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My complete kitchen remodel story for about $12,000….

I realized the other day,after all of this time, that I had never posted about the entire process and story of our kitchen remodel, and how we ended up doing the entire kitchen remodel for around $12,000. I wanted to show you all of the steps and the before ,after and during pictures..
So here we go! If you are looking for an updated view of out kitchen since the initial remodel, you can see our updated  kitchen here and how it’s changed.
Our complete kitchen remodel on a budget for $12,000

Welcome to the “Oak Cave.”
This room had hardly any natural light and the cabinets were complete light suckers. The minute we do the roof a skylight is going in. 🙂
This was how the kitchen was t when we moved in. It had been remodeled last sometime in the 1980’s. When we moved in we pulled out a really old double oven where the current oven was and that was it besides some(scary,what was I thinking.) cosmetic updates here and there. While it was totally functional, it wasn’t our style, but there really wasn’t any money to do anything major. We had considered painting the kitchen cabinets, but just hadn’t bit the bullet yet.
Dark oak kitchen cabinets before painting
 We had some plasticky laminate floor, and if you notice,whoever put the cabinets in didn’t : 1. line up any of the top cabinets and 2. shoved the stove right up against the wall so there was no right-side work space.
Old oak cabinets before painting
Our kitchen is only about 7 x 11 ft with  the cabinets. We had not planned on doing a remodel until the kids were much bigger. A burst pipe over the summer of 2010 and the resulting water damage and mold changed all that.
old dark oak kitchen cabinets before painting
After the pipe burst, and we thought everything had dried out,I kept smelling a faint, stinky dampness, and having some weird tummy upsets. Then I noticed the floor felt funny under my feet. We had the inside bottom of the sink cabinet cut out to see what was underneath and the amount of water damage I found  was incredible. My heart sank. It had to all come out.
I interviewed 6 contractors till I found one I could work with and went with our budget. He wasn’t lowest bid, and he wasn’t the highest, but he was the right one for us and he did beautiful work.We had to replace the bottom cabinets  but couldn’t afford to replace the uppers and insurance wouldn’t give us enough to do the entire thing.
When the floor came out we saw why there was such a smell. This was October and the flooring was still wet under all of the layers of old vinyl flooring. It had been 4 months since the burst pipe, and had never totally dried out. The wood underneath was composting. Two layers of wet stinky mushroomy ick. I cried. A lot.
Cabinets removed during kitchen remodel
Then when all of the bad flooring was out; I felt relief like I hadn’t in months. The subfloor was completely new  and clean. Since we could not afford to replace the top cabinets, so we opted to paint them,move a few around, and have the new cabinets come unfinished so we could match them.
Reconfigured old kitchen cabinets before
Our contractor reconfigured the upper cabinets around for us so we could gain that right sided work space, and the kids didn’t risk the chance of burning themselves coming right up the stairs. He moved the small cabinet that was next to the sink area to the other side of the stove. You can see the difference in the picture above and the picture below with the cabinet placement.
Reconfigured and painted kitchen cabinets
Once plywood went in (though, I kind of missed the wide planked subfloor. :),  I wanted to go as low VOC as possible so I opted for plywood as sub-floor over OSB. Same as the cabinets. We paid a bit more for plywood backs instead of pressboard.
How to lay a wood floor
We also knew we wanted to go with real wood this time. We opted for what’s known as “grade 2” rustic red oak. it has knot holes and dings and it’s full of character. After the flooring went in, the cabinets went over the top. Some how I missed a picture of this step. We added trim to the bottom of the cabinets before we painted. Sometimes it was such a rush to get things done between the contractors.
Wood countertops and white sink
With the countertops, stone was out of our budget and laminate off-gasses VOC’s for up to 7 years, plus it’s not  a recyclable or biodegradable material so we went with wood countertops. Now I am SO HAPPY I did, in fact you can time travel and see how they have held up 6 years later! I also found a sink made with 93 % recycled materials for under $200. Being eco -friendly is REALLY HARD on a budget, so  it’s about the best choices for you.
Painted stairs before sanding and staining
In our home, the same flooring runs through the entire first floor. I didn’t want to re-carpet the stairs and we were lucky, these oak stair treads were already under the old carpet. So we had them refinished to match the floor. Later, we also stained the original hardwood on our upstairs floors as well.
Stairs after staining with dark stain
Hallway with added trim and darks tained stairs

The color is  a mixture of Dark brown and Mahogany. Did you know you don’t have to be stuck with the color right out of the can? You can mix them to get a custom shade. I knew I wanted dark, rustic floors. The refinishing products were all low-VOC as well . Though, I still thought they smelled. We didn’t have that issue with our upstairs floors.


