...because home doesn't happen overnight.

play kitchen after 2

Santa gifted Mabrey this play kitchen last year. I didn’t find it obnoxious for a toy. But Mabrey kept asking, “When are you going to paint my kitchen?” Girl catches on quickly. Store bought items rarely stay the way I find them.

play kitchen before 1

In an effort to tidy up the side of the fridge, I decided to tweak the play kitchen with paint. And by paint, I mean paint, backsplash, new hardware, open shelving and an oven light. I may have taken things too far. Oops.

play kitchen before 2

The before. Again, it wasn’t obnoxious but there was room for improvement.

play kitchen steps 1

1 – The first thing I did was remove the chunky handles and patch the holes with wood putty.

2 – After a few applications of putty, I lightly sanded the patches and surfaces to be painted – just enough to scuff them up a bit.

3 – I taped off the oven window, control knobs and countertop.

4 – I gave the kitchen two coats of Sherwin-Williams coastal plain in a satin finish. (Btw, did you know you can purchase Sherwin-Williams paint at Lowe’s now? So convenient!)

play kitchen steps 2

5 – I bought two sheets of Smart Tiles subway tile in white. I had been eyeing them for a while but many sellers only sold them in packs of six and I didn’t need that much. When I saw them on sale at Wayfair for $5.99 per sheet and sold individually, I bit.

6 – The sheets are self-adhering vinyl with an easy peel-and-stick installation. The tiles are staggered on the edges for an overlapping seam.

7 – When positioned properly, the seam is barely noticeable. Lining up the grout lines carefully is key. I had to readjust the second sheet a few times to get a perfect fit. I don’t know that I would ever use these in a real kitchen (maybe a rental?) but they’re perfect for this application.

8 – I cut away the excess tile with utility scissors.

play kitchen steps 3

9 – I cleaned up the edges with a utility knife. I cut from the backside of the kitchen and pressed a board against the front side of the backsplash for more control. I ended up painting the top of the wood backsplash white for an even cleaner look.

10 – I used scraps cut from the first sheet to fill in small portions of tile on the second sheet. I had just enough tile!

11 – I added new handles. Because the play kitchen’s cabinet doors aren’t a standard thickness, the included screws were too long. I had to rummage around in the garage to find a few random ones that would work.

12 – (This is where Steve says I went overboard.) I cut a piece of lumber (thrifted from our garage) to fit the width of the backsplash. I sanded it smooth by hand and added a quick coat of wood conditioner.

play kitchen steps 4

13 – I applied two coats of wood stain. (It’s Minwax special walnut, my favorite.)

14 – I secured the shelf with two wood screws, using the original screw holes (from the original shelf) as my pilot holes. It’s super sturdy.

15 – I spray painted the faucet flat black to tie in with the new hardware. (Don’t think I didn’t consider adding a small bathroom faucet, but that really would have been too much. Ha!)

16 – The finished product!

play kitchen oven light

For fun, I added a battery-powered LED tap light in the “oven.” Mabrey LOVES this new feature.

play kitchen after 5

play kitchen after 4

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Just this morning she made me a broccoli cake ;) She couldn’t care less about the gray-green / subway tile / reclaimed wood / matte black hardware mix, but I’m all over it. One in my size, please?

play kitchen basket 1

Mabrey has a basket of play kitchen accessories. I keep it on a low shelf in the living room when she isn’t playing chef. She likes to carry it over to her kitchen when she’s playing. The red stool stands in as extra countertop space.

play kitchen basket 2

She was gifted this toaster, this coffee maker and a slew of faux food including some felt items from etsy. So cute!

play kitchen after 6

When I was tweaking the play kitchen, I couldn’t help wondering if there was a market for unfinished playthings that consumers could put their own spin on. Someone should do that. I think it’s so nice when toys (especially larger ones out in the open) meld with a home’s decor. I’m more likely to leave it out which means it’s more likely to be played with which is the whole point anyway, right? Or, I might be cray-cray.

At any rate, it was a fun little project and Mabrey seems to enjoy it. Now to tackle that messy fridge!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

It seems the consensus is that you guys would like to continue seeing and reading about Ikea kitchens regardless of which cabinet line – AKURUM (previous) or SEKTION (current) – is featured. For that reason, I will continue to share the best of the bunch that come my way. Thanks for reading!

Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on Ikea kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an Ikea kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on Ikea kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use Ikea to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an Ikea kitchen or not. Enjoy!

LA Ikea kitchen before 1

LA ikea kitchen before 2

Two years ago Eden and her husband purchased an outdated ranch in Los Angeles and immediately set to work making it their own. The original kitchen featured nondescript cabinetry in a cramped “U” layout and tiled countertops. A bank of upper cabinets suspended above a peninsula closed off the kitchen even more and blocked sight lines into the adjoining dining space. On a tight budget and an even tighter schedule, the new homeowners used Ikea cabinets to transform the kitchen into a bright, open space. I asked Eden several questions about the remodel. Find her answers and the happy “afters” below.

LA ikea kitchen after 1

Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?

All of the cabinetry and the farmhouse sink are from Ikea.

What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?

When we bought our home there was so much work to do that we had to stick within a pretty reasonable budget on the kitchen remodel. We had heard that Ikea’s cabinets were surprisingly good quality and the hinges and hardware are some of the best.

LA ikea kitchen after 2

Who designed your kitchen?

We had a contractor help us design our kitchen using the Ikea layout software they have in the store. I was going for a very clean and open café aesthetic. I knew I didn’t want upper cabinets because you wouldn’t see those in a café. Forgoing them also made the space light and airy rather than closed in. I wanted a good mix of masculine and feminine, so I went with brushed metal hardware.

LA ikea kitchen progress

LA ikea kitchen progress

Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?

My husband assembled all of the cabinets himself and then we had our contractor install them. It was his first time putting in an Ikea kitchen so it was a learning process for all of us. As expected, we had to make some adjustments to compensate for our old, uneven floors.

LA ikea kitchen after 6

LA ikea kitchen after 5

How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?

I feel like with everything in life a mix of high and low quality is always good and works well. I knew I would need to spend a little extra on knobs and pulls to dress up the Ikea cabinets so I ordered them from Restoration Hardware. The lights above the island are from RH as well. For the countertops, I chose a honed marble in a natural beige color. The wall behind the range is tiled with subway tile, which is actually pretty inexpensive and looks beautiful. We also bought all of our appliances from Sears. The GE café range is my favorite!

LA ikea kitchen after 8

How long was it from design to the final product?

After we closed on our house we had one month to stay in our apartment and remodel the house. We had to do all of the floors throughout the house which entailed leveling out the kitchen and dining area flooring. We also smoothed out every inch of the walls and ceilings because they were covered in thick, textured plaster from the 80’s! And then we started on the kitchen. So it was about 6 weeks from start to finish.

How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?

It will be two years this June that we’ve had our Ikea kitchen and it’s actually been great! For the price and everything we really don’t have many complaints. There are small issues like the Lazy Susan being incredibly squeaky (I think that’s due to the flour bags I put on it) and a little chipping on the bottom molding. Other than that we’re super happy!

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What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?

I love the open and clean feel and how white it is. I always wanted a white kitchen. That way I can add color and décor through furniture and accents. I also adore the layout of our kitchen. There is easy access from the sink, to the stove, then to the fridge which is nice. I can’t think of a least favorite!

Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel? If so, which items?

Yes, I would! I think Ikea is a wonderful option for those looking to revamp their kitchen on a budget. Our 80’s kitchen had to go. We worked with the budget we had but still managed to make a dramatic change. I would highly recommend the farm sink too. It was only $200 and it’s big and beautiful with amazing quality!

Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?

I definitely would. I’ve also heard about a company, Semihandmade, that creates doors, panels and drawer fronts to attach to Ikea cabinets. I didn’t know about them at the time we did the remodel, but I would consider using them in conjunction with Ikea frames.

Resources of note:

wall paint – mirage white, Behr
cabinets – AKURUM frames and ADEL doors & fronts, Ikea
sink – Ikea
countertops – honed marble in earthy beige
hardware – Lugarno in oil-rubbed bronze, Restoration Hardware
pendant lights above island – Restoration Hardware
floors – real oak hardwood, Early American stain
range – GE café range

LA ikea kitchen after 11

LA ikea kitchen after 9

Thank you Eden for sharing your kitchen! I can’t believe the difference between the “befores” and “afters.” And in only six weeks?! Bravo.

