November 09, 2012

Kitchen remodel - fait accompli!

The first visit to our condo was completely spur of the moment as we were leaving on this trip last year (our rental car was packed and we stopped by as we left the city).  My boyfriend and I had both been looking at condos for months and hadn't seen anything we liked or that was big enough in our price range.  When we walked into this mauve/brown/blue diamond in the rough however, all I saw was 1200+ square feet, a corner unit on the top 2 floors, downtown location, 13 windows, and a beautiful spiral staircase.  It had been sitting on the market and the price had just dropped so we jumped on it.  The offer was in that night and the next day we celebrated our 7th anniversary and an accepted offer.

As I mentioned however, it was a diamond in the rough and desperately need a new paint job and some renovations.  My boyfriend and I had wanted a project however and a house that we could mold into our own vision of a home.  

This year we focused on the first floor and specifically on the kitchen.  I love to cook and entertain so a bigger more open kitchen was a priority and after 5 months of hard work, we've finally finished (and survived) our first reno!

Before Pictures: 

A view of the original kitchen (right hand side) and powder room (left hand side) on the night of our first and only visit before putting in an offer.  My boyfriend was talking numbers with the agent as I ran around taking pictures.

Hideous downstairs powder room I originally intended to remodel.  The hardest decision was getting rid of it to expand the kitchen but I'm so glad we did, don't even miss it!

The original kitchen.  White tile, buzzing lights, cheap broken white cabinets, mauve walls = kitchen from an 80s horror movie

Phase 1: De-mauving the apartment

Luckily the apartment was vacant when we bought it so we were able to get rid of the 4 shades of mauve and 2 shades of blue covering the first floor and upstairs before moving in.  We chose a dark gray for the entry way corner to delineate it as a separate space.

Phase 2: Our Condo the Construction Zone

Luckily for me, my boyfriend is a civil engineer, his dad an electrical engineer/amazingly good handyman, and his brother a physicist so we (and by we I mean they) were able to knock down walls, move wiring and plumbing, and close everything back up ourselves.

I love projects though so despite being kicked out of the electrical wiring club, I pitched in with design decisions, painting, tile chipping, and plastering drywall joints.

The downside of doing this ourselves was the entire downstairs being covered with a layer of dust,  piles of tools, and construction debris for the whole summer.  A small price to pay for the end result though!

My boyfriend in the kitchen area working on tiles and his dad fixing plumbing in the old bathroom.  That's me in the mirror recording the progress.

Phase 3: End Result!

Everything was finished and installed just in time for fall baking and a Canadian Thanksgiving meal.  We had a great experience with our kitchen company (Cuisine Action if anyone in the Montreal region is looking for someone) and love how the whole project came together.  

There are so many decisions to make when renovating a kitchen and even more when your space is limited so these are few of things I focused on:
  1. Maximizing storage space
  2. Open and light feel
  3. As much counter space as possible

View from the dining room of the final product.  It was so worth extending the cabinets up to the ceiling.  Not only does it give us a foot more in storage, it makes the whole kitchen feel taller and bigger.

One of the biggest differences is the amount of light on the first floor!  I love how the morning sun now reaches the kitchen and how I can talk to people in the living room while cooking.

When doing the floors in the kitchen, we chose to tile in front of the entry way as well so the wood floors wouldn't get destroyed by those little black rocks the city is so fond of spreading on the sidewalks in winter.

After tons of research, we incorporated as many space maximizing tricks as possible. One thing I loved was the addition of a drawer that utilizes the otherwise wasted area in front of the sink to store sponges and scrubbers. Fantastic way to keep things accessible while leaving the counter uncluttered.

I was leaning towards the more modern quartz counters but now that it's done, I'm glad my boyfriend stuck to his guns with granite because the natural stone is so much more interesting.  The color is bianco romano.

A few expenses you don't think to budget for are the faucet and sink.  I couldn't believe the prices!  $600 for a sink?  $1000 for a faucet?! An under mount high quality sink though was worth the extra money (ours cost us a little under $200 on sale).  

Undermount sinks take up less visual space since you can't see them on the counter and are much easier to clean. Ours is 20 inches which is plenty big if you have a dishwasher and we made sure they cut the hole in the granite with a slight overhang so we could just sweep counter crumbs right into the sink.  No pesky seal to clean! 

Since the kitchen could not be expanded side to side because of the front doors, we expanded front to back giving our breakfast bar (formerly the bathroom) 3 large cabinets under the counter.  This gave us extra storage for infrequently used items and cleaning supplies (we don't have a storage closet downstairs) and supports a larger counter for the bar.

Our petit garde-manger.  At first glance it looks as though you lose space with the sliding shelves however I've found they actually increase the usable space since you have easy access to everything in the back of the cabinet.  This was also the only place where we had room for drawers and I'm so pleased we chose them over plain shelves.  It gives you great access to the back of the cabinet and is much easier to look through than shelving (no kneeling on the ground peering behind pots).

I decided to reserve the larger drawer for baking supplies and the smaller one for spices which has been one of the best organizational decisions. Everything I need for baking is in one place!

Fresh and modern stainless steel handles match the appliances and add sparkle to the room.  We splurged on the upper cabinets and chose shiny white which does a great job reflecting light into the apartment and keeps what could have been the darkest corner on the first floor light and airy.

My boyfriend and I both hate the look of garbage cans (we actually took a happy picture with the old one when we finally got to throw it away).  Integrating a hidden sliding garbage can saves us from needing one out in the open and is great for counter clean-up - just sweep crumbs right into the bin!

To go along with our new kitchen, my boyfriend bought me the Kitchen Aid mixer I've been salivating over for years for my birthday.  I did a ton of research and the Artisan mixer is by far the best for a home baker - small yet powerful.  I was going to put it in a cabinet but the shiny silver looks so pretty sitting on the counter and it's been in almost daily use since I received it.  

The general idea with our kitchen design was dark to light starting at the floor.  The charcoal tile grounds the very light colored kitchen, and draws out the gray in the granite.  I went to a tile outlet to save money and was able to afford a porcelain rectangular tile (the shape of which I think gives the room a designer look) without a ridiculous price tag. 

As with most DIY's, it was a lot more work than we anticipated and took every weekend for the whole summer.  It's not quite done, we still need to tile a backsplash and buy bar chairs (hopefully this weekend!), but it is already the most beautiful, cheerful, and inviting kitchen I've ever had.

Here is a list of our vendors:
  • Cabinets and granite counters: Cuisine Action (15% discount for waiting until the fall)
  • Appliances: Sears (If you have their card they give 10% back in gift cards)
  • Pendant Lights and ceiling light: Home Depot (saved $200+ over buying them at a lighting store)
  • Floor tiles: Eco Depot (wholesale tile)
  • Sink: Kraus (Bought on sale at Amazon, saved $100 shipping it to the US and driving it up)
  • Faucet: American Standard (bought at Home Depot.  We ran out of time and weren't able to research/order anything online before the counters were installed).


  1. Oh I love it! It looks awesome! Great decision on the bathroom... It needed to go. I love the open feel.

  2. oh my GOSH Meg it is GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!! All the hard work was well worth it!

  3. Great job!! I really appreciate your work because you did this work own.Your project inspire me to do remodeling of my home also.Thanks for sharing.

    Remodeling Birmingham