Kitchen Remodel: Cabinet Makeover

When we embarked on our kitchen remodel, one of our primary goals was to complete the project with a low environmental impact. So much material is ripped out of homes, sent to the landfill (though sometimes upcycled) and replaced with new products. Since our cabinets were in decent shape, we decided to reuse them in the space, and just add to them to boost up the custom layout.


Just the shell of the old kitchen. Hard to imagine it with a wall cutting through it.

Most of our cabinets were left in place, just removing doors for painting and repair. Matt built new cabinet sections to match the existing boxes for the new 4ish feet we added to the east end where the wall came down. That 4 feet make SO much difference! We brainstormed options and settled on only adding lower cabinets, resulting in more storage and counter space while keeping all the vertical wall space free and open. The lower boxes he built feature open bookshelves…though our cats think they are custom hangouts just for them.


We also amped up the existing cabinets with open boxes to fill the space between the cabinets and ceiling, all framed out in wide crown molding. With a fresh coat of paint you can hardly recognize that this is the same space!


So much more open, lighter and brighter…and the ceilings even feel taller!

Painting cabinets is a project, and one that is usually recommended to be completed in a totally dust free environment. Well, we did the best we could with the limited workspace we have in this house, opting for the “vintage, lived in” look of brushed paint vs spray. I tackled the boxes while Matt prepped the doors. We have a mix of doors from the existing cabinets and four salvaged doors that so nearly match. All white, you would barely notice the eclectic mix. In fact, through this project we realized that the cabinets that we were saving were already “seconds” stock, and had extra quirks and two doors that matched even less than the salvage ones we found!

Sand – repair – prime – sand – prime – sand – paint – sand – paint, then cure. That was the routine for this transformation. We used Benjamin Moore Advance in beautiful Swiss Coffee. This paint looks and performs great once up. It is self leveling and has a beautiful finish, but it is a little finicky to get on. I found that rolling cabinet doors with a small roller, then back brushing the paint left the cleanest result.


I am pleased to report that half the cabinet doors are reinstalled, waiting for hardware and looking fabulous! The remaining doors are getting extra special treatment with adding salvaged wavy glass panes!


House Renovation Updates

What makes it a remodel vs a renovation? I was thinking of that in the middle of drafting this post.

Well, whatever it is, we are in the middle of it! This weekend we really hit some major strides and milestones. I unpacked all the plastic sheeting in the kitchen…that has been up since we took the wall down in February! We decided that there were enough steps between now and actually demoing the backsplash and counters that we could use our stove and hood for a while. Major horray for not cooking on a hot plate for awhile!


We are also making huge changes in the living room. Matt has the fireplace (new hearth, mantle) framed out and covered in plywood. Brick veneer has been selected and is on order. We ordered sample tile for the kitchen and are narrowing it down. The table saw from the Tool Library has been working hard in the driveway and Matt is getting lots of practice. Next up: cabinets and cubbies for the kitchen! And a new light, and, and and…the list goes on!


Two thirds of our potatoes are harvested, garlic is curing in the laundry room, bush beans are coming in by the handful and the Spanish beans are less than a week away from first harvest. Kale is going bonkers but areas are plagued by powdery mildew (boo!), and zucchini has been rolling in for breakfast, dinner and chocolate chip zucchini bread. Raspberries are a daily treat. And we have so many sweet peas for bouquets everywhere. We are in harvest time and it feels amazing.


While the rest of the country is facing a massive heat wave, the temps this year have been much lower and wetter. It is a welcome break from last summer. The grass is even still green!

And we are working on a name for our little farm. A few names have come up, but we are trying really hard to make it just right.

Happy July…we are already counting down the days till fall vacations arrive! Better get moving on these house projects…or renovations whatever they are called.

Seeds and a Plan

Spring has turned to a spurt of summer (86 degrees in April!?) and our projects are full speed ahead. The garden has been my territory this year. Turning over last winter’s cover crop and leveling soil, breaking new ground, moving plants, and planting seeds have taken over my life the past two weeks. It looks great. Two rows of raspberries create a beautiful border along the fence line, a new fig tree (from Matt’s grandpa’s yard) is in the northwest corner surrounded by calendula and row after row of squash, beans and potatoes are going to pop up any day. We have tomato, beet, cabbage and basil sprouted on the deck waiting for the right moment to go in the ground. This week I had another success: 3 chestnut trees popped up from my fall planting!

Indoors is a flurry of activity too. Matt is making final coats on the cove ceiling (a project that has proved to be a lot more drying time than anticipated!), progress on the hardwood floors and a to-do list that is a mile long. This week we decided that a plan might help, so I popped into project manager mode and made us a project schedule, linking steps in order of when they need to happen. This way we only think about the “now” steps, knowing that the “later” steps are thought about, just in the queue. That was helpful. On the to-do list now? Order tile for the entry, take out exiting wood floors in entry, install the removed pieces in the kitchen, then on to cabinet construction!

