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My wife and I purchased our home in 2001 and we knew at some point we would remodel our small kitchen. After 18 years (and three kids) we decided it was time. In order to save money we knew we would be doing the majority of work ourselves- and we knew this was going to be a complete gut job right down to the studs.

Remodeling a kitchen can be a scary proposition- it takes a lot of time, costs a lot of money and mistakes can be very expensive. If you're on a budget like us (and who isn't!) it can be a real minefield navigating all of the design decisions and trying to figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. Based on the before and after photos I'd say we met all our goals and made every dollar count!

Be sure to click on the build photos as most of them have notes.

Here's how we did it!

Step 1: Design Considerations

Picture of Design Considerations
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Organization is the key.

Our kitchen is fairly small with a footprint of roughly 92" x 120"- about 77 sq. ft. My wife and I always have a bit of a laugh when we watch home remodeling/buying shows and you see the buyers walking into ginormous kitchens with a 30+ sq. ft. island and the first thing they say is "Well, it's a little small..."

We've never had any problem cooking for our family or even up to 20+ people in our kitchen- but with two people in there it was pretty crowded. The way the kitchen was arranged was OK in terms of total storage space but it lacked working countertop surface area, the pantry wasn't user friendly (I also constantly hit my head on the shelves), the refrigerator door couldn't open fully (which frustrated my wife to no end) and you frequently had to close one cabinet door or appliance in order to access another area. There was also a lot of dead cabinet space in the corners.

The other big issue was that the kitchen was really dark and closed in and the sight lines into the dining/living area were terrible. It was time for a new floor plan.

We decided to organize the kitchen into working areas that made sense for how we use it. Food and dry goods are at one end of the kitchen and cooking at the other with dishes and pot/pans in between. In a small kitchen just moving things around a few inches here and there and reorganizing your workflow can make a world of difference. We wanted to maximize all of our available storage space and yet at the same time increase our physical working area and make the kitchen feel larger without increasing the footprint- a tall order.

Here's what we did:

1) We relocated the refrigerator to the pantry area. This allowed us to gain additional floor space and the refrigerator door could now fully open. You can fully remove shelves and storage bins from the refrigerator!

2) We moved the pantry to the old refrigerator location and split it into upper and lower sections. We were able to retain the same pantry shelf/storage area as before but now we gained additional countertop area next to the oven (which we also moved closer to the sink by a few inches)- very handy for baking and cooking prep. We could now have both the pantry and refrigerator fully open at the same time, which is really nice when putting away groceries after shopping.

3) We relocated the dishwasher next to the sink. The old dishwasher location (at a right angle to the sink) didn't make sense- it was always awkward trying to load/unload the dishwasher because you always had to reach out over the open door.

4) The trash/recycling got moved next to the dishwasher. The trash used to be in the bottom of the old pantry area so if you were unwrapping food or scraping dishes you always had to go across the kitchen- it just didn't make sense.

5) We made the sink smaller. Yes- smaller! By installing a smaller sink cabinet and a single bowl sink we actually got more usable area both in and around the sink. A single large bowl sink fit baking sheets and cooking pans better than our old double bowl sink and we gained countertop space. The smaller cabinet allowed us to move the dishwasher next to the sink.

6) Removing the partition wall and overhead soffits and extending cabinets all the way up to the ceiling made a huge difference. Even though we removed overhead cabinets (looking out into the dining area) we gained that storage space back by extending the remaining wall cabinets up to the ceiling. We were also able to add a cabinet over the refrigerator in its new location. Removing the partition wall and soffits really opened up the kitchen- the sight lines are a night and day difference. The kitchen didn't feel cut off from the rest of the house anymore. If you are even the slightest bit unsure about removing or relocating a wall consult a structural engineer.

7) We shrunk the countertop area next to the dining room. This countertop area was 36" deep- by reducing that to 26" we were able to gain a huge increase in kitchen foot traffic area and relocating the base cabinets allowed us to move the dishwasher next to the sink. The base cabinets underneath this countertop now hold serving dishes since this is the area that faces the dining room. Because we removed the partition wall we gained back a few square inches at the edge of the countertop and pushing the countertop back gave us better access to the countertop/storage area around the sink- the net result was a lot more useable space as well as a larger entry path into the kitchen.

8) We added a lazy Susan cabinet to the corner by the stove. The old corner cabinet made it just about impossible to use the corner space for storage- it was like a black hole. Whatever went back there stayed back there. Now we keep cooking utensils, colanders and other frequently used odds and ends in the lazy Susan and it's all immediately accessible.

