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How to test a marriage



Remodel your kitchen while your husband struggles to finish a Ph.D., find a job and you deal with infertility and chronic disease. Either the Professor and I are the strongest couple ever or we are certifiably insane. You choose!

So WAY back in September 2011 the Professor and I decided we were done with our kitchen. The cabinets were very old and in terrible condition. The counter was a DIY from the previous owner that was more of a HAIY (Half-Ass It Yourself). The red vinyl floor tiles looked like something from an outdated cafeteria. The wiring was a mess and circuits would blow if we dared to toast and microwave at the same time. The plumbing was a leaking mess and the floor had so much “bounce” in it that if you had enough people moving around in there at once it felt a little like a fun house floor. So we started gutting.

For the past year we have slowly chipped away at the room doing 100% of the work ourselves.

  • New wiring so things would stop shorting
  • New plumbing so things would stop leaking
  • New cabinets
  • Repaired the “wall cancer” that is all too common in old homes with plaster walls
  • Ceiling repair
  • Removed the “bounce” from the floor and reinforced everything
  • Leveled the floor
  • Installed ceramic tile
  • Built a ton of new cabinets
  • Installed all the cabinets
  • Installed granite counter tops and an under-mount sink (actually Lowe’s did the “installation” but we did all the demo and prep)
  • Made new curtains
  • Reorganized and purged tons of old things

While still not 100% complete (there is a little more electrical work to finish and we still need to add a door down to the basement) it is at a point where I’m ready to share it with you all.

When we started this project a year ago I had foolishly thought that by this time we would have a little one in the house. Some days, when I’m really down, the kitchen is a tragic reminder of what we don’t have. Sometimes the drawer that now houses some random food that was originally intended to hold baby supplies makes me want to break something. Other days, though, the kitchen is a reminder of how strong we are. It reminds me that even when all the odds are stacked against us, we can still accomplish great things. Surely the tenacity and dedication we used to complete this project will help us reach our goal of one day having a family. Surely.

Until then, at least I have a fly new kitchen to make my delicious meals for two in. And the cats have their own spot for more canned cat food than anyone household should have.


Old cabinets, gross counter, creepy red floor and crayon-yellow walls = one dated disaster.


The cabinets are all Ikea. We made multiple trips to Cincinnati to collect them in our little Ford Taurus. The sink and counter tops came from Lowe’s. The faucet was on clearance at Home Depot. I made the curtains with outdoor fabric from Hancock’s that was on clearance. Plants prove I can keep green things alive. Tile flooring is clearance from Home Depot. The tile was so cheap that we built the entire kitchen around it.

The paint color is “Stone Brown” by Benjamin Moore.


The rickety butcher block was another HAIY (Half-Ass It Yourself) project by the previous owners. If you wiggled it while cutting on it the top would collapse. The creepy knife collection is what happens when two grownups marry and combine two cheaply stocked kitchens. The upper glass cabinets were the only redeeming quality in the kitchen. Despite our best efforts, though, they could not be salvaged.


New cabinets with Ikea lighting mounted for illumination. I both store and display our inexpensive Bed Bath & Beyond serving dishes on top. The teal bowl is a $1 find from the thrift store purchased to give the space a pop of color. Due to all the doors leading into the kitchen (3) we had to do a little creative engineering. By using a low profile cabinet here and having the granite cut special we were able to maximize our space and create a “coffee bar.” Small PP Make Muji boxes contain things like tea, bag clips, wine openers, etc. The switches and outlets here still need updated. The new dishwasher is a Bosch we paid $75 for at the thrift store. With a lot of cleaning and a little engineering it now serves us VERY well.


A small, non-energy efficient fridge covered in crap. This side of the kitchen did not have any cabinetry originally. The Professor added this huge wire wrack. Again you’ll see what happens when two people marry and combine two cheap kitchens – lots of cheap stuff! Last year I spent several months eBay’ing all of this and made enough money to purchase minimal high-quality pieces that should last us for many, many years.


