Claire & Jeffrey's Kitchen: Real-life Lessons from a Real-life Renovation

Renovation Diary

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Name: Claire & Jeffrey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Type of building: Single-family bungalow, 950 square feet

Claire and Jeffrey have been generous enough to share their renovation process with us, and we've been following along with them from the disaster that was their old kitchen to their beautiful new space, and every step along the way. Here they are to share a few final thoughts about their renovation with you. 

Now that the project is over and you're looking back on it, what are the most important lessons you learned through the remodeling process?

  1. You'll never really be fully prepared. So. Be prepared for that.

  2. Embrace DIY, but bring in pros for tasks that affect efficiency, safety, & peace of mind. Don't skip on stuff that you needs to be done while the walls are open, like running electric up to code, etc.

  3. Explore your network. You probably know an architect, a designer, an electrician, etc.!

  4. Use Pinterest! There are so many creative solutions to expensive projects available to inspire you. Create a renovation board and pin the crap out of it. Common themes will emerge in your aesthetic, and it will be easier to make purchase decisions.

  5. Read instructions. Seriously. Read them. And then follow them. No. SERIOUSLY. (After 16 hours of floor sanding/staining, we kind of ruined them with our first coat of poly by not following the instructions on the applicator tool. Wool fibers in the poly finish = major disappointment.)

  6. Embrace imperfections (for when you don't follow instructions.) Don't lose your mind over bubbles in concrete. Figure out how to glorify them and make them look and feel intentional. Such things bring tremendous character to your world.

  7. Always buy used, scratch-n-dent, or on sale. Explore your network for professional/trade discounts. There is no reason to pay full retail for anything EVER. You could outfit an entire kitchen with Craigslist if you wanted to. And you're helping to keep crap out of the landfill when you repurpose. AND you're inviting character into your home when things aren't perfect. If it's not scratched when you buy it, you'll scratch it soon enough.

  8. Try to keep up with the dust that accumulates in the house. That stuff can seriously affect your health.

  9. Calm down, be nice to each other and express gratitude OFTEN. 

  10. And for gawd's sake, hire professional drywallers!

If you were to do this again, what would you choose to do differently?

We're still in the honeymoon phase with our new space, so we can't really answer that yet. Check back in 6 months—I'm sure something will be driving us cray by then.
Did your schedule go as planned? What took more time than you thought it would? What took less time?

We weren't sure how long the whole project would take, especially because it was DIY and we're both working folks, but it seemed to plug along pretty well. 

The floors took waaaaayyy longer than we'd anticipated. Because we patched the hardwood with salvaged pieces, it took a lot of passes with the drum sander to get an even, level surface.

The redirecting of the stairs ended up to be no big deal, believe it or not.

Drywall sanding takes forever and it sucks. 

Cabinets and counters were breezy.

Everything else is super exciting so it tends to fly. Painting, installing fixtures, etc.
What is your next project going to be?

As soon as we achieve our post-kitchen-reno financial equilibrium, we will be painting the exterior of the house and tackling some serious landscaping issues.
Any final thoughts?

Thanks to the Apartment Therapy community for all the great ideas, positive reinforcement, and cheerleading! We'll be sure to enjoy a couple brews in your honor tonight. ;-)
Thanks, Claire and Jeffrey! And congrats on your new kitchen!

This concludes Claire and Jeffrey's renovation diary. You can check out the full series to see the whole renovation process, step-by-step, or you can explore all of our Renovation Diaries.

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

(Images and diary text: Claire Moyle)

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Renovation Diary: Claire & Jeffrey's Kitchen

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