9) Open shelving makes the kitchen feel larger. By adding floating shelves to the corners by the sink we gained back some storage space (helping keep items off the countertops) and it kept the area around the sink feeling more open.

At the beginning of our planning stage I had a contractor friend come over and have a quick look at things to make sure I wasn't missing anything out of the ordinary- sometimes just having a second set of eyes on something like a project this big can result in coming up with a better layout or bring to light something you hadn't thought of that could turn into a much bigger problem later. I drilled small holes in the soffits and walls and used a borescope to look into the walls to make sure there weren't going to be any major electrical, plumbing or venting obstructions that would throw a wrench in our plan. We originally had thought about the possibility of stealing space from a hallway closet but a flue pipe situated in a boxed in wall section put an end to that real quick as relocating it wasn't even remotely feasible.

Now that we had a plan we had to figure out our budget...

Tracy4dj813 days ago
You did a great job! We have matching kitty cats! Here’s a pic of mine.
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Honus (author)  Tracy4dj88 days ago
Thanks so much! Your kitty looks like an identical twin!
grapenut16 days ago
Wow! Certainly one of the finest, and most useful Instructibles I've ever read. Thankyou! Seriously loved all the helpful links you put it; and of course, you and the Misses must be so proud of such a fine Kitchen as well.
Honus (author)  grapenut15 days ago
Thanks so much! Glad you found it to be helpful!
stevens33119 days ago
I have a kitchen remodel in my near future and I had never considered reducing the sink from a double to a single and now my dishwasher will fit. thank you for the great tutorial.
Honus (author)  stevens33118 days ago
Thanks- glad you found it helpful! If you have any questions just let me know!
bobu567822 days ago
Did you consider Formica counter tops. I know that they are not the height of fashion, but they come in a wide variety of colors and textures. When I was growing up we had them, and they were durable, with low costs. Just asking. Thanks, good work !!
Honus (author)  bobu567822 days ago
When we purchased our home it originally had laminate countertops. I have seen some done with finished wood edging that looks really good (I never really cared for the rolled over edges or a sharp square laminate edge) but I found that I could get solid wood butcher block for not much more and that would have been my second choice after solid surface.
esouthwood23 days ago
Love this! Just the kind of detail that is actually useful when approaching a major task of this kind - often it’s too much or not enough. I’ve bookmarked it for when we get to the kitchen stage of our self-build/renovation project.

I also love what you’ve done here with the design, fantastic clean lines and excellent opening up of the space. By contrast, and as an aside, I’m mildly addicted to American reno shows, and I always find the kitchen the most interesting in terms of cultural and aesthetic differences. Australian (and I think British?) kitchens have largely been very open plan and minimalist for the last few decades, you’d think that would be similar across the English speaking world, but no. (At least if the shows are anything to go by, which of course they may not be...!)
Honus (author)  esouthwood23 days ago
Thank you- glad you like it and hopefully you find it helpful in the future! :)
Because our kitchen is small I ended up looking at a lot of European kitchens as they tend to be smaller in size (it seems 24" wide refrigerators are far more common) and spaces are maximized for efficiency- more of a "form follows function" design.
AnnM5523 days ago
Wow, seriously impressive! Your work looks impeccable, and I absolutely love the quartz and the tile choices. Now all I have to do is convince my husband that it's time we got rid of our laminate countertops and replaced them with quartz. ;-) Thank you for sharing!
Honus (author)  AnnM5523 days ago
Thank you! We looked at so many tile samples- lol! I was really pushing for butcher block at first but I have to say the quartz is just gorgeous and it's super easy to clean. We've had a quartz vanity in our bathroom for a while now and it's been wonderful- no issues whatsoever.
elsiedubb23 days ago
This is really beautiful! One question: I have a corner lazy suzan cabinet and I don't know what to store there. (mine is an upper cabinet) Yours looks like the lower cabinet with a very small opening... Is that correct? Is there any way that you'd share a picture of this cabinet with door open, showing what is stored there? Thanks for sharing all of this - great details!
Honus (author)  elsiedubb23 days ago
Thank you so much! I added photos to the cabinet section showing the lazy Susan. It's a 33" cabinet (measured corner to edge- they make a 35" but it was too big to fit) and the opening does appear to be small at first but one you fold the door open it's really pretty amazing how accessible everything is.

