impromptu DIY kitchen reno

I’ve obviously put blogging on the back burner the last few weeks, because life. And also wedding season (#weddingplannerproblems). Oh, and also because we lost our minds and started a completely impromptu DIY kitchen renovation a few weeks ago. Nothing like a little demolition and drywall dust to throw a wrench in the wheel of functionality!! If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed my updates on our little project and I wrote this post in the thick of it, so you might want to skip back to that post if you want to see how we got here. {Follow me on Instagram!}

I have never been in love with our kitchen. When we bought our house, it was something I knew we’d update eventually, but it hasn’t been a high priority because the bones of the kitchen are decent. My hubs pointed out that the gateway project was when I decided to paint a chalkboard wall to help me be organized with projects and menu planning for the week. He’s right – the chalkboard wall really did open Pandora’s Box.

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Sunday, 5.1: A simple enough project that lead to something much more intense!

A few weeks after the chalkboard wall happened, I decided to paint the walls in the kitchen white, to help brighten up the space and we even tossed around the idea of painting the cabinetry for a hot minute. One thing lead to another and we were quickly taking down cabinetry and planning open shelving with reclaimed wood. Then we fell down the renovation rabbit hole and took out the soffit. Mind you, the hubs and I are entry level handy. We definitely do not have the knowhow that some of our friends have when it comes to DIY renovations. We’re adventurous, willing to learn and put in the elbow grease, so with a lot of help, advice and encouragement from our more seasoned DIY friends, we made it through the experience relatively unscathed. I have to say, there is something uniquely satisfying about looking at the finished product and knowing that we did it.

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Monday, 5.16: Before – The wall-o-cabinetry and soffit. Cabinetry in country paneled glaze and walls painted with everyone’s favorite shade of dirty olive. Kitchen perfection.

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Thursday, 5.19: “This project escalated quickly” – me

If you’re thinking about removing a soffit, do your research. We knew what we were getting into because we had read a lot about it, but don’t go into this lightly. {Suggested reads on soffit removal: here & here.} What you’re looking at in this picture is close to a best case scenario in what you’ll find after bringing down a soffit.

Now what?

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Friday, 5.20: Re-wiring, with the help of a professional/friend.

One of our friends happens to also be an electrical contractor project manager and his dad is an electrician, so he was definitely the guy to call. There were several lines of romex that were just dangling in the soffit – not up to code. Whoever installed the recessed lighting in the kitchen was probably the same person who rigged the plumbing in the basement full bath to drain into the sump pump pit. Awesome. So our friend, Brian, and the hubs brought the romex situation up to code by drilling holes through the middle of the beams, disconnecting the romex wiring, threading it all through the beams and then reconnecting them again. Do not attempt this without someone who knows what they’re doing, like Brian. You don’t want to screw up electrical work. If you don’t have a Brian in your life, call a pro.

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Friday, 5.20: Putting electrical Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This party went until 1:30am, but they were committed, while I was asleep on the couch because I didn’t want to go to bed in case I could be useful. I’m sure I was a lot of help! So the next morning, this is what I woke up to!

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Saturday, 5.21: Drywall up and waiting for mud.

After the hubs did the first pass at the drywall, I took over. Apparently drywall is a job for someone who has a strong visual attention to detail. It would not be an understatement to describe drywalling as an art. I now have a new respect for the guys who did the drywall in our mudroom in no time, without sanding. {I’ll do a separate post on the tools one would need to venture into this kind of a project in a few weeks and break it down step by step. FYI – for an amateur, drywall definitely needs several passes of mudding and sanding and does not go up in a flash like I had hoped it would.}

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Saturday, 5.21: Drywalling 101, not for the faint of heart.

We did things out of order a bit… Because the soffit and therefore, drywall, was kind of a last minute decision. With the craziness of summer schedules upon us, we took a pause on the drywall, so we could take advantage of the kind offer from another set of friends to install the open shelving brackets with us. We didn’t want to venture into that one alone, because we wanted to make sure we were doing this perfectly so the shelving would hold all of the weight we planned to put on it, and then some. Who better than to assist with this project than my friend Stasi, from the previous post, who works for the Army Core of Engineers and her husband, Adam, a physics teacher. Check and check. Bonus, my mom, who is a recently retired physics teacher as well, was on hand to not only watch the kiddos but to lend her expertise… and talk me down off the ledge when I was getting nervous about amount of weight that would go on the shelves.

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Saturday, 5.21: Initial install of brackets for shelving.

There was a lot of math involved, weighing our dinnerware to come up with an estimate for the amount of weight that would be sitting on each shelf, plus estimates of the shelves themselves. We had weight limits for each of the brackets, so we were able to figure out the minimum number of brackets needed, and then we added more just to be safe. We marked out the options for bracket placement with tape, making sure that every option had the brackets going into the studs. Once we landed on a layout, we opted to use screws meant for installing cabinetry, rather than the screws that came with the brackets, just to make sure that they were extra secure. One note: The shelves are pieces of reclaimed wood from an old brownstone in Lincoln Park, so they’re not completely level in all places. We used a level but ultimately eye-balled it.

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Saturday, 5.21: Shelving dry fit installation + unfinished drywall.

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Still Saturday, 5.21: Get by with a little help from our friends…

With the brackets in place on the walls, we took the shelving down again, to be screwed into the brackets a few days later. Back to the Everest of the project: drywall.

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Sunday, 5.22: Mud, wait for it to dry, sand it down, repeat.

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Monday, 5.23: Mudding and sanding. Ensemble on fleek.

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Monday, 5.23: Drywall dust is no joke.

I’m a pretty clean/organized person, so you can only imagine how I felt about the effing dust from all of the drywall sanding. As if drywall mudding and sanding isn’t tedious enough, you get the added bonus of dust that never ends.

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Monday, 5.23: Finally time to touch up the brackets and paint the wall.

I’ll get into this more on Friday’s post this week, where I’ll talk about this week’s Friday Fave, gold spray paint. But, note the brackets have paint smudges around them on the walls. Installing the brackets to the wall and then drywalling around them caused the brackets to get scuffed up a bit. I could have sprayed a little paint into a lid and touched them up with a small brush, but instead, Adam gave me the idea to just spray the brackets right there on the wall. I just had to angle it upward to make sure I didn’t inadvertently spray the counter. Easy Peasy.

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Tuesday, 5.24: Shelves secured to brackets and organization started.

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Open shelving fully stocked with our most used dinnerware and a few sentimental keepsakes.

And DONE! Shelf styling complete and fully functional. We’ve had it up and running for about 3 weeks and it has been so wonderful! A few observations on the switch to open shelving from wall-o-cabinets:

  • It has really opened up the room and added character and charm, which I love.
  • We adore our dinnerware so having it out on display makes me happy.
  • The shelving is actually far more functional than the cabinetry in that space and we have more things out than we did before, rather than keeping some items in a closet for parties only.
  • When friends are over, they don’t have to ask where they can find a glass because it’s just right there.
  • I feel like this has helped the space to feel less dated from the paneled cabinetry and there’s even an old farmhouse vibe that feels fresh.

New switches/outlets and covers are on the list along with some details on the other side of the kitchen. Until we venture into a major kitchen overhaul, this has made all the difference and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of the finished product.

Upcoming posts on this project… the brackets, reclaimed wood shelving, styling the shelves and future kitchen style tweaks.

xoxo

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