Sheila after 2

Before: Old Cabinets; After: Prize Winning

Before After

Today I am going to tell you about another kitchen remodeling story.

Let’s start by throwing it back 30 years, to when they first built their home. When the kitchen looked like this (check out the “before” picture above). In this case, the “customer” wasn’t actually a customer, she is my co-worker.

You won’t find cathedral ceilings, soaring archways, or any of the other dramatic architectural details that you see in some magazines. But that’s actually the thing about this renovation that my co-worker and her husband are most proud of. They were able to work with the existing kitchen, with its 9-ft ceiling and soffit, and builder’s basic U-shape layout to create a new kitchen that they couldn’t love more!

Let’s back up a bit, shall we? Scott and Sheila Graham were basically still newlyweds when they bought the perfect piece of land and were ready to build their dream home in 1991. Most people will use a licensed general contractor (a “GC”) to build their home from the ground up. But not Scott and Sheila! Oh no, they wanted to be an “owner-builder” or “owner-contractor.” This meant they planned to physically build the house themselves. They were willing to take on this extra responsibility largely in an effort to save money. But here’s the catch, you never know what life is going to bring you at any particular moment. Scott’s and Sheila’s life changed irrevocably when as a 21-year-old, Scott was in a serious accident. A horrific canoe accident and a devastating spinal cord injury left him a quadriplegic. But the young couple, feeling ambitious, planned to build the house themselves (with the help of family and friends). Astoundingly the 2,108 square foot, 3-bedroom and 2-bath, single family home was completed in a mere 5 months!  

The 30-year-old kitchen had been designed by a custom cabinet builder, and Sheila. Years later, after raising twins, Scott and Sheila are now empty nesters. Their twin daughter and son are both amazing and responsible young adults. Now that they are empty nesters, Sheila had her eye on doing something about the 30-year-old cabinets. She felt the laminated cabinets were blah and boring. There were also a few dings on some of the base cabinets. Since Sheila and I work in a cabinet and countertop showroom, she knows cabinets are a huge chunk of most kitchen remodel budgets. If, and when they remodeled their kitchen, Sheila wanted beautiful quality cabinets. Or rather, she knew cabinets were not something that they were likely to change again for a very long, long time.   

Before After

So, her next step was to get a kitchen designer involved. Some people think they can design a kitchen on their own. But Sheila knows a kitchen is an entirely different thing than decorating a room. Mistakes in a kitchen design can mean lots of extra time and money, and she wouldn’t dream of doing a remodel without working with an experienced kitchen designer. Of course, I was honored to be asked to design their kitchen. It didn’t mean that I would take any design decisions away from Sheila. I would just take exactly what she wanted and translate it into the design that would work best for their space.

It took a year before I could order the cabinets. Why? Scott’s and Sheila’s ideas about the existing kitchen were polar opposites. Scott simply wasn’t ready to remodel at the time. So, Sheila continued to be patient, and, in the end, it was well worth the wait.

Speaking of Scott… there may be some huge misconceptions and inaccurate conclusions about paralysis. Scott has a college degree and respectable job. Despite his daily challenges associated with immobility, he is a crazy talented guy. Scott is a hobbyist woodworker building tables, a murphy bed, bookcases, décor, and more. He never lets his disability stop him. In fact, Sheila showed me some of his work. As we walked throughout their home, she pointed out all these fancy and gorgeous furniture pieces that Scott had built. And just before we entered the garage, Sheila said, “This is where the magic begins.”

The kitchen’s previous dated, blah, and boring laminated cabinets are now in the garage. They are an efficient addition to Scott’s workshop. It’s full of every imaginable power tool: routers, a lathe, a table saw, and much more.

Let’s get back to the renovation project, shall we? So much happened during this remodel that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with one of the biggest changes in this space – the cabinetry. My co-worker’s old cabinets were original to the house and had some damages to them, plus they had a very blah, boring feel so changing them up was a no-brainer. Sheila went with a simple Shaker style (“Savannah 15” from Koch Classic Cabinets) that will stand the test of time. She decided on birch cabinets with Frontier stain for the perimeter of the kitchen. This color couldn’t be more perfect – it blended with everything new (countertops, hardware, and flooring).

Before After

The new kitchen has drawers everywhere. Even though they didn’t gain much square footage of cabinetry with the renovation, they now can store more in their new cabinets. And everything is so much easier to access. Having so many drawers instead of typical base cabinets with doors has made a world of difference! Sheila loves their new pantry. Their old pantry closet doors were unappealing, to say the least.

It took an entire team to make this transformation. Just Counter’s Tyler Mowatt, Ben Hanson, and Tylor Lefever did an outstanding job installing the new cabinetry. Sheila wanted a countertop surface that looks great, performs well, and provides options that no other surfacing material can. She selected Wilsonart solid surface. The color Yukon Riverstone is warm white with small and medium particulates in translucent whites. Just Counter’s Aaron Shaffer and Paul Damon fabricated and installed the gorgeous countertops. Color Tile Carpetsplus did an amazing job with the installation of the new COREtec luxury vinyl plank flooring.

“All of the installers who did my installations were absolutely amazing and they all did a phenomenal job,” said Sheila.

Use the sliders to see the transformation from old to new. We hope this amazing kitchen before-and-after makeover will inspire you to start planning a kitchen renovation of your own.

Before After

Stay tuned for an inspiring DIY idea that Scott and Sheila did to their closet-pantry.


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