One of our freelancers, Ashley Poskin, owns a beautiful old house in small-town Illinois. She recently moved with her husband and daughter to Chicago for job-related reasons, and needed to put their home on the market. There was just one thing holding them back: the kitchen. Although they upgraded a few things over the years they lived there (new subway tile backsplash, some black chalkboard paint) the room still wasn’t a huge selling point. So, we teamed up with Ashley to do a bare bones, low-budget renovation that would appeal to prospective buyers, but wouldn’t require a lot of cash.
Here’s a slideshow of the kitchen, as it looked before. As mentioned in our earlier sneak peek, the space had tons of vintage character and charm, but needed a bit of an update.
Although Ashley herself veers more towards towards a retro, vintage style, the kitchen was designed to appeal to potential buyers in her specific real estate market. A classic farmhouse look made a lot of sense given the age, location and architecture of the house (plus, the style is definitely having a moment). Here are some of the major things we were able to do to the new space, all for under $6K:
Opened Everything Up: The old kitchen had a pretty awkward layout, due mainly to that weird wall jutting out into the middle of the room, which really broke up the space and hampered movement. By taking out an extra, un-needed closet in the living room, Ashley got rid of the bump out, which really opened up the space and gave the kitchen more flexibility. Combined with the new open shelving, the kitchen feels much more airy and open.
Similarly, there was originally a window on this wall, which, interestingly, looked out into the garage (wut?). Instead of letting in light and air, it was extremely dark, like a portal to a black hole. In other words, kind of disconcerting. After boarding it up, and removing the wall mentioned above, Ashley re-configured the space into a workable U-shape. Now the room forms a good, classic kitchen work triangle.
The old cabinets, while appropriate for the age of the house, were falling apart and couldn’t be salvaged. There also just weren’t enough cabinets to reconfigure them for the revised layout. The new Shaker-style ones are bright and classic and so much more functional. The white bottom units are topped with natural wood butcherblock countertops, which add all the necessary warmth you want in a kitchen, for an affordable price.
As mentioned earlier, Ashley originally put up subway tile as a backsplash, but she wasn’t terribly happy with the installation job, and wasn’t sad to rip it out. The new penny tile above the sink area is simply adorable, and adds just a little splash of light color to break up the all-white space. The small round tiles also look great with the new shiplap walls. Those give a slight nod to the character of the old home, but their subtle uniform lines also make the space feel fresh and modern; they add visual interest, but keep things clean.
The sink area is so much more functional for today’s modern world, with its extra deep single bowl 32″ sink and pull-down faucet with sprayer — both of which make washing dishes a dream. Although the old ones looked nice and vintage-y, sometimes it’s really nice to have updated features that make day-to-day life easier. Ashley did decide to keep a number of original elements, like the hardwood floors, a floor-to-ceiling pantry near the banquette, and the original shelving above the sink (just stripped of its doors and hardware). This not only saved money, but helped retain some of the kitchen’s character.
Before, the kitchen had some unattractive fluorescent lighting and ceiling fans, which needed to go. Instead of rewiring for multiple sconces and fixtures throughout the room, long continuous track lighting (actually two linked track kits that only required a single electrical box) now directs light as needed across the space. Each fixture can be directed to different work zones, or to highlight separate features. We also added one chandelier, in the banquette area, both because it was too far away for the track light to properly light, and because it adds a nice visual statement in the corner banquette area (seen below).
And speaking of the banquette, the previously under-used corner is now a small seating area, designed to take up less room than a traditional table and chairs (there’s a entire separate dining room next to the kitchen for more extended family meals). It’s a great spot for breakfast and informal dinners, yet tucks up against the wall and out of the way.
As a bonus, the bench lids are hinged so you can open them up, reach inside, and stash extra linens, small lesser-used appliances, and the type of serving dishes that only come out during holidays. (Extra storage = always a major selling point). For the photoshoot, we added a chunky rug and linen-y fabric for neutral texture, and just a little bit of soft color in the artwork and pillows.
Want to see exactly what this kitchen cost to remodel? We’ve got the full budget breakdown, along with some helpful tips on how to save money if you’ve got a similar project planned:
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