Kitchen Decorating & DIY

What Would You Do? A Kitchen Remodel Conundrum…

Last Updated on December 24, 2015 by Kristi Linauer

What’s been on my mind lately? A kitchen remodel. No, I’m not talking about my condo kitchen. That’s done, and I won’t be redoing any time soon…or ever, for that matter. 😀

Once again, I’m daydreaming about our future house. I promise, I’ll try to keep these daydream posts to a minimum until we’re actually IN the house. I know y’all will probably get really tired of reading “the house we hope to buy” and “the house we’re planning to buy” in every post between now and then.

But with that said, I’ve been wondering what the heck I’m going to do about the kitchen situation. You see, it’s terribly outdated. In fact, it’s probably…scratch that, it’s most definitely…the worst room in the whole house. I don’t have a picture of it, but just picture something like this 1960s kitchen from House Beautiful, only not nearly as nice. 😀

orange and brown 1960s kitchen with orange floral wallpaper

Naturally, the kitchen is a place that most of us spend a good deal of time. We plan on doing a complete remodel of the kitchen, including moving/removing walls, expanding the kitchen, new cabinets…the works! It will undoubtedly be the most expensive part of updating our “new” house.

However, since we’re planning on paying off the house in 18 to 24 months, we won’t be able to save up for a kitchen remodel until AFTER the house is paid off.

So what would you do in that situation? Would you live with the kitchen as is (including the terribly outdated appliances), not put any money towards it until the full remodel can be tackled, and focus on other rooms that can be more easily updated with cheaper and easier aesthetic changes? Or would you put a chunk of money towards the kitchen initially, with new appliances (that may or may not work in the future remodel) and some cosmetic changes just to make it not quite so…you know…so ugly and a little more livable, and then go ahead with the full remodel in a couple of years?

I almost feel like attempting an interim makeover would make it more livable, and would definitely make it more tolerable for me to spend time in there; but at the same time, it seems like a waste of money and precious time that could be put towards other permanent changes in the rest of the house since the kitchen will all be ripped out eventually.

What would you do in that situation? And have you ever had that type of situation when you bought a new-to-you house? I’d love to know how you handled it!

And what is it about kitchens with me? I always want to start there first, even though I really don’t cook that much. I guess it’s true what they say. The kitchen really is the “heart” of the home!

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Funny you should ask….yep we’re in the same conundrum. Only our kitchen had to be gutted about a month after moving in even though we didn’t have the money to fix it. Previous owners had own snakes (we did not know this when we bought it) and *somehow* the snakes’ dinner had managed to escape and breed, and DIE, under the kitchen floor. Lots and lots of dead mice. Omg the smell was horrendous. And we didn’t notice it until it got hot outside and set off the smell inside. So its been a long 4 years. DH has slowly remodeled the kitchen and all that’s left now are the counters. In your case I would simply paint over the wallpaper with a million coats of paint and let the rest go if its usable. Our cabinets smelled awful and were not usable so they had to go. I guess that’s the bottom line: if it is still usable then keep using it until you can replace it properly.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      January 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Oh my gosh, Terri! Your situation sounds like a nightmare! I can’t even imagine what that must have smelled like.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      January 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

      That is awful! I am the proud owner of a condo and they were probably smokers, I am sure smoker’s smell is much more desirable than what you have! Too bad you didn’t notice that before buying you could have negotiated a lower price.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mrs Mike
    January 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    We’re planning to buy a house in the next 1-2 years, and I definitely WANT a house that needs updating so I can make it “mine” 🙂 I will look forward to seeing what you do eventually!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      January 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      That’s exactly what I wanted! I’m not personally a fan of new construction. I’d pay more for all of the nice, new “stuff”, and then end up ripping most of it out to personalize the space, give it more character, and make it more “me”. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I do not think I could wait a few years and deal with a horrible kitchen, especially if the appliances were old as well. My suggestion would be to definitely cover the walls and ceiling with lots of fresh paint. If I could not decide on which appliances would be a definite, I would look for something that could work (not totally top of the line and dream sub-zero) but would be fresh and used later in the basement or garage as back up. If not, and it was bought at a good price, you could resell it. Even a new refrig and fresh paint would do wonders to start making a mark and buy more time until the ultimate redo. Nothing would be worse than having the room everyone spends so much time in as a reminder of how long you have to wait to fix it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Diane Mansil
    January 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    LOL I’ve been in my house 5 years and I’ve JUST gotten to the point of having the time to work on my kitchen. But I’m a patient person and can save and wait for exactly what I want vs jumping in and spending only to spend again.

    That said, I haven’t bought a single new thing for my kitchen except flooring. Everything else is second hand and in some cases, third, fourth, tenth. LOL I understand the joy of new appliances but I’m good with functional and reasonably pretty. But I’m not your normal human being. LOL

    If you can get a bit extra on your loan when you buy your house, you’d be in a position to tackle the kitchen right up front. Alternately, you could go take photos and measurements if you know the owners (and I think I recall that you do), and work out the plan on paper, so you have an idea what you’re going to do and can start buying things as you can afford them. Or get nicer versions of the existing appliances to replace those for now, and wait for your dream appliances when you do the remodel.

    Being a cheap so-and-so, I would live with what works and save for what I want. Paint works wonders and can be redone every couple of months if you’re so inclined, so you can see what colors you love and what you hate in the room before you rip it apart and make it permanent. LOL I love paint.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    We’ve lived in our house nearly 6 years (in April). Our kitchen is small, and definitely dated. The fridge isn’t full-sized, the appliances are old, medium-dark cabinets (in a super small space), the backsplash is TILE (hellooooo 1970s……), and the counter has a built-in cutting board (can you say bacteria breeder?). The only thing updated-ish about the place is a new microwave and the boob lights.

    FINALLY, I know what I want to do with the space, and it took until Pinterest gave me the chance to find so many different ideas, etc. that I got there. Now I’m sitting down with colors and the sort and making my list. The list? New counters, new backsplash only behind the stove and sink, refinish cabinets and paint. And then, of course, some projects within the cabinets themselves that no one will really notice but me. I’m glad I waited this long, though. I’ve made contacts that will save me money, I’ve pared down my ideas, and I know what needs to be accomplished in order to make this space work better for me — something I really didn’t know until having a kid.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    [email protected]
    January 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    If your kitchen looks even half like that….I’d start painting those cabinets tonight!!! LOL I noticed you mentioning new construction as not something you’d want. Now if you’re buying a new construction that’s all done…I’d agree…but if you are building yourself, then that is definitely a chance to make it your own. Even though the builders have some possible selections for you….you don’t have to take them. With the housing market as it is, builders are more than ever willing to make compromises. We built ours brand new but it looks vintage. So, with good planning and some compromising it can be done! I have some pics in the sidebar of my blog if you want to see what the possibilities could be! You have a good eye for style and I’m sure anything you do would look just great…just plan, plan, plan!! Paint is the cheapest change ever!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    In our house the plan has always been to live with the sort-of-functional-but-really-ugly kitchen until we were done with everything else. That being said, we did have to buy appliances since the house came with none!

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    If you are trying to pay off the house before remodeling, this will give you the time to decide exactly what you want to do when that time comes. In the meantime, a coat of paint to freshen the walls/cabinets shouldn’t cost much. If you need to replace appliances, make sure they are usable with the remodel when you purchase them. Other than that, you would be sinking money into upgrading and then spending more money in a couple of years to totally remodel.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I’d say paint the cabinets and walls, buy only what appliances you need to buy (usually houses do not come with a refrigerator) maybe update some light fixtures, then wait until you can afford to all out tackle it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I could do it only if I could cook in bell bottoms and an Afro wig 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    As long as you don’t over-improve the kitchen for the neighborhood/home size, a kitchen remodel will easily have a return of 90-100%. It’s one of the highest priorities for a home buyer when you consider re-selling. That being said, I commend you for paying of you home!! Is it possible to do in phases, such as new cabinets and paint first (and possibly 2nd-hand appliances to “hold the places” until you get the “dream” ones?) Then add floor and those decorator fixtures as the budget allows. Also, being an amazing diy’er- there are some great options to keep the costs down and allow you to do it sooner. One of my favorites is “Cabinets to Go.” If you have one near you, go check it’s showroom out. They have some really decent cabinets that you assemble yourself and save a BOATLOAD! I’ve seen two kitchens done now and both turned out amazing! I’d get some cabinet prices from Home Depot or some other shop and bring it along to compare prices to see how amazing the price is! My in-laws did their whole kitchen with corian counters for $3000. I also love Habitat REstore for fixtures, wood and moulding. I’d say go for it!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Awesome that you are planning on paying off your home so quickly! Kudos to you and your husband. As far as the kitchen goes, I would only change or upgrade that which I could absolutely not live with…the time will fly by if you are working on other areas of the house! With your creativity, I am sure you can make the kitchen quite cute and livable until the big redo. I would put my money and energy into another less expensive room you spend a lot of time in. I am looking forward to seeing your pictures of the house. Good luck!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I would do simple ,inexpensive “fixing up” and in the meantime save my money to be put towards the total kitchen redo. I can’t wait for you to get that house!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Gilmer Gal
    January 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    As a buyer who was in the exact same place as you, I waited until the time was right. The rest of the house was ready to go when we decided to just gut the kitchen, and I am really glad I waited. Time is going to fly by as you fix up the other parts of your house, and in the meantime, do your ripping out articles, great paint colors, etc. Don’t waste time or money that you could be putting into the other rooms in order to “make it work” for the short term. Oh, and the MUST is your working triangle. In my newer custom home, the island blocks my sink from my stove and oven, and I have to walk around it to get things. Bad. Bad, bad bad 🙁

