Budget Kitchen for a Big Cause
It just so happens that my business partner, Sue Shannon, and I are members of the same Catholic parish in Aiken. Because we live in a small town, are known for our design business, and are both active in our church, we’re often asked to weigh in on interior design issues that affect the buildings that are part of the church campus. Several months ago we were approached to give some pro-bono advice concerning the rectory kitchen. The rectory (the home for our priests) was built in the early part of this century and is a “gracious, yet a bit dowdy, old lady” that sits directly adjacent to our architecturally beautiful and historically original church.
The kitchen itself had been inexpensively updated through the decades only out of necessity— as would befit the home of humble priests who care much more for their flock, then the conveniences of themselves. I had only seen the kitchen through an open door of the dining room years ago. On our first walk through of the space, Sue and I had the same reaction – this looked like a gut job! Original knob-and-tube wiring, appliances that either didn’t fit or were on their last leg, cabinetry from the sixties that was falling apart, linoleum floors, Formica countertops, and one single fluorescent light hanging in the middle of the room. Unfortunately in the real world a gut job of a kitchen, even on the lower end of a budget, can run anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000.
Sue and I had been contacted to address two issues:
- The kitchen had deteriorated to the level of being almost non – functional, and the poor lighting, and electrical required addressing from a safety issue.
- Our current priest, Father Wilson, actually loves to cook and was hoping that we could come up with an inexpensive plan that would make it a more feasible and pleasurable task in the current space.
Our volunteer project manager, Gary Stanley, is a retired project manager, and had been actively involved in our recent $10 million dollar church building project. He is smart, organized, and ruthlessly deadline driven. Normally you pay big bucks to have someone like that heading up a construction project of this magnitude. That is the beauty of volunteer projects from the heart. During that first meeting Gary started with the bad news and finished with the good. Bad news – very small budget, maybe $15,000 to $20,000. Good news – free very qualified volunteer labor. Highly skilled electricians, plumbers, and master carpenters would give of their time and talent to see this project completed.
Our job was to come up with a design that would work and be sustainable for another 20 to 25 years. This wasn’t going to be easy— new stock cabinetry from a big box store could run $15,000 alone. We quickly got very creative. Sue’s stepfather, Henry, runs our local Habitat for Humanity store. We asked him to be on the lookout for a donated set of solid wood cabinetry. As luck (or maybe divine intervention) would have it within a week a full set of stained cabinetry showed up and we jumped on it for the sweet price of $750. It would require painting and new hardware, but that was insignificant in the grand scheme of the project.
Long story short – We completed the project in 8 weeks for right at $20,000. I want to reiterate – this kitchen under realistic constraints would have probably been closer to a $50,000 to $60,000 budget. Eliminating a majority of the labor expenses and soliciting donations allowed us to significantly reduce the cash expenditures.
One final note, this was one of the most enjoyable, creative, and rewarding projects that both Sue and I have been involved with in our professional careers.
Father Wilson and Father West were gracious and very appreciative clients. The project was completed on time and on budget. The labor force was skilled, generous with their time, and professional. The final product is functional, beautiful, and full of love.
Pictured: A very appreciative client enjoying his new kitchen island.
Let’s give a big AMEN to a very successful kitchen design project!