For environmental scientist Morgan Martinez and her photographer fiancé, Mike Battey, adventure and DIY seem to go hand-in-hand. The Sacramento-based duo can often be found hiking, backpacking, and camping with their dogs, Aspen and Gansett, as exhibited on their Instagram pages, or spending time renovating their first home, which they purchased in the spring of 2019.

The house was a flip and thus had standard finish-outs like white walls and white cabinetry. A major pro of the space? It was a blank slate, the couple couldn’t move past its odd configurations and were sure it would need an overhaul, something they planned to take on themselves. “The cabinets stopped two/thirds of the way down the wall,” Martinez says of the uppers. Plus, “On the right side, it was a completely empty space and for a long time we didn’t know what to do with it.”

before view of a kitchen that's white and grey

in-process kitchen view with upper cabinets and backsplash torn off

They soon put a large standalone shelving unit in the unused space, overloading it with cookware, the microwave, and more, but they knew the area could be better maximized. “My fiancé loves to cook and had nice Le Creuset pieces we wanted to display,” she says. 

Functionality, storage, and a less constricting layout were their ultimate goals for the space, which they achieved thanks to the addition of floating shelves, a wood countertop, Semihandmade’s DIY Shaker fronts, and a splash of bright green paint.

When it came to the cabinetry, they turned to Semihandmade. “I searched forever to find matching cabinets and finally thought I could do IKEA cabinets with the Semihandmade DIY Shaker Doors,” she says. “It was a perfect match.” The upper cabinetry was originally placed lower on the wall, making everything feel smaller than it actually was, so they removed the existing cabinets, moved them up to the ceiling, and added floating shelves underneath for more eye-level storage.

Grey tile backsplash with shelf underneath white upper cabinet

To get the look, they bought a single slab of white oak from a local lumberyard, painted and sanded it themselves. Installing the floating shelves, which Martinez figured would be one of the simplest parts of the project, turned out to be the most difficult. “It was a major hiccup,” she recalls. “It’s hard to find studs and you have to be very precise with the measurements. We got to a point where we accidentally drilled into the kitchen floor because we forgot to put the tape back on the drill bit.”

While the floating shelves were their largest pain point, tiling came with unexpected ease. “Tiling was intimidating, and I wanted to do it correctly, so I did my homework to the max,” she says. On Black Friday, they purchased the Chloe pattern, a glazed white ceramic tile, from Bedrosians Tile & Stone, and installed it up to the ceiling. “I learned that the things you think are going to be really quick take the longest and the things you think are most challenging aren’t going to be that bad,” she adds.

Shelving in process installation

Green island and white cabinets in a kitchen

An IKEA rattan light fixture, Amazon knobs and pulls, plus easy-to-clean bar stools from Target add warmth to the space. For the island, they created a board-and-batten look with Behr’s Pine Mountain as they both love the color green. While tiling, building cabinets, and putting in a new countertop were all new for the couple, they

came out of the experience with more confidence in their home improvement capabilities. Martinez even learned that Battey had a hidden talent for woodworking. “He made the dining table to fit in the space between the island and the wall,” she says. “My uncle has a woodshop in the back of his house and one day he went over there and built the table. After that it sparked all the DIYs we could do, which escalated quickly.”

The couple now spend their weekends on various home projects and have since added a painted, arched backdrop for Zoom meetings, office built-ins, and a cozy window bench.

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