Cheryl AFTER

Budget-Friendly Kitchen from Hot Mess to Organization

Before After

I can say with total honesty that I had no way of knowing that I was about to walk into an unusual situation the first time I entered this 1980-built home in Port Charlotte. Right after I stepped over the threshold the homeowner stopped me. She held up her hand and said in a soft apologetic voice, “Wait!” Then I watched her reach for a roll of paper towels stored on a shelf right next to the front door. The older woman tore some sheets from the roll and then carefully crouched down to wipe up a small pool of pet urine and feces. Yes. I mean, no I’m not kidding. 

Rarely have I been rendered speechless, but in that instant, I seemed to be. While the homeowner cleaned up the mess, I looked around the room. I was probably staring. Which wasn’t polite, but I couldn’t help it. That’s when the lightbulb in my head went off. I came to the conclusion that our client wasn’t well based on what I saw all around me. Perhaps there was something else entirely, something I was missing. I do not want to presume to be the authority on this topic by any means. I could be wrong, but something told me this was going to be more complicated than it looked. 

Anyhow, after the homeowner wiped up the mess, I followed her and two dogs down a narrow pathway to the kitchen. There was a lot to take in. Winding stacks of clutter and an accumulation of large number of seemingly useless things caused cramped living conditions. Countertops, desk, coffee table, and many other surfaces were heaped with stuff.

Before After

So, what exactly is accumulation?

The Oxford dictionary describes it as: the process of gradual increasing or getting more and more of something over a period of time.

It was apparent the homeowner was not able to use some areas for their intended purpose. For example, the homeowner no longer serves meals at the formal, but cluttered, dining room table next to the kitchen.

The messy kitchen “before” photos may be tough to view. But it gives readers the full picture of what this renovation entailed. Scary? Heck, yes. Concerning? Of course. In order to get my bearings, I had to assess the situation and create a strategy. I saw that the typical empty space between the wall cabinets and ceiling was where paper goods were currently being stowed.  Cabinet doors didn’t close. And the right door of the refrigerator couldn’t open past 90 degrees because the refrigerator was waayyy too close to a base cabinet where the drawer front was missing.

Okay, to be perfectly clear, I’m not a licensed counselor or therapist. I am an interior designer, and truth to be told, that’s my super power. But, here’s something important. If I’ve learned one thing about being a designer over the last 20 years, it’s that even if our client may have had some issues, it’s important to recognize she was also a customer with buying power and deserved respect and equitable service. I wanted to help this woman as I would any other customer, and in some ways, even more so.

Before After

The kitchen is one of the most-used areas in a home. So, it can’t just look great, it needs to be functionally efficient, too. I wanted to help this homeowner get her kitchen back into a usable condition. I was going to do my darndest to make this customer feel better about her kitchen. I planned to use a design scheme to designate specific shelves in the kitchen to store grocery items and paper goods, like the considerable amount of paper plates. My plan was to move the refrigerator to another wall and add a tall pantry. I’ve always been a fan of taller wall (or upper) cabinets if you have the room for them. The people living in this house will be able to store stuff that they seldom use. And yes, they will have to use a step ladder to access the upper shelves. But they won’t have to clean above the wall cabinets anymore. Because ceilings are sometimes not level, I planned to use frieze trim and crown molding in my designs.

A week later, I sat with mother and daughter. I carefully showed them 2 designs and explained my vision for their kitchen. The duo loved everything in the second layout, and said, “Let’s do it!” The 2020 design software helped mother-daughter to see my vision and how it would work in their new kitchen in a way that made sense.

Remodeling a kitchen is no small feat, but it does not need to be overwhelming. Of course, cost should always be taken into consideration when shopping for a new kitchen. After all, there’s no point spending more than necessary. Budgeting ahead is important so you can purchase something within your means but still get all the features you need. So, I helped guide the mother-daughter duo along the way. They chose affordable, high-quality, semi-custom kitchen cabinets from Aspect Cabinetry. They selected classic Shaker-style cabinet doors. The wood specie is poplar wood with “Bayou” stain, a beautiful dark brown finish. All of the cabinet doors are soft-closing, as well as the accompanying dovetail drawers.

Before After
Before After

After all the existing countertops and cabinets were taken down and removed from the home, the greatest concern was facing the task of cleaning up pest infestations. It was no small undertaking. A certified and experienced specialist had to take care of the unhealthy situation before Just Counters & other stuff, inc. could finish the job quickly and safely.

Just Counters’ professional installer Sam Zwack did a great job. Homeowner’s daughter said, “Sam was amazing!  He was professional and polite. We love how our kitchen turned out.”

Decluttering and sanitizing premises such as this kitchen will temporarily restore the healthy living conditions in this family’s kitchen, but will not restore their life. The “after” photos were taken a year after the renovations were completed. The kitchen now feels more organized and less hodgepodge than where it started. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and offer my help to restore order to the rest of the home, but the homeowner has a cat. I freak out whenever a cat enters my turf. That’s right. I am terrified of cats and there’s a name for it: ailurophobia (EYE-lure-oh-foh-bee-uh). The phobia can be completely debilitating, trust me. But that’s another story for another time.

Before After

See you back here in two weeks.


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