A Kitchen and First Floor Reno!

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend! The sun is finally out here, which is a welcomed changed from the pouring rain we’ve had since Thursday.

Today I am featuring my friends Heather and Ross’s beautiful kitchen and first floor renovation! I was inspired to do this piece because A) The remodel is stunning but also B) They started dreaming about this transformation years ago and I was interested to hear how it went from a vision over wine on the couch to fruition. Heather took the time to answer my questions in true Heather fashion–thoughtfully and honestly. Read on if you’d like to hear her thoughts and see the changes!

What inspired the big kitchen change?

Ross and I had only been in our house for about a year when we started our ritual of sitting on the couch with our favorite beverages envisioning the “projects” we would do to make our home into our dream home. We started by knocking down a wall to create an open concept look between our kitchen and family room and widening the opening to our then-dining room and adding in French pocket doors. We were satisfied for a while… but then started really dreaming. We knew we wanted our downstairs space to be bigger and contemplated adding on to our living room space, but the more we talked about it and really tried to visualize what would bring the most value to our house- we couldn’t stop talking about the kitchen. It is essentially the gathering space of the home and we knew that it is where most people congregate- it only made sense to us to put our investment where we would be most of the time as a family and with guests. As far as actually making the decision to DO IT- I attribute to Ross having the guts to make a dream come true and my pregnancy brain- not sure I would have said yes in another state 🙂

The before pictures.

Where did you draw your design inspiration from?

Having been in our home for 3 years, we drew a lot of inspiration from what we did NOT like about our current kitchen and what we would want our dream kitchen to be. We knew we couldn’t achieve the space we wanted/needed for our new kitchen without doing an addition, so this truly gave us a blank space to create. Ross is much better at this than I am. We spent time on Houzz and Pinterest looking at different kitchen designs but honestly the most helpful aspect of this was sitting down with the kitchen designer at our local hardware store, East Coast Lumbar, who used a CAD program to virtually design our kitchen. This was so important for me- I am very visual so being able to see our dream kitchen before my eyes made this “real” and really fun. I felt like I was on HGTV! Oh and another bonus- doing all this design work with East Coast was completely free!


What was something unexpected that happened and how did you handle it?

Aside from living without a kitchen for 5 weeks instead of 2 weeks and the project taking 6 months instead of 6 weeks I would say what was most unexpected of all was how our contractor handled himself and his business. When we made the decision to hire him, he gave a completely different impression upon us and earned our trust. Things began to change drastically after the initial deposit was given and the project was underway. We dealt with several weeks of non-communication, miscommunication, misinformation, and general disrespect. We very much felt we were at his mercy as our house was essentially torn apart and we were left waiting for our turn in his long line of potentially disappointed clients.

Luckily, our story has a very happy ending as our contractor’s foreman took over, the job was finished, and we were ecstatic with the results. We recognized that we were in a difficult situation but were able to lean on one another for support to always keep a level head, maintain a good relationship with all crew members, and continuously present the facts and the terms of the contract we had and try to remove emotion from the situation.


What was your original timeline and what was the actual timeline?

We were originally told the project would take 6-8 weeks from start to finish. I remember giving our first deposit for the project just a few days before having our first baby (April 2016); however, work didn’t begin until June. At the time I was preoccupied with a newborn and she was all that mattered to us. In hindsight, this was completely unacceptable. Once work began, we attempted to have as clear and consistent communication with our contractor as possible, but it turned out to be a difficult relationship. I expressed multiple times that the biggest factor for me in our project timeline was the time we would spend without a kitchen. Our contractor estimated no more than 2 weeks without a kitchen. Although daunting with a newborn, I thought it was manageable knowing upfront what to expect the length to be. In September, (yes- 5 months after the 1st deposit was given) our existing kitchen was gutted and removed (GONE! No fridge, no sink, no microwave- nothing). We were then left without a kitchen for approximately 5 weeks. I ended up moving into my parents with the baby as it was just too difficult to try and function in a house without a kitchen and no insulation as the colder weather approached.

My mental state went from feeling like I was on a Dream Kitchen show to “Love it or List It”. I told Ross so many times that the whole ordeal was so stressful if the kitchen didn’t come out how we wanted I was selling the house.

June: excavation and pouring foundation

July: framing the addition

August: new deck completed, siding begins on addition.

September: gutted existing kitchen. Siding and roofing new addition complete

October: electrical and plumbing work begin, sheet rock, new kitchen cabinet installation, island install, appliances, and storage room underneath kitchen completed.

November: finally completed- the day before Thanksgiving (which we were hosting) no less!

What advice or suggestion would you give to someone thinking about doing a reno?

Where do I begin?! 😊 First and foremost, have a very solid understanding of your budget and exactly how much you are able (and want to) spend. It seems as though every project may lead to an unexpected cost or a wanted “overage”, so it is very important to have a solid grasp on what you are spending and make sure you have wiggle room for the “just in cases”.

Research your contractor like you would research a doctor, babysitter for your child, or any type of service based/contractual industry! Even if the contractor comes recommended by a family member or friend- still do your research. It is important for your piece of mind and to protect yourself! Here are a few of the top things/suggestions that come to mind:

  • Asking for references from your contractor is a must! But don’t just focus on a list of references the contractor provides of completed Ask the contractor if you can contact a current client for a project the contractor is currently working on. Ask to go visit the job site. There is no better way I can think of then talking to a family who is currently working with the contractor to see how things are going from a relationship standpoint as well as a workmanship standpoint.
  • Understand your project proposal and contract. Have as much in writing as humanely possibly. Make sure every aspect of the project is documented so there is nothing to question. Sit down and go through the document together so that it is clear everyone is on the same page.
  • Have a very solid and clear understanding of the contractor’s payment schedule. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is an aspect of the contract that must be in writing and that both parties should feel is fair and reasonable. Of upmost importance, you must be 100% comfortable with the payment structure and make sure you are protecting yourself from a financial standpoint. ALWAYS make sure that you are never in a position where your contractor has more money from you than equates to the work that has been done on your project.
  • In our experience, timelines seem to be a touchy subject for contractors. It is understandable that it is an estimate as unforeseen events can always occur. Accepting a projected project completion date is okay but I would recommend discussing the communication plan for keeping the homeowner informed of potential delays, definite delays, reason for missing projected timelines, what the new plan is, etc. etc.
  • Taking on a big home renovation is bound to be stressful- but don’t lose sight of the fact that you are making a dream come to life. Despite all the hiccups and disruptions along the way there is a huge payoff in the end and lots of celebration to be had!


Thank you so much, Heather, for your advice and insight and for opening the doors to you home to us! ❤

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