A Kitchen Remodel That Turned Out Exactly as Planned

Location: Ninety minutes from their Chicago home, Kim and Scott’s weekend getaway is located on a quiet, wooded half-acre lot in Lakeside, Michigan. Just a short walk from the neighborhood beach, the classic cottage was built in the 1930s.

The before: “It wasn’t horrible; it was just in need of updating,” says Kim. “The last time it was renovated was probably in the ’80s, so it had your typical honey oak cabinets, laminate countertops, and dated appliances. It was very visually overwhelming because the kitchen is very small and there were cabinets everywhere. If you have only the items you need, you do not need all that storage.” Needless to say, the cumbersome upper cabinets had to go.

The inspiration: “We like mixing wood with white and black to keep things very calming,” Kim says. “The whole point of the Tree House is to be an escape, so the last thing we wanted was for something to be very loud or jarring. It was more about how it functioned. It just needed to be easy—and easy on the eyes as well.”

Square footage: Approximately 125 square feet. “The compact space opens right up into the living area,” says Scott. “We’re not fans of massively open-concept spacing where it’s just one big room. This house has a really nice flow so that if you’re in the kitchen, the wall is open enough that you could absolutely have a conversation with people in the living room, but there’s still very much a defined space.”

Budget: Since the Vargos renovated the next-door mudroom at the same time as the kitchen, the budget for the two rooms became one. The couple expected to spend $25,000 altogether.

Main ingredients:

  • Floors: “We had the original Douglas fir flooring in the whole house sanded down and finished with a Bona industrial matte poly,” says Scott.
  • Island Base: Maple veneer
  • Counters: Silestone quartz in Eternal Et Statuario. “I would go so far as to say they’re indestructible,” says Scott. “We choose a more matte finish, as opposed to a high gloss like most countertops,” Kim adds. “While it is completely durable and stains wipe up, we have noticed that the finish we chose is susceptible to scuffing. Luckily, it buffs right off.”
  • Stools: Rejuvenation Cobb Counter Stool With Back. “We think that every room should have black in it somewhere, which is why we chose black stools,” says Kim. “And we picked the oak seat to fit into the wood-and-white theme.”
  • Cabinets: KraftMaid Cayden Doors in Dove White with a Suede Topcoat with Rejuvenation Solid Brass West Slope Drawer Pulls. “Almost all our cabinets are drawers because nothing will ever get lost in the back and everything is easier to reach,” Kim explains. “Drawers are our favorite life hack. If you’re starting something from scratch, do drawers instead of doors.”
  • Sink: Kohler Whitehaven Farmhouse Kitchen Sink with a Delta Trinsic Matte Black Pull-Down Faucet
  • Paint: Benjamin Moore Cloud White. “It’s a really soft, warm white that plays well with the exposed beam ceilings in the living room and the wood floors,” says Kim. “We basically chose one paint color and carried it throughout all the main spaces.”
  • Appliances: Kitchenaid Oven, Kitchenaid Range Hood, Bosch Refrigerator, and Bosch Dishwasher
  • Backsplash: Lowe’s Allen + Roth Pearl Subway Tile. “It’s just as cheap as any other subway tile, but it looks fancier because it’s not white,” Kim says. “It helped us stay super-duper on budget.”
  • Light: Sea Gull Lighting Academy Semi-Flush Mount Light, Kichler Danika White Industrial Warehouse Pendant, and a vintage fixture above the window
  • Floating Shelves: “We DIY’ed those completely,” says Scott of the plywood shelves trimmed with select pine.
  • Cast-Iron Dutch Oven: “We make a lot of chilis and soups and stews, so we love the black Le Creuset stockpot.”

Most insane splurge: Kim and Scott’s cabinet-front appliances had the highest price tag of the renovation. “We didn’t want those things to stand out as much as they often do. We really wanted the fridge to disappear into the space,” explains Scott.

Sneakiest save: The Vargos did the entire build-out of the kitchen themselves. “We really wanted to make sure that by doing the install ourselves that we were able to save thousands,” says Kim, who carried the couple’s newborn daughter as she tiled the kitchen.

The best part: Scott is partial to the floor plan and placement of each element within the kitchen, while Kim’s preferred aspect is an unexpected detail: “At the last minute, we decided to add a larger window than the one that was there originally. I painstakingly painted that window black, but it was worth it. It’s one of my favorite things,” she says.

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