Before and After: A $10K Kitchen That’s Fit for British Royalty

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

This is a very straightforward, efficient kitchen that looks exactly like at least three kitchens that I’ve been in. But it had a few issues that needed to be remedied (starting with secretly leaking pipes).

Reader Ellen McCormick was kind enough to submit her project and give an in-depth description of the challenges this kitchen presented:

Before the remodel the kitchen completely lacked character and function. The dark cherry cabinets and beige tile floor screamed early 1990s kitchen done on the cheap. Due to the narrowness of the kitchen, the upper cabinets could not be fully opened without running the risk of a head injury. The stark white counter tops highlighted every crumb or speck of dirt and stained incredibly easily. The off-white appliances were stained and in disrepair. The track lighting was both ineffective and unattractive. The kitchen also contained soffits which took up valuable storage space and jutted out into the kitchen making the already narrow kitchen feel claustrophobic. The overall feel of the kitchen was “get me out of here as soon as possible.”

When we bought our condo it was a complete mess. We initially renovated the common areas, pulling up thirty year old carpeting and painting nicotine-stained walls. I spent three years cooking in the kitchen prior to the renovation. I love to cook and entertain. Overall I would estimate that I spend at least 20 hours in my kitchen each week and I knew our next project would be the kitchen. We saved aggressively from the time of purchase and after three years we were able to update the kitchen.

I love that Ellen included both the time it took to save up enough money and an estimate of weekly kitchen time. The former is incredibly understandable, and the latter reveals so much of a kitchen’s role and needs. If someone literally only uses their kitchen to make tea and store Prosecco, their needs are very different than someone who cooks elaborate meals every night, and it’s always fun to see how these renovations suit their needs.

(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

This is so lovely, even by dim—and very relatable—light. That deep, rich blue (Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue) is completely delicious, and it looks fabulous with the black-and-white floor and wood countertops. This brand-new kitchen is so cozy and personal, it’s hard to believe it hasn’t always looked this way. It also looks like some of the high end traditional kitchens coming out of the U.K. these days (companies like Plain English or deVOL) — but with a much, much lower price tags.

(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

Here’s a closer look at what the sink area looked like before renovation; my favorite part is the cute white knobs! All of my kitchens have had those faux brass ones.

(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

The work area and sink are so much more open; that counter looks a hundred times more useful than it did before. Here we can see that the shelves hold a lot of stuff, and that everything is accessible with no head-bonking required. The new sink is a lot roomier, with a high faucet that accommodates larger dishes. And perhaps those are shadows on the walls, but I love the rustic, hand-troweled look.

Ellen shared everything that went into this wonderful transformation:

The kitchen renovation was actually a three-year process between planning and picking up Craigslist finds. The active time of the remodel was about 2 months long. We did the kitchen on a budget of $10,000. All of the appliances were Craigslist finds. The Viking oven was my best find ever! We purchased it for $500. The Ikea farmhouse sink was purchased for $50. I looked for over a year for a refrigerator before finally purchasing ours for $300. The fully integrated dishwasher was brand new and a steal at $300.

To save money we reused the existing lower cabinet which I painted Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball. A cabinet maker I found on Etsy made replacement shaker doors for the lower cabinets and built the range hood and two upper cabinets at a great rate.

My husband and I installed the brick backsplash. I also stained the butcher block countertops and open shelving. We hired a contractor to install the paneled wall, counter tops, floor, lighting and appliances.

We encountered a few setbacks. Our cabinets were stuck in a blizzard. We also discovered our neighbors pipe was leaking into our apartment which brought work to a standstill for over two weeks. I also attempted to paint and seal the original tile floor to save money but it was a failure and in the end we replaced the floor.

All of those appliance deals are amazing! The countertops are from Lowe’s, the floor is from Forbo (found on Craigslist), and the cabinet doors, upper cabinets, and range hood are from DavidMeeksCustom on Etsy.

(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

On the other side of the kitchen, we have your standard stove-microwave combination, a practical configuration that can unfortunately make cooking a little crowded.

(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

But now! More of that gorgeous blue paint, a beautiful wood . . . I’m going to call it a mantel, brick backsplash that adds majorly to the coziness, a glorious new stainless stove, and my new favorite kitchen feature, the art above the stove. The glimpses of crockery, cutting boards, and rosy knobs are also so welcoming and comforting.

I literally have my dream kitchen now. I am very proud of the fact that we did it on a small budget and that we did a lot of the work ourselves. If I had it to do all over again I would have allotted more time for our DIY projects and I would ensure that I had all materials cabinets, counters etc. before we began work on the projects.

(Image credit: Ellen McCormick)

As if that all wasn’t good enough, here’s what the door to the kitchen looks like. Don’t you want to settle in there for chatting and cocoa? It reminds me a lot of a petite version of Phryne’s kitchen in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which is one of the highest compliments I can give. And Ellen wants you to remember that you probably don’t need to be rich—or a fabulous lady detective—to have a dream kitchen of your own:

Don’t think you need $40,000 to renovate a kitchen. It can be done on a smaller budget.

While $10,000 is still a lot of money, it’s inspiring to see what a dramatic change Ellen was able to create for that amount.

Thank you, Ellen!