90sq. ft. of Awesome: A Small Kitchen Remodel

January 9, 2012 | by Ethan (email) |

Today we’re sharing another reader story courtesy of Linn from The Home Project. Linn and her husband remodeled their entire kitchen, from the floors to the cabinets to the countertop. If you’d like to submit your home improvement story (and get rewarded for it), check out our ProjectPub program.

When my husband and I bought our small bungalow, the kitchen was one of the first things we wanted to take care of (right after refinishing the floors and painting the walls). It seemed the previous owners had not changed it one bit from when it was first installed. The countertop and backsplash were linoleum as was the floor, and it had a very green theme going. Fortunately the cabinets were solid wood, so we were able to reuse them.



The kitchen is tiny, only about 90 square feet, so it was important to brighten the space up and make it more useful. One way we accomplished that was switching the position of the stove and the fridge. Previously, the fridge was sitting right next to the window and blocking quite a bit of light. Switching the two opened up the room quite a bit.

The first part of the kitchen remodel we tackled was refinishing the cabinets and drawers. We quickly realized the importance of doing a really good prep job and thoroughly sanding and priming all the pieces before painting. We chose a semi-gloss antique white paint for durability.

Before (mid-remodel):


Second, we turned our attention to the countertop. After checking out various options, we decided to go with stainless steel counters. We checked out Home Depot and their quote was pretty high – $150 / square foot. Next, we checked out our local sheet metal place which gave us a much more reasonable quote – $400 for the whole counter (roughly $20 / square foot)! If we went this route, we did however have to first provide them with a plywood model of our counter. So we bought plywood, made a model to fit our counter perfectly and also cut out a hole for the sink. Then we brought the plywood to our sheet metal guy, and he fitted 20 gauge stainless steel on it. At this point, all we had to do was glue the stainless steel to the plywood and install it with Liquid Nails on top of our old laminate counters. This was pretty easy to do, and the result looks great! We also got a new stainless steel sink and faucet to go with our new counter.



To make the kitchen feel bright and clean, we decided to tile all of the walls with subway tile, and we chose a black and white checkerboard floor to provide some contrast. At first, we were considering a classic vinyl floor, but after realizing we’d rather have natural materials in our kitchen, we instead decided to buy 12 inch honed marble and granite tile to create a diagonal checkerboard pattern ourselves.

We picked up some new appliances, hardware, lights etc… for the kitchen and we also refinished an old kitchen cart we already had to better fit the new decor.


All in all, this kitchen took us about a month to transform and it cost just over $6000 (including appliances.) We basically did everything ourselves and had a good time doing it. We love our new kitchen, it’s now a great space for cooking, baking and having fun!

More nitty-gritty details and pictures can be found on The Home Project here.

13 Responses
  1. Love the stainless and good on you for balking at the big box and finding a local shop. I wonder what they would do if you had a corner, weld and grind? i don’t know much about stainless fabrication.

    Thanks for sharing. Looks great!

  2. Joe says:

    I like the use of space (knives on the wall, shelf over the sink, etc.). overall a great budget renovation. That tile looks great! It reminds me of the floors at Versailles (much more classic, just dont go telling people to eat cake).

    Is that a full height fridge? no freezer? do you have a chest freezer in that pantry beyond the fridge? Did you think about having the fridge open the other way?

  3. Erin M says:

    The tile looks so nice on the diagonal. Great low budget reno! I wondered why you didn’t add a dishwasher, though.

  4. paintergal says:

    I love seeing real home transformations like this. What a great job you’ve done.
    I’ve never heard of using steel on the countertops. How do you like it, now that you’ve lived with it?
    I know what a huge job tiling that big of a space is. And you did all this in a month? Impressed!

  5. Doug says:

    What an excellent remodel. That checkered floor really looks great in the space. Enjoy your new kitchen.

  6. Linn says:

    Thanks for all your encouragement and kind words! I couldn’t be happier with the way our kitchen turned out.

    Jeff Williams, the metal shop where we got our counter made was very helpful. We didn’t have a counter that had any edges, but I know if you needed edges made then they were more than happy to take care of that as well.

    Joe, yes that is a full size fridge in the kitchen. We have a full size freezer in the pantry right next to the kitchen. We really wanted a lot of space, specifically freezer space so it worked out much better to have two separate units. We do actually need to change the way the door opens on the fridge, just haven’t gotten around to doing it!

    Erin M, we didn’t add a dishwasher mainly because we don’t like them. With articles reporting mold issues, and having had bad experience in the past with various dishwashers, we’d rather just wash our dishes by hand.

    Paintergal, the counters have been great! Can’t recommend them enough. There is no staining, you don’t have to constantly be on guard for water spots, they clean up nicely and they are heat resistant.

    Ethan, we have 20 gauge stainless steel. I think if you have a lesser grade, then they might scratch more easily. And if you do get any scratches, they are super tiny and don’t show anyway.

    The counters have been just great, I would definitely choose stainless steel again, or maybe copper using the same technique for a darker look, if we ever were to do a kitchen again!

    • Fred says:

      Linn, what kind of maintenance is required for the stainless counters? I really like the look–very clean and modern with a professional kitchen tone. If you do get a scratch, how do you get it out? Can it be buffed? Also, what about cutting on the surface? Is care required to avoid that?

      I love that you got the stainless for so cheap. Based on your quote, I truly do not understand why stainless counters at the big box are sooooo much?? Any ideas other than taking advantage of the demand?

      • Linn says:

        Fred, there really is no maintenance required with the stainless steel counters. So far I have been able to clean it perfectly just with sponges and dishwasher fluid, but I’m sure if you got a deeper scratch you could probably take care of it with a stainless steel cleaner, one of those you use for pots and pans.

        I’m not really sure about cutting on the surface, we use cutting boards for that and I probably wouldn’t recommend cutting on the steel since I’m sure it would dull your knives terribly. But as far as the stainless steel goes, it probably would be fine…

        I don’t know know why they charge so many times the price at other stores if you order these counters. I mean we did do some of the work ourselves – the measuring, the fitting of the plywood and the cutting out of the sink – plus putting it all together. If you ordered these counters, then they would do all of that and you would just see the finished result. But it does seem excessive to charge so many times more…

      • Joe says:

        They charge so much because they can! they probably do alot more work for them as well (you just got the metal, I would guess they do the plywood backing as well). They might also be able to incorporate an undermount sink (or single piece, which would be SWEET).
        You said 20 gauge steel, which is only the thickness of the steel (and seems a bit thin). The real properties of the steel come from the proportions of the other metals in the steel (nickel and chromium), and their percentages, most appliances seem to use 304 stainless steel.

  7. MissFixIt says:

    The counters look great and good on moving the fridge makes way more sense to have it in that location now.

    I like to see lower budget renos myself too. Its nice to dream of a $50,000 kitchen remodel but its good to be budget wise & realistic too. Theres a lot you can do with some of these older kitchens with good solid wood cabinets. I wish ours were solid wood but it seemed the 80s had a lust for particle board. So for us renewing our kitchen would cost big bucks to replace our cabinets(unfortunately)

  8. Paul&Aundrea says:

    LOVE the countertops…very modern look. I’m wondering if there is a local shop we could talk my in-laws into using. Their kitchen needs a major facelift!

  9. loverlycottage says:

    The first thing that popped out of my toddlers mouth upon seeing the picture of your remodeled kitchen was ” Oh, wow!” I couldn’t agree more. Love the checkerboard floor!

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