The Cabinets Are In!!!

The title of this post should have had fifty exclamation marks and be in all caps to properly express how excited I was for the cabinets to arrive and be installed! It was Christmas come early in our household that day in October 2013.

The cabinets were delivered on a Thursday and the wait until Saturday for them to go up felt like an eternity. They sat in their boxes in the garage, just waiting.

Finally, it was Saturday! Cabinet day!

Bright and early, Dan’s parents and brother came over to help. We were so grateful of their offer to install our cabinets. We were told that hiring a contractor to install the cabinets would cost almost as much as the cabinets themselves! If that is the case, then Dan’s family’s generosity really saved us big time by DIYing the install ourselves.

Here’s a reminder of how my newly hardwood floored, freshly painted, appliance strewn kitchen looked.

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Here’s how it looked at the end of the day.

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Sure, it’s a bit rough looking (did you notice the folding table we used as a makeshift countertop?), but the cabinets and appliances were installed! You’ll notice those boxes in the middle of the floor. Those contained some of my most precious kitchen basic possessions that sat in our basement for three long months. You bet that once all the cabinets were in, I immediately started putting them to good use in housing my bowls, cookie cutters, and silverware.

Now, if you know me at all, I don’t think you would expect me to give a step by step tutorial on how how to do a full kitchen cabinet installation. Well, you’d be right. I mostly tried to stay out of the way as the men carried the cabinets through the house, hoisted them high on the walls, and secured them in place. I think I was painting a door or something, you know, a job that was tedious and messy, but not altogether too difficult. I did notice there was a lot of measuring, marking the wall with pencils, consulting the floor plan, then more measuring.

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It all paid off though as by the end of the day, all the cabinets were in place! Finally, we were able to make progress in our kitchen remodel. Now, as I mentioned before, the kitchen was still looking pretty rough. The fridge and stove worked, but the microwave wasn’t in, there was no sink (or running water), we didn’t have countertops, light fixtures and a fan needed to be moved/installed, the peninsula had a wooden back, the floor trim wasn’t in, we were missing all decorative finishes (cabinet/drawer pulls, backsplash, cabinet trim, under cabinet lights, etc…), and there was still so much left on our to-do list, but for the first time since we lived in the house, our kitchen actually LOOKED like a kitchen.

The next step would put our kitchen into functional mode – the countertop!


Roadside Table Refresh

Project #4 in the Great Cabinet Wait was refurbishing an old pedestal table we found on the side of the road. No joke.

Dan and I were visiting his parents house one day and left to run a quick errand. We got a few houses down their street when Dan spied a gorgeous pedestal table in front of someone’s house, next to the garbage cans. I was looking out the other side of the car and didn’t see it. Honoring the pact we made that Dan would always let me know when he saw some wayward piece of furniture on the side of the road, he stopped the car and pointed in the table’s direction.

I hopped out of the car and was in love with this table. It had four circular feet that connected into the one pedestal, which held up the table. It was exactly what I wanted for the kitchen seating area. I tried picking up the table, and it was heavy, indicating it was well made. Dan helped move the table on its side, and I saw a stamp that it was an Ethan Allen table! After a quick call to my father-in-law, he came out to help us take the table back to his parents’ house, where it sat until we were ready to start its make over.

I’ll just cut to the chase (mostly because I don’t have a before photo). Here’s how the space looked during partially-complete phase, which also happened to be around Christmas-time).

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I originally planned to paint the feet and base white, and stain the top of the table a dark wood. Plans change though, as once I started sanding the top of the table, I quickly saw the top was not all wood. It was veneer. Boo. To make things easier for us, I agreed that the whole table should just be painted white.

The table was the kind that opened to insert leaves, to make the table expand. The leaves weren’t put out with the table, which was fine by me, as we didn’t have plans to expand it. However, our first task was to caulk the two side together, to make sure they didn’t open. Once we did that, we got on to my favorite part, you guessed it, the painting. After sanding, many coats (there were a lot of little nooks and crannies in the table that were hard to reach we eventually just coated with spray paint), and applying a sealer, the table was ready to go.

