Renovations: Family- and budget-friendly kitchen! (Part 1)

Two months ago I posted photos of our kitchen as we started renovating and updating multiple rooms in our house on a tight budget. We saved for two years and literally did months of investigation before the first paintbrush even touched the wall. By getting quotes from multiple sub-contractors and relying on referrals from trusted sources, we ended up thousands of dollars under budget and pleased with the quality and speed of the work.

It took about three weeks to finish the changes and a month and half for me to publish the photos of the finished product! We are thrilled to have four burners that work on our stove, an oven that actually cooks at the set temperature and every scrap of wallpaper removed from our house. I’ve broken the renovation photos and story into three separate blogs:

Part 1 – Photos of the kitchen update and a list of our sub-contractors — published Monday.
Part 2 – Photos of the updated laundry room, dining room and three bathrooms — published Tuesday.
Part 3 – Top 10 things I learned about doing renovations and a timeline of our work that might help you figure out how to be your own general contractor — published Wednesday.

Feel free to comment but be gentle. It is our home.

refrigerator compressed

Old Kitchen. Notice the short laminate counters and how dark it is. We had a fan with a four-bulb light fixture hanging down. It cast shadows all over the room and made the ceiling feel much lower. (Photos by T. Giarrusso)

New kitchen -- hooray! Notice how much brighter the kitchen is with the recessed lights. The electrician and the lighting store recommended using 75watt PAR bulbs (always 130 volts because they last longer). The granite counter could be extended 10 inches without having to build out the cabinet. Also notice how the green paint complements all the wood. (Photos by Christopher Oquendo)

New kitchen -- hooray! Notice how much brighter the kitchen is with the recessed lights. The electrician and the lighting store recommended using 75watt PAR bulbs (always 130 volts because they last longer). The granite counter was extended 10 inches without having to build out the cabinet. Also notice how the green paint complements the wood. (Photos by Christopher Oquendo)

Old electrical stove that only had two burners that worked. And weird shelf over it.

Old electrical stove that only had two burners that worked with weird shelf over it.

Old double ovens that were off by about 50 degrees. I keps an oven thermometer in the bottom oven so I would know what I was actually cooking at. Also notice the wallpaper. It actually grew on me. It felt homey but alas too much like my house in the 1980s.

Old double ovens that were off by about 50 degrees. Also notice the wallpaper. It actually grew on me. It felt homey but alas too much like my parent's house in the 1980s.

I am so much happier with my new gas stove. We had to run a gas line in the basement for it (about $500) but it is worth it. New extremely bright halogen lights above the stove. The backsplash mixed inexpensivem durable subway tile with much more expensive glass tiles used in small quantities. Also notice the new toaster oven which is half the size of the last one.

I am so much happier with my new gas stove. We had to run a gas line in the basement for it (about $500) but it is worth it. New, extremely bright halogen lights were installed above the stove. The backsplash mixed inexpensive durable subway tile with more expensive glass tiles used in small quantities. Also notice the new toaster oven, which is half the size of the last one. We didn't do anything to the cabinets other than change out the handles and wipe them down. (Photo by Christopher Oquendo)

Our 27-year-old ovens has lost all insualtion and put out tremendous heat. The new ovens produce almost no exterior heat. Also note I did at least rotate my knives to keep them away from the baby after your suggestion.

Our 27-year-old ovens had lost all insulation and put out tremendous heat. The new ovens produce almost no exterior heat. Also note I did at least rotate my knives to keep them away from the baby after your suggestion. (Photo by Christopher Oquendo)

Michael was only insistent on two items in the entire renovation: He wanted me to pick a darn color for the dining room and he wanted a deep sink with no dividers. I also love our new beautiful faucet.

Michael was only insistent on two items in the entire renovation: He wanted me to stop dithering and pick a color for the dining room and he wanted a deep sink with no dividers. I love that I can lay a roasting pan and cookie sheet flat to soak in the sink. I also love our new beautiful faucet. (Photo by Christopher Oquendo.)

Choosing the right color is so difficult especially when you're working on more than room at a time. I bought six different greens samples trying to find exactly the right hue that wasn't too dark with the wood and brought out its warmth. (Photo TWG)

Choosing the right color is so difficult especially when you're working on more than one room at a time. I bought six different green samples trying to find exactly the right hue that wasn't too dark with the wood and brought out its warmth. We chose the one on the top right. (Photo TWG)

We didn't get a shot of the far side of the room, but you can tell a little bit from this one how the color plays. (Photo by Christopher Oquendo.)

