Creating Our Dream Kitchen (on a tight budget)

I have to start this post by saying I’m no-nonsense when it comes to a budget- especially for home revitalization. I purchased my condo in 2016 and was able to score an incredible deal. It was a goal of mine to become a homeowner by the time I turned 30, and I managed to do just that- on a teacher salary in one of the most expensive counties in the country. (I’m proof that it is possible!) I loved the open concept of the second-story walk-up unit. What I didn’t love was how dated and ugly it was inside. (See photos below)

“You can just re-do the kitchen,” my parents said nonchalantly.

Fast forward two years, and I finally had enough cash saved to pull the trigger on the project. Ben was my boyfriend at the time, so it was helpful to have him as a sounding board since there are lots of decisions to make. My first piece of advice would be to figure out a budget and work from there.

By no means was I willing to go into any sort of debt to do this project. This condo is not our forever-home. It is our “for-right-now” home, and it just doesn’t make sense to sink that much money into something we will only enjoy for a few years at most. I didn’t want so little as $10 on a credit card for this project. Bottom line- there was a $9,000 budget to work with. (And yes! We did it all for that price and barely lifted a finger or paintbrush.)

I’m breaking this post down by answering several big questions:

1) Should I use a contractor?

The short answer is- yes. If you have the budget for one, certainly use a good contractor as he/she is the true expert in home renovation.  It will also take away a lot of your headache. (Or add to it if you end up with a bad one.) If you’re like me, your money will only go so far.  I met with a contractor and explained my vision to knock down the wall and make our living space truly open-concept. I wanted to lower the breakfast bar and completely replace the cabinets. I wanted granite countertops, custom-made navy and white cabinets, and stainless appliances. I also wanted a built-in wine rack to sit above the fridge. The contractor took us to a kitchen-design showroom and a quote was developed. It turns out that the kitchen I envisioned would cost about $45,000. (Yikes!)

So, we decided to do things on our own without a contractor. We had to find our own cabinet designer, countertop installer, tile guy, plumber, electrician, appliances, and accesories. I learned a ton in the process. For example; appliances need a certain voltage hook-up. Since the condo is about 35 years-old, some of the hardwiring in the kitchen had to be re-done.

2) If I don’t use a contractor, what if someone makes a mistake?

If you don’t hire a contractor, you have to have sort-of a “roll the dice” mentality. That is exactly what you’ll be doing at times. My handyman, whom I adore, twisted the valve too far while installing the garbage disposal and caused a leak. Then, I had to hire a plumber to fix the leak. (It was about a $500 mistake. Yikes!) You can also negotiate on your own terms. Paying with cash does tend to leave a little more wiggle room.

3) What are all the things I need to order?

I ordered our light fixtures, handles, knobs, garbage disposal, and faucet from Amazon. I read tons of reviews, but here is a list of what we decided on.

4) Can’t you just paint and refinish old cabinets to save money?

Yes! You can absolutely hire someone to sand down and paint your cabinets. Heck, if you’re handy, you can certainly do it yourself. That being said, I wasn’t willing to compromise on the cabinets. We were able to get brand new, gorgeous solid wood cabinets from a local place. The same place was able to get us our quartz countertop and backsplash tile, too. They also handled the old cabinet removal and tile removal, too.

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Backsplash Day
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New Countertops
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Hosting family dinner with part of the counter missing
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Old Kitchen-photos taken by previous owner (Left) Updated kitchen all finished (Right)

Local friends! A special thanks to Hope Street Kitchen and Cabinet. They are the ones who truly made this all possible. Follow them on Instagram (@H__K___C) or visit their website by clicking here.

10 thoughts on “Creating Our Dream Kitchen (on a tight budget)

  1. Thanks, Meg! We are so happy with the results- and just couldn’t swing anything more expensive!

  2. Ahh the kitchen looks BEAUTIFUL! And I love that you saved up money before you redecorated – so many people go into debt for these kinds of things and I just want to shake them! Great job!

  3. Thanks so much! And completely agree- in a condo no less! Totally not worth any sort of debt!

  4. Thanks, girl! Can’t wait to see the “afters” on your awesome new house.

  5. You did an incredible job! So many great tips for doing renovation on a budget!

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