Modern Kitchen In An Old House

Are you considering remodeling your older kitchen buy you can’t decide where to start orr how to do start?

My friend and neighbor Hilary told me she wanted to remodel her kitchen and I jumped at the chance to help her out. A project as large as a kitchen is easier to take on if you get help from someone who has done it before, but it’s not a requirement.

Hilary’s home is a 1920s style Tudor. Between the two of us we knew this was NOT a DIY project. Here’s how we tackled the process of getting a modern kitchen inside an old home. See the transformation of this kitchen, step by step. If you want to know what the steps usually look like, read this post which details the typical renovation process for a kitchen.

Below you will see the parts of the process. You can click on the link to skip right to the section you want.

Kitchen before updates

Take photos of your kitchen before you start. It really helps you to get perspective on what you can change within your budget. Setting a budget is the first step of the process.

small kitchen before updates
kitchen before updates

Step 1 – Determine Your kitchen renovation Budget

When you are remodeling a kitchen you can spend from one thousand to one hundred thousand dollar. It’s important to have a ballpark budget before you get started. This helps you to prioritize what you can afford to do. Keep in mind there are HUGE ranges in cost on everything that goes into a kitchen.

Under $5,000 – This budget will limit what you can do unless you are a DIY kind of person. You can paint cabinets yourself and change your backsplash. If you want to replace countertops you will have to go with less expensive options like laminate. There are some pretty amazing new laminate countertops available that can fool you into thinking they are much more expensive.

Under $10,000 – if you want to spend under $10,000 it’s still hard to consider new cabinets or appliances. If you have a budget under 10,000 you should consider new countertops, a new backsplash, painting the cabinets and updating the floors. You won’t be able to change the footprint of the kitchen, which is where all the plumbing is located.

$10,000-20,000 – This size budget is where you start to get more options but you still can’t do everything. You should b able to do everything in the under $10,000 category plus either new appliances OR new cabinets (but not custom cabinets).

$20,000 to $35,000 – In this price range you can afford new cabinets (but probably not custom) AND new appliances, but it could still be hard to change the footprint of your kitchen.

Over $35,000 – This is where you really have a lot more freedom to move things around and change the layout of your kitchen. You can add an island or move the sink, etc.

Keep in mind that these are not hard and fast rules. It can depend very much on the materials you choose and the type of appliances and cabinets.

Step 2 – prioritize your wants for the new kitchen

Before you meet with any contractors it’s a good idea to break your wish list down into these three categories: must have, nice to have and only if there’s room in the budget.

Here’s an example. Hilary’s list of “must haves” included new cabinets, new countertops, new backsplash and a larger window (to get more light into the kitchen). Her “nice to have” list included new appliances and converting her electric oven to gas. The “only if there is room in the budget” item was new floors.

Step 3 – write down Your Design Plan

Design plan is a fancy term for deciding what you are going to do. I recommend putting your plan in writing, because it will change as you start meeting with contractors. Contractors can help you plan because they have practical experience. They can offer new ideas that you didn’t consider AND they can ruin your dreams by telling you your plans aren’t possible (just kidding).

Our design plan can be seen best in the before and after photos below. A design plan outlines the things you want to change and how. Use it as a tool to make sure your contractor knows exactly what you want to change. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s an example:

  1. Update The Cabinets – We want to use IKEA cabinets (but we did quote out custom cabinets). We want to make the space feel less cluttered. We want a pantry wall on one end and fewer upper cabinets.
  2. Open up the space – First, remove the door to make the space feel larger. Second, widen the opening to the dining room where the door is. Third, replace the one window above the sink with a larger window.
  3. Change the Color Palette – We want greens and greys, cooler and lighter colors. The paint is Sherwin Williams Filmy Green. I don’t recommend choosing a paint color first because it’s an easy thing to change.
kitchen color scheme
  1. Update countertops and replace the backsplasy – We want a very light grey quartz and a tile backsplash that is more modern.
  2. Add a new large white sink and faucet in brass.
  3. Add brass hardware and lighting. A note here, the light fixture you see here was supposed to go over the sink, with a larger but similar style fixture in the center of the room because more lighting is almost always better.
  4. Update appliances if there’s money left in the budget.

Step 4 – Meet Kitchen contractors

If you are hiring someone to renovate your kitchen, it’s important to meet with several contractors. I recommend at least three. The bids can be wildly different. If you are looking for tips on how to find a good contractor, read about how to protect yourself when you hire a contractor.

We met with four and two bids came in very close.

Ultimately you should work with the contractor that you feel most comfortable with and one that you are confident can do the job.

If you want to see in process photos, visit this post where I walk you through all of the steps in order.