Custom stained wood floors rustic red oak

 One of the really big decisions we made in our kitchen was to actually remove some cabinets. I wanted character and storage and I didn’t just want more painted cabinets. This hutch was a $200 Craigslist find. I did want something old; but the $900 one I loved from the flea market broke the bank. By putting in the hutch, I actually gained more organized storage, and it gave us a few more inches as standard cabinets are 24 inches and the hutch is only 19. Plus, the average cabinet is roughly $250 per cabinet. That would’ve been almost $1000 for the same storage!
Hutch makeover before painting
I painted and distressed it to make it look old.
Painted hutch makeover
For our wall color in our kitchen remodel, I picked the color Bennington Grey from Benjamin Moore paints and had it mixed in their Aura line. It’s a great taupe-y grey color, that has  a bit of a warmish-green under-tone. The base color is BM Linen white the same as the cabinets, only flat instead if satin.
Kitchen before painting removing cabinets
Cabinet wall in kitchen Bennington Gray by Benjamin Moore
Originally, I tried green on the cabinets, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I really wanted to bring some color in. So I stayed with white on the cabinets, and
I decided to add the color on the hutch. Even though that hutch is long gone and replaced with a buffet, it will love forever in our hearts as our first thinking out of the box moment…
Using furniture in the kitchen
One design decison I made that goes against convention is  I also decided to NOT put knobs on the upper cabinets so there is not as much attention on the fact the upper cabinets are so wonky.
White kitchen with vintage chandelier

To take the grain down on the cabinets, after sanding, I puttied over the deeper ones with wood putty and sanded again till smooth.The last step was adding the now painted and distressed hutch,saying buh-bye to the boob light and hanging my grandmother’s rewired chandelier.  We added a embellished element to cover up the gap with the old light and new light.

White kitchen island and white cabinets


White cabinets with wood countertops
Above the sink area, we removed the wood piece over the sink and replaced it with corbels we found on-line. It was  a really inexpensive up-grade.
Wood countertops around kitchen sink

And I needed a spot for my dish towel, So why not a towel bar on the front of the cabinet?
And the light is a thrift store make over, I spray painted the fixture part and ordered a new glass globe from a lighting shop on-line. With the butcher block countertops, I also didn’t want  a big hunk of brown wood for a back splash, so we used trim against the beadbaord wallpaper. Some day, we’ll do a subway tile (check out this post to see how it looks!).

Wood butcher block countertops in the kitchen

Sealing and Maintaining wood countertops with oil
The countertops need to be oiled with a sealer every few months. Mostly around the sink where it’s wet all of the time. The other part I do twice a year.
Kitchen sink with stainless steel faucet

You put it on and it dries overnight. You can tell because the water beads right up. The best part is when your coffee maker overheats and smokes about a week after they are installed and leaves a burn mark (true story), you can just sand it right out and reseal.I found some tiles  at the tile store that I put on my window sill to keep the water from ruining the wood sill and it’s a nice southern window for my herbs and plant starting.

And so even though there are still little things we need to do, it’s mostly finished.  I really want  marble top for my island for bread and pasta making, and some day some new appliances, but I love the brightness the white brings and am so happy we are finally out of the oak cave!
Here is a break down of the final cost:
New base cabinets : $2300
Flooring Lumber liquidators: $3900 materials, laying and finishing’
Paint Aura Benjamin Moore:$150
Knobs Amerirock: $170
Countertops (Ikea): $169 each for 2-8 foot sections, $450 for fabrication
Hutch: $200 Craigslist
Corbels over sink: Premier wood $8 each plus shipping
New sink: $170
Chandelier rewiring: $45
New Trim and floor molding: $380
added cabinet trim around $20
 The rest was contractor and construction fees.
and our Benjamin Moore colors:

 Cabinets Linen White Int. Rm. Satin

Walls Linen White Flat
Kitchen Walls Bennington Gray flat
Dining room walls Bennington Gray cut %50 flat
Upper hallway Bennington Gray cut %75 flat
Hutch Antique Jade and number 509 layered
Vintage inspired kitchen with white cabinets
And even though it was horrible when it happened, I was blessed enough to also have it featured in the September 2011 issue of Country Living magazine. It was a bucket list moment for me.
You can read more about my kitchen
White kitchen with vintage chandelier
If you like this post, you might also like:
Vintage work becnh used a kitchen island
How to build a kitchen island
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*This was posted Via Jennifer Rizzo. com


  1. I read a lot of blogs and see a lot of kitchens. Yours has always been one of my very favorites. It’s just beautiful. What a thrill it must be to go in there every morning and make that first cup o’ coffee. Great job and thanks for sharing.

