blinds. But it might have taken me another 5 months to choose new window coverings, and I didn’t want to wait to show off the space.

And so, without further ado: our kitchen! Before and after first for comparison.

Ottawa Kitchen Renovation 01Ottawa Kitchen Renovation 02We moved the fridge here just a few weeks before we started the Reno to “test it out.” Should have had it there all along!

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Ottawa, Ontario