If you have any other questions just let me know!
rozzieozzie23 days ago
You did a beautiful job! Remodeling can be a horrible experience, but when you plan everything out like you did it goes much easier. Great pictures and explanations of everything!
Honus (author)  rozzieozzie23 days ago
Thank you so much!
F. BrianH23 days ago
I have a kitchen remodel in my future, but finances are our biggest hurdle. Your instructable is very encouraging in that regard! As a cyclist/cycling-fan I applaud your use of Mapei products in your project!
Honus (author)  F. BrianH23 days ago
Thanks! As a former bike industry guy I definitely remember the Mapei pro road team. :)
LeeDr85023 days ago
I've been thinking I'd rather have some large drawers on the bottom cabinets instead of a door and shelves. I see you put slide out drawers behind the door in this picture;
"Step 2: Budgeting -both Time and Money"
Did you consider just having drawers with faces on them vs behind a door you have to open?

And the previous comment from ycc who used IKEA cabinets, wonder if you used more drawers on the bottom or stuck with cabinet doors?
Honus (author)  LeeDr85023 days ago
Yep- definitely considered drawers as they are becoming much more common in builds today. The reasons we did slide out trays instead of drawers was because:
1) The slide out trays fit pots and pans better as the handles can be positioned over the edge of the tray if you have a larger pan- you're less likely to have to tip a larger pot/pan in at an angle to get it to fit.
2) It's easier to lift large dinner plates off a tray than out of a drawer if the sides of the drawer are close to the edge of the plate.
3) Equivalent cabinets with drawers were about $150 more each.
4) We preferred having the faces of all the cabinets match.

If you have any other questions just let me know!
MattY4023 days ago
Very nice work.

I always giggle at those huge kitchens too. There is an old saying, "small kitchen, good food".
Honus (author)  MattY4023 days ago
Thanks! Yeah I've seen kitchens that are larger than those in a lot of restaurants- it's crazy. Maybe if you run a catering business out of your home...
ycc23 days ago
Congratulations, a great job well done. Very nice instructable!
I remodeled my kitchen 3 years ago using IKEA cabinets. I used their free kitchen design app on their website to do the layout and ordered cabinets. The IKEA cabinets are very easy to install and easy to level. My kitchen also had a hanging upper cabinet and a base peninsula cabinet separating the breakfast area and the kitchen area like yours. The space opened up a lot after removing those cabinets.
I noticed your dishwasher discharge hose is below the garburator outlet. From my experience, debris will enter the hose and plug it up over time.
Before and After 1.JPGBefore and After 2.JPGBefore and After 3.jpgSlide1.JPGSlide5.JPGSlide6.JPGDishwasher discharge hose.jpg
Honus (author)  ycc23 days ago
Thanks! Your kitchen looks great! I really like all the light from those skylights. Cabinets.com has both free design software as well as designers that will walk you through everything but since we had lived in our place for so long we already had a pretty good idea of how we wanted things changed around.

I already changed the dishwasher discharge hose so no worries! Done my fair share of dishwasher repair over the years. :)
ruudcreates24 days ago
You did a great job, already followed along on instagram, but it is nice to read about it here. You have my vote. Just remodeled my own kitchen. Started a while before you did, but had mayor delay because 2 of my cabinets were damaged when they arrived and it took ages for new ones to arrive. Now I still need to do the grouting and I have to make and install lights, but finishing the nursery comes first.
So I recognize a lot of your things, I plastered my walls since most houses here in the Netherlands are stone, so drywall makes no sence. But I didn't like that job either, in the end it looked good, but I was never going to that again. (That was until I removed the wallpaper from the nursery and found out the walls looked like sh*t and needed to be leveled/plastered)
Honus (author)  ruudcreates23 days ago
Thanks! I've never done plaster before so I imagine it could be a huge pain in the rear. I had very minor damage to a cabinet but they took care of it immediately. We've done pretty much every other room in the house- scraped ceilings, replaced flooring, remodeled both bathrooms, replaced all interior trim, doors, etc. It's been a lot of work but totally happy with how its turned out. Still need to replace our entry door and our patio door and am going to be building an extension to our deck in the back yard. I also really, really want to build a small workshop in the back yard!
i770023 days ago
Wow, what a difference, great job! You did an awesome job detailing and explaining this project, really well written. Facing a kitchen project here, your explanations as to why you chose the materials, counter, cabinets, sink, appliances, etc. you did really appreciated....thanks for a great instructable!
Honus (author)  i770023 days ago
Thanks so much! If you have any questions about anything concerning your project just let me know- happy to help!