How We Turned Our Tiny Kitchen Into a Functional Space

A complete kitchen remodel, from the studs out, is a huge undertaking for anyone but especially for two people with full-time jobs, a six-year-old son, and a busy Scottie dog. This isn’t a story of triumph in a beat-the-clock kind of way; we learned that the design and construction of a usable kitchen takes time.

When we purchased our 1911 bungalow, my husband and I knew that the kitchen would eventually need to be remodeled. Not only was it dated, but it also had the markings of a long-time resident who had done a lot of smoking and not much cleaning.

With limited cabinetry and only four feet of counter and prep space, we wanted to create a more usable and functional kitchen. This tiny 8×12 room had four doors in and out, one of which led to a small storage room at the back of the house. We had our first “a-ha” moment when we realized that this exit could be eliminated, buying ourselves five more feet of counter space. Instead of being an afterthought and a hallway kitchen, we could now create a solid L with nine feet of counter space, tripling the storage capacity, and making way for a large slider window.

DIY attitudes intact and the confidence of having remodeled our bathroom, we dug in. Here are some of the important things that we learned during this project:

  • Assume that any electrical and plumbing work (and your jobs) will take double to triple the time estimated and will cost at least a third more. It is also possible that once your service workers dig into your walls, additional improvements might be necessary.
  • Try to avoid matching drywall up to plaster. Remove all the plaster. You will thank yourself when you are able to find flat surfaces and right angles.
  • When minor jobs remain, it’s easy to become unmotivated. Set small goals for yourself; do a little bit of moulding, painting, and hardware affixing each week.
  • Try to live your life so that you don’t end up resenting or regretting your project.
  • Send progress pictures to friends and family so that they can cheer you on in your achievements.

About $5,000 and 18 months later, we are really enjoying our new kitchen and cooking up a storm.

Here’s to successful DIY remodeling!

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