Before & After: Julia & Adam's Budget Bungalow Kitchen

With two little kids running around, Julia and Adam’s 1920 California bungalow in downtown Sacramento started to feel a little cramped. As avid cooks, the galley kitchen felt claustrophobic and the dining room had been taken over by toys and excess kitchen supplies and was doubling as a much-needed food prep area. There was no direct access to their lovely garden, either. They knew they wanted a change but with their schoolteacher salary, the budget was pretty tight. What Julia and Adam lacked in financial resources they more than compensated with self-taught renovating skills and an abundance of hard work, patience, and resourcefulness. The outcome of their budget- and design-savvy efforts are truly inspiring!

An 8-Month Process
In the Spring of 2009, Adam mocked up a design for an addition/renovation and ran it by his brother (a former architect), as well as a family friend who is an architect in Santa Barbara. The challenge was to come up with a design that preserved the character and charm of the 20s bungalow, while allowing for a more modern open-plan living/dining/kitchen area.

Demolition began mid-August 2010 and by April 2011 they had doubled the size of their house. During the second half of the process, Adam and Julia tackled the finish themselves during evenings and weekends. They bumped out 15 feet from the original back of the 1250-foot bungalow and the addition extended upstairs to double the house size from a 2BR/1BA to a 4BR/3BA.

“We Did the Entire Finish Ourselves”
Not only did they design and plan the addition/renovation (with free help from friends), they actually did a lot of the labor themselves. “The only way we could even dream of taking on this project was if we took on the entire finish,” Julia explains. They installed the hardwood flooring, did all the interior painting, hung the doors, and installed molding and trim. They also put together the IKEA cabinets, island and wood counter-tops, as well as the oven vent and the open-shelving.

Scouring for Cheap Materials
Hunting for cheap fixtures and materials was all we did as a couple for about 6 months,” Julia explains. “Every night found us huddled around the laptop in bed, scouring EBay, Craigslist (w/in a 120 mile radius), etsy, you name it. We also watched way too much This Old House.” All that bargain hunting certainly paid off, as outlined below.

Salvaged Windows
A year before they even drew up plans, Adam found 15 double-hung Anderson wood windows from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. They were brand new but only $100 each (normally $800+). The whole renovation was basically built around these windows, “which has made all the difference in giving the space light and openness,” explains Julia. The contractor set aside the original Douglas fir wood trim from the existing windows and doors. The trim was planed to skim off the old paint and re-cut to create new window trim for the addition. New French doors opening into the garden were bought at discount ($400).

Salvaged Wood Floors
Adam spent almost a year scouring Craigslist and EBay and visiting salvage yards for flooring. He struck gold with a hardwood floor from an 1920's house; a father and son had removed the flooring with painstaking care and then decided they couldn't use it. At 75 cents/sq ft, it was less than half of the flooring Adam had been considering at from Lumber Liquidators. “Amazingly, the aged wood had beautiful honey red tones that complement the bungalow’s existing hardwood. It creates a warm glow that connects the old with the new,” says Julia. And because the floor is used and scuffed up, she isn’t overly worried about messing it up. Instead of refinishing the floors they opted to simply wax and buff them. “Visitors have a hard time telling where the old house leaves off and the addition begins,” she says.

Subtle Paint Colors
The entire living/dining/kitchen area is Benjamin Moore 'Silver Crest' in eggshell; the ceiling is Benjamin Moore 'Mascarpone' (flat), as is the trim (semi-gloss). “The room gets bright eastern light in the morning, then as day passes it's lit by warm afternoon light from the west. The Silver Crest seems to morph with each change from pale grey to grey with hints of pale blue/green. Still, I had no idea how the paint would read against all the re-claimed oak flooring and the honeyed tones of the window trim, since none of it was in when I painted the big room. Turns out the color we chose has a brilliant way of bringing the green shades of the garden into our house,” Julia says.

IKEA Countertops
Julia and Adam scored IKEA countertops for less than $2,600 during one of the store's big kitchen countertop sales. They chose IKEA 'Numerar' butcher blocks in beech, which they stained with a food-safe mineral oil. The stove side countertops are unusually deep (3 ft) because they plan to add an appliance garage door all the way down the length of it, creating nearly 11 feet of hidden storage for the bulky workhorses of their busy kitchen.

IKEA Island
The island countertop is IKEA Caesar stone in 'Rosemary'. “We didn't want it to sit like a giant monolith in the room, so instead of packing it in with closed cabinets we made the entire back end into bookshelves for my ever-expanding cookbook collection,” Julia explains. They also left an overhang so their kids can pull up stools and snack at the island. At the other end of the counter is another over-hang that they use for baking with the children. The kitchen island faucet is from Costco.

White IKEA Cabinets
IKEA's STAT cabinets give the kitchen a bit of a farmhouse feel. They bought cheap beadboard for around the stove and built the (existing) Maytag fridge into a box with storage above and beadboard on the side to tie it all together. Anthropologie drawer pulls were $3 each (cheaper than IKEA knobs!)

Farmhouse Sink
They scored a Kohler Farmhouse porcelain sink for $300 on Craigslist. The faucet is $50 from Home Depot.

GE Stove
The new and never used GE Stove (plus microwave) was $1000 on Craigslist.

Pendant Lighting
The island light fixtures are mercury speakeasy pendants from Anthropologie ($60 each), which were retro-fitted as hard-wired pendant lights instead of plug-ins. The counter-top pendants are from Barn Light Electric for around $50. The dining area pendant is Ivanhoe porcelain enamel from Barn Light Electric and cost about $120.

Walk-in Pantry (not shown)
In a very large walk-in pantry directly across from the fridge they plan to build lip shelves (about 5" wide on the left side) and put up lots of pretty cans and lots of other storage/shelving and store all our non-perishable food, bulk foods in jars, heavy pots and pans, etc.

Happy Endings
Having an open door and welcoming hearth was the main motivation behind this massive labor of love. The level of privacy has quadrupled... people can spread out and do their own thing and then re-connect back in the big room. It's made a *huge* difference in the way we live to be able to interact directly with the garden. Now we've brought the inside out and outside in... parties are so much more fun, people spill in and out of the place... kids run around and around the circle of the house, as there are only 2 doors in the entire downstairs now.

Thank you Julia and Adam for sharing your lovely new home with us! We are blown away by your fortitude and your beautifully conceived--and executed--vision!

Images: Adam and Julia

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