Without a doubt, kitchens and bathrooms sell houses so when we were thinking of selling our house a kitchen renovation was a must! Unfortunately, the previous owner of our house didn’t think that way.
The kitchen sported the original 80’s builder cabinets with some improvisation on the part of the previous owner. For instance, see that cabinet holding the toaster oven? It looked like something that had been dragged in from the curb. Not that there’s anything wrong with upcyling (it’s what Birdz of a Feather thrive on!), but it didn’t even have a proper countertop – just a grungy piece of painted plywood.
The counter space was about the size of a postage stamp (between the sink and stove and beside the fridge). It was hardly a kitchen you’d enjoy cooking in! Below is the actual real estate picture of how the kitchen looked before I bought the house!
The Mish Mash that Was Our Kitchen
I purchased the house when I was single so when Hubs moved in, we moved the fridge to the other wall to open up the entry to the kitchen. We painted the oak trim on the cabinets, built a new (pot drawer) unit to hold the toaster oven (with a real counter!) and added two more banks of pot drawers where the fridge used to be. We also added a vintage broom closet and built a cabinet above it for more storage (shown two pictures below).
The improvising didn’t stop with the previous owner: we can be accused of that too! When a friend helped us build our pot drawers, for instance, we didn’t get around to putting drawer fronts on them! And while we did at least add a counter, it was a piece from the craft studio I built in my parents house that I never got around to capping on the ends.
Our second wave of improvisation came when we decided to go exploring one day to see if we could remove the bulkheads (soffits) for our ‘someday’ kitchen renovation. Those bulkheads were the bane of my existence; I wanted them to come down so we could take the upper cabinets right to the ceiling but we discovered pipes and wiring that were too challenging to relocate. The cartoon canvasses you see below on the bulkheads were ultimately put there to strategically cover the exploration holes that we never got around to fixing.
With the kitchen ugly – but functional – we turned a blind eye to our unfinished honey-do list and lived with it for a number of years. Afterall, we were busy with other projects, as you well know if you’re a regular Birdz of a Feather reader!
The Decision to Move
I can’t speak for Hubs, but I wanted to move for many reasons: since I already owned the house when we were married, it wasn’t one we chose together. Wouldn’t it be nice for Hubs to have input on the next house? I disliked the fact that there was no window in the front of the house (as shown in the layout below). Wouldn’t it be nice to have a view to the world outside?
I felt the basement was going to be too small to accommodate a craft studio for me. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same amount of space I had when I built the craft studio in my parents’ basement? Or perhaps we could find a property with a completely separate studio space!! There were so many ‘wouldn’t it be nice’s’ that the list could go on, but I’ll stop there 🙂
Tips for Remodelling to Sell
How Much to Spend?
Don’t overspend to make your house presentable to put on the market. Generally, you can spend between 6 and 10 percent of the total home value to get decent returns. When you remodel to sell a property, choose materials that appeal to the masses.
Instead of expensive stone counters, consider materials like butcher block for the countertop (which is what we used below).
Although you can’t go wrong with real stone counters, butcher block looks great at a fraction of the price.
It’s also more readily available when you’re eager to get your home on the market!
The one caveat is that you can also be too cheap and overlook items that buyers expect in your price range. If you own a multi-million dollar house, for instance, splurge on the stone counters – but keep the colour selection neutral for mass appeal.
If the cabinets are outdated, ask yourself if it is worth the cost to replace them. Perhaps painting them and/or changing out the hardware will refresh the look enough to give the kitchen an updated appearance. Unfortunately there was nothing that could redeem our ’80’s cabinets; they were so dated they had to go!
White is always a safe colour choice, as is a shaker door. White will brighten any space and a shaker door isn’t too traditional or too modern. In went these white shaker cabinets:
If you do replace cabinetry, spend on functional features like soft close cabinet drawers and doors (a big improvement on our old kitchen!). Pantry drawers and pot drawers could blow a budget, so keep the cabinetry simple.
Opt for stainless steel appliances that are high quality rather than professional-grade (unless you plan to take the appliances with you).
Splurge on the Backsplash
This is where it pays to splurge! If you’re not doing stone counters for a resale reno, a marble backsplash will make up for it. It can be a real showstopper.
Only a little goes a long way.
As you’ll see in the reveal, the sink was moved and an entire feature wall of marble was installed right up to the ceiling!
You may be wondering what happened to those bulkheads we knocked holes into! Unfortunately the bulkheads couldn’t come down because of all the things hiding underneath, but the next best thing was to extend the bulkheads the full length of the kitchen, then add more cabinetry to balance the layout. As you’ll see in the reveal, this added some much needed symmetry to the space.
Although our tile was dated, it was neutral enough. If you have ugly tile flooring that runs throughout most of the entire main level (or lots of different materials), you might want to add a laminate or vinyl product right over top of it to neutralize the offensiveness. One alternative – sisal runners added in strategic locations to cover it and break up the expansive tile – did the trick for us. A few runners are much cheaper than a whole new floor – and you can take them with you when you go!
Here’s a reminder of the before:
Look at the after, with that gorgeous marble feature wall as the focal point! It was a good idea to move the sink and build wall at the end of the counter to enclose it because it hides the dishes from the sightline of the dining room! It’s something buyers will appreciate after they’re in the home.
Here’s where the sink used to be:
The dishwasher moved to where the sink was. This change of layout drastically increased the counter space.
You can see where cabinets were added underneath the new extended bulkhead (to the right of the stove).
Don’t over-personalize the space. You may love high end drawer pulls that look like a million bucks (and cost almost as much), but buyers won’t really care what the hardware cost or even notice. Be thrifty and practical with the things you’ll leave behind. We used a classic cup pull on the drawers and knob on the doors, as you see below.
Invest in staging! Buy baskets to hide clutter. Purchase fresh flowers to display in bunches on the counter (or bring some in from the garden if it’s summer). If you’re tight on money, borrow decor pieces from friends and family, then return them when the house is sold. If worse comes to worse, purchase your decor from a company with a good return policy: keep the labels on until you get your marketing pictures then return the items when you’re done!
Staging a space with a few key pieces will make your online real estate pictures pop and stand out from the crowd.
Change the Paint Colour / Add an Eating Nook
As you see in this before shot, the end wall where the patio doors were located was painted beige which made the space seem darker.
After, a new coat of light grey paint really brightened things up! For the first time ever, we had an eat-in kitchen with the addition of a little bistro table and chairs! How charming is that? Adding curtains around the patio doors also softened the decor. The curtains frame the vignette perfectly.
When All is Said and Done
The transformation was so stunning that, needless to say, the kitchen renovation helped increase the value of our property. A kitchen remodel can return a range from 70% to 93% on your investment.
We also improved other areas of the house and had it reassessed for $55,000 more than the original appraisal – a great return on our investment!! If you’re thinking about selling your own property and the kitchen is less than stellar, like ours was, it is well worth the investment to spend some money on improvements.
A Change of Heart – Decision to Stay
Remember the two banks of pot drawers I showed you earlier?
We upcycled them and used them in my craft studio! Waste not want not!! To see how we did it, click here.
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This kitchen was installed to help sell our home. After living with it for a while, we made further modifications to it because of our decision to stay. Stay tuned for next week’s post on what we did to make further improvements.