A Kitchen/Living Room Remodel: Getting Started

Ever since I decided I was going to manage a mini remodel at my mom’s house, there has been no time for blogging, for Instagramming,  for anything. That’s why I’ve been scarce on the social accounts lately; people, I AM BUILDING A KITCHEN. I’m not kidding you. My talented and capable Hubby has built an IKEA kitchen before, only this time, I’m his helper. Between the actual building and coordinating with a general contractor for the rest, I have no time to my name.

But, the project is coming along, and I thought it would be fun to share the process with you.

My mom’s house was rented for a while, and now that she plans to reoccupy it, I decided it was time to bring the dark, mid-’80s kitchen and living room into the 21st century. I needed to create a space that isn’t starkly modern, but updated, clean, and cozy.  This photo is the photo that inspired my plans:

wall cutout inspiration photo via pinterest
wall cutout inspiration photo via pinterest

Working with a decent (but not unlimited) budget, meant that changing flooring and refreshing her modern (but well-used) appliances was out. But with Hubby and I installing the kitchen ourselves (plus an IKEA kitchen purchase promo of 20% off), we cut materials and labor costs by $3,000 to $4,500, which, in addition to new cabinets and counters, made a wall cutout, all new blinds, and fresh paint throughout the house a possibility.

Kitchen: Before

So here is our little ’80s kitchen before. It’s an L-shaped, eat-in kitchen, not super tiny, but not a lot of storage space, either. The cabinets were old-school, with no hardware. Boring laminate countertop. Scratched porcelain sink. Again, appliances have been updated, but the rest needed to GO.

the kitchen before
the kitchen before


Using the IKEA Kitchen Planner and Ordering

After playing around online with IKEA’s 3D Kitchen Planner I still didn’t feel confident enough with my measurements and plans to order the kitchen.

Using the IKEA Kitchen Planner tool
Using the IKEA Kitchen Planner tool

As cool as it is, there are some issues with the tool that prevented me from truly solidifying the design, but that’s probably a good thing. I took a trip to IKEA to book their measuring service, which is $49. Here are a couple things I learned from that process:

  1. The measuring service is just that. Measuring only. No design advice, no additional help with any design you may have created using the 3D planner. But the $49 is credited toward your kitchen purchase.
  2. The design service, which includes measuring and assistance with choosing the right cabinets for your space, is $199, and worth the money. I ended up “returning” the $49 measuring service and purchasing the design service, which does not count as a credit toward a kitchen purchase, but again, it is worth the money. IKEA sent a local woman who knows IKEA’s products, and with her accurate measurements, finessed my design, advised on where we would need “fillers,” etc., and emailed a final purchase list that I took to the store to complete the sale and schedule delivery.
  3. When you order an IKEA kitchen, stone countertops and installation are also outsourced. IKEA delivers all the cabinets and materials for building them, but since we chose a quartz countertop, another company would have to come out, template the counter, and cut, deliver and install it.
  4. Allowing for an undermount sink is an additional charge when purchasing the counter stone. Also, there is a 25 square foot minimum when purchasing, so if you are planning an island or additional matching countertop later, don’t wait to purchase the stone. You may not meet the minimum requirement. I got lucky and since my initial countertop had not been templated yet, I was able to purchase a separate counter piece for another area as part of the order. More about that below.
kitchen plan blueprint with measurements and instructions
kitchen plan blueprint with measurements and instructions


Opening Up the Kitchen (kind of…)

So notice that my inspo photo above is not actually a kitchen, but a wall cutout between a living room and a kitchen? Yeah. I started this project with only that in mind: cutting a hole in the only wall in the kitchen that doesn’t have cabinets on it. Then we decided to renovate the kitchen too. You know how they say you should always double any remodeling estimates? Mmm-hmm. That is spot-on.

