Before & After: Nicki & Kennedy's Budget Sunroom Makeover

Before & After: Nicki & Kennedy's Budget Sunroom Makeover

Catrin Morris
Feb 3, 2011

With a tight budget, busy work schedules, three kids and two pets, Nicki and Kennedy managed to completely overhaul their sunroom and breakfast room. And they did it all themselves. In six weeks. And for less than $4,500, new furniture included. How did they do it?

What: Turning an unused breakfast nook and cold sunroom into one big sunny living space.
Who: Nicki and Kennedy, their two teenage sons, one preschool-aged daughter, one dog and one cat.
Duration of project: 6 weeks total (mostly on weekends and evenings)
Cost of project: About $4500 including the furniture, paint, and a new gas fireplace ($1000) but not all the take out meals bought during the renovation!
Labor: All DIY except they hired an electrician to do some rewiring and removalists were paid to haul away the debris.

Before
In their 1930s 4 bedroom Tudor home in Washington, DC's Forest Hills neighborhood the previous owners had (probably in the 1970s by the looks of it) built an addition off the back of the house, up against the kitchen and dining room. The addition comprised a tiny breakfast room and a sunroom. The rooms felt very disjointed from the rest of the house—and from each other. They were separated by awkward walls and had clashing flooring (tile abutting brown carpet). The breakfast room was attached to the kitchen through an open doorway (blocking out natural light from the kitchen!). This breakfast room did boast huge skylights, explains Nicki, "but it was a complete waste of space since no one ever wanted to sit in there with it's cold tile floor." Moreover, it was oddly proportioned, cramped and isolated. Basically it served as a place to stash the enormous dog crate.

Adjacent to the breakfast room was a sunroom with brown wall-to-wall carpeting. These two rooms were separated by a wall that did not extend all the way to the ceiling but had a shelf along the top (to allow the skylights' light into the sunroom, presumably). "It was another of the addition's very 70s and very useless architectural quirks," says Nicki. The sunroom was connected to the kitchen only by way of a tiny pass-through window.

The Renovation Begins

After living in the home for five years, Nicki and Kennedy decided they had to make some changes, but with three kids their budget was pretty tight. They wanted to take down the entire wall between the kitchen and the sunroom, but that proved too expensive, since it's a retaining wall. Estimates came in at 10 - 15K just to remove the wall, excluding any finishing work. They decided instead to embark on a 2-step DIY project: First they would tackle the breakfast room/sunroom monster and then, down the road, they would deal with the kitchen (which they find too dark and gloomy). This post deals with step 1 of the renovation.

With virtually no help from contractors, Nicki and Kennedy rolled up their sleeves and got busy, working hard across a six-week period. The first two weeks were just weekends and occasional evenings. They worked every day between Christmas and New Year's and Kennedy worked on it almost every day for the following week as well. The final 2 weeks were just a few hours here and there. Kennedy did most of the work but Nicki helped whenever she could, especially with the painting and flooring. They hired an electrician to move wiring and outlets and hired removalists to haul away the debris.

What They Did

1 Knocked down the wall between the breakfast room and the sunroom, but left the posts. The resulting space was one big sunroom. They left the posts in just in case they were load bearing.

2 Removed an unsightly built-in cabinet and brought in considerably more light by reopening a former window that had been bricked in.

3 Removed the brick hearth around the fireplace

4 Ripped up the dual flooring (carpet in the sunroom, tile in the breakfast room). According to Nicki, ripping out the tile was the worst and most difficult part of the entire process.

5 Expanded what was once a small pass-through window between the kitchen and sunroom. This new taller opening lets in significantly more light to the kitchen. Another benefit of this larger opening is that their young daughter can play in the sunroom but still feel near to her parents while they are cooking or cleaning in the kitchen.

6 Installed a new gas fireplace, which has made the sunroom warm and inviting for the first time ever.

7 Painted the new expanded sunroom a cozy, sunny yellow.

8 Installed a new IKEA floor, Lakt (just click into place!) in birch. According to Nicki, installation was not quite as easy as IKEA advertises, but "doable".

9 Put in baseboards and trim, but left all the openings (windows, doorways) without trim.

10 Bought a new sofa, rug and cabinets from IKEA.

Next steps: In place of the 20- year old IKEA pine table they are using now, Kennedy is going to build a table (approximately 5x18x27h to run along the wall between the kitchen and sunroom. This will be the perfect spot for the kids to eat their breakfast and afternoon snack and also will serve as a bar when Nicki and Kennedy entertain. Nicki hopes this new workspace will also prove a good spot for making cookies with her kids since they have so little counter space in the kitchen. They also plan to replace the drafty exterior door.

The Finished Product

"We spend so much more time in this room than we used to," says Nicki. We aren't surprised. What a sunny, spacious and inviting sunroom!

Thank you for sharing, Nicki and Kennedy!

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