Kitchen renovation. The phrase alone triggers both excitement and terror. In our case, it was a thought we had postponed for a little over four years until the cold winter of 2013 we came to the realization that we were finally at the point to start seriously thinking about the process and the costs, and the logistics. How in the world would we ever survive without a kitchen with a 2yr old and a 3yr old ? How would we survive a month or so of war-zone living while the kitchen and first floor of our dreams becomes a reality?

Backstory: We have a 1936 Cape Cod in Stoneleigh that we purchased in 2008. We had long loved this neighborhood, with the fantastic walkable schools, pool, and close proximity to the city as well as the county. The housing stock is gorgeous; the complete opposite of cookie-cutter develops with a great mix of Tudors, Colonial Revivals, Dutch Colonials, American Foursquares, along with Craftsmans, French and Spanish Revivals. In our home, the kitchen was updated by previous owners in the mid 90’s. Dark Cherry, traditional cabinetry, laminate counters, almond appliances, and ceramic beige tile floors. Totally functional kitchen – the cabinets were in fantastic condition. Problem is, the kitchen was too closed off and offered no eat in options, and very small and closed off from rest of house. It was a configuration that didn’t really annoy us until our babies grew into toddlers and wanted to be near us during meal prep, or when we entertained, and inevitably ended up with most guests in or near the kitchen – the closed off smallest but most important room on our first floor.

Other issues with the first floor include a very under-utilized left side of the house, with a formal DR that was in the farthest place from the kitchen – complete opposite corner of the first floor. After 5 years we also realized we really do not need a traditional full office. We are on laptops and work where ever the kids are located.

We toyed with the idea of ‘hopping’ – the term for moving within the neighborhood – but realized we literally love our street and our neighbors so much that we were better off at least exploring the feasibility of making our current space work for us first.

Tips for Surviving a Home Renovation with Kids - (cool) progeny

We met with two contractors, went with the one with the best ‘vision’ and talked about what walls could go. We came up with a design that opened up the cramped foyer/entry way, created a large formal ‘great room’ on the left side of the house, opened up and expanded the kitchen into the family room (the former living room), and converted the breakfast room into a mudroom with a larger coat & utility closet, built in cubbies for the kids book bags, etc, and a small ‘command center’ desk.

So lo and behold, we decided to schedule the renovation to begin while we were on vacation. That will eat up one week of living amongst the mass destruction, right? So while we were beachside in South Carolina, the following was happening in our home:

Tips for Surviving a Home Renovation with Kids - (cool) progeny

How in the world can I live — let alone raise children — amongst such chaos?

Well, with careful planning, that’s how. We did this in the summer time for starters. We made sure we had plenty of propane for our gas grill. We staged a makeshift kitchen in our finished basement, moving the old refrigerator down there, setting up our microwave and our toaster oven. With all of our breakable dinnerware and glasses away, we dined on plastic and paper goods pretty much all summer, and I washed out dishes in the utility sink. We kept our pantry items in clear plastic ‘bins’ and setup an area to make sandwiches for lunches (my kiddos attend year round pre-school) and grilled at the pool a lot (our pool has grills and picnic areas). We did a lot of takeout. We ate outside on our patio or if the weather was bad, in our finished basement. We picnicked a lot – Meadowood Park was a favorite! We also instituted a “shoes on at all times” rule for any traffic on the first floor to help keep tiny toes splinter- or God forbid, nail- free.

Sure it got old. Sure, at times, it was NOT fun. Many an evening, I’d creep all the way downstairs into the basement to get a late night snack only to be greeted by the jumping crickets near the newly relocated refrigerator. I ate way too many peanut butter & jelly sandwiches at our pool. I also ate way too much Seasons Pizza, a regular delivery to the pool. I learned that our favorite Chinese delivery would deliver to the pool. When we were totally sick of the pool, we headed downtown to O’s games (bargain nights RULE) and cruised the water taxi just for fun. Sandwiches at Brown’s Wharf were common! Wegman’s food court in Hunt Valley, on a nice summer night, was also a regular occurrence.

Seeing the daily progress on the first floor made it all worth it!

Tips for Surviving a Home Renovation with Kids - (cool) progeny

My littles were excited to see the first floor come together, piece by piece. Every day my kids were looked forward to seeing what our contractor, affectionately known as “Mr. John”, woud be tearing down, or fixing, or putting back together. Ironically enough, I definitely noticed more use of the little tykes play workbench in the basement playroom, too.