  2. I love seeing your kitchen transformation again Jennifer.Your kitchen is one of my favorite…it is absolutely gorgeous!!!!

  3. Your kitchen truly looks worth more than that!!!! Fantastic job Jennifer! I myself am doing a renovation and I can tell you, it’s costing a lot, lot more than that, and I’m not even sure I can achieve the same gorgeous look like you did! Thanks for sharing this!

  4. It is really beautiful! I love looking at all the different little details in your pics, I know it must have been tough to deal with but oh the finished product! congrats on being in the magazine 🙂

  5. saw this on Facebook…and I love your kitchen Jen…you did a beautiful job

    Klaske Construction, Inc. is out of Esmond, IL:: the phone number is: 630-973-0359 and his email is: jkcraftsman@hotmail.com

    Being that he is my husband, I don’t mind sharing that information with your readers

    hope you are having a great summer
    xo + blessings,
    Anne Marie Klaske

  6. I am so in love with your kitchen. This might have been discussed somewhere in the past, but what make is your sink? I looovvvvvveeee it, and they make the same size in an apron front I would be all over it. Also — the towel bar is the most brilliant thing ever, and I hadn’t noticed that before. Perfect!

  7. Jennifer, Your kitchen is beautiful, I love the green on the china cabinet. And, the chandelier of your grandmother’s is gorgeous, it adds sparkle.

  8. Hello Jennifer, Thanks for this start-to-finish recap of your beautiful kitchen. The hutch is my favorite! I just love the way you have styled your kitchen also & “staged” the photos. You’ve got some serious skills!

    Warmly, Michelle
    Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust

  9. What a story! I’m so sorry it was such a nightmare for so long. I do love it when tragedies can be woven into our wildest dreams though. And the kitchen hutch/cabinet is beautiful. Well done.
    Glad you are to the happily ever after part,
    Marian@Gathering Branches

  10. Wonderful job Jennifer, great choices, decisions and details throughout. Trim for backsplash = love it, may try this in my own house when the countertops get pulled 🙂

  11. I have Ikea counter tops. I put a mineral oil on them but it doesn’t seem to seal them. What are you using?

    1. I use the sealer that ikea sells. You can also use Tung oil. Or if you have a wood working store, they will have a butcher block sealer there.

  12. Fabrication costs for the counter tops…is that for the edge?…or installation or both? Everything looks gorgeous! <3

  13. Beautiful kitchen! I just have a question. Was it easy to paint the hinges white? I am remodeling oak cabinets in the laundry room, and I was hesitating between painting them dark to match the knobs, or white like the doors. What made you decide to go white with the hinges?

    1. To be honest, pure laziness and not wanting to spend the money on replacing them. Hinges aren’t cheap! I also didn’t want them to stick out against the white cabinets. They were a very dated bronze.

      1. How are your counters holding up. I love the look I’m just afraid about water damage.

        1. It’s been four plus years and they still look great! I do need to seal more often around the sink area, but other than that you can’t even tell they ever get wet, and we have a lot of standing water!

  14. I love the hutch you refinished, I am going to refinish a similar one for my son and his new bride for a wedding present. I have found several how-to’s using chalk paint, milk paint or latex. Could I ask what product and color you used for your project?
    I would really appreciate any advice on your refinishing that you could offer.

  15. I love your kitchen, thank you for sharing it with us. I notice you painted your hinges on the upper cabinets. Did you use the same paint as the cabinets themselves? How did you do it? I am in the middle of painting my cabinets and was going to put in concealed hinges; your way would be cheaper (and I’m afraid that I will do it wrong and ruin the cabinets). Help!

    1. Hi Michelle. I just primed them with a primer for all surfaces and painted on them. They have held up very well!

  16. Hello,
    Your kitchen is absolutely gorgeous and such an inspiration! I am wondering if you would share which online lighting shop you purchased your new glass globe for over your sink? I have been searching for the same type globe and cannot seem to find one that size or clear anywhere. Also I love the corbels over your sink and tried to search Premier wood but without any luck.

    Thank you so much,

    1. Hi Lynn, the corbels are from Van Dyke’s restorers and the light cover I think I bought on-line but I can’t remember where. Try searching under bubble glass replacements globes.

      1. Thank you so much! I found a similar light fixture on West Elm but while gorgeous it is not budget friendly! I know I will find one if I keep looking. I am excited to check out the corbels. They really add great interest to the space.
        Have a great weekend!

  17. love your new kitchen I too have the 80 oak and are looking for white ideas…..love your hutch perfect

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