I had always wanted a built in kitchen nook, with bench seats that lift up for extra storage, but we were hesitant to build it until we had a better concept of how close the fridge would be to the seating area. We wouldn’t be able to physically see that until the cabinets were installed. In the interim, we decided to just use some old Windsor chairs we had around the house for the table. I thought about painting them various shades of minty blue green, but we ultimately decided that since the chairs were a temporary solution, we didn’t want to invest any time (or money) into the just-for-now solution.

A few weeks after using the wooden chairs, I spied these great Tabouret chairs on craigslist. Since the seller only had two left (she sold a set of two to a different buyer), she was sure she would have a hard time selling the two remaining chairs. We got the chairs for a steal – just $35 for the pair! Eventually, once the built in seating was complete, I knew we would only need the two chairs, so I was pretty excited for the great find. For the time being, I mixed the new chairs in with the old, added a chevron runner, and put an old ceramic picture filled with pink flowers on top of the table.

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We still had to wait for the cabinet installation to finish up the seating area…and to complete just about everything else in the kitchen. Sigh.


Spaghetti, Ditalini, and Buccatini, Oh My

Project #3 of the Great Cabinet Wait sounds tasty, doesn’t it? Sorry to fool you, as no food was made as part of the project.

I had an old Italian cookbook that I found a thrift store a while ago. Looking through it and reading all the old Italian recipes was fun. While thumbing through, I saw that there were a few pages in the middle of the book that had diagrams of all the different types of pasta. I knew I wanted to turn that into wall art somehow, and that it would be perfect for the kitchen.

I found three matching frames that were about the size of the pasta diagrams at the same thrift shop months later.

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I wasn’t into their light wood coloring, so used more of the blue paint from the Cucina sign. I was really getting my money’s worth from that quart of paint!

Sidenote: Do you notice a theme here? Many of our updates involved painting, which I think goes to show how big a different paint can make whether its on a wall or used in a small project. I digress.

After the frames were dry, I reassembled them and added my favorite pasta diagrams to each one. I asked Dan to hang them in a column, down a very small corner wall space we had in the kitchen. It was recessed back a little bit, so I knew the frames wouldn’t get bumped very much. A few minutes later, my frames were there on display for all to see.

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Here’s a close up of the top frame.

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The pasta frames bring to mind so many different memories that are interwoven with pasta meals. They make me think of my Nonna making pasta by hand with it drying on towels all around the house. Sometimes, I think about the time Dan and I made our own angel hair pasta for the first time with my new KitchenAid attachment, a gift from my in-laws. Lately, I think about a Friday night pasta dinner that I hosted for our friends. That’s why we try to only hang meaningful wall art – it makes you happy every time you see it.


Where’s the Cucina?

Project #2 in the Great Cabinet Wait was updating a wooden sign from our apartment to hang in our new kitchen.

Our apartment kitchen cabinets didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling, which left room above them to decorate. Or store things. Either way. My mom knew I was looking for a decorative item to put above my cabinets and bought me a medium-sized wooden sign that read “Cucina” which means kitchen in Italian.

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I liked the modern font used, and I put it atop the wine rack above our fridge. There it sat until moving day.

When I brought it to the new house, I didn’t think it would would well in the kitchen, color-wise. It was black, with a bit of red popping through its distressed corners. Our kitchen plan was to have mostly white, grey, and blue tones, so I thouhght the sign would look out of place. Nothing a little paint won’t fix.

We had some of the blue paint leftover from when we painted the desk for our guest bedroom, so I thought I’d use it some of it on this project. I sanded, wiped down the wood, then did 3 coats of paint. As always, I let paint dry overnight.

The next day, I was trying to figure out where to put  the sign. I thought it might look nice over the window by the sink, but I realized you would only be able to see it if you were standing in the kitchen. If I hung it over the window looking out onto the backyard, you would be able to see the sign from anywhere in the kitchen, and even the dining room and living room.

A couple nails later, the sign was up, letting all who visit know exactly where the cucina is.

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Remember, when the sign was hung,  the kitchen was just a big empty room. It’s good we labeled it. Wouldn’t want someone thinking it was a furniture-less family room.


Kitchen Chalkboard Wall

With our cabinets and appliances ordered, but not yet delivered and installed, we were in a holding pattern. I decided to call it the Great Cabinet Wait (which has since been trademarked to prevent the phrase’s unauthorized use). We couldn’t do any major updates, like installing backsplash or ordering a countertop, until the cabinets were in place. I wanted to keep moving forward with the kitchen, so I turned to smaller projects while we waited.

