An Everett couple gets a professional remodel without breaking the bank

  • By Debra Smith / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, April 6, 2005 9:00pm
  • Life

Dick Pettus and Laurine Paine-Pettus never planned to buy a home that needed work.

Dick Pettus and Laurine Paine-Pettus remodeled the kitchen in their 1910 north Everett home for under $15,000. Here’s how they spent their money.

Design services: $1,170

Sink: Kohler cast iron single basin sink, $268.95

Faucet: Rohl reproduction wall mount faucet, $355

Cabinets: Cabinets without paint or glass, $4,887.50

Countertops: African mahogany, $1,725

Labor: Plumbing and cabinet, counter and tile installation, $2,336,23

Total: $9,572.68

The couple spent another $5,000 on other materials including paint, vinyl flooring, cabinet hardware, restoration glass, French doors, bead board and subway tile.

“I told the real estate agent, no fixer-uppers,” said Paine-Pettus.

But that real estate agent must have had a good sense for what this couple wanted.

Soon the California transplants were signing the sale papers for a 1910 foursquare in north Everett with more holes busted in the walls than a slice of Swiss cheese.

The house had been sold in the middle of a remodel.

“I felt really comfortable in the house,” she said. “This one just felt right despite everything.”

In addition to installing a toilet in the bathroom, tackling the kitchen was on the top of their to-do list.

The kitchen was a mess with bare sheetrock and holes in the ceiling.

In addition, the couple wanted to add counter space and increase the size of the room. They also wanted to create the feel of an early 20th century kitchen.

They had a lot of work to do on the rest of the home too, so the budget was tight: $15,000.

It might seem an impossible task, but the couple managed to get a designer kitchen for half the cost.

They did it by spending their money smartly and doing some of the work themselves. For those with time but not much cash, what this couple achieved can provide inspiration.

When the couple first approached designer Chandra Sadro and revealed their budget, “I thought oh, wow, this is going to be a challenge,” said Sadro, who works for Emerald Design Inc. in Everett, a designing and building contractor that specializes in kitchen and bath projects.

Sadro, a member of American Society of Interior Designers, was concerned because the average turnkey kitchen project, one in which the customer does none of the work, costs $30,000 to $35,000, she said.

She helped the couple come up with a plan that included adding new fixtures and lighting, a deep farmhouse-style sink, and custom countertops and cabinets, all for under $10,000 including labor.

Her design fee cost them another $1,170, something the Pettuses said they are glad they paid for.

The Petttuses opted to spend another $5,000 for flooring, cabinet hardware, restoration glass for the cabinets, new doors, bead board and tile.

Sadro said she is amazed the couple was able to get custom cabinets for under $5,000. These are quality solid wood cabinets with deep pullout drawers beneath the countertops that are easy on the back.

The Pettuses wanted to keep as many modern intrusions out of the kitchen as possible so cabinets hide the microwave and a small television, which can be pulled out.

Emerald Design built the cabinets in-house and the couple painted them, saving an estimated $2,000.

A unique feature of this kitchen is the use of African mahogany for the countertops. Wood countertops were common in the early 1900s, Sadro said. They show some nicks over time, but the couple wanted the used look.

At first, the Pettuses couldn’t find any contractors willing to install wood countertops, but that didn’t dissuade them. They finally decided to have Emerald build the countertops too, at a cost of $1,725.

They said maintenance for these countertops is no more cumbersome than any other surface.

“It takes a beating, but it doesn’t get torn up,” Dick Pettus said.

Not every feature of a kitchen needs to be high-end or custom for an attractive look.

The Pettuses put money into a good reproduction wall mount faucet, restoration glass for the cabinets and quality light fixtures, including nifty Hudson Valley lights from Seattle Lighting that can be raised and lowered on pulleys.

While big-box home improvement stores provided some great deals, The Pettuses ventured into some specialty stores to find products that needed to be high quality.

“We had to do some looking around for wood paneling, because Lowe’s doesn’t cut it,” Dick Pettus said. He found trim at Arvid’s Woods in Lynnwood, where he spent “hours and hours pawing through stacks to get the right molding.”

The couple saved money by choosing vinyl flooring rather than linoleum, which would have been a more appropriate period choice.

They also estimate they saved thousands by doing what work they could themselves.

Dick Pettus moved a wall back and installed French doors into an adjacent office. Laurine Paine-Pettus sewed a red plaid skirt to cover the space beneath the sink, a detail that rings true for an older kitchen and saved money by avoiding the additional cabinetry.

They added shoulder-high white bead board around most of the room, and subway tile behind the stove, backsplash, counter and sink. They painted the walls a dark green that pops against the white cabinetry and trim.

Along the way they had to devise some innovative solutions for their aging house. Dick Pettus didn’t want to block access to his upstairs plumbing, which runs above the kitchen ceiling. So he hid the close-off valve behind a cabinet above the refrigerator. He also crafted his own mock cabinet to cover an unsightly stove exhaust pipe.

“The hard part was 1,100 trips to Lowe’s,” he joked.

Another way they saved money was choosing several stand-alone furniture pieces to hold pantry items and small appliances.

They scoured antiques stores until they found vintage pieces probably handmade by someone else for their kitchen.

“They’re good old vintage pieces,” he said. “We can do anything but pass by an antique store.”

Another interesting touch is a deep sink mounted under the cabinet. They could have bought a vintage farmhouse sink for $900, but they kept the look and ditched the cost by choosing a single basin sink from Kohler that costs $300.

After a year and a half of work, the couple is finally enjoying their kitchen.

Even though they saved money, they paid with time and inconvenience that others might not be willing to face.

They couldn’t use their kitchen for a number of months and had to deal with plaster and sawdust everywhere, he said. The couple cooked on a camp stove on a makeshift plywood counter outside.

But neither seemed to mind.

“It didn’t rain much,” he laughed.

She said, “We looked at it as an adventure.”

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or

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