home is a 1970s apartment | the kitchen

This was the kitchen on the day I fell in love with the apartment. I can’t tell you what I loved most: the wallpapered ceiling or the light fixtures. Or the old stove and cancer-inducing microwave. Or the dirty tile floor. Because it was an eat-in kitchen, it was pretty closed off from the rest of the apartment, and it was dark.

But, thanks to checking out a more expensive, but remodeled, unit in the building, I had a vision. The first order of business was to knock out the wall between the kitchen and living room. We thought opening up the kitchen into the spacious living room would bring more light into the kitchen and help the apartment feel more modern. So, on a recommendation, we hired Handy Vito to do the work.

While Handy Vito was cutting out a wall, I was at Sears getting a super deal on a new fridge, dishwasher and stove. Once that was all done, we lived with our shiny new appliances in our dingy old kitchen while we plotted out the rest of the kitchen plan. I love this picture of Naoto & Presley searching for her missing toy…but it also shows you the beautiful 1970s tile I was itching to cover.

We decided to go with an Ikea kitchen. Our cabinets were not horrible, but the counter top was icky and the back splash was outdated (and beige). We considered painting the cabinets white and getting a new counter top and floors and back splash and calling it a day, but we figured if we were going to do all of that, what’s a few cabinets? Plus, the old cabinets lacked modern conveniences: it was hard to get things from the lower cabinets and the drawers would fall out if you pulled them too much.

Naoto & my dad were in charge of demolition.

We sold the cabinets on Craigslist…some apartment in the city is rocking those 1970s bad boys!

The Ikea kitchen arrived and sat in our spare room while my dad & I worked on the floor. Presley was hired as inspector.

We had to level the floor because the concrete had settled over the years. We chose vinyl flooring for cleaning ease and kitty-friendliness (Presley enjoys spilling her water and tipping over the bowl. Wood and cork were not options.) It’s not my favorite part of our home, but it works in the room, and we chose the hippest of vinyl options. (I am choosing to gloss over the fact that finding grey-based vinyl flooring was practically impossible in the sea of beige out there.)

Leveling the floor was a huge, stressful, hilarious adventure. We had to mix several bags of self-leveling concrete. And, each bag had to be mixed and dumped within a ridiculously short amount of time for the whole thing to work. We had no water in the kitchen, so I had to run back and forth from the bathroom to the kitchen with buckets of water while my dad was running a giant hand mixer, mixing the leveler and then we were rushing to pour the mixture, as it seeped closer and closer to our feet, repeating the process several times over–the whole time I was just hoping and praying that the mixture wouldn’t overrun onto the pretty new wood floors surrounding the kitchen.

This is what it looked like while it was setting.

Once the floor was dry and we could walk on it, my dad worked on some electrical stuff and Presley was promoted to foreman.

My dad laid the floor while I was gone to work. And then we painted. Three times. Because I couldn’t decide. These were the first two options. And let me tell you, they look much prettier in this picture than they did on the real walls…both read like a preschooler’s playroom. I ended up settling on a pretty pale blue grey.

Presley slept on the dishwasher for two weeks while it sat in the living room (when she wasn’t supervising the work).

The Ikea guys arrived and magically turned that stack of boxes into a real kitchen. It took a day and a half.

Presley supervised.

Several days later, our counter top arrived, then my dad attached the faucet & hooked up the dishwasher. The big stuff was done and we had a working kitchen again!

This is what it looks like today. Still not perfect. Still no back splash, but oh so much better!

This is the view in from the dining room. We took off the original doors and just left an open doorway.

And this is the view from the living room where we cut out the wall:

So that’s the kitchen. I have a few more pieces of art I’d like to hang and we would love a real back splash, but otherwise, we are thrilled with the results. I am a huge advocate for Ikea kitchens. It’s been almost two years and the cabinets are as good as new. Plus, because we had them install the cabinets, they did all of the in-home measurements and helped me design it for free. Their advice was hugely appreciated because my mind was boggled by all of the possibilities of cabinets and drawers offered. Totally worth it for something I love and use every day.

Thanks for making it to the end of this monster post. I think I can promise that the other rooms won’t be this long! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments!


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11 thoughts on “home is a 1970s apartment | the kitchen

  1. Kristen says:

    This is seriously awesome & inspiring! Great job!

  2. Mom says:

    Very detailed blog. Know those that have not seen the before & after enjoyed it.

  3. cath says:

    Ever since you announced it I’ve been looking forward to the ‘before and after’ posts. Not too long for me at all as I very much liked the photographs. I do have a question though, I think a back splash is something that prevents your walls from staining by splashes, but where do you want it, behind the tap or behind the oven and does it come ready made? My English dictionary is not helpful with this at all 🙂

    • kimberly ah says:

      Hi Cath! I’m so happy you are still reading! I have been meaning to write you a note (and still will!) I feel like back splashes in the US are more decorative than protective. Most people use ceramic tiles or glass tiles. Back splashes are not ready made, usually you have to buy enough tiles to get the coverage you want and then put them up. We are thinking grey subway tiles. The back splash will go along the wall with the top & bottom cabinets. I would love to do one behind the stove, but it is awkward with the window and the layout there. Part of the reason we’ve waited is because we are unsure. We are frozen with fear of doing the wrong thing 🙂
      How are kitchens in the Netherlands?

      • cath says:

        Thanks for the explanation! Apparently it was just the name I didn’t know, the materials are the same here, as are the kitchens (more or less, the stove looks different). Although we have another make, Ikea is often chosen for kitchens here too. Another note altogether: I’ve just now brought a new envelope for the Honor Flight Chicago Mail Call to the mailbox!

  4. When I first saw the wallpaper, I thought, noooo! I hope she kept it! Yeah, I think it was pretty great. Maybe not in that huge quantity though.

    But then, the new look? Soooooo great! Really, really lovely.

    • kimberly ah says:

      It was pretty crazy having all of that pattern ALL over 😉 I do wish we would have saved a little piece of the paper though…we did for some of the other rooms, but somehow forgot this room.

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