Okay readers, what caught your eye? I’m digging the airy vibe. Ripping out the peninsula and view-blocking upper cabinets completely opened up the space. The view from the kitchen to the dining room is amazing. Did you notice the doorway to the living room (near the range) was moved over to provide wall space for the refrigerator, pantry and additional countertop space? That was such a smart move. Losing most of the upper cabinets and tiling the range wall floor-to-ceiling are in line with Eden’s preferred café aesthetic. But my favorite? I absolutely love the little sitting area between the kitchen and dining room. The leather aviator chairs, open shelving and vintage stools feel so homey and inviting. I can just picture guests gathering and lingering there when Eden entertains. Little details like that make the space feel less clinical, more cozy. Be sure to check out Eden’s blog, Sugar and Charm, for all things charming!

Want more kitchen inspiration? See more Ikea kitchens right here:

An Ikea Kitchen on Australia’s Gold Coast

An Ikea Kitchen in Asheville

A (Mostly) Ikea Kitchen in Denver

An Ikea Kitchen in Rural Australia

An Ikea Kitchen in the SF Bay Area

An Ikea Kitchen in Northfield, Minnesota

An Ikea Kitchen in Brooklyn

An Ikea Kitchen in Orange County

An Ikea Kitchen in Texas Hill Country

An Ikea Kitchen in Chesapeake

An Ikea Kitchen in a Barn (in France!)

An Ikea Kitchen in Cape Cod

Do you have a project (big or small; Ikea or non-Ikea) that you would like to share with House*Tweaking readers? Email me at housetweaking (at) gmail (dot) com for consideration. Thanks in advance!

images: Eden Passante

Brittany and Greg bought their first home in 2012. It wasn’t the house of their dreams but it fit their budget and had potential. One of the biggest pitfalls was the kitchen situated between the dining room and a side entry.

view to kitchen from dining room

craigslist kitchen before 1

What little cabinetry there was was outdated and in disrepair. Doors and drawers didn’t open and close properly. The (emerald green laminate) countertops were perpetually cluttered due to lack of storage. An undercabinet radio hogged one of the rare outlets. Too few overhead lights didn’t provide enough lighting at night.

craigslist kitchen before 2

A freestanding stove blocked access to a nearby base cabinet and countertop. There was no exhaust fan. A shallow pantry was inadequate.

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The location of the refrigerator was such that it jutted out into the already cramped room and impeded traffic flow to / from a side entrance.

However, the kitchen did boast good natural lighting and new stainless steel appliances which Brittany and Greg took full advantage of when they overhauled the kitchen after living with it as-is for over a year.

craigslist kitchen layout

Working on a tight budget, the couple scored a set of custom cabinets via craigslist. The top of the line cabinetry typically sells for >$1,500 PER CABINET! Brittany and Greg negotiated a price of $1,000 for the entire set, including molding and side panels. Armed with mad math skills (they’re both engineers by trade), google Sketch-Up, a little imagination and a lot of DIY ambition, they created an open, functional kitchen that better suits their casual lifestyle. Spoiler alert: a game-changing wall was demo’d. I asked Brittany several questions about the remodel. Find her answers and the “afters” below!

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What were the limitations of your original kitchen?

The biggest limitations included lack of storage and countertop space. With the limited counter space on each side of the sink and an awkward last minute spot for the stove, it was impossible to use the bottom cupboard. Having >2 people in the kitchen utilizing all of the appliances was next to impossible.

Aesthetically and functionally speaking, the biggest source of pain was cooking and entertaining. Anyone cooking was completely segregated from the rest of the house. Too many people standing in the way wasn’t helpful for preparing food either.

How long did you live with the original kitchen? Did you make any short-term improvements?

We lived with the kitchen for a year and a half, through our wedding planning and actual wedding. We were very lucky that the last owners installed new appliances about a year and a half before we moved in, so we did inherit three new beautiful and functional stainless steel appliances which helped aid any limited short-term improvements and allowed us to focus attention on other rooms in the house.

craigslist kitchen after 1

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What were your goals for the remodel?