One of the first small items on my list was to paint a chalkboard wall in a small alcove in the kitchen and make the wall into a sort of “command wall” for us. Back in our old apartment,  we had a huge command center in the kitchen that consisted of a chalkboard, bulletin board, and magnetic board. I kept our calendar there, pinned up invitations we received, and wrote down menus for the week. It was a great way to organize our schedules.

Given the amount of windows in our kitchen, I noticed we really wouldn’t have room for the same or a similar command center in the space. Also, I had already hung the chalkboard in the guest room and the bulletin board in the office. I thought painting a chalkboard wall would give us extra space to write notes, hold a calendar, and have an added fun bonus of letting the kids in our extended families draw on our wall when they visited.

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Painting a chalkboard wall was no different than painting a regular wall – all the steps are the same. First, I wiped down the wall and baseboards and applied painter’s tape for a hopefully crisp edge.

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Then, I got to painting. I ended up doing three coats, waiting about an hour between coats. I gave the paint about three days to cure before writing on the wall, but I’m sure I didn’t have to wait so long. It likely would have been fine to write on in a few hours.

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The chalkboard paint for this easy project was around $10. I still have about a half a can of paint left, so $5 for this small update was well worth it. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the paint. Maybe dip some wine glasses? Make a chalkboard cheeseboard out of an old tray? Paint a piece of wood for a chalkboard sign? Create a chalkboard clock by painting the back part of the clock and writing in numbers with chalk? What would you do?

Where Should We Put our Dishes?

After the all the demo, clean up, and then appliance shopping, the next item on our list was to put in our order for the cabinets. We absolutely should have started searching for cabinets sooner than we did. Depending on where you order your cabinets from, they can take a while to arrive. Like, months. So, if I could go back in time, I would have spent more time upfront looking at appliances and cabinets, and doing the demo while we were waiting for the cabinets to be delivered. It may have saved us a few weeks of kitchen-less living.

As newbies to this whole cabinet thing, we started our search at a big box store, Home Depot, to see what was available. We walked around the kitchen section for a bit, looking at cabinets we liked. We already had a pretty good idea of what we wanted – simple white shaker style with all wood construction. A designer quickly found us and asked us to sit down with her to plan out the kitchen. We came prepared with measurements, which were essential. To my surprise (and dismay), we sat with her for the next three and a half hours trying to determine a layout that would maximize space. It was extremely time-consuming, but I was glad to have the help of a professional. Figuring out how best to get in a bigger sink, debating the merits of a blind corner vs. larger cabinet with a lazy susan, and determing whether an over the range microwave or range hood was the better way to go was a much easier process with the help of a designer. Finally, in hour four, she drew up the blueprint, which I loved in terms of look and functionality.

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Grand total: $25,000, with delivery in 8-12 weeks! Whoa! We said we would get back to her and hightailed it out of there. We were crushed – how could cabinets be so expensive? We needed to figure out some other way, since $25,000 would absolutely break the bank. Plus, 8-12 weeks of no kitchen wasn’t in our game plan.

We shared our experience with a contractor who was at our house, finishing our hardwood floors. He told us to try a different place, Rock Counter, in Elk Grove Village, where he regularly bought cabinets for his clients. We took his advice and headed in the next day. Remember, at this point our kitchen cannot move into the next stage until the cabinets are in place, so every minute our order wasn’t in was more time we’d be living without a kitchen.

We walked into Rock Counter, and were again helped by a kitchen designer. We brought the plans from Home Depot with us, as we were happy with the layout, just not the price Home Depot quoted. We looked around the showroom, but didn’t see exactly what we were looking for. The only white cabinets were a bit more ornate than we wanted.

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The designer told us they only offered seven styles of cabinets, with little room for customization, but the trade off is that all the cabinets were pre-made, stored in a local warehouse, and ready to be delivered within days. Days! I did a little happy dance and thought buying cabinets that weren’t exactly what we wanted was an OK trade off for a quick delivery. The cabinets were quickly priced out, and it ended up being around $4,500. Whew, that price was much easier to swing. We took her quote and headed home, pretty sure we had found our cabinets.

