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  • Writer's pictureJessica Doberneck

Planning & Budgeting for our Mild Mild West Kitchen Renovation

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

When we first looked at this home with our realtor, I actually hated it haha! I hated it because the kitchen was right next to the entry, the entry was almost blocked off by this early 2000's chunky pillar thing, and even worse - the dining room was tucked behind the kitchen all alone in a dead end corner! It felt like the kitchen and dining should be swapped!

We looked at over 25 homes and none of them felt right, but we ran out of time on our trip and our Mid Century Modest in Idaho home was already under contract, so we ended up choosing this home with the mindset of it being more of an “investment property” than a “forever home.”

{If you want to hear more about all the INSANE ups and downs we had during the house selling/buying experience, check out our other two blog posts! It might make you sweat and could possibly raise your blood pressure - just a heads up haha. Check out: Part 1 and Part 2}

Once we saw it as an investment, I was in love with the home and all it’s potential! It felt like I was given a ball of clay to spend the next 2 years molding with the big audacious goal of FIXING the horrendous entry/kitchen/dining issue. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it! Fun Fact: I actually asked our realtor to find out if we were able to dig into the ground and move the water and gas line in the kitchen without any foundation issues and ensure the chunky pillar wasn't load bearing before I would consider buying the home. Once she came back with 2 thumbs up - we put in an offer! I was NOT about to buy this home if I couldn't change the biggest eye sores! No way!

Over the last few months I’ve been diving deep into pricing out every possible facet of this kitchen renovation. It’s a deep rabbit hole that I’m finally coming out of and can see the light! Let me walk you through the layout options and budgeting for this project. (Design plans will have to be my next blog post. Stay tuned!)


Approaching any project I always have a max budget in mind. This helps me keep my ROI in check knowing that if we spend anything over that max budget we will be cutting into our profit margins on the home.

Our Mid Century Modest's kitchen renovation was about 7.5k, which gave me a starting price point to compare this project to. However, this Mild Mild West home had some requirements that would surely justify a higher budget:

  1. The kitchen is larger than our Mid Century Modest's kitchen

  2. I want quartz countertops which would cost more (and I got a killer deal on our granite in the last house that I knew I couldn't replicate here). Also, if we have a breakfast bar, I would really like to do a waterfall edge - not a requirement, but I'd love to do it if the budget allows.

  3. I preferred a higher quality cabinet than Lowe’s Diamond Now collection (if I could swing it cost wise!). The homes in this community were all built between 2000 and 2003 and because they are all only 20 years old, there's definitely a standard of quality I need to maintain to keep up with surrounding homes.

  4. I wanted the cabinets to go all the way to the ceiling, which would require an additional row of 18” tall cabinets above the standard 36” tall cabinets. This would highlight the tall ceilings and match the hight of our new stucco/concrete fireplace.

  5. We will be paying someone to install the cabinets instead of doing it ourselves. Reasoning: my parents aren't able to help unlike last time, Tyson absolutely hated installing the cabinets in the Mid Century Modest home, it would be much harder with 2 layers of cabinets, and - oh yeah - I'm super pregnant with no help to offer!

Taking all my requirements into consideration, I felt like we could NOT spend more than 15k on this kitchen renovation or we’d be risking our ROI. Ideally, I’d love to keep the project between 12k - 13k with a buffer of 15k in case of emergencies.

Plan A: Layout 1

I always start with the most ideal plan to gage the max price point and feasibility of the project. If it’s affordable and manageable, then score! If not, then move on to plan B.

The most ideal plan was to swap the kitchen and dining creating a more open layout. The dining room as a beautiful focal point upon entry and a long galley kitchen ending in a darling breakfast bar looking out the front window. This would require eliminating the left wall window (because it goes lower than the base cabinets), adding a small picture window above the sink, and moving a gas and water line.

Plan A: Layout 2

However, this kitchen quickly became a game of if you give a mouse a cookie. If you give a kitchen a renovation, you'll also need to...

If I totally swapped the kitchen and the dining room, it would leave our dining room off-centered with our current window. Gross. Can't have that! I did some measurements and we could literally move our 6' window that we would be taking out and just move it next to the other window with a perfect 6" gap between the 2 windows. That would look so stunning to have 2 windows in the dining! I was stoked for that plan (but deep down I was starting to see the $$$ racking up to an absurd amount.) To account for this cost, I figured I could eliminate the picture window above the sink and do some open shelving instead.

In talking to our contractor, we also learned that it would be cheaper to cut off the gas line and do an electric range on the adjacent wall instead of moving the gas line across the entire kitchen. I really hated the idea of losing a gas range, so my other option was to keep the range on the same wall as it previously existed and just move it down a few feet from where it currently sat to keep room for the sink and dishwasher.

With this layout, 2 issues arose: 1) Now I have all my appliances crammed on one wall and that just wasn't jiving with me. And 2) In talking with our contractor about this plan he pointed out that our AC unit sits right in the view of where that window would be moved to. Not the prettiest sight, and the additional noise would be a bust.