We didn't get a shot of the far side of the room, but you can tell a little bit from this one how the color plays. (Photo by Christopher Oquendo.)

Sources for our work and products

Editor’s Note: I want to make it completely crystal clear that there was absolutely in no way any trade of mentioning a company for getting a good price on my work. None of these companies even knew I worked for the AJC until after they were completely done with my work. There was absolutely no reduction in price for any promise of a mention in the paper. I did a meticulous job (spending more than 2 months) interviewing sub contractors before making my choices and that was how I got good prices. You all should also know that AJC is very, very strict about writers and editors never taking freebies. I write a lot about travel and we are absolutely NEVER permitted to accept any type of free trips, free services or free products and write about it for the AJC. These recommendations are based on the good service I received and nothing else. I’m not even sure they know they are listed here today. I wanted to share the names because it is hard to find responsible providers.

I am recommending these companies because they did a good job for me.  I found them to be honest, responsible and they fulfilled their contracts. They all did very fine work and were responsive to my requests. I offer no guarantee they will do the same for you, but they all did reliable work for me. (I’ve written more about each company and the work they did for me, which will be published on Wednesday.)

Cofer Electric Co. – 92 Main Street Northwest Lilburn, GA 30047-5000; 770-921-1470

Progressive Lighting – Multiple locations around the city. www.progressivelighting.com

Master’s Painting Services –  Miguel Angel Rojo, cell phone – 678-663-6293.

Northlake Plumbing (Gas line and water lines) — 5347 Lawrenceville Hwy NW, Lilburn, GA 30047; 770-921-2046

A Polished Finish, Inc. (Granite) – 1213 Nathan Boulevard, Suite A-C, Loganville, Ga. 30052; 770-913-8797 (Recommended to me by my old friend New Mom. She had a good experience with them as well.)

Atlanta Tile Supply, Inc. – 5845-C Oakbrook Parkway, Norcross, Ga. 30093, 770-409-8200 (Carroll Robinson actually sketched out a backsplash design for us and figured out exactly the amount of tile we needed.)

The McGill Tiling Company – Owner Butch McGill. 678-778-7322.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see photos of our redone laundry room, dining room and three bathrooms. Also tune in Wednesday to read the Top 10 things I learned about doing renovations and the timeline we used to set up our work with very few issues.

56 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

January 25th, 2010
7:05 am

I got home from Dallas at midnight, due to weather but your remodel is beautiful Theresa!
Congrats and enjoy! Off to work!

Hi There

January 25th, 2010
7:20 am

It looks great and I’m sure your happy now that things are done.

So, I am home today on one of my second to last days of work before starting my new job. Kind of stinks that I had to call in since I really needed to knock out a few things before tomorrow. Guess I will be going into one of the offices I work in to finish my work there and box it up. One of the down sides of working in two offices. Ugh, I just hope she starts feeling better soon and can break this fever that she’s had since yesterday.

JATL

January 25th, 2010
7:57 am

Looks great! Love Progressive Lighting -wonderful place!

Becky

January 25th, 2010
8:26 am

Love the new look..Hope that you and your family get lots of use out of it..

JMP

January 25th, 2010
8:56 am

Congrats! Your renovation looks great, enjoy!

FCM

January 25th, 2010
9:10 am

The updates are awesome! Wish I owned my home so I could make permanent lasting changes…but then I did paint below the chair rail last year in my dining room!. My kitchen is probably as big as your laundry closet so it would need demo to be done right!

Hi There — little ones sick are no fun. See if someone can stay with her/him so you can run in and get the loose ends tied up. I recall a company that did LOTS of back up data on disks about once a month(this was before servers were what they are now. I had been gone 4 months or so and they called in a panic — did I have the back up data at home by chance? (UH NO that is your property not mine!!!!) they had erased the main data on the hard drive and stopped updating the disks. The ones I had left them were about 3 weeks before I left.

JJ

January 25th, 2010
9:19 am

Your kitchen is beautiful!!!!!

I get to pull of carpet and I’m putting down hardwoods. Luckily I have some neighbors who install flooring, and they are going to give me the friendly neighbor discount. He will also get me the supplies I need at wholesale prices!!!! Woo Hoo. I’ll be doing the dining room, living room and hallway. Eventually the bedrooms will get flooring too, but that may not be until next year when I can afford it.

Becky

January 25th, 2010
9:23 am

@FCM..I answered your post on the last topic this morning..Have you ever thought about stick on’s to decorate your space?

Jeff in Roswell

January 25th, 2010
9:36 am

Nice update! It’s great that you could reuse your cabinets. Isn’t it amazing what proper lighting does for a kitchen? I am an Electrical Contractor and one of the most asked for items in older homes is recessed lighting in the kitchen. When we moved into our home (built in 74) that’s the first thing I did. They had one of those old Circline flourescent fixtures – original to the house. Ugh! It was horrible.

Your kitchen looks great.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2010
9:44 am

JJ — hardwoods in our dining room and living room are next on our list — we’re saving for those now — the dog is killling me on those carpets — once we get those done we will have no carpet on the main level and that’s the only place the dog is allowed — the kids will still have carpet to play on in their rooms and the basement but I won’t have to worry about the dog peeing or pooping on my carpet — it’s just so gross!!

Jeff — If we had done nothing else and only had switched out the light to recessive light fixtures it would have changed the kitchen dramatically — I can actually see what I’m working on now — no weird shadows — it is the most wonderful thing in the world!! Jeff _- I write a little about it in my Wednesday piece but could you tell our readers about placing the recessed lights — I heard lots of debate about whether you wanted them hitting above the edge of your counter or over your counter exactly — also how many per sq. ft??? do you have recs for people on that ???

Michelle

January 25th, 2010
9:58 am

Theresa, the kitchen looks FABULOUS!!!! I cannot wait to see the rest of the changes! I would LOVE to get my kitchen re-vamped! I love the granite counter tops and the new backsplash!

melissai

January 25th, 2010
10:19 am

Very nice reno. Love that you kept your original cabinets. The backsplash is beautiful, as are the c-tops. Looking forward to seeing more this week.

Jesse's Girl

January 25th, 2010
10:42 am

Absolutely fabulous my sweet freind!!! As soon as Jesse graduates…we are redoing the kitchen too. Just finished his new office….well…sort of. He’s in it….but its not done. This really looks awesom!

deidre_NC

January 25th, 2010
10:48 am

very nice theresa….im happy for you..i know it has to be so much more fun to cook in a kitchen where you can actually see and the applicances work as they should!! i havent been on here much-1 reason is im having trouble loading the page for some reason…i always have really but had more time to keep trying…all these classes are taking so much of my time…and now my stupod printer wont work so im havng to take a flash drive and print stuff….plus it keeps having snow in the forecast and i have to stay at a friends house in town and thats a real pit!!!
but i love your new look and cant wait to see more pics!!!! you did a great job with your choices!!

deidre_NC

January 25th, 2010
10:50 am

that would be stupid printer lol

FCM

January 25th, 2010
10:52 am

@ Becky both the DDs have stick ons in their space. One has her room painted too. I just don’t get to do things like rip up the carpet for hardwoods, or redo the kitchen tile (to real tile) or backsplash etc…things I want to do. I love the place I rent though. We cannot afford a mortgage in the school district (one of the best in Fulton) so we rent our home.

Becky

January 25th, 2010
10:58 am

@FCM..That’s great about stickers, bummer about the mortgage..

New Stepmom

January 25th, 2010
11:28 am

Looks awesome! I changed the flourescnet lighting in our house to the halogen track lighting right after I moved in and it made such a huge difference. I did not realize those were the same cabinets, the lighting made a huge difference and it all looks great!

FCM

January 25th, 2010
11:35 am

@ Becky….I agree but when he left us with nothing and then didn’t pay his CS for a long time I had nothing to use as a down payment. I refused to get a balloon mortgage (good thing too considering the mortgage mkt)….so renting made sense. It made more sense when my “maintenance” is baked into my rent…so when a pipe goes, or the furnace I don’t pay the repair–it was covered in rent. Works well for my situation. I am going to own one day though.

Becky

January 25th, 2010
11:50 am

@FCM, oh yeah, there are some really good parts about being renters..Especially if you are a single Mom and aren’t that handy around the house..But as you pointed out, you are doing (right now) what is best for your children and hopefully one day, they will be grateful..If they aren’t already at their young age..

Andrea

January 25th, 2010
11:54 am

Theresa – your kitchen looks great!

I have mixed feelings about listing the contractors though. I don’t know that the average consumer would be able to give them the free publicity you are giving them and would therefore merit a really great price in exchange. I could be reading too much into it, but something about the “shout outs” just rubs me wrong.

Cammi317

January 25th, 2010
12:04 pm

I love it, especially the recessed lighting. My kitchen is too dark also, this gives me some ideas.

LB

January 25th, 2010
12:05 pm

Theresa – what color green did you use to paint your walls? I’m about to paint my kitchen and am looking for a green. Yours look great!

