Bird and Belle's Adventures in Marriage



What’s harder on a marriage then finishing a Ph.D. while job hunting and struggling with infertility? Remodeling your kitchen WHILE dealing with all three!

We started this project almost exactly a year ago. Since then we have spent weekends gutting, repairing, rewiring, plumbing, fixing broken floors, tiling, sewing and more trying to take what used to be an out-dated nightmare of a kitchen into something of this decade where we actually enjoy preparing meals. I’m very pleased to report that we are still married after all of this, and have the kitchen of our dreams to boot. We learned a whole lot while doing this project. Let me share some of our major lessons and then we’ll get to the fun before & after shots.

Lesson 1: DON’T remodel your kitchen while you are finishing a Ph.D., job hunting and dealing with infertility!

Lesson 2: Take the time you originally estimated to complete the project and multiply it by 10.

Lesson 3: Factor “burnout” and “I no longer give-a-shit” periods into your time calculation. Multiply those by 3.

Lesson 4: Obsessive women who are overly hormonal thanks to science make for challenging renovation partners.

Lesson 5: Obsessive women CAN repair the heck out of some walls and are CHAMPS at building Ikea cabinets.

Lesson 6: A “quick” plumbing project is never quick.

Lesson 7: There is no such thing as “one trip” to the home repair store.

Lesson 8: Laying tile on a floor with squeak and bounce is not possible. Fixing the floor so it does not have squeak or bounce is a nightmare of epic proportions. Lay wood instead.

Lesson 9: Cats don’t make renovations any easier.

Lesson 10: Cheap ceiling paint is exactly what the name says: cheap. Spend the money on good paint.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. We learned a lot from this project. We know that if the next house needs a new kitchen we will do the remodel before we move in. We also know our marriage is frighteningly strong – renovations are taxing enough. Toss in all our madness and you get a true test. I’m pleased we made it and that we are both still sleeping in the same room (well, except for the night’s I’m too crazy and want the window unit set at 65 degrees… but that is a blog post for another day!)


Old cabinets, gross counter, creepy red floor and crayon-yellow walls = one dated disaster.


The cabinets are all Ikea. We made multiple trips to Cincinnati to collect them in our little Ford Taurus. The sink and counter tops came from Lowe’s. The faucet was on clearance at Home Depot. I made the curtains with outdoor fabric from Hancock’s that was on clearance. That really big plant was a wedding gift from my sweet cousin. It must be the hardiest thing ever because it has survived me for more than two years. It has even produced a baby plant.  Tile flooring is clearance from Home Depot. The tile was so cheap that we built the entire kitchen around it.

The paint color is “Stone Brown” by Benjamin Moore.


The rickety butcher block was a HAIY (Half-Ass It Yourself) project by the previous owners. If you wiggled it while cutting on it the top would collapse. The creepy knife collection is what happens when two grownups marry and combine two cheaply stocked kitchens. The upper glass cabinets were the only redeeming quality in the kitchen. Despite our best efforts, though, they could not be salvaged.


New cabinets with Ikea lighting mounted for illumination. I both store and display our inexpensive Bed Bath & Beyond serving dishes on top. The teal bowl is a $1 find from the thrift store purchased to give the space a pop of color. Due to all the doors leading into the kitchen (3) we had to do a little creative engineering. By using a low profile cabinet here and having the granite cut special we were able to maximize our space and create a “coffee bar.” Small PP Make Muji boxes contain things like tea, bag clips, wine openers, etc. The switches and outlets here still need updated. The new dishwasher is a Bosch we paid $75 for at the thrift store. With a lot of cleaning and a little engineering it now serves us VERY well.


A small, non-energy efficient fridge covered in crap. This side of the kitchen did not have any cabinetry originally. Jay added this huge wire rack. Again you’ll see what happens when two people marry and combine two cheap kitchens – lots of cheap stuff! Last year I spent several months eBay’ing all of this and made enough money to purchase minimal high-quality pieces that should last us for many, many years.


Again we had to use a little creativity with this space. The kitchen is narrow and would have been absolutely claustrophobic had we used full depth cabinets. Instead we opted for low-profile drawers and then open shelving above. This creates a small work-space and maximum storage. A small PP Make box holds our most frequently used items – olive oils, pepper and hot sauce. All the clear storage containers were gifts when we got married and now hold my baking supplies, grains and dried beans. The “spice file” saves space by keeping all our spices tidy and alphabetized. Still waiting on some electrical work over here, too. Oh, and my Vitamix. (LOVE)


The old fridge was old and cramped and sounded like it might launch from the house when it kicked on. It was also covered in crap.


The new fridge is a little larger, silent and energy efficient. A white box on-top holds appliance manuals and warranty information. A two-tiered basket holds produce.


I hated this stove. The oven burned everything. The stove burners were weak. All the utensils hanging on the wall were a mess and the zillion spice jars on the shelf collected a ton of grease.


New cabinets provide utensil storage. An old clear vase has new purpose holding my bamboo and silicone pieces. We purchased the Ikea microwave and mounted it above the stove to save space and double as a vent. I’m so pleased with this Ikea appliance. Next time we’ll skip the fancy Frigidaire brand and go for Ikea. (Buyer beware: We have already had repairs done to the stove and the fridge.) Cat potholders take up a prominent residence on the side of the stove. Two small prints of a rooster and an owl from a gallery in Cincinnati wait to be hung.

We sold the huge pile of cookware and used all the money made to replace it with 3 leCreuset pieces, one non-stick wok and one non-stick egg pan. I love this teal color and look forward to spending the rest of my life making nourishing meals in it.

This wall is right by the door to the basement. It was largely unused so we added an Ikea rail and now hang our lunch boxes in a prominent location, encouraging us to pack lunches! The “Beat It” print is from a seller on Etsy. She customized it so the colors would match our kitchen.


6 thoughts on “Kitchen

  1. The kitchen looks great, you two should be proud of yourselves! I might borrow your idea for spice storage.

  2. You two did a fabulous job of the kitchen!!! The whole thing looks great. We need a kitchen redo. Maybe we can hire you two to come do it!! 🙂

  3. Amazing and absolutely beautiful!!! A tribute to the talent of the renovators! I hope it makes you smile just to walk into the room. Your lessons and calculations made me laugh. We always used to say, “There are no small jobs.” Love the drapes–Gee, you can actually have privacy if you want it!

    Caution: DO NOT report this to the assessor’s office.

    • Lol! Sally, I don’t even know what an assessor’s office is so you have nothing to worry about 🙂 Can’t wait to feed you delicious meals out of the kitchen when you visit in December!

  4. Sarah, your kitchen is absolutely beautiful! Well done – I love the brown on the walls as well. I have a love affair with chocolate brown.

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