Open-plan home design did not exist when this house was built, but I wanted the kitchen and living room to have that open feeling. Taking the whole wall out was too cost-prohibitive, but cutting it open fell within the budget. Fortunately, we have a family friend who is also a general contractor with reasonable fees. I sent him my inspo photo, and after many meetings, we decided on the size of the opening, and he got to work, first cutting, then framing, then sheet-rocking.

Left: View from the kitchen. Right: View from the living room.
Left: View from the kitchen. Right: View from the living room.

Remember when I mentioned needing another piece of quartz when I ordered the countertops from IKEA? Now you know why. Like the inspiration photo, I not only wanted a wall opening between the kitchen and living room, but a little countertop there as well.

Initially, I had planned to have a really large counter coming out from the opening into the kitchen, and not having a kitchen table. I was thinking we could have counter stools in both rooms, to accommodate our big Greek brood. But my mom and I both decided that a huge, permanent counter might not be good for resale, or flexibility in the kitchen space. In addition, the only way I could justify the counter expense would be if I could stick two IKEA cabinets underneath it for support and storage. But doing that would not have left enough legroom on the sides of the counter in the kitchen, and no cabinets would mean a less elegant solution for supporting one big honking’ piece of quartz.

So, we reconfigured and slimmed the counter to 14 inches wide, which can be supported by invisible brackets, and still allow almost 10 inches of legroom at the counter in the living room. The counter stools would stay in the living room, and a table would be placed in the kitchen.

Building the New Kitchen

It took Hubby about two hours to rip the old kitchen out, and over the course of several weekends, we’ve made significant progress rebuilding. Some aspects of building the kitchen were so simple; IKEA wall cabinets are mounted on a rail first (see photo on right below), so you can slide them around and really fine-tune all the measurements before mounting them permanently. The hinges and doors are superb. You can pop them on and off effortlessly, which makes mounting the wall cabinets lighter and easier.

the kitchen build in progress
the kitchen build in progress: Cabinets are IKEA Lidingo White

Of course, there were also some serious bang-your-head-against-the-wall issues to work out. Custom-cutting the range hood cabinet and fitting the centered exhaust hood boot to our non-centered exhaust pipe was insanely difficult. The blind corner wall cabinet was a nightmare that we spent about six hours trying to solve and perfect since we were dealing with slightly uneven walls and a popcorn-ceiling bulkhead. But we prevailed:

Left: IKEA Eventuell invisible range hood. Right: Range hood with lights on.
Left: IKEA Eventuell invisible extractor/range hood. Right: Range hood with lights on.

This is where we are today. Soon I’ll have much more to share, and eventually, the complete before-and-after photos too!


  1. Fantastic!!! Your mom will be thrilled! I can’t wait to see the final pics. We just got the plans back for a small kitchen extension and added bedroom project. I’m excited and dreading it all at the same time. 🙂

    1. Remodels are fun, and dreadful, so true. But always worth it in the end!

      Mom is getting excited about the progress. We have until mid-May to make it all happen, so stay tuned!

  2. You are KIDDING me? WE are redoing our kitchen too!

    Even had the ikea kitchen planner lady over for $99 bucks last weekend!

    I can’t wait to see how this goes! 🙂 Kismet!

    Smiles, Di

  3. Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any
    problems with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and
    I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no backup.
    Do you have any methods to prevent hackers?

  4. I saw that you all had the same issue….Custom-cutting the range hood cabinet and fitting the centered exhaust hood boot to our non-centered exhaust pipe was insanely difficult. How did you all run the duct work? The opening for the fan at the top of the cabinet….So question is how did you all get it to hook in without lowering the cabinet?

    1. Hi John, we used a curved duct boot to make the connection. You can get them at Lowe’s or Home Depot. We also had to hand saw around the pipe opening in the ceiling to give us enough play to move the pipe an few centimeters in order to make the connection. Took us about three tries holding the cabinet up while adjusting the connector to finally get it right!

  5. Hi there! I am looking at installing the Eventuell hood and I cannot seem to locate any information on the hood.. how do you install it? do you buy a wall cabinet and then cut the bottom out? im so lost and need some help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *