Real life reno: The kitchen

THE SHINY NEW KITCHEN: The plans for the new kitchen, left, and part of the second-hand kitchen Rebekah bought on TradeMe, right.
THE SHINY NEW KITCHEN: The plans for the new kitchen, left, and part of the second-hand kitchen Rebekah bought on TradeMe, right.

So we bought a kitchen.

By we, I mean Rebekah.

By bought, I mean overpaid.

THEIR OLD DO UP: The kitchen Adam and Rebekah installed in their last house.
THEIR OLD DO UP: The kitchen Adam and Rebekah installed in their last house.

And by kitchen, I mean half - as in half of the required cabinets to fill the space we have planned for our new kitchen.

That's what happens when you leave your Mrs alone in the car with a smartphone and access to your TradeMe account. 

See all the pics of the new kitchen on our Facebook page.

If you follow her logic, it's my fault because the only reason she was in the car was because she was waiting for me and the kitchen was on my watchlist.

If you follow my logic, she is nuts for buying a major purchase for our house without considering its dimensions, checking our plans or consulting the person who is managing the project: i.e. me.

The only reason the kitchen was on my watchlist was because I'd asked the seller if he was interested in selling the windows which appeared in the background of the photos.

The only warning I got was two short text messages:

"I just bid on a kitchen."

Followed two minutes later by:

"I just bought a kitchen."

At first I was bit gutted (and my dramatic overreaction required a bunch of 'sorry I said you're nuts' flowers) because the kitchen is a delicate part of the renovation puzzle and I had spent many hours researching our options.

From the outset I earmarked the kitchen as one area where we could save some money without compromising on the finished look and feel.

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home (and what sells it). Sure it's where you prepare the family meals and share a cuppa with the Mrs in the morning, but it's essentially a bunch of MDMF boxes and I reckon there are a few options to achieve a brilliant finish without paying the dazzling, custom-made prices.

In our last house, we bought a $12,000 ex-display kitchen from local joinery The Seller's Room for just $3,400. With some minor alterations I installed it myself and it looked brand spanking new. It also significantly improved the value, functionality and our enjoyment of the home.

This time our kitchen space is much larger. An L-shape with a double return and the longest bench runs for over 4 metres.

When it's finished it has to look and feel brand new. The brother-in-law says we are looking at the wrong side of $20,000 to walk in through the front door and order that through a joiner. But I need to keep it under $10,000 if we are to stay within our $100,000 overall budget.

The best case scenario would have been to land another load of cabinetry from a local joiner who happens to be updating their showroom. If you can find one of these, you basically get a brand new kitchen at a second-hand price - with the added bonus of building a relationship with someone who is actually skilled at making kitchens. The Seller's Room were a top bunch of people: they gave us fixings, and installation advice and follow up service. The ex-demo kitchens come up every now and again on TradeMe but they go quick and can sell for a premium over other second-hand offerings. I think you're better off to simply man the phone and call all your local guys and ask them if they're updating their showroom anytime soon. 

Our second option was to buy a second-hand kitchen and make it new again. With the Christchurch rebuild in full swing, there are kitchens coming out of red-zoned houses all the time and selling for a fraction of a new build price. The key when buying a second-hand kitchen is, as I would have told Rebekah, to forget about its current shape.

You're probably not going to find the perfect kitchen to copy and paste into your home. Instead think of them as a jigsaw puzzle. Modular kitchens are just a collection of standard-sized boxes called carcasses lined up next to each other with doors and drawers and a bench on top. It's the carcasses that you build the kitchen with, and to some extent it doesn't even matter how old they are. They're all made from the same stuff and spend most of their lives hidden from view so you won't notice the difference between them in a $5000 or a $50,000 kitchen.

My approach was to get cheap carcasses and spend good money on the things where you can feel the quality - door handles, hinges, bench tops and tapware. If the doors are dated you can get them repainted or replaced or even relaminated. You can get cool handles cheap from ebay (tapware and benchtops are something I'll look at in more detail in the future).

So obviously we (she), has opted for the second option and after a short period of grumbling, I've come to realise that it's not all bad. The kitchen cost $4000 + $700 delivery, and was part of a renovation that was underway at a Mt Pleasant home when the earthquake struck. It's mostly white, very nearly new, and comes with Smeg appliances.

Don't tell Rebekah I said this, but It's actually really good value.

The brother-in-law reckons there's about $13,000 of cabinetry plus appliances. That leaves us with approximately $5000 to source an additional 3.5m of cabinetry, new bench tops, sink and tap.

So what do you think? Was this kitchen a bargain? And how do we make it work....


Total spent to date: ($4591.85 + $4700)= $9291.85

Total remaining: ($97,964.15 - $4700) = $93264.15