Before and After: A Teeny Kitchen Gets a Major IKEA-Filled Upgrade

updated May 1, 2020
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When you love to cook and bake and hang out in your kitchen, it’s pretty important that you have enough space to do that.

But no such luck for Shannon McQueen and her husband, Marcos, when they moved into their 1908 Denver Square duplex. “The small kitchen had very little counter space, lacked natural light, and half of the kitchen space included a laundry room and a bathroom,” Shannon says. “Most of the stuff we own is cooking and baking supplies, so we knew we would either have to majorly downsize or do something about the kitchen space.”

At first, the couple decided they would tackle the kitchen in stages, that it was “just fine” enough. But then they realized that they “spend about 90 percent of our time in the kitchen” and that they could make a full reno happen if they took on the work themselves. “We created a three week timeline and got to work within hours,” Shannon says.

The couple hired IKEA to come over to help with measuring and ordering cabinets and countertops (“Worth every penny!” Shannon says). They opted for counters that are a few inches deeper than the standard kind so they’d have extra prep space, and only drawers for the lower cabinets (because, according to Marcos, “A shelf is nothing but a lazy drawer”). They also selected fully opening drawers, “which is a bit extra,” Shannon says, “but all of the drawers reveal all of the content within, which avoids stacking.”

Shannon removed the tiles and painted the walls in Benjamin Moore’s Paper White, while Marcos installed all of the cabinets, shelving, overhead lighting, and new stove and hood, and even rerouted some pipes. Pros came in to knock down the wall between the living room and kitchen, help out with some electric work, and add the subway tile and countertops.

The space-sucking laundry and bathroom got moved to the basement. And one last but significant change: The couple swapped out their solid white door for a full light door and ended up with so much more light. So much more.

In total, the couple spent about $12,000 on the kitchen reno—”more than we had budgeted for but good for a kitchen remodel,” Shannon says. And they love that the space is now brighter and bigger and great for entertaining.

Of course, there are a few places they’d reconsider if they had the chance: “If we did it again, we would have taken all the upper cabinets to full ceiling height and fronted the tops with backlight frosted doors to keep it feeling lighter,” Shannon says. Oh, and they’d also carve out a different space for a bigger garbage can: “Everyone is confused about the garbage being in a drawer, and it’s a bit too small!” she adds.

Obviously, the couple learned a lot during their reno process. One big pointer, Shannon says: “Don’t feel limited with what you currently have. We kept the floors and half of the original counter spaces. We built on what we already had but didn’t let the original footprint constrain us. So essentially, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but also don’t let the baby boss you around.”