Kitchen Without a Heart

If the kitchen is the heart of a home, Mike Groman’s bungalow needed a transplant. His kitchen was dated, claustrophobic, and poorly designed. The food-prep triangle was basically nonexistent, and the stove was off by its lonesome, far from any work surface.

Kitchen before

Groman knew the success of his 18-month, whole-house rehab would hinge on remodeling that dreary kitchen into a welcoming hub of the home. He reimagined the space, waited for an IKEA sale (gotta love those sales), and created a beautifully designed contemporary kitchen.

Here’s how he did it.

Mr. Groman — Tear Down These Walls!

Groman’s old kitchen consisted of two 10-by-10-ft. spaces; one section for the fridge and cabinets; the other for the sink and stand-alone range. There was only one puny prep counter.

The solution? Open everything up. First, he knocked out three interior walls, turning the dining, living, and spare bedroom areas into one multipurpose space. Vaulting the ceiling was a great idea because it added height and drama. Look how open and bright the area is even in the drywall stage.

During renovation

I especially love the new kitchen island with its curved countertop edge. The island:

  • Adds much-needed storage.
  • Adds an eating space.
  • Softly separates the kitchen from the other living areas.

Kitchen island

You should know that kitchen islands are trending, so if you’re thinking of a kitchen remodel, think hard about adding a handy island — even if you only have space for an island cart.

Cabinets: Out with the Old

It broke Groman’s heart to tear out the old kitchen’s steel cabinets — he has a soft spot for salvaged building materials. But they had fixed shelves that could hardly accommodate a box of corn flakes, and the older style didn’t fit the updated kitchen.

Old cabinets

Groman tried to find the old cabinets a good home with someone doing a kitschy retro kitchen renovation, but there were no takers, so he sent the cabinets to metal recycling.

Cabinets: In with the New

Groman shopped an IKEA sale and bought wood composite cabinets with clean lines and a modern look. The cabinets cost him 10% less than he would have paid for the lowest line at a home improvement center. More importantly, the IKEA cabinets passed his green kitchen remodeling sniff test because they emit only tiny amounts of VOCs.

However, the cabinets arrived unassembled in 100 boxes — just shoot me now! — and were a challenge to put together from the wordless, pictures-only instructions. Groman originally planned to hire certified IKEA contractors to install them, but certified installers are rare in the Philadelphia area, so Groman had his carpenters do the job for $500 extra.

We’re Floored!

No buried treasure here: Groman tore up two layers of ugly vinyl only to uncover an uglier hardwood floor. His flooring contractor said patching and refinishing the wood ($1.50-$4 per sq. ft.) was possible, but that it would never look great.  

As sad as it was to scrap the old wood, trying to refinish it would have been a mistake. (Believe me, I’ve tried to save severely damaged hardwood floors before and it can be a thankless task that often never really looks right.)

Old floor

Instead, Groman installed a floating floor of cork planks ($5-$12 per sq. ft.) throughout the open space, a smart option for kitchen flooring. For one, cork comes from tree bark, so it’s a renewable resource. Plus, cork:

  • Cushions the feet of tired cooks.
  • Stands up to moisture when properly sealed (essential for a kitchen).
  • Reduces noise, an especially good quality for large, open floor plans.
  • Resists dents and scratches from pet claws.

Also, cork has a warm, cozy feel, don’t you think?

Cork floor

Credit: David Očenáš Photography

Smart Tips from Mike Groman

  • Buy IKEA cabinets preassembled ($30-$40 per cabinet extra), and hire contractors who have installed IKEA before.
  • Install baseboards AFTER cork flooring. The flooring contractors scratched some baseboards, which had to be replaced.
  • There are many shades of white paint, so pick one with a grey undertone, which makes accent colors pop. Figure on applying two or three coats for complete coverage. Groman used Olympic’s January Dawn, a zero-VOC, low-odor paint sold through Lowe’s.
  • Although IKEA appliances have Nordic names, they’re made by Whirlpool, which makes problem-solving and repair easy.

OK — Now the Cost

Exhaust: $399
Refrigerator: $1,349
Dishwasher: $131
Gas cooktop: $349
Oven: $899
Quartz Countertops: $3,452
Cabinets: $2,880
Cork flooring in kitchen area: $500
Lighting fixtures: $600
Microwave: $550

TOTAL: $11,109

See Mike’s exterior renovation and how he takes a basement from dank to light. Here’s a peek:

 

Basement preview