The Time has Come to Usher in the Era of the Reasonably Priced Kitchen

by Katy on September 17, 2011 · 43 comments

Custom hammered copper vent hood! A pot filler spigot above every stainless steel stove! And let’s not forget granite, granite granite!

Have you had enough of ridiculous, over the top kitchen remodels? Me too! Which is why the featured article in today’s Homes and Gardens of the Northwest section of The Oregonian was a breath of fresh air. Why? because amateur designer Julie Thompson’s $4000 condo kitchen remodel  did not feature stainless steel or granite, and it was partially constructed using bit and pieces from her neighbor’s kitchens remodels.

“While other residents of the 30-unit condominium building were busy remodeling their kitchens to look ultramodern, Thompson was remodeling hers to look old — but in a way that is tailored, sophisticated and functional. In her quest to create an updates and authentic-looking space, she even salvaged pieces from other parts of the building and refurbished them.”

At a time when the average “mid-range” kitchen remodel cost has crept up to $56,000, it is time to put a stop to kitchens that cost three times what our parents paid for their houses.

So repaint those existing cabinets, refinish those floors and maybe, just maybe you can even scavenge among the discards from your neighbor’s swanky remodeling project.

You are not going to pay the average amount for your kitchen, because you are not an average American.

You’re a Non-Consumer.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Megg September 17, 2011 at 10:51 am

I love my kitchen. We recently found the fridge we have (that came with the house) for just over $400 next to $1,500 fridges. I don’t care. I love my non-stainless steel appliances because they work, they’re functional and they are in great condition! Plus, they all match!
Since our kitchen is nice and updated (tile counters and everything!) we definitely won’t be remodeling any time soon. I would like to do something with my doors, but you can sure bet that neither $56,000 (that’s insane) nor $4,000 for a kitchen redo is in our budget! And I’m OK with that!

(Although, I wouldn’t necessarily mind a stainless steel sink, because our porcelin one seems to get things in the cracks and stains. Or maybe I should just be doing the dishes more regularly).


Dogs or Dollars September 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Never mind the kitchen, I love the whole condo! Amateur designer indeed. It’s lovely.


Cate September 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Okay, I will confess that I LOVE the idea of pot-filler spigots over the stove, because filling a smaller stockpot over and over just to get my waterbath canner filled up is a pain in the butt. But not to the point where I would pay ridiculous amounts of money for an over-the-stove spigot.

This woman’s kitchen is just beautiful…actually very similar to what I wish my kitchen looked like! We plan to “remodel” our kitchen in several years, but all that really means is that we want to replace our scarred green counters with something paler and add lighting over the sink and stove. We’ll stick with our repainted white cabinets, nice grey linoleum, and came-with-the-house appliances (assuming they stick around that long). I feel no need to spend a third of my mortgage on a new kitchen, even though I spend oodles of time in there.


Katy September 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I thing I’ve always wondered about the pot fillers is that the water in the plumbing is not going to get run that often, so it will get all brackish. Seriously, is this not an issue?



Sharon H. September 10, 2015 at 6:19 am

It seems to me that the bigger problem is the large pot of boiling water you then have to maneuver around after it’s done!


Adrienne September 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm

We just “downgraded” our kitchen fridge with a 1955 GE that we found on craigslist. *love*


Jinger September 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm

My apartment complex is going “modern” with upgrades you can pay for by the month like stainless steel appliances. I looked at the model unit and it didn’t look very cozy or homey to me. I like my older unit with off white appliances and counter tops. I want my home to have my own signature touches, not the generic upgrades that everyone seems to want these days.


Trish September 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

This is great! I stopped watching HGTV because I got tired of the house hunting shows in which people would look at a perfectly adequate kitchen and say” this will all have to be updated”. Who brainwashed us into thinking stainless steel and granite are all that fabulous?


Megg September 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm

House Hunters is totally my guilty pleasure! I love seeing how ridiculous people act, for some reason. Plus, since I watch at the gym, it keeps me on the elliptical!