Living without a Kitchen

The wall is down! Last week the wall came down and we spent the weekend making progress to get it finished. Electrical always throws curveballs in an old house (wires everywhere!) but we figured it out. Uneven rafters and old lath layers makes hanging drywall a not-straightforward process. Let’s just say drywall shims are the best invention ever. Even with all this excitement and progress (and boy does it look good!!!) the house remodel is officially getting old. We always knew it would take awhile, but I am getting really tired of living without a functional kitchen. Yes, it is temporary, yes it is worth it, but I really just want some hot tea.

Since our stove is right in the middle of all the action it is turned off and secured in plastic. And will be for at LEAST another week while we work on drywall/mudding/sanding/mudding/sanding etc with no wall between the kitchen and construction zone. So we are down to our toaster oven, regular oven and grill for cooking. I broke down and bought some Trader Joe’s frozen lasagnas. And a take-and-bake pizza. And Costco chicken. We do not want to eat out all the time so this is the next best thing. Matt has been great at coming up with meals still, but it is a lot of work to clean the kitchen enough just to make ANYTHING. Dust. Everywhere. Everywhere. We have to rinse every dish before we use it.

Other than that, things are great! Last weekend we took 2,500 lbs (!) of debris to the dump. Thank goodness for borrowing my dad’s truck. Four trips to the hardware store and we had the ceiling closed up finally. Matt has been tackling drywall this week and is learning how to do plaster curved ceilings. Our dining room has curved ceilings, but our new design requires that we put up some more to finish the space. Thank goodness for a detail oriented DIY husband! (follow along @seattleturtle on Instagram for more photos of the progress)

Meanwhile, I ordered 40 asparagus plants (bounty is what we are shooting for here!) and I am looking forward to starting seeds.

Sun Turtle Studio officially made it’s first Etsy sale to someone I don’t know! 8 total sales and a few more custom orders coming. I am working on a large scale white piece that I cannot wait to debut. Also in progress is design of my business cards. Technology to get the design in my head made into usable image files has been my issue. Should be solved soon if I can get things together.

Looking forward to the weekend! It has been a long week.

Do it All

The weekend goal was to finish demo. That means getting the beam up, kitchen wall down and a dump run to take all the debris out of our house. Of course, construction never goes quite to plan, so we are flexible with adjusting those expectations. Especially when it means balancing good quality sleep and breakfasts.

Saturday morning promised sunshine so we ate croissants and headed to the beach to hunt sea glass and agates. The sun was perfect for agate hunting and we came home with a handful! Awesome start to the day! Then it was time to change into construction clothes and get to work.

Matt made more progress on the demo, but it was slower than we both had hoped. By Sunday afternoon it was clear that we had some questions and needed to pause again. We called in our go-to resource, Shane, and he came over to take a second look. Our plan for installing the beam was good, but not quite as good as his years of experience. Thank goodness we called! We needed a different bracket and a different type of screw…and he recommended some additional bolts for the attic rafters. With inexperienced blank stares looking back at him he offered to show us exactly what we needed at the store. Can you say lifesaver? We trucked into town, and $60 later we were ready to tackle the beam.

While Matt went back to the project I picked up some more hobby work. Posted two new mobiles to Etsy and shared them on Instagram. I also made a neat connection to work as a day-of wedding coordinator for an island wedding this summer! I am so excited to help this bride out and use some of my creative wedding and planning energy in a local way! And I finished our taxes. Horray for finding money to finance our DIY remodel. As I was happily working away in our freezing cold house (the ceiling is open to the attic so all the heat just leaves), Matt discovered that the bolts were too burly for our drill so that meant another pause until we could borrow on Monday. Thank goodness for generous neighbors with tools! So we called it for the day.

Monday morning I had a work meeting on the island and worked from home the rest of the day. Flexible schedules are amazing. I worked away at the dining room table while Matt worked on the beam through the soon-to-be-gone kitchen wall. At 4:30 we were ready to hang it! It only took 3 tries to get the post heights just right and then it was set in. Screw in some brackets and it is in! Woohoo!

Today I am writing from a coffee shop before an all-day work workshop. I am excited to see the wall down when I get home! This will be the hardest week to live in the remodel (well…maybe cabinet painting will trump it…) because we will not be able to really cook. Our stove will be in the middle of the dust zone so it covered with plastic and cardboard. Not available for use. We will get by with the toaster oven and oven but we are a no-microwave household so tea and hot water are not really an option. Guess we will be reheating things and eating out!

Project summary:

  1. Remove french doors and fill in new guest room wall
  2. Widen entry to living room to add french doors and transom
  3. Open wall between new dining room and living room
  4. Remove old guest room closet
  5. Add supporting beam in kitchen
  6. Remove wall between kitchen and new dining room
  7. Drywall to close up all construction areas
  8. Repair/add and refinish hardwood floors
  9. Add additional kitchen cabinets and counter tops
  10. Paint all cabinets white
  11. Paint walls and ceiling
  12. Build built-in bookcases and new fireplace mantel in living room
  13. Move existing gas stove to new fireplace area
  14. Finish all baseboard and casing trim
  15. Move on to the basement!

