Some friends of ours are remodeling their kitchen this spring, and I know that the end result is going to look amazing. I was flipping through the kitchen catalog with them when they were looking for ideas, and all of the kitchens are pretty great. I had to stop and remind myself that our kitchen is just fine. Because when you’re looking at inspiration kitchens, it’s so easy to get caught up in feeling like what you already have isn’t good enough. Our friends are doing all the work themselves, but it’s still a $12,000 project (and that doesn’t include solid counters, which they’ll be adding a year or so down the road). While a kitchen makeover would be great, we can put that $12,000 to work for us in our quest for financial independence instead, and that makes a whole lot more sense.
Our house is only 15 years old, and although our kitchen is just a standard builder-grade set up with laminate counters and basic cabinets, it works perfectly for everything we need. We cook in it three times a day, and it’s certainly the hub of our home. If it were falling apart, it would make sense to remodel it. But it’s not. And it’s not hideously outdated either – thankfully it’s very neutral, with off-white counters, light wood cabinets, and a small white tile backsplash. As long as we keep it clean and keep the counters clear, it looks pretty darn good in my opinion. Not Pinterest-good or kitchen magazine-good, but certainly good enough for our little family.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes ponder fancying it up a little.
I recently heard about NHance, and it looks like a good way to renew and darken our existing cabinets without replacing anything or starting from scratch (by the way, if any of my readers have any experience with that company or another one like it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!). We’ve also thought about adding handles or knobs to the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen. And we’ve considered adding a modern backsplash that extends all the way up to the cabinets. And I would love to ditch our coil burner stove and replace it with a glass flat-top stove (second hand, of course). I don’t know how much the NHance process would cost, although I’ve seen estimates that range from $1300 – $2500 (and yes, I’ve thought about refinishing our cabinets ourselves… we did that in our old house, and it’s certainly a possibility). I’ve seen nice backsplash panels for about $6 – $8/square foot, and we wouldn’t need more than about 35 or 40 square feet for our kitchen. For knobs, I’d first check the Habitat ReStore (amazing the stuff you can find there…) and Craigslist, but even if we bought them new it wouldn’t be a budget buster. And nice stainless steel flat-top stoves are on Craigslist here pretty regularly, usually priced between $300 and $500.
My husband and I talked recently about making those upgrades. And then we decided to wait. There’s a lot to be said for just being content with what we have. I’ve written before about how it’s ok to not be constantly improving everything, and I needed to remind myself of that again. We’ve done a whole lot of improving around here in the last five years. We completely finished our basement (absolutely love that improvement – so much better than the black hole of concrete that used to be down there!), and we’ve completely redone the yard, including planting nearly 100 trees (we’re going for the forest look…). We added a radon mitigation system and a high efficiency furnace and AC. We also added an outdoor office in the back yard, fixed the drainage around the house, moved untold tons of rocks, dirt, mulch, etc…. it’s far better here than it was when we moved in.
But we’ve changed very little of the main level of the house. It was all very neutral and just fine when we moved in, so we’ve pretty much left it as-is. We haven’t even painted the walls – they’re still the same light grey/beige shade the previous owners picked when they were putting the house on the market. We did add a window to the dining room in order to let in some much-needed south facing light. The window was a freebie and the dining room feels so much more light and airy now – it’s one of my favorite things we’ve done to the house. But that’s about it. The counters in the bathrooms are blue laminate (I’m really glad the builders went with nearly white laminate in the kitchen instead of the blue….), but everything else is very neutral. The floors are light-colored laminate and oatmeal-colored carpet. Overall, I love our house, even if there are some things I’d spruce up if money were no object.
But since we’ve already done everything that really needed to be done, we’d rather save our money for now, instead of continuing to look for cosmetic things that could be improved around the house. Rather than doing those things as we think of them, we’re making a list of things we’ve thought of over the last few years but haven’t yet done. So far, there are only a few things on the list:
- A kitchen enhancement (just the things I described above – not a full kitchen remodel).
- Solatubes in the central bathroom and the master closet (we installed one in our old house just before we sold it, and it was fantastic).
- Possibly new flooring on the main level (that will need to wait until our cat passes over the rainbow bridge someday).
- An interior paint job, although we’ll just wait until our current walls are obviously in need of paint – we’re not big into painting just for the heck of it!
We’ll revisit the list once our mortgage is paid off, in early 2018. Until then, we’ll just add things to the list as we think of them – or delete things if we decide we no longer feel like making a change. Part of the beauty of making a list and waiting before moving ahead with projects like this is that you get a chance to see if it’s really what you want or not. If it’s just a fleeting whim, it might not be so strong a year or so down the road. But I have a feeling that my desire for a flat-top stove will not diminish… (we installed one in our old house, and it was hard to go back to the coil burners we have now. If our stove dies between now and 2018, we will happily replace it!)
But for now, we’ll continue saving our extra money and enjoying our house just the way it is.
What about you? Do you have non-essential home improvement projects that you’re postponing in order to save money or resources?
I’m hoping for a garden update!
stacie m. says
we are looking to update to a more efficient furnace, but I’m not really sure where to begin since we live in a mobile home, and I know options are a little different.
I always look forward to your postings. I love the way you and your husband look at things. I know when watching tv HGTV shows everyone seems so disatisfied with perfectly good kitchens that are not updated to the very very latest. No wonder people are in such debt and don’t have the freedom to live a simple life. There are always newer things but do we need them. I think it is tv and advertisings that make one feel unsatisfied but this never is the answer. What a burden it becomes. Thank you for your blog which gives common sense and real life choices that make one happy. Keep writing please. Many many enjoy and learn from your words and choices.
Allan Spraight says
Home improvement projects are required more with older homes but you can still have big projects in a new home. We recently bought a new house and haven’t lived here a month and my wife, already had me change out the light fixtures in the both bathrooms and replace the basic mirrors with large framed mirrors. I do have to say, it needed both. I don’t understand why builders will not put sufficient lighting in the bathrooms and laundry rooms. Oh yeah, that reminds me, my next project is to put a ceiling fan in the laundry room. We have had them before and it makes a big difference if you spend anytime at all in there.
My ex-husband had a business similar to NHance, and was competitive with them. The process is basically a “buff and recoat” for floors or cabinets. They do good work, at least the branch by us, but you might be able to find cheaper solutions.
You are lucky to have laminate counter tops instead of tile, which so many builders use thinking it is classier. It’s not! Tile is such a pain because there’s no way to really keep it clean. We’ve been renting since selling our last home in 2009 and we keep ending up with tile counter tops or granite, yuck. I’m so sick of granite, it’s also harder to keep clean and such a cheesy cliche these days. Next time we buy, if we need new counters I would love Caesarstone quartz or something like that with recycled glass—I believe it’s called Ice Stone. Your kitchen sounds lovely to me—I’d love to stop renting but the prices have gone crazy in our area (Seattle) and we refuse to play that game again! I love your blog, thanks for posting.