The Beauty of Sweat Equity

An ambitious do-it-yourselfer turns out a sleek modern kitchen without breaking the bank.

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Budris
December 2, 2007

DAVID AND ANNELIE MITCHELL TOOK ON the renovation of their 1960s kitchen with their priorities and budget in tight rank.

"We had 12 grand to work with," says David, "and we started with the toys" - the high-end appliances the couple coveted."We went with stainless steel everywhere," including a French-door refrigerator and a dishwasher from LG, a KitchenAid convection oven, and a GE five-burner low-profile gas cooktop. Shopping on eBay, they also purchased a Blanco sink and KWC faucet.

All that shine is key to a high-end look for the barely 150-square-foot kitchen in the Mitchells' 1906 foursquare Concord house, but the $4,200 they spent for those appliances and fixtures locked up about a third of the budget. With the cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and a few incidentals still outstanding, David - a marketing consultant who became general contractor, carpenter, and plumber for this do-it-yourself project - headed to the IKEA website. There, he designed the kitchen down to the exact specifications, using the company's free software. Then, on Massachusetts's tax-free weekend, he purchased cabinets from IKEA's Akurum line at its store in Stoughton. The recyclable particleboard Adel doors and the side panels have a birch veneer stained a rich brown.

"They have a great European style, and there are extra trim pieces you can buy to get a great finished look," David says. Using those trim pieces, he made a built-in surround for the refrigerator and microwave oven. He also used trim to create a custom corner cabinet to house the cooktop and built-in oven. "These ended up being cheaper and looked better than going with a conventional range," he says.

IKEA also has an extensive inventory of spare parts. "If anything breaks, like a wheel, slide, or shelf, you can just buy that part," he says. "Every other cabinet company I went to required me to purchase a whole new cabinet, even if I only wanted a door or hinge."

To get the granite countertops the couple wanted at a price they could afford, David embarked on an exhaustive search, finally finding International Stone, a family-owned company in Woburn. The company has a large stockpile of uncut stone and will both measure and install the final countertops, thus dispensing with several middlemen and saving the Mitchells a few thousand dollars.

In a narrow space near the doorway connecting the kitchen to the living room, David installed wall cabinets - which are shallower than base cabinets - on the floor. The arrangement allowed for more storage without crowding the room, and a granite top added counter space. On another wall, Mitchell used the same principle to create a breakfast bar.

The flooring turned out to be the family fun part. The Mitchells wanted a wood floor that would harmonize with the golden oak tones of the dining and living room hardwood. They found a close-out lot of a golden teak, pre-finished Bellawood at Lumber Liquidators, and their grinning 6-year-old son, Erik, helped man the nail gun with David.

After four months of backyard barbecues and takeout, the kitchen is a sweet denouement. In a neighborhood where $50,000 kitchens are common, the cozy aesthetic of the Mitchells' renovation keeps visitors from wandering anywhere else.

"I have to shoo them out," says Annelie.


Granite countertops: $3,500
Appliances and fixtures: $4,200
Flooring: $975
Cabinetry: $3,300
Paint: $100
Lighting: $100
Custom computer/TV: $500
TOTAL: $12,675

John Budris is editor of Hall of Fame Magazine, E-mail

The Mitchell family shopped for bargains, but the big savings came from the free labor provided by dad David Mitchell, with help from son Erik, both pictured in the pre-renovated kitchen. The Mitchell family shopped for bargains, but the big savings came from the free labor provided by dad David Mitchell, with help from son Erik, both pictured in the pre-renovated kitchen.

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