Our Kitchen Makeover And Tour

We can put as much love into a house, make as many memories there as we want, and turn a house into a home, but that doesn’t mean that the space within the house can’t make us uncomfortable.  I haven’t lived in many different places, but in the places I have lived, I find that I don’t feel at ease until I do something to make that space my own.  I feel as if I am living in somebody else’s home.  And I am in a way, because it used to belong to somebody else.

One of the rooms that I gave a makeover to early on was the kitchen.  From day one that room was like nails on a chalkboard to me, but I couldn’t pinpoint why.  We have  very old, quarter-sawn oak cabinets that were installed (probably) in the 1930’s.  They’re still in good shape, but they looked really orange and I am not a big fan of  really orange woodwork. It turns out that there are two additions in the kitchen that aren’t an exact match to the originals, they are more orange, but they are the first thing you see as you walk into the kitchen so it all looked orange at first.  Then the off-white paint that was on some of the walls had pink undertones, which just highlighted any orange in all of the woodwork.  You can see in the picture below that the cabinet that the sink sits on is brighter than the cabinets that the keyboard is on.

And I felt overwhelmed every time I went into the kitchen because between the heavy grain of the wood and the busy pattern of the wallpaper, there was too much going on in one area.

So the wallpaper was taken down and the walls painted.  If you’ve never had to take down wallpaper before, there’s a few things you can do to help yourself.  First of all, you need to pull the print off.  The shiny part needs to come completely off.  Then mix a spray bottle with two parts water, one part liquid fabric softener.  Spray onto the paper backing that is left sticking to the walls and let it soak.  It should come off pretty easily.  You can probably peel it off with your fingers, but in spots where the glue is especially strong, spray again, and use a plastic paint scraper to help you remove the rest.  When you are all done, wash the walls well. You’ll probably want to do this with the windows open, because the scent of the spray can be overwhelming.  The kids had a lot of fun pulling the paper off, but they weren’t allowed to scrape or spray the walls.

I wanted to paint the walls a bluish-green color, but I also didn’t want the kitchen to be too dark.  After all, all of the cabinets make the room pretty dark as it is.  So I panted the upper portion of the wall the blue/green I wanted, and the lower part an antique white.  I was able to take down some old picture rail from a bedroom upstairs and use it as a nice divider for the color break in the wall.  (I have a brad nailer and miter saw that I used, but you could do the same thing with a small handsaw and a hammer and nails or just liquid nails.)  After seeing how well the “new” trim matched the cabinetry and existing trim, I decided to leave them their original color, otherwise I would have painted them to match the lower portion of the wall.

With the walls looking better, I definitely felt a little more comfortable in my own kitchen, but there was still a problem.  The island counter-top had been used as a cutting board and the finish was chipping off.  I don’t mean to pick on anybody, but using a varnished surface as a cutting board is just not a good idea.  So we stripped the counter-top down to bare wood, sanded until it was smooth, restrained the surface (using two stains we had in our collection, I was able to get a pretty good color match.  Then  we used Helmsman finish in satin to seal the counter.  (I went with satin because I did not want really shiny counters, and the Helmsman is good for indoor/outdoor, and good for kitchen counters.)  What started as possibly the ugliest part of the kitchen has turned into the part I get complimented  on the most!

Island counter-top, refinished, but you can see there is discoloration in some areas from the wood getting wet once the original finish had chipped away.

We just didn’t have enough storage space for everything.  There is no pantry in the kitchen and a limited number of cabinets.  After we had first moved in, I had put an old table in an empty corner of the kitchen where a hoosier cabinet once stood, and hung some shelves above it.  Helpful, but still not enough.  Even with the walls and the main counter-top looking much better, the kitchen has still continued to be a sore spot for me because of the clutter, and since harvest season began the problem has only gotten worse.  So I got back to work.  The little table I put in the corner just wasn’t cutting it.  I could “store” stuff underneath, but it was always in a heap and looked messy.

I built a new table for the corner using boards that were either from the barn or left on the property.  The base of the table is made up of 2×4’s and pieces of plywood, and the table top is made out of pieces of oak from the barn that I ran through the planer for a nice smooth finish.  I had leftover stain and varnish from redoing the counter last fall, so I was able to get a pretty nice match, and I painted the base with leftover paint from painting the lower portion of the walls.

New table made from scrap wood we had around the property, perfect for storing our potatoes and onions, plus a few other tools.  Doubles as my baking work space and pantry.