After hours of research and talking with our contractor, we learned that doing those 3 basic requirements alone to reconfigure the kitchen (move the water line, and gas line, and close up my window) would cost a little over 10k! And that's not even including the cost of installing the second window in the new dining which was another 2k! Realizing that left me with 5k to finish the kitchen, I decided there was NO way I could financially justify Plan A - no matter what layout I had configured.

This was devastating because I KNEW that making the kitchen-dining room swap would totally transform this whole living space and make for a STUNNING entrance view. Part of me was crushed. However, as I was watching those $$$ rack up throughout this planning process, I started brewing up a plan B in the back of my mind. This plan B would still solve just about all my problems and was starting to look attractive, especially to my budget!

Before I move on to Plan B...

See that breakfast bar in the font window?? This was my favorite yet most challenging part of plan A. You see, I would have loved a full blown U-shape kitchen with a beautiful farmhouse sink centered in that front window. BUUUUUT our windows go very low to the ground (like 2' off the ground) so raising that front window to add base cabinets there and changing the whole front exterior of our home (if the HOA even approved it) would not be feasible. But, I didn't want a dead-end galley kitchen with no corners to work in; I was 100% set on rounding out the kitchen into a U-shape! The only way I could do that is with a breakfast bar OVER the current front window. We'd do some beautiful hanging pendent lights, low-backed bar stools so they didn't interfere with the kitchen foot traffic, and a raw wood table top to set it apart. This is a great example of what I had envisioned:

Major props to Fixer Upper for the inspiration! This particular fixer upper is actually in my top 2 favorite episodes of all time.

These inspiration photos seem easy to copy paste the look into our kitchen, but our breakfast bar would need to be in the back corner. How would the base cabinets meet with the bar top in each corner? How do you make the breakfast bar look natural in the space and accomplish a fluid U-shape look?

I considered doing 2 angled pantries on either side to create a more finished look. Something like this terribly rough sketch:

(Drawing those angles were beyond me in case you can't tell haha!)

Unfortunately, I discovered corner pantries (and base cabinets) were 2 inches wider than the space I had between the wall and the front window. So, scratch that! If I wanted to keep the breakfast bar, my only option was to do blind base cabinets with corner upper cabinets on either side to help round out the transition.

Something like this on the right side:

And this on the left side:

And something like this dead on (ignore the color scheme and lack of appliances and what not):

And yes, I did consider X-ing the whole "breakfast bar in the window" idea and doing a breakfast bar on the other side of the kitchen, like this:

But, it just felt too chlosterphobic and closed off. I also didn't like how there was only one entrance in and out (a tight one at that considering the fridge would block the majority of the opening); which is sometimes fine, but not for such a large kitchen.

Now that you know just about every stage of my Plan A (WHEW!), I can officially move on to Plan B!

Plan B:

Alas, I was back to square one with my original footprint. We all know I love a good challenge, so after dreaming up plans to properly highlight the dining room (that'll also have to wait for another blog post) and our 2 big changes to the kitchen/entry, I am pleased to say that I'm still excited for this transformation!

We will flatten the breakfast bar, add about 6 inches of overhang to the breakfast bar, and tear down the clunky pillar and wall beams.

This will TREMENDOUSLY open up the entry and kitchen-to-living space as well as give it a much needed update!

You know I will always give you the raw numbers...

So, without further ado, here's our FINAL budget for the renovation:

  • $6,000 - Cabinets

  • $1,560 - Cabinet Install

  • $2,000 - Quartz Countertops

  • $1,600 - Countertop Fabrication and Installation (+ sink install)

  • $400 - Farmhouse Sink

  • $200 - Faucet

  • $200 - Hardware

  • $150 - Backsplash

  • $0 - Electrical (we have a buddy willing to help!)

  • $800 - Patch Walls/Ceiling

  • $13,010 TOTAL

I have already rounded these individual numbers up a hair, but I still round up the project's grand total to account for extras and the unforeseen; giving us a max budget of $13,500. However, I will try my VERY HARDEST to work these numbers to stay under 13K (even if it comes out to $12,999 - I'll be thrilled!).

Looking back on my 5 requirements for this kitchen renovation, we checked off all but one! I decided to forgo the waterfall edge on our breakfast bar countertops. Although I am a sucker for great esthetic (especially upon entry! UGH!), the ROI keeps me in check with decisions like these! I just couldn't justify it. It was either add the second row of 18" cabinets or do the waterfall edge. Bringing the cabinets to the ceiling will add more esthetic than the waterfall edge will, and not to mention the bonus of extra storage. It's a bummer, but it was the right decision!

If you give a house a renovation...

You'll spend hours researching, reading reviews, pricing things out, contacting 3rd parties for quotes, and budgeting just to scratch all your plans and start over again! But, that's the best part! When you finally funnel your research down to the right plan and the right budget, it's like placing the last puzzle piece in a 1,000 piece puzzle. You know it's the right piece, in the right place, at the right time.


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