Before & After(s): Ashley's Two Stage Kitchen Reno

When Ashley and her husband bought their 1930s rowhouse in 2007, they were recent graduates with little money to spare to fix the place up. Faced with a very dated kitchen, they embarked on an inexpensive DIY effort to update their small kitchen. After a couple of years living in the space, and inspired by a neightbor's more comprehensive renovation, they started their kitchen reno part deux and created a wonderful space that will work for their family for years to come.

Here is the tale of Ashley's kitchen in her own words:

"The previous owners had occupied the house since the 60s and that's about where the decor was stuck. The kitchen had these orange-y wood cabinets, faux cobblestone Formica in shades of brown and orange, and the flooring was a competing pattern of linoleum tiles. We had just graduated from college and had no more than a couple hundred dollars in our bank account, so our initial solution was to paint the cabinets white and install black and white sheet vinyl flooring after ripping up the old stuff. As for the counters, we basically tiled right over them and put up this cheap backsplash that looked (from afar) like tin. This first re-do cost less than $1,500. And that worked for a long time.

Then one day we visited our neighbors, whose house exactly mirrors the layout of ours. They had taken down the wall separating the kitchen and the dining room, creating a really open feel that was perfect for parties. My husband and I exchanged glances and knew right away that's what we had to do. Then, during the winter (a.k.a. crazy period of non-stop blizzards) of 2009-10, we took the plunge. We demolished the kitchen and went to Home Depot to pick out our new stuff - white wainscoting cabinets, black and white granite counters, a breakfast bar separating the kitchen and dining room, slate tile, new appliances, and dark gray walls (Elephant Skin by Behr). Unfortunately, we were without a kitchen for a couple of months, since the snow kept delaying our progress; we ate a lot of fast food that winter! In the end, we're so happy with the style we chose, as we obviously went the opposite direction from the oranges and browns that used to characterize the kitchen."

As Ashley's experience shows, it is possible to make a big impact with a small investment while deliberating a more monumental change. That first round of kitchen updates made it possible for Ashley and her husband to live in the space and get a better feel for what they wanted in a final kitchen. Whether you don't have the money for your dream kitchen or haven't yet figured out exactly what that dream kitchen will look like, you can still make some small changes to bridge the gap between your dramatic before and after!

Thanks Ashley for sharing your pictures and your story with us. If you would like to see more pictures of Ashely's kitchen, you can see pictures of the original kitchen, pictures of the first renovation, and pictures of the final product on her Flickr stream.

Images: Photos by Ashley Henley, used with permission.