Step 5 – Order Everything in advance

You can save money and time if you have everything you need before the contractor begins. The only issue is that you might need different things as the process starts. It can take weeks before all of the necessary pieces arrive. Be sure to keep a folder of receipts.

For example, you might think with IKEA cabinets, they are all in the warehouse. Sometimes they aren’t. You might be missing parts that take a few weeks or months to arrive.

The remodeled kitchen

We used two IKEA pantry cabinets at one end to add lots of storage and take away the cluttered look. Taking out the door and opening the room up to the dining room made the space feel more open.

IKEA kitchen pantry cabinets

If you are fortunate enough to have a window in your kitchen it can really add lots of natural light. Changing the size can be really expensive (and out of this world if you call Pella). See the budget breakdown below. This photo shows off the new window that replaced the much smaller stained glass window. It lets in so much more light.

If you are trying to decide if you want a farmhouse sink, read about the pros and cons of a farmhouse sink here.

Using fewer upper cabinets (if you can spare the storage) is a good way to make the space feel more open. We added a modern vent hood (read more about choosing a range hood).

new oven wall

If you have the budget to go up with your backsplash it can give the space a really clean look and make a statement. You can find inexpensive backsplash options at places like Floor & Decor, Home Depot and Lowes. This came from Floor & Decor.

full wall tile backsplash

step 6 – Keep track of your budget along the way

If you don’t have an unlimited budget, you might need to be flexible about some parts of the process. Let’s be clear, most contractors go over budget. If you have a fixed amount, you should hold off on some of your wants and see if they fit in your budget as the process goes along.

Let me give an example. We weren’t sure if new appliances would fit into the budget. Appliances go in at the end of the process. Hilary decided to hold off and NOT order appliance until we could see where we were with the budget. Our contractor didn’t go over, so we were able to order those appliances at the end.

Cost Breakdown

When you get a bid from multiple contractors it will feel like you are comparing apples and oranges. Some people break down every part of the process and others just give you a total. Ask lots of questions if you get ONE number about exactly what that includes.

Our contractor broke the project into many pieces, including custom cabinets, which we decided not to do. We used an IKEA installer to install the cabinets. That’s why you see the prime and paint cabinets as a minus in the budget breakdown below.

Total contractor quote26,031
prime and paint cabinets-3,940
install new cabinets and trim-1,800
custom cabinets-5,800
Vent Hood599
Farmhouse sink500
New Faucet200
Cabinet hardware
tile backsplash1,105
IKEA Cabinets5,750
Cabinet assembly and install2,092
New light fixtures99
ceiling texture and paint400
add gas to kitchen600

I’ve tried to list the sources of all the various parts below, but if I missed something please email or leave a comment if you need more or leave a comment.

  • Cabinets – All of the cabinets and knobs came from IKEA.
  • Floors – original.
  • Countertops -They are made by Vicostone and the color is Icelake
  • Paint – Sherwin Williams Filmy Green
  • Lights – West Elm (see below)
  • Sink – Home Depost (see below)
  • Faucet – (see below)
  • Backslpash – Floor & Decor

Living Through A Kitchen Renovation

This kitchen renovation started in late January 2020 right before the virus outbrake and quarantine. The renovations continued through Arpil. Fortunately, construction is considered essential so Hilary wasn’t stuck with no kitchen.

Here are some tips for living in your home during a kitchen renovation.

  • Set up a makeshift kitchen in another part of the house. This might be just a microwave, a hot plate and a small fridge. Hilary used her dining room and spare bathroom (for the sink). This makes it so that you don’t have to be around the people who are working in the kitchen.
  • Give the contractor a key (or unlock your door when they will arrive) and arrange to be in another room while they are working.
  • If they have questions while they are working, which is inevitable, make sure they know how to reach you when you are out since time is of the essence.
  • Shop as much as possible online and when you HAVE to go to look at things in person. We were lucky to get into IKEA before they closed, but we arrived right when they opened and it was empty.
  • To keep the dust and mess from spreading to your entire home, try to sweep or vacuum daily. Wipe down any other things that you know the contractors are using regularly in your home.
  • Make sure you communicate with them as frequently as possible to stay on top of progress.

I hope this helps if you are working on a project during this strange time we are living in. If you want to learn more about kitchen remodeling you might like these posts:

Similar Posts


  1. Wow, what a transformation and it looks fantastic! Your neighbor is so lucky to have you to help. Great job and thanks for sharing.

  2. I really appreciate you for publishing this blog here about the modern kitchen in an old house, it’s really a helpful and very useful for us. This is really appreciated that you have presented this data over here, I love all the information shared. Great article!

  3. Love this kitchen! Great job.

  4. This is beautiful! Can you link the tiles used for the backsplash on Floor and Decor? I’m trying to find but no luck.

Leave a Reply

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