Elaine September 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

I agree with you, Trish! What really gets me are the shows about staging to sell your home. Clean it, get rid of 1/2 the stuff in the closets, and take out the garbage. Maybe paint, but mostly just clean it. Really, someone won’t buy your house because of your bedspread????


Ann September 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm

AND the funny part is a lot of the people who insist on those kitchens DON’T COOK!!! Easier to keep it clean, I guess.

We cook a lot and revamped our kitchen 10 years ago (the construction workers stopped to watch the Sept 11 tragedy with us) – and some silly woman guest asked me why I got a Viking stove instead of Wolf…and she didn’t cook at all.

Oh, dearie dear…we have slouched down so low as a society…


nalani September 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Great article! And her aesthetic values are so non consumer advocate-like.


Lynn D. September 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I’m with you. My grandmothers and mother cooked fabulous meals in perfectly functional but not fabulous kitchens. I laugh when I see before and after kitchen remodels. I nearly always covet the “before” pictures! I would pay to open up a kitchen so family and guests could hang out with the cook.


Shannon Breen September 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Amen! Besides the obvious costs and associated environmental concerns of putting all new stuff in, I can’t imagine having my kitchen torn up all that time. Whenever I look at kitchen remodels I’m always impressed with having more counter space. Other than that I’m perfectly happy walking to my SINK to fill a pot (gasp!).


Indigo September 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm

When I bout my house I started making plans to remodel my kitchen. I plan on using skim stone to cover the existing counters which have some stains, cuts, and a ugly burn. To repaint the cupboards and take down the doors to some of them, cut out the center, and put in frosted glass, opening up the small space while still hiding what’s inside.

I like my off white appliances, and will only replace the stove and dishwasher than came with the house when they give out for good…and I’ll likely go for white -off white. They go with everything. All in all my remodel plans will cost me maybe $150 and a good weekend of work and drying.


Katy September 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm

$150 is quite the deal for a “Kitchen remodel.”



Trish September 18, 2011 at 4:29 am

what is skim stone? I have laminate countertops that look pretty awful and I wouldn’t mind doing something to them.


Shannon September 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I am so happy to report that we just got a Habitat for Humanity “ReStore” in our town! Basically you can donate your castoff household fixtures, appliances, building materials, etc. and then they sell the stuff for super cheap, using the proceeds to build Habitat houses.


Margaret September 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I LOVE that she put her washer/dryer in her CLOSET!!!! The clothes must practically put themselves away!


Karin September 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm

When I clicked on your link to the outrageous $56,000 remodel figure, I was even MORE shocked to read that “the national average cost for an upscale kitchen remodel is roughly $82,000”. Leaves me speechless! That white ‘refurbished’ mini kitchen is lovely — thanks for sharing the article with us, Katy.


kathleen September 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Granite and stainless are the pearlized Formica and avocado green of tomorrow. And they are not easier to keep clean. I have a stainless fridge that drives me NUTS with all the fingerprints and water spots!


Karen September 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I hear you, Kathleen! The only thing that works for my stainless fridge (not new or deluxe) is olive oil. You can wipe on a layer of oil and then buff it off with an old towel.


Hillary September 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I remodeled my kitchen for $10k when I inherited some money a couple of years ago, and it was worth every penny. I live in a Habitat for Humanity built home that I bought from the original owner, and the kitchen was not well thought out. Horrible layout, inadequate cupboard space and counter space, and it drove us all crazy every day. I donated all the old stuff to the local ReStore, and am much happier now that two people can cook together, the fridge is in the right place, there’s plenty of counter space, and I have an actual pantry. Also, it only took 2 weeks from start to finish, so a remodel doesn’t have to take ages!
That said, I cannot understand the average prices… My kitchen is ~10’x10′ and so not huge but also not a small galley, and I don’t know how I could possibly have even gotten up to $20k!


