Updating 90s honey oak kitchen for resale

leightxSeptember 20, 2011

Hi all,

I was pointed over here by a helpful member in the Kitchens forum, and wanted to get your valuable opinions! In a nutshell, I'm trying to update this kitchen:

In a nutshell:

Cabinets: honey oak, finish is a mess (scratched, water spots - hasn't been touched in 16 years)

Counters: white laminate (including backsplash). Stained. Nicked. Horrid.

Floors: greyish ceramic tile, cracked and nicked. Looks dirty even when it's not.

Lights: hideous.

Is it worth it to throw say $5K into updating this? This is a large house for our neighborhood, and to get one this size, you'd be looking at new builds a couple of miles away for about 60K more.

There's a lot more information in this post in the Kitchen Forum, along with some tentative granite / tile / gel stain options we've considered.


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Sorry - meant to post different pictures!

Here's a look at the granite / backsplash options we're considering, along with the gel stained cabinet (back side).

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:29PM
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I read your post in the kitchen forum also ....

Yes, I think you are definitely on the right track with updating. Even if a buyer can't afford the new builds, it definitely makes an impression on them. And most people really don't want to completely renovate a kitchen.

As someone who has just updated a late 1980's kitchen with oak cabinets/laminate myself, here is what I would do:

(1) Consider replacing the light over the table if it's brass or obviously dated. The overhead light boxes aren't the best, but I can't tell if you have popcorn ceilings or not. If you do, I'd leave them alone. If not, it might be worth replacing the light boxes too. I chose oil-rubbed bronze for my new light fixtures, because that is what most of the new builds in my area/price range feature.

(2) Don't bother giving the cabinet a dark stain. Instead, look for Howard's Restor-A-Finish (I bought at Home Depot). It smells a bit like paint thinner going on but isn't sticky or gummy. You apply it over clean cabinets and it basically evens out and refreshes your old finish, including water spots. I used the Walnut color on mine because it most closely matched the existing color. In a few areas I used a furniture stain marker. My cabinets now look fresh, clean and the finish is evenly colored.

(3) Get some new hardware for the doors and drawer fronts. Stainless is popular on dark cabinets, but lighter oak cabinets can really benefit from a darker color (especially if there are dark spots in the granite). I used a blackish/bronze handle available in-store from Lowes.

(4) Your ideas on new granite, backsplash and tile flooring are good. Just choose colors that coordinate with the refreshed cabinets, instead of gel-stained ones. Do make sure, though, not to do a granite backsplash; run your backsplash tile straight down to the countertop. If they will throw in a new sink with the granite, choose an undermount style.

The fact that you already have stainless-steel appliances is a huge money saver. Those were the bulk of what our "kitchen update" money was spent on.

Above all, make sure that your updates are "transitional" rather than too modern. Good luck! You will probably love what the new kitchen looks like (and so will buyers), and will kick yourself for not making the changes sooner so you could enjoy them!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:02PM
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I posted on your thread in kitchens.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:06PM
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Please understand I'm not a professional in either real estate or design, so I'm just giving a personal perspective. I think you need to do something with the cabinets if they're in as bad a shape as you say. However, the problem to me is that you shouldn't re-do the floors because it's too expensive, and they're not as noticeable as cabinets. Therefore, it seems to me you should have the cabinets and counters match the floor. Dark stain might be too overpowering for that floor. I'd probably either paint or just repair with some of those wood restorers. I'd probably find out what the most popular granite is, and get that, then decide on the cabinet color/stain based on what goes with the granite.

As an aside, when I staged, the hardest part was trying to separate what I needed to do to sell the house, versus what I'd wanted to do for myself based on my own preferences.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:24PM
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Your granite and backsplash options are beautiful! However, I think it's sad that you are spending so much money on these materials only to sell the house!

While I am not a fan of oak cabs, and mine our painted Ben Moore's Bone White, I don't think your cabs look that bad! I changed my hinges to brushed nickel and added egg-shaped nickel knobs. I love the look. I think the most you need to do to your cabs is add some hardware.

Your floor bothers me more than anything else, if I may be blunt. A darker, more contemporary tile, (nothing expensive) set on the diagonal would transform the room. You can get good-looking porcelain 12x12 tiles at Lowes for $1.65 a square foot. I think you'd be amazed at the difference. I'd do something in a charcoal gray with bronzy tones running through it. I know Lowes has such a tile as I purchased some myself there for a bathroom! Cheap fix, but a lot of impact!

The floor and the boxy overhead lighting bother me more than your cabs and counters. You could save the money and use the granite and tile you found at your next house!

Open to more tips? Remove extras from the countertops...have no more than three things out on the counters and make them your special, most attractive items. Remove the artwork from the fridge. Show off that stainless to better effect! Dress up that little dining area over there! Add a cute table cloth with some color, ( I see a soft sage green) a centerpiece (fresh flowers or fruit) and that area will feel more welcoming, cozy and interesting.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:31PM
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I'd get rid of that light. It's so dated. I think, like the others said, you could work with those cabinets. I personally like the dark stain because dark is in, but I think a clean-up like the others described and maybe new hardware would also be good. Can you get some color in there? It looks kind of bland. All in all, it's a nice kitchen. Not my taste but it definitely wouldn't stop me from buying it.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:44AM
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I did all of the above. I was amazed at how nice the cabinets looked using the Restore a Finish (something like that). Easy and I used a cherry on the oak cabinets. It darkened them a bit and helped tone down the hideous grain.

I hired an electrician and had him remove my ceiling lights and bought two hanging pendants which modernized the kitchen. I spent weeks removing all the grout from the floor tiles. I had the same tile in my kitchen. It was hard, messy work but I used a light, grout which made the tile lines almost disappear.

I changed all the knobs and hinges on my cabinets. Bought them on line (you can buy samples to try). Painted the wall with BM Shaker Beige which toned down the honey oak.

I had white tile for counter and back splash. I removed all the grout and did the same as the floor. Kept the sink but changed the faucets.

I also did some updates on 3 bathrooms myself and was amazed at how well they turned out (thats another story).

Make everything shine. I put undercabinet lights which made everything look clean and new (I used inexpensive Home Depot lights).

It worked, my kitchen looked so much better. The house sold and I hear the buyers, still, almost 2 years later, are living with the kitchen. They did tear out the floor but nothing else.

It was worth the work and the cost.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 12:26AM
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