Overall, our renovation took us two solid months. We started demo the second week in July and were moving back in our space with a fully functional kitchen by labor day.

To tally it up, we:

  • Gutted the entire first floor with the exception of our bathroom
  • Removed four walls, two of which were load-bearing
  • Raised the ceiling height in the kitchen to be level with the now open family room space
  • Extended the kitchen into the family room
  • Installed new lighting throughout
  • Installed new hardwood flooring in the kitchen, and refinished all existing hardwood to match new kitchen hardwoods
  • Installed slate in the new mudroom (the old sunroom/breakfast room)
  • Installed new white maple cabinets
  • New appliances
  • New marble counters
  • Installed custom built in lockers/cubbies in the mudroom for the kids bookbags, coats, shoes, etc.
  • Installed custom double coat closet in mudroom
  • Painted entire first floor, including the bathroom (the room we didn’t touch, except for a new light fixture)

Tips for Surviving a Home Renovation with Kids - (cool) progeny

Operation Survive Kitchen Renovation {with Kids!}: The Tips

Consider the time of year for your renovation. We chose summer to be able to take advantage of being out of the house (and away from the dust) as much as possible.

Designate a temporary kitchen area. We chose the basement because we could not do this anywhere on the first floor and we have a utility sink in the basement. If you are only renovating your kitchen, this could be another area on your main floor. Access to a sink / bathtub is a plus for clean up.

Use plastic. And paper goods. Get rid of the leftovers from your kids parties and whatnot. Perfect opportunity to get rid of the mix and match stuff you haven’t had the nerve to throw out!

Learn how to cook in your microwave. We forgot our gourmet tendencies and steamed veggies in our microwave, made rice and pasta in our microwave. I tried to grill meats, chicken and fish every chance I could.

Do picnics. We learned to love packed sandwiches at parks downtown, our neighborhood pool, at Meadowood Park.

Learn who delivers. Delivery from our favorite Chinese restaurant to our neighborhood pool was awesome!

When all else fails – go stay with friends. When we had to schedule the refinish of the hardwood floors – which requires you to be out of the house due to the fumes and need to stay off of the floors – we carefully scheduled it so we could house and pet sit for local friends. We got to stay in a comfortable home with a fully functioning kitchen, while being able to take care of their dog in the dog’s home.

Be prepared to have talks with little ones about what to stay away from (sharp wood splinters), avoid dangerous ‘rubble’ in the work zone, hands off dusty surfaces, shoes on while in the house, etc. I had lots of talks about coming right into the house and going straight upstairs (or downstairs) with lunch bags and other stuff.

Like what you see? Here are the renovation details!

  • Contractor: John Vergos of GJ Vergos and Son.
  • Cabinetry: Diamond Amhearst maple in painted white. Lowe’s. We saved $ with a partial overlay cabinet.
  • Hardware: Restoration Hardware Asbury pulls for drawers in chrome and chrome knobs for doors.
  • Counters: Honed Carrara marble.
  • Backsplash: Carrara marble subway tiles. Major score – Lowe’s mistakenly marked these at $1.50 sq ft, so I bought the whole store out. This ended up costing me less than $100 for my backsplash.
  • Appliances: Electrolux gas slide in range, Electrolux convection microwave, Electrolux french door fridge, Bosch dishwasher. All appliances from AJ Free delivery and NO sales tax.
  • Faucet: Delta Leyland in chrome. Delta soap dispenser in chrome with a Never MT unit.
  • Flooring: Had original hardwood floors refinished in a walnut shade.  New African slate for mudroom in hopscotch pattern. Lowe’s for slate. Mike Severe for hardwood floor restoration – he was amazing!
  • Paint: Behr classic silver for whole first floor. Trim in Behr classic white. Mudroom cubbies in Valspar Gotham Gray
  • Window coverings: Custom 3.5″ plantation shutters throughout first floor in Behr classic white.  We got three estimates for shutters and went with Robert Glaeser with Shutters by Glaeser. He makes all shutters custom, by hand, from 100% American hardwood. Totally custom shutters was a must for a home that didn’t have even two windows the exact same measurements (cough cough – OLD HOUSE, nothing is square!)
  • Lighting: schoolhouse pendants from and all existing brass fixtures swapped out for brushed nickel or chrome. (Chrome in kitchen, brushed elsewhere). LED hard wired under cabinet lighting.