Before and After: An Interior Design Student Upgraded Her Family’s Kitchen from Builder Grade to Beautiful

Suchada Eickemeyer and her husband bought their California home for their family of five in 2016, just as she was beginning interior design school. Suchada knew from the start that she would be able to put her newly acquired skills to good use in the house’s kitchen, which she says initially came across as ’90s builder grade.

The orange oak cabinets and drawers felt like they were a few more opens and closes away from completely falling apart, she writes: “The bottoms of drawers would literally fall out when we pulled them out, or the entire drawer would fall off its glides. The chipped tile countertops never felt clean, and we had to keep moving things around to avoid breaking shelves [to the point] that it was a nightmare to find any tools we needed to cook.”

It took a couple of years to save up for the renovation Suchada envisioned, and Suchada spent that time planning. A bunch. “I had two years to think about the functionality of the space and how we use it, so I customized a lot of elements just for our family,” she writes.

They started tearing out the kitchen in the fall of 2018, and three months later, they could use the space again, though it required additional time to complete the flooring and touch-ups. “Our biggest setback was firing our contractor,” Suchada writes. “He was great to start, but it’s a busy time for [builders] right now, and as he had more work coming in, our job took a lower priority.” Always the interior design student, she took away something positive from the experience: “I learned a lot about communicating with the trades and being clear up front about expectations,” she writes.

In total, the renovation cost about $36,000, including both materials and labor. Suchada says she saved money by taking advantage of sales, trade pricing (because she’s an interior design student), and bundling on appliances and plumbing.

The new kitchen is all about the family that lives in it—it includes a coffee cabinet, a drawer just for the dog, and storage designed so that the couple’s three kids can reach it and help cook. Suchada’s Rev-A-Shelf mixer stand is one of her favorite features. “I reserved a cabinet just for it because it allows for easy lifting of my large KitchenAid mixer,” she writes. “My six-year-old can use it!”

Looking back, Suchada is thrilled both with how the result functions and the planning she did to achieve it. “It’s easy to find a photo of a beautiful kitchen and duplicate the look,” she writes, “but the true value of a kitchen renovation is how well it functions for you.”

Thank you for sharing, Suchada!

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