Tara September 18, 2011 at 3:53 am

Cute kitchen but upon my first look it was intirely impractical! No vented stove how much cooking can you really do without smoking up the place. Also all that pristine white seems like it would be difficult to maintain for someone who cooks at home. Those knick knacks above the stove would be covered in oily residue. I like the idea of reusing kitchen goods but I didn’t think this looked very real.


Indigo September 18, 2011 at 4:08 am

It really depends on they type of paint, what you are willing to clean, what you cook, and how.

If it is a good quality high gloss paint, and it looks like it is, things wipe off easily. Low oil cooking doesn’t make much mess, especially if you use lids or a splatter cover. She’ll still need to clean off her knick knacks, but not much more often than you would to keep the dust off them.


harriet September 18, 2011 at 7:12 am

Building code in my area and in all areas I know of requires some kind of exhaust above a stove.

I bought a pristine 1950 metal kitchen, complete with counters, off Craigslist for $500 for my vacation cottage and reinstalled it. Top that, folks! $500! And it looks fantastic.


Cate September 19, 2011 at 6:54 am

I don’t have a vent hood above my stove, and I cook every day…several times a day. My kitchen never gets smoky or anything.


Lucy September 18, 2011 at 4:51 am

LOL, we are planning on fixing up (vs. remodeling) our kitchen, but the budget is $200. I still have not figured out what to do with the really horrible dark panelled cabinets and unlevel scratched chipped countertops, but something will come to me, I’m sure. Like Lynn D, I frequently see before and after pictures where the before is much more to my liking!

We bought our 40 acre farm for less than $56,000. Much less.


Molly September 18, 2011 at 6:40 am

As a construction manager it gets tiresome to see people go straight to an expensive material because they think they should rather than because it fits their design. I love working with my clients and opening their eyes up to all the possibilities.
The more you are willing to do on your own the more perks you can have. I worked with a client that wanted some fancy staining on all of her cabinets. She couldn’t afford it so I gave her a 2 hour ‘how to’ and let her do the work. It was great. She not only got what she wanted she feels like she was part of this massive remodel of her house.


Jenny September 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

We added on a few years ago and bought a new cooktop and wall oven, plus a dishwasher. All in black/stainless steel since that’s what’s available at the moment. The woman at the home improvement store was HORRIFIED that I was going to keep my almond refrigerator and put it in the same kitchen. It works fine and is the size we like. And if people come over and notice and care that I have an almond fridge and a my other appliances are black and stainless steel, they’re not people I’m going to mesh with anyway!


Anne Weber-Falk September 18, 2011 at 8:51 am

Here here I say!! I never understand the need for all the fancy extras. Granite is a no go for us. I wouldn’t have any dishes left. The kids are tipping glasses and dropping plates left and right. A spigot to fill a pot? I put in a taller faucet from a friend doing a remodel(!) and that works just fine. I have repainted my cabinet twice and get tons of compliments from friends and family each time. Now if someone were to offer me a kitchen makeover for free…


Samantha September 18, 2011 at 9:03 am

Beautiful kitchen! Building code here dictates that you must have an exhaust above the stove (we have a microwave hood fan, love things that are double duty). You can have a “swanky” kitchen while still being frugal and respectful of the environment. My aunt designed her entire kitchen around cabinets from the habitat for humanity restore, bought new to her stainless steel appliances off the local classifieds, and purchased granite seconds that were cut incorrectly and wouldn’t fit in the original customers kitchen.


pat September 18, 2011 at 11:53 am

While I was saving up for a new counter top (just plain ole laminate not granite) my husband installed 2 melamine sheet wood panels that I painted the edges of. People actually thought we had put in some fancy ‘custom’ counter top, never noticing that there was a huge seam on one side because it was just 2 sheets of wood laying there. We had it for almost 2 years before I had squirreled away enough to pay CASH for the real counter top. Then he moved it to the garage/workshop where it still serves on his ‘fancy’ workbench.


