New Kitchen: Faking a Custom Look with Cabinets Purchased Online

If you’ve ever remodeled a kitchen, you know how expensive those cabinets and countertops can be. Add in appliances and a new kitchen can run anywhere from an average of $12,567 to $34,962 (according to HomeAdvisor). In its annual report for 2019, Remodeling Magazine puts the national average for a midrange major kitchen remodel at $66,196!! I won’t even tell you the number for an “upscale” remodel.

This was my inspiration kitchen. Wonder how much it cost?

So for those of us who consider ourselves “thrifty” what choices do we have? We have to consider doing as much of the work ourselves as possible and be open to new ideas — like ordering cabinets online sight unseen. (Does that terrify anyone else??).

Basic oak cabinets and dirty tile countertops did not thrill me.

Here is what the kitchen of our 1922 bungalow looked like when we bought it. Builder-grade oak cabinets replaced whatever was original in the home. I would KILL to have the original cabinets, but because this was a rental for 30 ish years I’m not surprised that they were gone.

What DID survive is this stunning, 6 foot long pantry cabinet. It was my favorite part of the house when we toured it, and of course it stayed during the remodel. (Bad news is it was in a weird place and had to be moved, aka disassembled completely because it was built-in….more on that in another blog post).

So it was a small room with zero original features in the kitchen itself and four, yes FOUR, doorways taking up valuable wall space. So what did we do? Start from scratch. What had been the kitchen morphed into new stairs to the second floor and a hallway we now call the butler’s pantry because we are fancy like that.

Sad to see this porch go, but it was necessary.

So we ripped the rear porch off the back of the old house. It didn’t appear to be original to the home, although I loved its many windows and wish we could have kept it. The area where the porch was will become a part of our new kitchen that will be open to the new family room. Here’s a visual display of how THAT progress went (it’s a shame you can’t see time dragging on slooooowwwwwlllllyyyyy in these photos).

The old porch has been removed. Now to remove that HUGE concrete foundation.

We had our contractor build the addition up through drywall. (More details on adding the addition can be found here). Then we had to step in and take over. When I look back on it, I’m so impressed by the amount of work we got done in just about three months time. Now that it’s in my rearview mirror I can appreciate it, laugh about it, but still remember to never ever do it again.

Now it feels like a real space –and that light! Swoon.

So we covered all the windows (which we bought hodgepodge from the Menard’s clearance section) and doors and used a rented paint sprayer to prime the walls and ceiling.

When using a sprayer on walls AND ceiling prepare to be covered in paint!
A view of the future kitchen.
I wish we would have sprayed the wall color too. I do not like doing ladder work when the ceilings are this tall!

I chose to paint both rooms Juniper Breeze by Behr. It’s almost a non-color, with a hint of blue/green. It allows me to throw other colors in easily when decorating, but isn’t as stark as white would be. And I’m not a fan of grey! Along with painting the walls, my dad and I installed all of the trim and I painted that as well. I took one of the kitchen cabinets in to our Creative Paints location and color-matched it for the trim.

This was A LOT of floor to tile. My husband did the majority of this room, bless him.

We chose American Olean Creekwood Walnut Brook 36″ x 6″ porcelain tile for both the kitchen and family room. We have the original wood floors in the rest of the house, but they would have been more challenging (and expensive) to try to match. More importantly, we have dogs and the tile is an easy-care, forgiving choice in these much-used rooms. The fact that the tile looks like wood keeps it feeling warm without the maintenance.

Mabel immediately decided to enjoy the new floors.

When choosing cabinets the choices can be overwhelming. So many options, places to buy from and confusing variations in quality. I ended up choosing to buy our cabinets from an online retailer, Willow Lane Cabinetry. For $10 they sent me a door sample (which I think I could have returned and gotten my money back, but I forgot.), and I selected Sanibel Shaker in white. I knew I wanted the kitchen to be as classic as possible. Ideally something that would feel like it could have been there originally….maybe? And wouldn’t scream 2019 in five years.

We debated with the architect about a peninsula vs. an island. Island won.

Here’s what sold me on their cabinetry:

  1. All of the cabinets come fully assembled and ready to be installed.
  2. Cabinet interiors are natural birch veneer with a UV clear coat.
  3. Drawer glides are steel, undermount, full extension, and soft close. Hinges are 6-way adjustable (which can be so.freaking.tedious btw), concealed and soft close.
  4. Shelves are 3/4″ birch veneer with wood edge banding.
  5. They offer free room design, so while the architect did create a basic kitchen layout we needed someone to tell us how to fit everything together with cabinets and drawers that would best fit our lifestyle. I sent over the architect drawings and my designer, Rachel, sent back some mock-ups of how we could arrange things. Then we had a little back and forth making changes until we were happy with the design. I found her to be very responsive and helpful. Pro-tip that applies to any retailer: create an account, add things you want to your cart, and then walk away. Guarantee they will send you an email offering a discount on what you want for you to come back and buy it.
A birds eye view of the future kitchen.
As a visual person, these drawings were invaluable to me!

The total cost of all of the cabinetry (including parts for the range hood cover and island, crown molding and base trim) was around $7,000.

This is our entire kitchen’s worth of cabinets. Stored in my garage for far too long.
I had a fun Friday night (with no lighting) figuring out all of the cabinets and prepping them for install.

My father-in-law came down for a weekend and he and I installed the kitchen cabinets. Most were fairly straightforward, but that island sure gave us a run for our money! We used 30″ wall cabinets on the back side of the island to have more storage. This means we had to build a 4.5″ platform to raise them to base cabinet height and match up with the base cabinets on the other side. We hid the platform with base molding. I also wanted side supports for the countertop overhang and a space for the bar stools to tuck into. This means we had to create structure for all of that, and use the included “skin” to cover it all up.

We started by putting up a temporary level board to use as a guide for the upper cabinets.
We used cabinet screws to install them directly into the studs.
Using upper cabinets here added some challenges, but we made it work.
The anatomy of an island. Thank goodness the countertops cover up all of this gobbledygook.

So how to make it look more high-end and custom? I wanted to do a couple of things. First, I wanted a warm wood element in the kitchen. Something old to mix with all this new. I found two 9-paned glass doors for sale on Facebook marketplace for $30. I had a woodworker create two cabinets to fit the doors and flank the range hood. I painted the cabinets using the trim paint, and kept the doors their natural wood. I LOVE them, and think they really make the kitchen look unique.

A post I saw on Facebook Marketplace was the key to my kitchen design.
These two custom boxes cost around $200 to have made.

Second, I wanted to add cabinet feet to the base cabinets to make them seem more like furniture. I really liked that look from my inspiration kitchen. My dad, who is a fantastic hobbyist woodworker, created the feet and helped me install them.

How cute are the cabinet feet?
A big improvement over just a toe kick.

Third, I added paneling and trim to the island and on the panel on the side of the fridge.

These trim pieces really help elevate the island and make it feel more custom.

For our countertops we went with quartzite. I love the look of marble, but it’s too high maintenance for us. Quartzite is a natural stone, unlike quartz which is man-made. It’s harder than granite, low-maintenance and easy care. We wandered about half a dozen stone yards until we found the slab we (I, let’s be honest) wanted. It was a bit of a splurge, but totally worth it. Then another company, Distinctive Interiors, took the slab and cut it to our specs and installed it.

The winner…out of many many contenders.
Here’s how they cut the slab to create the three pieces we needed. The sink is in the island.

Our appliances were snagged by my husband on Black Friday (back when you actually went out on the day and braved the crowds). The only thing I requested was ice and water on the fridge door and he decided everything else. They sat in a storage locker with most of our other belongings until the remodel was done. This means we had to move and install them ourselves. 10/10 DO NOT recommend.

This door on the left is the one we saved for basement access.

All of the four original doors went away, but I did keep a door to the basement that originally led out to that rear porch. Since it had really been an exterior door it wasn’t in great shape and had layers of paint on it. My dear momma volunteered to tackle it while my dad and I worked on trim. She used stripper to remove the layers of paint and then stained and sealed the wood. There was no chance of perfection here, but I love the warm tones that play off of the wood in those two cabinet doors. And that good ‘ole wavy glass. Nothing like it.

For the backsplash I kept it simple with the same white subway tile I used in the bathroom from the Tile Shop. I added a little specialty tile behind the range, but in the same glossy white so it blends together. It’s also from the Tile Shop and called Stampa Bianco. Just adds a little bit of texture under the range hood.

Then it was time to select hardware. For the drawers I wanted to match the cup bin pulls from that original pantry. I found a pretty close match on ebay, and then got door pulls that were a similar look to the finish. For the extra long drawers I didn’t want to use two bin pulls, so I got long bar pulls. I kept the original crystal knobs on those two vintage cabinet doors, but they are placed really high (we are tall people, but not THAT tall). I added a large, detailed cabinet latch at the bottom of those cabinets which also serve as a pull.

The hardware on the original pantry cabinet drawers.
A vintage set that is a close match for what I need.
Hardware is the jewelry on the outfit of your kitchen. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to pick, determine how/where to install and install them.

And that’s pretty much it. Lots of painting and caulking and finishing details but this is already getting to be too long-winded so I’ll wrap it up. See you next week for my last blog post of 2020!

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