Again we had to use a little creativity with this space. The kitchen is narrow and would have been absolutely claustrophobic had we used full depth cabinets. Instead we opted for low-profile drawers and then open shelving above. This creates a small work-space and maximum storage. A small PP Make box holds our most frequently used items – olive oils, pepper and hot sauce. All the clear storage containers were gifts when we got married and now hold my baking supplies, grains and dried beans. The “spice file” saves space by keeping all our spices tidy and alphabetized. Still waiting on some electrical work over here, too. Oh, and my Vitamix. (LOVE)


The old fridge was old and cramped and sounded like it might launch from the house when it kicked on. It was also covered in crap.


The new fridge is a little larger, silent and energy efficient. A white box on-top holds appliance manuals and warranty information. A two-tiered basket holds produce.


I hated this stove. The oven burned everything. The stove burners were weak. All the utensils hanging on the wall were a mess and the zillion spice jars on the shelf collected a ton of grease.


New cabinets provide utensil storage. An old clear vase has new purpose holding my bamboo and silicone pieces. We purchased the Ikea microwave and mounted it above the stove to save space and double as a vent. I’m so pleased with this Ikea appliance. Next time we’ll skip the fancy Frigidaire brand and go for Ikea. (Buyer beware: We have already had repairs done to the stove and the fridge.) Cat potholders take up a prominent residence on the side of the stove. Two small prints of a rooster and an owl from a gallery in Cincinnati wait to be hung.

We sold the huge pile of cookware and used all the money made to replace it with 3 le Creuset pieces, one non-stick wok and one non-stick egg pan. I love this teal color and look forward to spending the rest of my life making nourishing meals in it.

This wall is right by the door to the basement. It was largely unused so we added an Ikea rail and now hang our lunch boxes in a prominent location, encouraging us to pack lunches! The “Beat It” print is from a seller on Etsy. She customized it so the colors would match our kitchen.



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  1. September 17, 2012

    Can I hire you? Seriously, our kitchen is in serious need of a remodel (appliances and floors are done, but we need new cabinets or at least refaced cabinets) and your’s looks fantastic!! Well done!!

    I actually think that surviving a remodel is quite a testament to your marriage. All of that work requires good communication and trust, especially when talking about electricity and plumbing. I know there are moments where this is a reminder of what you don’t have, but I really do see it as a great reminder of what you and Mr. Professor DO have.

  2. September 17, 2012

    Wow….it looks amazing! What a transformation…you both must be so proud of yourselves. I love, love, love it!

  3. September 17, 2012

    Lovely! The two of you did a fantastic job. I particularly love the pops of teal.

  4. jak #
    September 17, 2012

    LOVE IT. that color is excellent with white cabinets and b-board. you guys did a wonderful job and should be proud of yourselves. we live in a plaster-walled project also that we are [too] slowly remodeling… i share your pain and your victory as well!!

  5. Shelley #
    September 17, 2012

    Beautiful, Belle! Seriously, very well done. I’m very impressed that you guys did that all yourselves! Quite an accomplishment on its own, let alone with everything else you guys have going on. You’re my remodeling hero!

  6. D #
    September 17, 2012

    Wow you guys did such a wonderful job!! We recently started a kitchen renovation and while our kitchen is now mostly functional, it is still quite unfinished with no end anywhere in sight. I guess that is the price that you pay for doing it yourself (or rather my husband did it himself…haha). We also did Ikea for the cabinets and counter. Love the soft closing doors! Nice job!!!

  7. karaleen #
    September 17, 2012

    I cannot tell you how much I love Ikea. We are lucky enough to have one within about 25 miles. we bought a house last year with a hideous kitchen… We redid the whole thing in Ikea white cabinets. We even went so far as to buy all our appliances from them too….We LOVE it…so easy to clean. all the great space saving ideas and those low profile cabinets worked out well for us too in a couple spots. I love what you have done…it looks awesome…and FYI..our accent colors are the browns and aqua/teals as well. You guys did a great job. We did all the tear out ourselves and designed the layout etc and did all the buying ….but we had a contractor do the install and it was so worth it as we were on a very short timeframe. You should be really proud of the work you have done and the fact that you are still married? 😎

  8. 35life #
    September 17, 2012

    LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! Absolutely love it! What an amazing transformation. Great colors too.

  9. September 17, 2012

    Belle, it is absolutely beautiful. Nicely done. I appreciate your OXO storage containers. I have some that we use for bulk storage, and they really are great. We don’t have enough so I’ve resorted to repurposing pickle and salsa jars, but they don’t make for pretty storage and I wouldn’t be able to store them in open shelves like you have. Love it!