Jean September 18, 2011 at 11:54 am

We too redid our kitchen for less than $800 not including a new refrigerator on sale for $400 that the salesman tried to talk me out of. It’s white, not stainless, and has no dispensers , not even an icemaker! (But it fits in the designated spot.) We repainted the ugly wood cabinets white (and they are not hard to keep clean), ceramic tiled the counters and backsplashes, wallpapered and put in a linoleum floor, and a new pot rack/light fixture and some additional lighting. All the labor was ours. My biggest expense was the cabinet knobs and pulls, reproduction cobalt depression glass. I could have done something cheaper but have not regretted it–they make me happy every time I open a door or drawer. Frankly, all that stainless steel and granite or stone makes me think of a chem lab, not a home!


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares September 18, 2011 at 12:14 pm

That is a gorgeous kitchen! It always breaks my heart to see an old kitchen ruined, the solid wood cabinets torn our and particle board put in. Then, it’s so trendy, you’ll have an outdated kitchen in another 10 years, only this time, it will be a poor quality outdated kitchen.

How much better just to make do with the “ugly” kitchen, fixing things that need fixing, doing proper maintenance, and refinishing wood as necessary? Then, in another decade or two, your kitchen will be pleasingly retro, and you’ll never have to redo it again.

Ugh. I don’t believe in remodeling when restoring makes so much more sense.


Robin September 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I guess I am the odd duck here. We just spent over 20k on our kitchen redo, new cabinets (tore out particle board and replaced with plywood box), granite counter tops (love, love, love the stone we chose), new cabinet layout, new stove and dishwasher (our old ones died) in stainless and a wonderful new big stainless sink and fabulous dorn bracht faucet we got cheap from the plumber. Painted the walls a warm Tuscan yellow. I love my kitchen, I love being in it, we cook up a storm and it is SUCH a pleasure being in our lovely new kitchen. I wouldn’t change a thing.


fiwa September 19, 2011 at 9:10 am

I think that is the thing we have to keep in mind. Everyone has different taste. If you like granite and stainless, then that is all that matters. I think anything that encourages people to cook at home and makes them happy is wonderful.


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares September 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Before remodeling, it’s always good to consider the principle of hedonic adaptation. That’s the phenomenon where after a major change (be it bad–like losing a leg, or good–like a kitchen remodel), you’ll be sadder or happier for a time, but then you get used to it and are reset to your baseline happiness that is typical for you. So, even if you think your remodeled house is wonderful, it won’t make you any happier in the long run. I like to consider this before making major expenditures.


Jen September 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Yes, I am sick of watching shows where people are looking at houses to buy and constantly say they MUST “update” the kitchen when it looks great to me.


Jeanne September 19, 2011 at 7:47 am

Oh, yes the condo was fabulous. Did anyone notice that there was no bedroom? She sleeps at her boyfriends place down the hall.


Katy September 19, 2011 at 7:49 am

Yeah, I thought that was pretty interesting.



Megyn @Minimalist Mommi September 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm

WOOHOO for cheap kitchen remodels! We recently did ours…pretty much new everything for about $3K (new cabinets, counter tops, faucet, etc.). The only finishing touch is putting in new flooring. We also did bathroom renovations for well under $1k each. This is where it helps to have a handy husband 🙂


Betty Winslow September 10, 2015 at 3:52 am

When we bought our first house on the cheap, it needed redoing EVERYWHERE, big things like wiring, plumbing, new bathroom fixtures to replace ones that were broken, cracked, stained, just plain gross. There was no money left to redo kitchen. Hubby paneled one wall with old barn siding, painted walls cream, and I hung up baskets and antique utensils, all bought at garage sales. Curtains (also bought at a garage sale) were hung on string thumbtacked to window frames. The tiny hideous stretch of counter was covered with a cute printed contact paper, then with clear contact paper, rubbed on tightly and trimmed at the metal edges with a box cutter. With a bit of care (no chopping on them, no hot pots placed on them) the counter looked good for ten years, and I think cost less than $10 to do.


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