Our original goals for the kitchen remodel focused mainly on practicalities: <$5k, add resale value to our house, improve functionality. As our first home, we understood it may not be our forever home but it very well could be. Therefore, we tried to ensure it not only met our tastes now, but our needs in the future as well as others’.

We also knew that we wanted to get rid of the wall between the kitchen and dining room, leaving no header and no ledge on the floor. The consistent opening of the space would improve natural light and daily traffic flow throughout our house. Any perks of additional storage, counter space and efficiency would also be required seeing that we’re both engineers and functionality is our #1 priority by trade.

Where did you find inspiration for the remodel?

Inspiration for the kitchen really came from everywhere: blogs, Ikea, pinterest, Houzz, real life kitchens in our friends’ and neighbors’ homes. My husband needed visual pictures before he’d commit to something, so we’d share a photo stream just for our crazy ideas with notes on what we loved and where they would and wouldn’t work.

The ultimate layout of the cabinets was determined after many hours on google Sketch-Up and ultimately on graph paper. My husband was impressed by the fact that in a roughly 12′ x 12′ space we could fit in 40 sq.ft. of countertop, an eat-in bar, a pantry and a wide open space around the stove to prepare food. We were aiming for a flare of modern paired with a classic / vintage-y vibe.

craigslist kitchen after 2

Which came first: the design or the cabinets? And how in the world did you score those cabinets?!

Cabinets! After we put our offer in on the house we knew the kitchen wouldn’t last forever and that we’d have to remodel at some point. As we were putting in our offer, a co-worker recommended, if we weren’t in a hurry, to keep our eyes out on craigslist. Thinking that was a next to impossible feat, I did some quick searches and spotted the listing for the cabinets. The homeowners were remodeling and anxious to get their two Mercedes back in the 3-car garage where the “old” cabinets were camping out. Their contractor suggested they put the cabinets up for sale on craigslist as they were in great shape.

We ended up getting their entire kitchen worth of cabinets for $1,000. They also provided images and each cabinet’s size / layout attached from when they were originally installed by Wood Mode.

While we were happy to stumble upon them, the biggest challenges were storing them for a year and a half and coming up with a functional design that incorporated them. We have <8′ ceilings and the uppers we acquired were 44″ tall. That left <12″ between the countertop and upper cabinetry. Standard work height is at least 18″. Therefore, we ended up having to modify some of the cabinets and, once we learned additional uppers would be ~$1,200 each, we agreed open shelving was the best option for us. In addition, one window is on a brick exterior wall and is not counter height. It posed a challenge when coming up with a layout.

FYI – We’re deciding whether to retrofit the upper cabinets, extra base cabinets & pantry into a hutch for the sunroom or use them for custom built-ins in the basement family room.

craigslist kitchen progress 2

craigslist kitchen progress 1

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Did you do all the work yourselves? What help, if any, did you hire out? What was the most difficult project you tackled?

We conquered almost every project ourselves with help from volunteer family & friends. From demo to electrical, to drywall, to support beam, to 1.5″ wood floor installation, to cabinet install, tile work, plumbing and sink hook-up, cabinet modifications & shelving and paint and aesthetic styling. Youtube and DIY blogs were definitely our friends during that time…and necessary!

As first-time home buyers of a 1950’s house and learning DIYers, it seemed each task came with its own set of challenges. For example, deciding on flooring left me mailing off a sample of our VCT floor for asbestos testing just in case. And the electrical wiring that we thought would take two weeks actually took 4-6 weeks due to two wires being cut during demo that provided power to the rest of the house. It’s worth noting while we were generous with our original schedule, we forgot we’d occasionally want a project-free night or day of rest.

We hired out:

*ceiling plaster repair – We had attempted this before and got a great recommendation of what I would call a plaster “artist” who seamlessly patched all of our damaged spots. After ceiling paint, no one is the wiser as to where the holes or wall used to be. I would hire this out again anytime in the future! Worth. every. penny.

*gas line moving – I hired this out thinking it would be a more complex task to move 4′ of piping for the stove. However, after seeing them run to the store and move it with flexible pipe, we wish we would have saved our money and done it ourselves.

*load bearing calculations & approval – Despite my husband & I both being mechanical engineers, we brought in a PE (professional engineer) just to confirm our thoughts and calculations on the load bearing aspect of our wall removal. Nothing surprising, but worth the extra insurance.