We had one last shop to check out, which was the place where my parents got their cabinets when they remodeled their kitchen in 2005-ish. It was a local cabinet shop owned by a retired fireman that my dad knew. Once again, we brought in our plans, picked out a cabinet style (the Montresano style from Merillat), which was the pure white shaker style we originally liked. Look at those clean lines!


The designer there priced it out, and the quote came in around $7,500. Along with the higher price, the cabinets would also take about five weeks plus shipping time for the cabinets to arrive. I asked why the long wait, and we were told that there were no stock cabinets sitting around in a warehouse. All cabinets are built to order in North Carolina. We thanked her and left, thinking waiting 6-ish weeks for cabinets was just too long.

We were planning to head back to Rock Counter and put in our order, but I felt hesitant. Those cabinets weren’t really my favorite. Plus, they were not all wood construction, as Dan had wanted. But, they were the cheapest, and would be delivered quickly. We hemmed and hawed over the decision for a few more days. Eventually, we decided to go with the local cabinet shop. Those cabinets were truly what we wanted, and the price was in line with what we were expecting from the get go. Plus, I felt more comfortable that should something go wrong with our order, the local shop where my dad knew the owner would be easier to work with to make it right.

On the morning of my 29th birthday, we headed into the store, ordered the cabinets, and crossed our fingers for a quick delivery.

We tried not to think about the fact that we just resigned ourselves to another 6 weeks of washing our dishes in the basement laundry sink. On an an unrelated note, I ran to Target the next night and stocked up on paper plates and plastic silverware.

Appliance Me Away

Some people buy their appliances after they buy their cabinets. Usually, unless you’re importing a wood burning pizza oven from Italy, appliances are ready to be shipped to you quickly, and you will receive them in a short period of time. Hence, how we had a beautifully floored and painted kitchen, no cabinets, and a bunch of appliances scattered around the room.

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Because my focus at the time was spent mostly on cabinets and trying to make a decision on them quickly as possible (cabinets can have a looooooong delivery time), the appliances weren’t really high on my research priority list. A fridge is a fridge, right?

Wrong! I highly recommend choosing appliances before ordering cabinets. The two go hand in hand, so you will want to have a mostly set kitchen design, allowing for a little wiggle room in case of a change.

Generally, you would probably be OK if you pick a standard size stove. When you order cabinets, the designer asks how big of a stove you expect to have. There are standard sizes, so even if you don’t know your stove size yet, if you commit to a particular size, you will still have plenty of options. Same thing with the dishwasher.

However, it seemed like the size for fridges varied greatly, depending on if you planned to have the model be a top-freezer, a bottom-freezer, a side by side, a french door…you get the picture. I was all set on a stainless steel bottom-freezer when Dan suggested we go check it out at the store. You know, just to be sure.

Boy was I glad he dragged me to Sears during a rainstorm. I took one look at the fridge I had chosen online and immediately didn’t like it. The fridge just wasn’t big enough. I knew we’d have a spare fridge with a freezer in the basement, but I didn’t want to have to go down there all the time for all the food items that wouldn’t fit into this fridge. Directly next to the floor model I had just nixed was a gorgeous french door fridge. I knew it was what I wanted.

Luckily for me, the fridge placement in our kitchen plan was the farthest item on the right in the kitchen. No cabinets were planned to be to the right of it, and there was additional room to expand the plans farther out, the only con being it would just cut a few inches into the seating area. So, picking a bigger fridge wasn’t a huge deal in our layout. But, can you imagine if our fridge was more central in the kitchen and we had already ordered our cabinets? I wouldn’t have been able to make the swap out, and I would have had to have the smaller fridge than I didn’t like in a kitchen I was building from scratch, all because of an oversight on my part. Let me tell you, the reason I was even willing to take on such an extensive remodel was that when it was all over, I would have my dream kitchen. That kitchen didn’t include the small fridge.

I think issues like this are the hardest part of a DIY renovation; missing something small that has bigger implications that you could foresee as a non-professional. Luckily, the fridge issue was avoided by some smart thinking on Dan’s part and only cost a trip to the store on a rainy summer evening. I could easily see where this small issue would have not even been given a second thought until the appliances arrived. I guess I’m just sharing this cautionary tale to illustrate how each and every decision, no matter how big or small you think it is, is an important one that should be made based on research and informed decision making. Don’t end up with a small fridge because of an oversight, like we almost did.