  10. September 17, 2012

    Oh, wow. That looks beautiful — and like a lot of work. Kudos to you!

  11. September 17, 2012

    Seriously LOVE. I can’t believe that you guys did all of that yourself- amazing!!

  12. Jen #
    September 17, 2012

    Love, love LOVE the new kitchen! I am obsessed with that wall color. Actually I think there is not one single detail that I didn’t adore. Well done, ma’am. Well done!

  13. September 17, 2012

    Your kitchen looks incredible, Belle! You did such a great job and I have to agree that major remodels and infertility have the be the greatest test of a marriage. Maybe I’ll sing another tune once we butt up against another big challenge, but I just can’t imagine it. We bought a house that was essentially falling over and spent 9 months completely remodeling it starting with gutting 75% of the house. It was insane, and stressful, and beyond anything I had ever imagined but now we have a space that is totally “us” and we’re stronger for it. Just as our journey through infertility has been, always keeping our eye on the prize 🙂 xoxo

  14. September 17, 2012

    Love it! It’s absolutely gorgeous! I think white cabinets with dark countertops and dark walls is my favorite kitchen. I also am in love with the hooks in the very last picture! I’m gonna pin it if you don’t mind 🙂 what a perfect idea for lunch boxes, and I love the pen holder too!

    • September 17, 2012

      Ah! Pin away! I’m super flattered something of mine is “pin worthy” 🙂

  15. Vanessa #
    September 17, 2012

    Beautiful job! We have the same drawer pulls, actually. Love the blue Le Creuset pot, too. So jealous. Maybe you should consider a career in interior decorating?… (although, I’ll admit, I kind of loved that red floor!). Good kitchens make good marriages. I’m sure someone said that.

    Btw, I kept my promise to not POAS until Sunday. Alas, was a BFN. What else is new?

  16. infertilitycansuckit #
    September 17, 2012

    Wow! Gorgeous kitchen! I’m so impressed you guys did it yourself. At our house, we stick to things we can do…like Ikea bookshelves 🙂 Love you colors too. I’m really digging the grays and neutrals.

  17. michelle #
    September 17, 2012

    Wow amazing job!!! Good for you guys, such a usable space!!!

  18. September 17, 2012

    I love all the before and after pictures! You guys did an AWESOME job- and I can’t believe you did it all yourselves. My vote goes to the strongest couple ever. And the teal cookware rocks!

  19. September 17, 2012

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I sighed with desire over your wall color, and your clear bins with the flour/sugar/nuts etc….

  20. September 17, 2012

    love your kitchen!!! I want to cook there!! It looks so cozy.

  21. September 17, 2012

    Wow. Just, wow.

  22. September 17, 2012

    Love it!

  23. September 17, 2012

    Wow. Gorgeous!!

  24. Esperanza #
    September 17, 2012

    First of all, your kitchen is gorgeous. TRULY! You did a FABULOUS JOB! I’m incredibly impressed.

    Also, I know just what you mean about the kitchen being this big representative THING that makes you remember all the shit you’ve been through. I have a few things like that in my own life and they are tough to face. I hope, some day soon, that kitchen will remind you only of how much you had to wait to get where you were ultimately going, to your happy ending with a healthy baby.

  25. September 18, 2012

    Fuck! This is impressive! You guys did this yourself?! Wow. Just, wow. I am in awe.

  26. September 18, 2012

    You are the strongest couple ever & I am in love with your countertop.

  27. September 18, 2012

    Omg. Uh-maaaazing! What a gorgeous kitchen you now have! Hubster and I have been remodeling our house for the last 3 years and it has definitely tested our marriage. Honestly, I don’t know how it has survived that AND infertility. 😉 Thanks for sharing your pics. I think I’m almost ready to tackle our kitchen. Maybe.

  28. September 25, 2012

    This is gorgeous! I think we may be leading parallel lives because we’re about to redo our kitchen as well. I have a potential major job change as well as TTC on my hands so I think we’re insane, but our kitchen is gross. I’ll post pictures on TBL blog soonish. We’re still working on getting the line of credit that will make the remodel possible.

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