Mattie

January 25th, 2010
12:05 pm

Theresa, what did you use to clean your kitchen cabinets with? They look great, and mine need to be done.

1sus

January 25th, 2010
12:07 pm

Looks great! I love the original cabinets and the fact that they go all the way up to the ceiling. Realize it must be hard to reach them, but I’d much rather store infrequently used items there than to have that empty space above the cabinets! Everything gets to dustry and greasy up there anyway!!! I know you love to cook so enjoy your space!

I am whatever you say I am

January 25th, 2010
12:16 pm

Very Very nice!!!!!
If you do a backsplash job again in the future, let me recomend DIY.
I saw one on those home improvements shows where they made their own backsplash. They used an adhesive to stick the tiles on the wall and then layed the grout. It seems real easy to do.
Yours is very nice too. I just wanted to offer a cost-effective measure if you ever have the opportunity to replace a backsplash.

Cathy

January 25th, 2010
12:30 pm

Like your renovation! Would like to know what you used to improve the looks of your cabinets. I have 26 year old oak cabinets that need some attention!

Wondering

January 25th, 2010
12:37 pm

I agree with Andrea’s comment. I hope you checked with your bosses at the AJC about posting the contractors along with endorsements.

Looks a bit like a “discount for publicity.”

Elizabeth

January 25th, 2010
12:46 pm

Looks great Theresa! Hope you all are enjoying it!

SRH

January 25th, 2010
1:39 pm

Agree with Andrea and Wondering. Wonder what kind of discount she got for the shout-out? While I love the re-do, I don’t agree with listing names and contact numbers. Hey Theresa, I have a home-based business – can I get some free publicity as well, or better yet, what is the price for “free” publicity?

Pea Green With Envy

January 25th, 2010
1:51 pm

Looks like the AJC writing job is rather lucrative…..looks good!

Nativeson71

January 25th, 2010
1:55 pm

Beautiful! You nailed the wall color – works so well with the warm cabinets.
The granite counter top semi-circle projection is a very nice touch – I did not notice a corbel (bracket) underneath the projection – you may want to add a bracket for support – granite will snap and crack if someone sits or leans on the projection with substantial force. You could find a decorative bracket in the same species of wood as your cabinets, stain and install.

Hey, Nativeson71...

January 25th, 2010
2:10 pm

…check out the garbage can beneath the semi-circle granite projection – there may not be enough room for the bracket. But, I understand your concern; that my be a disaster waiting to happen…..

motherjanegoose

January 25th, 2010
3:27 pm

Back home and I am wondering one thing. I love an electric stovetop and have had one for the majority of my married life. We did have gas for a short time and I hated it. Is there a reason why you spent the extra $500 to have gas or just a preference. I also love my faucet with the squirty thing attached and not separate and notice you did not opt for that. So, I am guessing that it is just a matter of preference and what you at used to?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2010
3:30 pm

Hey Andrea — Absolutely no quid pro quo on the pricing and shout outs — that should be clearly understood — I in absolutely no way told them I was writing about them before any of the work was done nor while negotiating on prices —- After each contractor finished and we were completely done with them did I tell them I might include their names in an article —

ABsolutely no connection between their prices and me mentioning any names at all!!!!

I write a lot for travel and it’s the same thing there — you cannot take any deals from travel companies and write about them — no free meals, no free stay, nothing — the AJC is extremely STRICT about NO Freebies on anything you are covering!!

I used to edit the News for Kids and had to give away all the free kids stuff that came in the mail!!

So all my price crunching and negotiating had NOTHING to do with this article.

Anna

January 25th, 2010
3:39 pm

The only thing that is really bad is the green wall color. Kind of ruins the whole design to me. Rest is nice.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2010
3:42 pm

The color on the walls is Sherwin Williams Great Green. it was just right — not too dark, not too bright and really brought out the wood. I originally thought I wanted like a mango kind of warm orangie in the kitchen but it looked terrible!! with the wood. The cool green offset the warm wood. So keep that kind of thing in mind.

We ended up just cleaning them with the Murphy’s oil soap. I honestly didn’t work that hard on them — I really think the better light and the green made them look sooo much better — I was very, very worried that the kitchen was still going to look crappy because we didn’t change out the cabinets but because we had so much other wood all around the kitchen we just didn’t think we could afford it.

the lights,. the new green and updating the handles did make a difference.

