Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kitchen Renovation

When we would tell people that we were building a house, the comments were almost always something like: "That's so cool, so you get build it exactly how you want it, right?". The answer is, no, not really. If we had chosen to do a custom build and hire our own contractors we would have had much more freedom(within our financial boundaries of course) but we decided to build with Ryan Homes. Now, anyone who has done their research would probably know that Ryan Homes doesn't have the greatest reputation. In fact, if you do a little google search, you can find hundreds upon hundreds of reviews from people who's experience with them has been a downright nightmare. 

Knowing this, there were a couple of reasons we decided to go ahead and build with them. First, builders in big cities tend to get the bad reps because they have enough business in the cities that they don't have to worry as much about pleasing the clients. Charlottesville however, is a small enough place that they really need to maintain their reputation if they're going to keep getting work here. Therefore, doing a good job and leaving the clients satisfied is their top priority. Second, we knew the project manager over our development personally and she's won many awards for doing a good job. Third, they gave us an insanely good deal on our home(who can pass that up, right?). Having completed the building journey, and lived in our new home for a couple of months now, I can with certainty say, we had a great experience building with them. My only real problems with them, are the same problems you're going to get with any big name builder. And those things have to do with the fact that you really can't customize much. You can choose from a couple of different floor plans that they offer within your development and then boy do they stick to the floorplan. Even something so small as adding an extra window or two is out of the question if it isn't in the original plans. It isn't that they can't do it, it's that they won't. I asked for a bay window in the dining room, willing to pay extra of course, and they told me that it would depend on the neighborhood and the spacing between houses. Well, in our neighborhood, there is plenty of space between houses and 75% of the previously built houses here have at least one bay window, if not two or three. The builders still refused however because it wasn't in the plans and they are rigid within those plans. 

Anyways, almost anything you can think of aesthetically that would make a house look really nice, is going to cost you extra as an upgrade. We decided that the only upgrades we were going to get, were things that would be very hard to do ourselves later on down the line. The builder will wildly overcharge for the cost of the upgrades so we decided we were going to just try our hand at doing a lot of them ourselves. Our first big project, was the kitchen. I told Ryan years ago that whenever we bought a house, one of my picky little "must-haves" was a white kitchen. Well, the builder wanted around $5,000 in upgrade costs for white cabinets. Yes, you read that right. $5,000 for white cabinets. So, we decided to get the cabinets the house came with(standard, builder's-grade maple brown) and paint them ourselves. If you want a different blog post detailing how we did that, let me know because it was definitely a process, and there are a lot of tips and tricks to getting them to look good, but we are so happy with how they turned out. Next up was backsplash. I knew I wanted white subway tile and at the last moment, Ryan and my parents convinced me that a herringbone pattern would look best, so that's what we did. We bought our own inexpensive tile saw here because I figured it was cheaper to just buy one than it was to rent one for a week and we plan to use it for more projects later. It did the job beautifully. While the house was being built, I asked for two light pre-wires to be placed above the kitchen island because I knew I was going to want to do pendant lighting. These are the ones we chose and they have literally transformed our kitchen. The finishing touches were to install decorative molding on top of the cabinets(such an easy, inexpensive way to make your cabinets look more high-end!) and to change out the builder's grade outlet and light switch covers for nicer ones.

A lot of time and effort later and we are loving our new kitchen. Check out the pictures below. I completely forgot to take a before picture after the appliances had been installed, but you get the idea.




  1. Building your own home doesn't come without it's costs. But there are ways to cut a few corners without compromising quality. For example, you can choose to go with the standard built-ins and then later paint them to your liking, such as your kitchen cabinets or bookshelves. Anyway, I love this amazing kitchen transformation!

    1. Thank you! Yep, we chose to only pay for in upgrades what we couldn't do ourselves and since building the house we've had to learn to be pretty handy. ;) We have a lot more work ahead of us with the rest of the house!