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I want to change colors in kitchen and bathroom , what is the new current?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    If there’s wallpaper I would strip that right away, you’re going to have to do it anyway when you remodel unless those are the walls you want to tear down. Stripping wallpaper is practically free, just gross and time consuming. I would then paint the walls. If you HATE the cabinets you could paint them using Annie Sloan chalk paint, it covers really well and requires no sanding or prep beyond cleaning and degreasing before painting. The paint and wax is expensive but saves so much time and work. I’m doing my cabinets in the next few weeks and it should only take about 2 quarts of paint and one can of wax, so my cabinets will look new for about $100.00, not bad. Someday when I can afford to replace them and tear down some walls to open up the kitchen I won’t be worrying about “wasting” that money. My kitchen isn’t huge. You can even paint your counter tops now with products they sell at the big box stores. It looks like a fair amount of work but if your countertops are a hideous color that could buy you a couple of years. You’re going to have to replace the appliances anyway, so when you have a plan for the new kitchen, buy the appliances and use them in the old kitchen if they will work in both.

    It’s so much fun buying your first house, I’m excited for you and you just plan away, I doubt we’ll get bored hearing about your future plans.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jerri C. TN
    January 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I wouldn’t spend a minute or money for that matter worrying about that outdated kitchen. Who cares……. you’re going to gut it anyway. So spend time putting your stamp on other parts of the house & in no time you will have saved to get exactly what you want in your new kitchen & we all know it will be beautiful!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Diane | An Extraordinary Day
    January 8, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I’d want to put a fresh coat of paint on everything that could be painted….after I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen. If the appliances cannot be cleaned…I’d scour Craig’s List for something. But…clean and fresh will give you what you need to live with it for a long time. Trust me. You may not like it…but you’ll be able to live with it and it won’t drive you so crazy….and you’ll be more inclined to wait until you have the money. Choose to paint it so that your current items will fit right in…that will help it feel more homey too. I hope everything works out soon and in your timetable. Have fun dreaming in the meantime.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Christina @ The Frugal Homemaker
    January 8, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I would paint the cabinets, take down the wallpaper, paint the walls and maybe see if you could score some cheap appliances on craigslist? or even slap some paint on the current ones if they worked? that would really brighten up and change it for very little money and just some time spent.

    then save up to do the full remodel in a few years! 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 12:37 am

    If you’re like me (and I think you are!) and you love a nice environment, you’re not
    going to be able to stand living/working in that kitchen as is. I’ve remodeled my own
    kitchen a little at a time, mostly because we’ve never had a lot of money at once and
    didn’t want to take out a loan. So if I were you, I would do a basic cosmetic once over,
    paint walls and maybe cabinets. Add your accessories. If you have the money, you could
    even buy some nice appliances with a view to having them for a long time. They could perhaps even be moved around to new places in a total remodel. You’ll be a lot happier if you do a little now.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

    We too had a terrible kitchen that we lived with for three years and we did nothing too except to paint the walls with leftover paint. We are just about to begin a full reno (knocking down walls too) and I have to say I’m sooooo glad we 1. waited a good amount of time till we tackled what is going to be our biggest reno b/c we lived with the space and talked over design plans during those three years and I feel like the design we have now is PERFECT and i’m so anxious to get started 2. i’m glad we didn’t buy anything/spend any money esp. appliances b/c they are so specific with sizes, etc. and it also allowed us to look around for deals on appliances. We got floor models or outlet pieces that allowed us to save thousands on appliances. I’m so glad we have taken our time picking out and spending on our dream kitchen and not wasting time on a temporary one. Good luck and so anxious to see you work your magic!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 9:05 am

