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Kitchen of the Week: A New Zealand Blogger’s $600 DIY Remodel


Kitchen of the Week: A New Zealand Blogger’s $600 DIY Remodel

July 23, 2015

“We’re currently renovating our first home, room by damned room,” says photographer/stylist Gem Adams, who, from sunny Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, chronicles her house progress and other creative doings in her blog, Blackbird. Recently accomplished: a budget makeover of the kitchen tackled by Gem and her husband, Nathan Speeden, themselves, with some help from her father. Total budget: $900 NZD ($592.53 USD).

By way of some background, Gem explains: “For the last ten years, we’ve been legitimate gypsies. I met my husband in 2007 while traveling in the States. He was a mustached, tattooed drummer; it was love at first sight, and we’ve been living in suitcases ever since. In 2011, we finally unpacked in Auckland. The gypsy gods revolted. Since then, we’ve moved eight times, landing in the Hawke’s Bay burbs with a house on stilts and a can of whitewash.”

The house dates back to the 1970s and came with a kitchen that was basic but far from an eyesore. We think Gem’s cosmetic overhaul worked wonders.

Photography via Blackbird.

Above: “Although we were lucky to start with good bones, the pennies were very tight,” says Gem. “Renovating on a budget is hard in the best of times, let alone when you’re living amid the construction, too.” Using the existing cabinets, appliances, and windows, she and Nathan gave the room a fresh new look.

The trickiest parts? “Installing a new countertop, pulling up the faux-wood linoleum floor (to reveal beautiful wood floorboards, a very nice surprise), and learning to tile.” The sink came from “the local wrecker’s yard,” and she bought the faucet from New Zealand website Trade Me. As for the appliances, the couple kept what was there and transformed the white fridge and dishwasher with chalkboard paint: “All it takes is a quick scuff with wet and dry sandpaper and two coats of paint (blackboard paint tends to stick a lot easier than regular. We don’t write on it, but it gives a nice matte finish.”)

Above: A look at the newly exposed wood floors. Gem’s father built the wood countertop, and she and Nathan removed all the cabinet doors and repainted them (and the surrounding walls) in Alabaster, a bright white from New Zealand paint line Resene. After reinstalling the doors, they replaced the existing wooden cabinet knobs with DIY Leather Handles affixed with brass screws. The hanging lights are Industrial Workshop Light Shades, $99 NZD ($65.80 USD) from Kiwi Living. 

Above: Nathan and Gem removed the existing range hood and hung shelves in its place–”we now open the window when we cook.” They created the backsplash themselves using “cheap white subway tiles and white grout” in an offset brick pattern. (See Remodeling 101: White Tile Pattern Glossary for ideas.) The statuesque espresso maker is an ROK, and the dish towels are from Auckland shop Mavis & Osborn.

Above: “Most of the accessories are secondhand,” Gem tells us. “The clock is from an op shop/thrift shop, and we’ve collected the cutting boards over the years–some are made by Nathan.”

Above: The painted shelves, like the kitchen counters, have exposed wood fronts. 

Above: Evidence that a stylist lives here. (The vintage bread bin was handed down from Gem’s family.) 

Above: The kitchen came with basic cabinets, counters covered with stains, a laminate wood-patterned floor, and electric-blue spotlights. The lights were the first things to go–”they came out the second I walked into the house,” says Gem. See more of the remodel at Blackbird.

For leather-pull sourcing, go to 10 Easy Pieces: Leather Cabinet Hardware, and see our own DIY video: How to Make a $20 Leather Cabinet Pull for $2.

Overhauling your own kitchen on a tight budget? Take a look at:

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