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Our 1950’s DIY Kitchen Renovation

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My husband and I have always tried to do things ourselves; even when we had no idea what we were getting into. When we purchased our current home 8 years ago, I knew the kitchen had to be updated.

The house was built in 1956 and was pretty much stuck in a 1950’s capsule, complete with green shag carpet. The kitchen had been slightly updated in the early 90’s with cream laminate countertops and some puffy green valences. But that was about it.

To be honest, the clean slate the house offered was one of the reasons we bought it. I looked at my husband and said, “it reminds me of your grandmother’s house; let’s buy it!” The rest is history. Here is the breakdown of our 1950’s DIY kitchen remodel!

Starting a DIY Kitchen Remodel

Remodeling a kitchen is not for the faint of heart. There will be lots of eating off of the kitchen table, stalled plans, and realizations that perhaps you really should have called a plumber for this. (Ha!)

Before beginning a DIY kitchen remodeling project, I highly recommend, sitting down and establishing a budget and a list of projects that you really want done. In our experience, tackling one particular project, such as the countertops, meant that the backsplash would have to be done at the same time, as well as the sink. Many projects lead to others, so you want to keep your eye on the ball (and the money).

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Neither my husband nor I are contractors, and we’ve never played one on tv, so we had to create a list of what really needed to be done by importance. You also want to consider if you’ll have any time with the house before you move it. This is pretty critical. If you have a month with your home sitting empty, then you can get a lot more done.

We didn’t have that luxury, so we considered what we could do, while still maintaining a functioning kitchen.

Kitchen Remodeling Projects

For us, the projects that needed to be tackled were as follows:

  • Resurfaced cabinet doors (adding shaker trim)
  • Painting cabinets white
  • Remove range hood and replace with microwave (which involved cutting the cabinets)
  • New hardware on cabinets
  • New switches, outlets, and face plates
  • New paint on walls
  • New flooring (the brick linoleum just wasn’t a good aesthetic)
  • New appliances (dishwasher first, then cooktop. Eventually oven and fridge as they gave out.)
  • New countertops (butcher block was my pick)
  • Tile backsplash
  • Ceiling repair and paint

And while this list didn’t seem like that big of a deal when we moved it, it would end up being the slowest kitchen remodel in the history of the world. Just kidding, but it did take us 7 years to get it all done.

Unbelievable? Maybe, but we did have two small kids when we bought the house and had another child a few years after moving in. So life just got busy.

However, the beauty of a DIY kitchen is if your tastes change, then you can pivot and adapt.

Our original 1950’s kitchen

Before I give you all the details on how we did each project, here are some before pictures of our kitchen when we bought the house.

original outdated 1950s kitchen
our kitchen when we moved in our house
Original kitchen with brick laminate floors

Updating the flat front cabinets

After hearing some quotes to have our cabinet doors refaced and cabinets painted, we decided to do them ourselves. They were beautiful solid wood, and the cabinets were built into the house instead of being assembled units, as many cabinets are today.

Here are the steps we took to update them:

  1. Remove all cabinet doors and hardware.
  2. Clean cabinet doors and cabinets thoroughly. Since they were in the kitchen, there was some build up of oil, but the previous owner had taken great care of the house.
  3. Cover any appliances with kraft paper and painter’s tape.
  4. Trim out cabinet doors with wood strips ripped down from larger plywood boards. (We used a tutorial that isn’t available anymore, but Cherished Bliss has a similar Shaker Door DIY Tutorial.)
  5. Prime and Paint cabinets and doors. We used Sherwin Williams Cashmere paint, which has acrylic in it and has held up remarkably well. 8 years later, and I’ve only had to make touch ups to heavily used areas, like the cabinet door for the trash can. (Our color is Pure White.)
  6. Use several coats of paint and allow to dry completely before reinstalling doors and loading up your cabinets!
wood cabinets with doors removed being painted white
our kitchen cabinets in the process of being painted.
cabinets in the process of being painted.

Finished 1950’s DIY Kitchen Remodel

Here’s our kitchen after all of the projects were completed:

The microwave above the cooktop required cutting the bottom out of the original cabinet and shortening the cabinet cavity. This wasn’t super difficult, and instead of modifying the original doors, we opted to leave them open with baskets.

All of the original appliances were replaced over time, starting with the dishwasher and cooktop. As the original fridge and oven stopped working, we replaced them as well.

The brick linoleum floor stayed around for a few years, and we were able to use Luxury Vinyl Tile purchased from a local tile store. We were advised to lay the LVT directly over the 1950’s linoleum since it was in fantastic shape (no peeling or cracking). It is grouted just like ceramic tile, and we couldn’t be happier with how it has held up.

DIY Kitchen Remodel Resources

I will be adding different posts for how we completed each project, except for the cabinet doors, which I referenced above. Here are all of the items we used for our DIY 1950’s Kitchen Remodel:

I’ll be posting more pics and tutorials of exactly what we did to turn this kitchen around. In the meantime, have a great week!

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Doing projects on your own can save so much money and give you a huge sense of accomplishment! These DIY home projects are perfect for those folks who are looking to tackle projects on their own and who need a little tutorial!

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