How long did it take from design to completion?

We started Labor Day 2013, used the long weekend for demo, and worked mainly on weekends and weeknights when necessary. The final project as it looks today was probably completed Labor Day 2014. We are both working engineering & management professionals with long weekday business hours and frequent weeks of business travel. A majority of the work was left for the remaining weekends.

However, we had cabinets installed by Christmas 2013. Countertops arrived a month later in early January. The finishing touches were completed somewhere between then and Labor day. Once the kitchen was functional in January, we tried to return to a normal life and complete smaller tasks each weekend to bring it up to its new identity as seen today.

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What is your favorite aspect of your new kitchen? Least favorite?

Overall, we both love the improved flow and functionality. Separately, I think we both love some of the smaller and finer details as our blood, sweat and tears are in almost every corner. For example, I love the open shelves for ease of cooking and cleaning, in addition to having the ability to display all of our wonderful wedding gifts. And my husband loves the USB outlets for charging devices, the instant hot water heater (makes oatmeal and tea in the morning super easy), and the tiled wall and the wood floors (where most of his tears were shed).

On the flip slide, we each have small flaws that bug us. Mine being the missing topcoat of paint on the end of the peninsula, and his being a few imperfect marks on the open shelves. But we’re the only ones who notice, and we have to remind ourselves of that every now and then. My least favorite thing (but not my husband’s – ha!) is that I didn’t take the half wall opening near the stove all the way back to the stove hood wall. *I think* the extra 2′ would have opened up the space even more and resulted in better sight lines while adding an extra few inches of counterspace. But, by the time I thought about it, the electrical and drywall were done. My husband just laughed because there was absolutely no turning back.

Resources of note:

cabinets – Wood Mode hallmark cabinetry in winter white oak
wall paint – Benjamin Moore northern cliffs mixed in Behr Ultra
trim paint – Benjamin Moore simply white mixed in Behr Ultra
flooring – 1.5″ solid oak from a local supplier called National Lumber. It was finished in Golden Oak to match the original flooring throughout the house. (We LOVE the seamless transition.)
backsplash tile – American Olean (1/16″ spacers), Lowe’s
grout – dove gray, The Tile Shop
side entry floor tile – clearances porcelain with charcoal gray grout, The Tile Shop
EZ mount cabinet levelers – My husband thought these were amazing.
granite countertops, sink – a local supply store called Shell Fab (They actually cut the stones and do the installation for the local big box stores, which allowed us to save $$ and shop direct from the local supplier.) We LOVE the deep sink and granite.*
appliances – Frigidaire, c/o the previous homeowners
charcoal vent hood – eBay
open shelves – DIY, inspired by Young House Love / Ana White
spice rack – wine bin from flea market
spice jars – Ikea
faucet  – Moen motion sense in spot-resistant stainless
hot water heater – Amazon*
garbage disposal – Amazon*
hanging pendant lights – Hampton Bay, Home Depot / ebay
pod lights – LED Sylvania 6″ retro fit to standard j-box, Lowe’s
knobs – satin nickel, Home Depot
motion lights – Lutron dimmable LED 3-way*
USB outlets – Leviton*
cake domes – Amazon, Macy’s
bread boxes – Ikea
clock – Target
glass jars – Amazon
copper bowls & colander – ebay
marble rolling pin – Amazon
mortar & pestle – Amazon
dishes – white Corelle (no worries about breaking them!)
dish towels – Etsy
apron – Ikea

*Denotes items / features we’re especially fond of and highly recommend.

craigslist kitchen after 6

Thank you so much, Brittany and Greg, for sharing your space!

I love the ingenuity and hard work that went into this budget-friendly remodel. $1,000 for those cabinets? Are you kidding me?! And, of course, I love the open shelving and subway tile. Bringing down the wall between the kitchen and dining room solved two problems. It opened up the kitchen AND allowed more light to shine into the windowless dining room. This kitchen a far cry from the jumbled, dysfunctional space it once was. You can read more about this project on Brittany’s blog.

Have you ever thought of sourcing kitchen cabinets from craigslist? It seems like a cost-effective option if you aren’t pressed for time and are willing to be imaginative with your design.

images: Brittany Semrau