“We always thought we were going to renovate, but as time went on, it became harder to visualize,” Gizel Bahlman says. After living with her husband, Eric, in their home for five years, the couple started to feel the itch for something new. They started looking at what was on the market, even visiting a few homes for sale—but nothing felt totally right. So, they decided to tackle renovations once and for all, starting with their biggest challenge: the kitchen.
New appliances, cabinets, and flooring were all priorities. But most importantly, the layout had to change. “I was really, really scared about space,” Gizel says. She decided to knock down a wall that divided the kitchen from the living room, opting for a more open floor plan. It paid off: They never had a dining room, but now they had plenty of room for a dining area. Post-renovation, the couple enjoy their meals at a mid-century table (a $20 score from OfferUp) while relaxing in chairs from Poly and Bark.
When the Bahlmans looked into cabinetry, they were shocked at the initial quotes they received—but then realized how much they could save by getting it from IKEA and finishing it with Semihandmade DIY Shaker cabinet fronts. A few coats of paint in Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon helped to make the space feel bright, but not overly neutral. “I wanted a little pop of color that would bring life back into the house, but not make it feel closed in because the last thing I wanted to do was make this space feel smaller,” Gizel says.
Thoughtful details further rejuvenated the space. They needed new flooring and remembered loving the hardwood planks of an Airbnb they had previously stayed in, so they contacted the owner and got the same brand. They closed two windows in the kitchen and added two larger ones in the living room to create space for artful open shelving (and ultimately let more light inside). A new refrigerator and oven from Cafe Appliances were a top priority for Gizel, and one of the renovation’s most worth-it splurges—even if it did take a while to finally get them after pandemic-related order delays.
Some of the renovation’s smartest features are actually those that go unseen. “I honestly think the decision with the biggest impact was being able to hide our dishwasher, trash cans, and microwave,” Gizel says.
Like any reno, this one came with its challenges. The Bahlmans began their project in October of 2020 and finished in February 2021, so COVID restrictions affected everything from contractor schedules to furniture and material orders. They had to drive to Denver to get their cabinets from IKEA because they were out of stock in Arizona and not available for shipping, and they had to change the color of their flooring to one that was in-stock (though they ended up liking their second choice more than their first). “The hardest parts were when we couldn’t do anything,” Gizel says. “We’d be stuck at times, just waiting.”
But the wait was well worth it for a home that’s truly custom-made—a result that makes the couple glad they decided to stay put. “It’s made me appreciate coming home and just being able to be here,” Gizel says. “You don’t always think about the mind shift that happens when you renovate a house. You’re so proud of it, you love this space, and you just treat it completely differently.”