Katie Kirkpatrick and her husband Mark lucked out when they bought their first house three years ago. The 50-year-old bungalow was still being lived in by its original owner, who "maintained it meticulously," meaning even though they had plans to update it, they didn't have to right away.
"She had classic taste. It could have been a '60s or '70s time capsule and it wasn't," says Kirkpatrick. "Once we took out the wall-to-wall carpet, we were like, 'We could stay here forever as is.'"
Forever, or a year. Apart from giving the entire house a fresh coat of white paint—to brighten it up and allow art to be a focal point—the Kirkpatricks prioritized their list of potential projects and waited about that long before digging into a DIY kitchen renovation.
"We gave ourselves lots of time to make plans," says Kirkpatrick. "The layout was mostly perfect, but a wall between the kitchen and dining room didn't work. We realized if we were going to do something drastic that's where it had to start." With the help of her father and father-in-law, the wall came down, breathing new light—and tons of it—into their now-open-concept kitchen and dining area.
Because the cabinets were well-built and in great shape, the couple challenged themselves to reinvent them instead of replacing them. After tearing out a row to the right of the sink to open up some space, they salvaged their doors, using them to help the new peninsula tie into the rest of the space.
The Kirkpatricks' biggest investments were brand-new stone countertop, a deeper sink and lighting fixtures—saving the floor and appliances for later—but the rest of the renovation used the existing kitchen as a springboard for a spruce-up.
"I like the idea of a house that still has its original character and we were interested in that and doing what we could to keep it," she says. "It seemed too wasteful to take a sledgehammer and smash the whole thing out."
The two-and-a-half month project taught Katie a lot—setting deadlines and enlisting advice from experienced homeowners are both pretty key to success—but the biggest lesson? "It actually made me re-evaluate what I was doing and I applied to architecture school at Dalhousie."