Before & After: My Cheap, Green Kitchen Remodel

updated May 7, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

When I moved into my home, only one out of the three units was livable. The downstairs had been gutted and wasn’t much more than a glorified storage unit. You’ve gotten a glimpse of the bathroom via my Ace Hotel-inspired shelving post. Now I’m going to share my mostly recycled kitchen-on-a-shoestring.

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Diving into this project as a novice homeowner included lot of naivety and the necessity of getting a unit rented ASAP to help pay the mortgage. If I had had the luxury of time to think about what I was doing, I probably would have been too completely freaked-out to get started.

From the outset, I knew I wanted to use the Ikea Varde freestanding kitchen, but I didn’t want to buy it all new when I knew I could find bits and pieces on craigslist. Lucky for me, I found the main base shelf, the large upper cabinet and the entire pantry’s worth of cabinets secondhand. HUGE savings at around 60% less than retail. The original butcher block counter from the base unit was a little bit warped, but we were able to cut it down and use the un-warped portion in the pantry. Then I purchased the replacement butcher block counter and sink base unit new, but was fortunate in finding the stainless steel sink in Ikea’s as-is department for half-off.

The refrigerator and stove, I also bought secondhand through craigslist. I spent a lot more on the O’Keefe and Merritt reconditioned stove ($1000) than I had budgeted, but it’s one of those items that you only have to buy once. Plus, I saved so much on the 2 year old bottom freezer refrigerator ($250), that it kind of evened out. The oven and the Kohler faucet (even at 50% off from ebay) were my two big splurges. The only thing that will need to be changed is the tiny vent hood that was installed for the stove you see in the first photo ended up having a broken thermostat that I wasn’t aware of when I refurbished its vintage knob in this earlier post.

I sourced the backsplash tiles from craigslist, as well. There was a warehouse 20 miles from my home with remnant boxes of mixed tile. I spent over an hour digging through several pallets worth to find enough of the same color for both the kitchen and bath. Originally, I had wanted to use more of a white milk glass tile, but it would have cost at least three times what I paid ($3.50 to $5.99/square foot depending on how broken each tile panel was). The flooring is composite tile from Home Depot in Kiwi Green and is made with 20% post consumer material. Not only a steal at under $1 per square foot, but very durable for a rental unit. I gave myself a hearty pat on the back for learning how to cut tile and grout the backsplash.

Lighting is also from Ikea, used with Ikea’s compact florescent bulbs.

Last but not least is the glass-paneled door. I bought it for $35 at the Habitat For Humanity Re-Store. I had to patch the original door holes to make it open the opposite way and re-glaze the glass, but it added a lot of much-needed light to make the narrow space feel larger and more airy.

More Before and After Posts:
Before & After: Taking a Kitchen from Dark to Light
• Before & After: Compact Kitchen Remodel
• Before & After: An $80 Rental Kitchen Makeover

(Images: Michelle Chin)