Ont he gas — I grew up on electric but then had gas in New York and also in my first house here for 10 years so I just like the control of gas better. It’s immediately on and off — you don’t have tow ait for things to heat. I didn’t bother to convert the ovens — I didn’t care about the gas and baking — but I did care about the gas and the stove.

I’m going to add in an editor’s note with the sources that there was NO QUID PRO QUO — they didn’t even know I worked for the paper — the AJC would fire me if I ever did anything like that!! You cannot take anything for free or get any kind of deals — they are very very serious about that!!!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2010
3:42 pm

Anna — just wait till you see the dining room tomorrow — if you hate the green you’ll probably hate this color too — I have to say I love the green — but to each his own and that’s why it’s smart to try the samples — it’s soooo hard to tell off of a little card — I painted big old splotches to really get a feel for it and then when I decided which green I liked I painted it in different spots all over the kitchen to see it in different light —

new mom

January 25th, 2010
3:50 pm

Theresa, I’m glad you like ‘A Polished Finish’ too! And your kitchen turned out great, I know you’re thrilled!
My only question–doesn’t your trash can lid hit the counter when it’s opened? Or is the can short enough (or counter high enough) so that it clears? We have a similar trash can, and have to make sure it’s far enough away from the island so it doesn’t CLUNK the counters whenever we open it!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2010
4:07 pm

My one big mistake the trash can lid!!!!!

We wanted to extend that counter — and you can 10 inches without the bracket —- I do ask the kids to please not lean on it or sit on it but in theory 10 inches shouldn’t break

but then where do you put the trash can????? I don’t have another spot so here’s two suggestions:

My friend Denise Dermody who is an architect and interior designer in D.C. to me I needed to replace it with a trash can where the lid is split in half and open down instead of up — that’s what she recommends to her real clients (I’m just a friend client)

well we had just bought that trash can and I wasn’t going to buy another one (they are expensive)
so my dad brought over this foam that he uses at his office — it has stick -um on the back and we put under the granite so it pads the granite to keep the lid from banging it —- When we’re doing the supper dishes we do pull it out from under the overhand but for the kids just to throw something away it works fine with the foam —-

very funny that several people noticed that –

truly the biggest problem with our plan!!!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 25th, 2010
4:10 pm

Somebody was talking about the stick on earlier — tomorrow you will the kids’ bathroom and I did use stick on for their bathroom —- so be sure to check those out.

Becky

January 25th, 2010
4:17 pm

Theresa, I love the green color..I think it looks great with your cabinets..I have a sister that had a similar (sp) color to this, then she painted over it with purple..So, yes to each their own..

Tiger needs me on his PR team

January 25th, 2010
4:22 pm

wow……this blog is HOPPING today….41 comments (35 if you exclude Theresa’s). I always thought topics no one could debate over was like unicorns or leprechauns…that they just didn’t exist. Guess I was wrong……guess if I’m looking for a fight I’ll check in later this week.

Nice kitchen by the way. ;-)

Lynn

January 25th, 2010
4:24 pm

Theresa, looks great and I’m with you on the gas stove. I cooked on electric for 20+ years but would never convert back after using gas.

Andrea

January 25th, 2010
4:27 pm

Hi Theresa – thanks for commenting that there was no other agreement between you and the contractors.

Your kitchen still looks great.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJCMOMania, Southbay, Barry Pettifer, Tim Williams, Ingvar Kamprad and others. Ingvar Kamprad said: Renovations: Family- and budget-friendly kitchen! (Part 1): Atlanta Journal Constitution Two months ago I posted p… http://bit.ly/5ISxf4 [...]

HB

January 25th, 2010
4:33 pm

I love a gas stove. Even better than the fact that it heats up instantly — it cools down instantly! I hate on an electric having to remove the pot if something gets too hot and wait for the burner to cool a bit. With gas, just turning the flame down instantly does the trick.

FCM

January 25th, 2010
4:57 pm

My folks have that open in can in the kitchen. Much more practical the open one you have (and I have one too!) yes that clank will tell you everytime the kids (or Mike) is getting rid of something.

motherjanegoose

January 25th, 2010
4:57 pm

There you have it…to each his/her own and some do not even like the green paint….LOL.
I have learned that many folks have a different sense of taste…this is why there are so many options!

I remember my own Mom telling me to NEVER have a stainless steel sink. I took her word, for not particular reason until we moved into a house that had one and I loved it.

nietha

January 25th, 2010
5:14 pm

Great job with a seemly realistic budget…wondering about price on granite countertops, I have about the same size kitchen and what did you use to clean the cabinets with? They look great!!