In spite of all of the work that I had done, I still felt frustrated because the simple fact remained that we had too much stuff in the kitchen.  The counters were continually covered in glass jars or ingredients that I couldn’t fit into the cabinets, and (in the words of Scott) I hate, hate, haaAAated it.  Try canning when there is no counter space.  It’s not fun.  So I decided it was time to reassess the cabinets.  It was frustrating to see how many dishes that I owned that didn’t get used and relieving to get rid of them.  There were at least 4 pots that I only ever used if all of my other pots were dirty (which should have been a sign to me to maybe WASH MY DISHES!), and we had a few “fancy” dishes that just never get used.

Awhile ago, I started ditching our plastic dishes, and it has been a goal of mine to eventually replace all of our plastic or aluminum dishes for stainless steel, ceramic, glass or cast iron.  On the day of the most recent purge, I got rid of almost all of the kitchen plastics…a few things still need to be replaced, but I have been waiting until I can afford to get replacements before just throwing containers out.  Even after replacements, I ended up with less dishes in total, and more space in the kitchen.  Hooray!

I know that our kitchen will only become a more and more heavily used work space, and that it won’t stay clean all day, but my hope is that it can be cleaned easily unlike before.  Since our food preparation ways are sort of traveling back 100+ years (not for everything), I would ultimately like to collect a list of what dishes were common in a house back then, what foods were kept in the kitchen on a daily basis, and what would have been stored in a pantry.  I like having less…it’s a lot less stressful!


And After:


If you want to know more about what kind of tools and materials it takes to make something like this happen, keep reading, or skip to the end if you don’t!

Going back to yesterday’s post, I can’t give you an accurate number of what doing all of this would cost you because I don’t know what materials and resources you have available to you, but I can give you a list of supplies and tools that I used, and I will put a * after anything I actually purchased for this project (Some things were leftovers from projects at the old house or our apartment, or were given to us by other people.)

  1. 1 gallon of paint for upper walls*
  2. 1 gallon of paint for lower walls
  3. Paint tray
  4. Paint roller frame
  5. 2 paint roller covers
  6. edging paintbrush
  7. 1 quart helmsman varnish*
  8. 1/2 pt. of stain
  9. small foam roller (and handle) for applying varnish*
  10. finish remover (found in paint department, should be able to remove varnish, I think we had a gallon on hand, but I know I used far less than that.)
  11. Rubber gloves for working on the counter tops.
  12. Rag for applying stain.
  13. Trim
  14. brad nailer, air compressor, brads (liquid nails or hammer and finishing nails would work too)
  15. wood putty (for filling holes, and stain from counter-tops for staining the putty)
  16. sand paper ( I also used a random orbital sander for sanding down the counter, but a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a small chunk of wood works too)
  17. level (for installing the trim)
  18. hardwood boards (for corner table)
  19. 2×4’s (I think it would have taken about 2-8′ boards)
  20. plywood (I used scraps, but a 4×4 piece would be plenty)
  21. screws or nails for the table

I think you can see why I won’t give you a price on how much this cost…obviously if you tried to do the same exact thing in another kitchen and you lacked the hoard of materials and tools that I have, it would cost you a lot more.  And technically speaking I didn’t pay for the one gallon of paint I did pick up for the kitchen…we were given a gift card as a housewarming gift.  What I break down below is why I dislike it when people say they only spent $50…because a project usually has a lot of components.  For each item I didn’t have to purchase, I can probably give you a few tips on how you can cut out some of those expenses as well. 

I had nearly a full gallon of paint left from a project at the old house that I used on the lower portion of the wall, the paint tray, brush and roller frame are still from when we moved into our apartment over 9 years ago, I had 2 roller covers left from a pack of 3 I bought from a project at the old house, the stain was was given to us by my brother-in-law when he was cleaning out his house before moving out of state, the finish remover was from a project at the old house, rubber gloves from an extra box my mother-in-law had given me probably a year before the move, the rag was just a scrap of old t-shirt.  The trim came from a room in the house that we didn’t want it to be in, the brad nailer and brads were a birthday gift 2 years ago, and the air compressor we picked up when we lived at the old house because we needed one for different projects we were working on and it made more sense for us to own one than to borrow it.  Wood putty and sand paper were leftover from building bookshelves at the old house, the level we picked up for a project at the apartment 9+ years ago, the wood was from scraps we had around the property, and the fasteners were given to us from varying sources…leftover from other people’s projects, things they just wouldn’t need anymore.

There you have it!  That’s the kitchen tour.  Leave your questions and comments below!




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