    I couldn’t live with that kitchen for any amount of time. I would pick up some good used appliances on Criagslist or from the classifieds. When you purchase your permanent appliances, you can resell the used ones and maybe even get all of your money back. I would paint the wallpaper with a good oil based paint. I’d remove the phones and sell them on ebay. You might be surprised how much they sell for…probably enough to pay for the paint. It would be tempting to paint the cabinets, but that time would probably best be spent elsewhere. Also, when you do take the cabinets out, if they’re in good condition, you might want to reinstall them in the basement or garage for extra storage.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Donna Allgaier-Lamberti
    January 9, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I’m old fashioned. I know that taking a loan on a $3,000 driveway (for example) will make it cost $9,000 in the end. So, I save up my money first then tackle the project. Not that this example is ideal, but I lived in a 90 year old home with my OLD (and I mean 1940’s style old kitchen with no disposal/no dishwasher/ place and press yellow square floor tiles, old bright yellow linoleum counter with black rubber strip) kitchen for 24 years before I could finally update it. I was not able to work due to edometriosis and my priorities were raising and educating my two sons. Along the way we also had to replace a roof, a furnace and so on which took our ready cash too. Then when it came time to finally update the kitchen my budget was just $7,000. I acted as general contractor, found and managed the workers myself, sanded and painted myself and hired out new ceiling redo (the old one was cracked) the tile work, linoleum flooring, and wall paper. I have never been sorry about my choices. Kitchen styles and materials come and go, but my sons were my best investment ever! I have no regrets!

    Small House / Big Sky Donna / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
    Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
    Facebook: [email protected]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 10:26 am

    We are in the same place. Our “new” house is 162 years old. It had carpet in the kitchen. Berber carpet that probably only looked good for a week until the first stain hit it. To make it worse, they installed the carpet in the room and then the cabinets and countertops so to get it out, meant pulling everything up.

    My original plan was to just use what we have and make the best of it until we can afford a dream kitchen. I agree with others that have suggested paint. If you don’t want to do full new appliances, shop Craigslist and find some interim ones.

    I will tell you that after months of living in unfinished spaces and ones that we just don’t like, it wears on you and beats you down. It is hard to live in a place that doesn’t reflect who you are. Be careful not to invest too much money into the project, but I believe some time and effort will pay huge dividends in helping you enjoy your home now while you are saving for the future.

    Good luck!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    3 words-craigslist, creaigslist, craigslist

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I NEVER comment, but had to today after I read your post. I bought a large “cosmetic” fixer upper home in August 2007 and said the same thing to my husband – I don’t want to waste $ to make the kitchen livable/semi-decent and would rather wait to re-do the whole thing at once. Well, as of last August our kitchen remodel was still on the “to do” list and I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally removed the wall paper, painted the walls, painted the molding, changed out all the cabinet hardware, replaced the stove top, and replaced the lighting (ceiling fan, and 1 other light fixture), and install mini tiles on the wall around the window over the sink (which still needs to be grouted). It took me a whole week of vacation time for the part that’s done and I still can’t fit a standard sized cookie sheet in the tiny wall oven, but every day I think to myself “why the H* didn’t I do that sooner?”. My priorities where all mixed up because I thought I could do the “cheaper” and “faster” costmetic renovations elsewhere in the house that always took more time and more $ than intended. Therefore, I unfortunately renovated in the following order: Room #1: my husband’s tv room – which was actually a must since I needed to make him happy/stop complaining about the disaster of our living quarters and get him out of my hair. Room #2: the formal dinning room and we rarely use it. Number 3 was the formal living room, which we only use for entertaining, but walk through everyday to get to the upper floors. The 4th room was my home office/scrapbook room, which I actually needed because I work from home once a week (however, no scrapbooking has actually occured in that room since it’s been finished). The 5th room was the future nursery, but still no baby and the room is empty. The 6th room was the family room, which is the first room you see when you enter the house, but really acts as a throughway for my dogs to get to the backyard. The 7th room was the powder room after my german shepherd puppy destroyed the 2nd floor full bath our guests used to use for bathroom breaks – so that was a must. The 8th room was my walk-in closet, which really could be a room by itself and should have been higher priority on my list, but unfortunately I didn’t pay any attention to it until I had a partial clothes rail collapse the night before I went on vacation BEFORE I actually packed my suitcase. The 9th room was the mini kitchen renovation from last summer. And last but not least, the 10th room was the master bedroom, which I also totally regret not making higher priority since we spend most of our time in the bedroom, tv room, and kitchen (notice 2 of those rooms went 5 to 5.5 years before getting done?). Anyway, more than 5 years later our to do list is still long including the kitchen, 2 more bathrooms, and the poor guest room that we actually have used for guests. Therefore, I say DO IT. Do a mini reno or a full-out demo/reno. ***I should note that I would normally be embarrased to admit it took me MONTHS to finish some rooms that really only needed new woodwork, paint, and decor, but I know you will comisserate with me since you also do your home renovations by yourself and work full time (your blog/web design business). Thanks.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm


    My advice is to live with the kitchen as is. You won’t be happy with any partial updates. And it is always better to live in the house for a while before making changes. That way you will be more sure of the changes you want.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 10, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Truthfully, I would live in the house for 6 months and then put in my kitchen. Old kitchens are gross!!!!!! After seeing what loves behind cabinets, there is no way I would want to use them!!! I understand about paying off the house. But adding 12-24 month to that goal is much better than using a kitchen you hate. Your home will feel cleaner!!! A new kitchen from Home Depot or Lowes would cost you on the high side about 12000 for that space. My best friend just did a complete new kitchen. She priced out custom contractors and they were unwilling to do what she wanted. she bought her kitchen from Home Depot. It’s gorgeous. And considered semi-custom. The same as many kitchen contractors. Do not buy appliances till you know how you want new layout to be. There are so many options and some cabinet bases must be purchased per appliance

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ruth w
    January 10, 2013 at 8:43 am

    When we bought our house 10 yrs ago, the whole thing needed to be redone. The kitchen was aweful but the toilet was leaking, so that got priority. We gutted the bathroom first. To make the kitchen livable for a few years, we painted and bought new appliances. We weren’t going to have fancy countertop ranges or anything like that so we just bought the appliances that would stay once we remodled. There was no dishwasher for the first few years until we did gut the kitchen. The great thing about this was that it let us live in the space for a while first before making big changes. We really knew what we wanted when the time came. I especially knew that the yellow paint I had picked out and painted when we first moved in had to go! It was way too bright! I hope you figure it all out!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 11, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    I’m not sure what I would do. I think I would have what I wanted to do all planned out so you know the size of appliances that will fit in the new space. Then, I’d go ahead and buy them even if it meant tearing out a cabinet or two to make them fit. However, if you think you will be able to pay the house off in two years, why not add a little on to the loan, as others have suggested and have enough to at least get the start of it done. Adding a couple of grand on to a house loan doesn’t affect the payment that much. Maybe it would be feasible for you to do. Everything else could come with time. It’s crazy how much there is to think about when you are buying a house, isn’t it? It’s fun to dream and plan! I did it for years and years before we could afford to buy a house.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 12, 2013 at 1:39 am

    I would buy my dream range (duel fuel with open burners and kicking high BTUs) and just excavate enough to put it in place. Then I would be able to wait it out comfortably because I could cook. The range is what matters most. I could prep on a kitchen table if necessary. Once I had the money, I would build the kitchen around that range. Of course for that plan to work I would need to know exactly where I wanted to put the range in the end. Moving the gas lines gets expensive. Until then I would make due with hand washing dishes, or a bad floor plan. Everyone is different though. I could take ugly if I could cook. I have a friend with a magazine worthy looking kitchen with an easy bake oven for baking that half works. She needs for it to be pretty. I like pretty too but I need to cook. Or I would eat out every night and just sit the whole thing out. I can’t cook on a crappy range though.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    This is so timely!! We are (hopefully) buying a new house, and the kitchen is hideous. Forest green counters are just the beginning. So I’ve been fantasizing about the changes I’d make once I get my hands on the place. Well, our inspection was yesterday and for the first time I looked INto the master bathroom tub. SKEEVY! So kitchen will have to survive with just paint, and I will have to move hell and high water to un-skeeve the master bath. I say paint, then plan your future kitchen/world domination! Good luck!