Dimensional Decisions

Our little Vashon Island house was built in 1925…in SeaTac. Now for those of you who know the area, you will recognize that these locations are separated by a large waterway. How did our house get to the island? In the late 70s the airport expanded into some existing neighborhoods. Many houses were just bought by the airport, but a handful were moved. Ours was one of those, and got to take a boat to Vashon Island! They added a full walkout basement, new foundation, new electrical and new plumbing. Basically we now have the best of all worlds…old style and charm with newer bones and structure!

The house has undergone many remodels. More than we had even guessed now that we are ripping into things! We have found walls behind walls, old doorways within walls, openings that are now closed and vice versa…yea, it has changed a lot.

One item in particular that changed: the trim. We love craftsman style and a big part of that are all the window, baseboard and crown moldings. Well, our house does not have much in that department. Boring 2.5 inch wide around the windows and some very generic builder grade shape in a few more updated rooms. Time to get back to the roots of this house!

We decided to overhaul the moldings in our house. We scoured inspiration online and came up with a scheme we liked, then it was off to the lumber yard to see what we could afford!


Curved  Curved Header with Neck Band  Practically universal in middle-of-the-road Foursquares with no strong stylistic pretensions,this treatment is common in bungalows, too, but separated from overtly Arts &Crafts woodwork by the spare use of a few rounded edges. Most obvious is the header,which though primarily a flat board about 5 wide, is crowned by a minimal cap mouldingthat is returned at the sides. What makes the header so characteristic of the 1910sis the small neck band—only ...:

Molding Inspiration for our New Doorway | Beneath My Heart:

Luckilyy Compton Lumber (GREAT place in Seattle) had exactly what we wanted, options and lots of patience for our questions. To get the profiles we wanted we are doing a mix of MDF and primed wood pieces. All painted, it will look seamless.

(ready for the very technical download of our decisions? Awesome. Read on…)

But then we had to decide on casing dimensions. This is the straight part that goes down the sides of doors and windows. There were a few considerations to weigh here. How wide do we want? How thick do we want? How do each of those align with the baseboard? And then there was the lingo. Don’t even get me started on how confusing it was to ask questions about ACTUAL dimensions of the boards vs. the name of the size…some are the same, others not! So confusing! Luckily the guy helping us was more than patient. He laid out options for us so we could see the final look. We took some measurements home and came back to negotiate a new scheme. The biggest issue was achieving the width casing we wanted while maintaining the offset where it hits the baseboard (we did not want them to be flush, therefore, the casing has to be thicker). Our ideal scenario was 1 inch thick casing with ¾ inch thick base (dimensional speak…in lumber terms these are 5/4″ and 1″ respectively…go figure!) But the 1” thick stuff was only available in 3.5” wide or 5.5” wide boards (actual)…and we really wanted 4.5”. I know I know, 1 inch does not sound like much, but when you are upgrading molding (ie: lots of work and expense) you really want it to be just right! After hemming and hawing with a tape measure at home it became clear that we really needed a 4.5” option. So back to Compton. Lukily, there is a 4.5” option…in the ¾ thick dimensional. With this, we would have lost the offset with the base. Then the clouds parted: we could do a 1/2 inch base! Now this is a tad problematic because ½ is pretty thin…and not exactly the rich chunky look we wanted. However, the baseboard is 7.5” tall and should look good even thinner than planned. We also decided to just go with the same width casing all around windows and doors. Some houses have wider pieces at the top and bottom, but for simplicity, we are going 4.5 all the way around.

Final decision? 4.5×3/4 inch casings with 2 extra pieces of top trim, 7.5×1/2” baseboards, plus crown and an extra decorative piece of crown for the wall. It is going to look AMAZING!


It takes a team to stay sane in our house at the moment. The kitchen table is covered in seaglass projects in progress. I launched my Etsy store this week and I am cranking out mobiles to keep it well stocked. Thank goodness Matt is supportive in me spending every spare second working and is helping out as my official shipper!

Our living room and new guest room, while not actually in construction, are staging areas for renovation materials, tool, barrels of demo debris, and storage for lots of furniture. Things are basically a wreck! And we are still smiling. Matt has been removing the built in closet storage in the old guest room closet…the closet that will go away this weekend to make room for more kitchen! Storing all our furniture has been a challenge without a garage (one of the major downsides of our house).

This morning I was rushing out the door to work, and did not have time to eat breakfast. Matt had made me eggs and toast and I was trying to do it all. Shovel in eggs while buttoning up my coat. How did we make it work? I asked him to blow on the eggs while I ate so that I could get them down as fast as possible. Teamwork at its finest.

Happy Friday.