My new home has many charms. It’s not too big but not too small, just right for two busy people who do many things together and some things on their own. The backyard is massive, and we’re trying to decide how to use it. Friends have suggested we install a private airstrip or rent it out for festivals. But the kitchen was another story.
Long neglected by its previous owner, it was showing its age. There were too few cupboards, and their wood-look sculpted doors may have been all the rage 30 years ago — but probably not. A floor-to-ceiling pantry featured louvered shutters that had never come in contact with a damp cloth. Its shelves told a story of dozens of ignored food spills. The ancient dishwasher doubled as a floor washer, and the dated vinyl flooring had split and curled up from too many soapy soakings.
Whatever mishaps happened in that room over the years were simply left as is and life carried on. Its atmosphere was not conducive to the joy of food preparation. But it was also one of the reasons the house price was a steal. Plenty of people don’t want to bother with a sticky, tacky mess left by someone else, so they move into a more finished home. We saw the potential to transform an eyesore into a showplace. First, we moved in new appliances, then ordered a new countertop in granite-look laminate. It’s beautiful, strong and looks much more expensive than it is. Once installed, along with a tumbled-marble backsplash, the sink and a new faucet, our attention turned to the cabinet doors.
One of our goals with this project was to limit the budget, and we kept fighting the urge to take the ugly doors to the recycling depot and order new ones. Instead, we decided to reface them. Using 1/8” hardboard cut in strips just wide enough to cover the doors’ routed design, we topped them with a Shaker-style look. Some primer and a couple of coats of white melamine paint completed the job. You would never know just by looking that those old doors are under what now appear to be designer cabinets. A note about melamine paint: it’s a very tough and excellent finish for high-usage items, but it is also very drippy. Check and recheck your work, because any overlooked drips will dry solid and are next to impossible to remove.
Once the doors were dry and installed, we added new chrome-and-white pulls where old handles had been, their holes covered by the new Shaker strips. The pantry is our pièce de résistance. It takes up the wall to your right as you walk from the kitchen to the living room. On its other side is the front door, with a short entryway between. We removed the louvered doors, and some quick work with a sledgehammer took out the upper half of the shelves. Suddenly the room opened up and it felt less claustrophobic. The bottom shelves were painted, and new doors were built with MDF and finished with the same Shaker style as the refaced doors. On the top ledge of the new opening we laid the same tumbled marble as the backsplash, and this is when Howie, the creative force behind our new kitchen, had another moment of inspiration. We routed out a two-inch trough in the oak surrounding the opening, and he laid and grouted narrower strips of the same tile inside the oak. It’s gorgeous.
A fresh coat of paint and cork-look flooring gives us the appearance of a new custom kitchen for a fraction of the cost. Now a space that was too gross for food prep practically calls out to be used. Banana bread, anyone?