Daniel Kanter is the internet's king of D.I.Y. After keeping an audience of tens of thousands glued to their monitors to catch the evolution of his New York City apartment over the years, Kanter and his fiancée, Maxwell Tielman, made the ultimate leap of faith: they decided to become first-time home owners. Here, Kanter's advice in his own words.
Our kitchen was probably originally installed in the 1950s, and while it isn't really the kitchen we intend to keep forever for many reasons, we had to at least make it useable, safe, and passably attractive until we can save up the money to do a complete overhaul someday. [Our] goal was to spend as little money as possible when overhauling the space. At the outset, I had hoped to keep the budget down to about $1,000. Even though we did go a bit over that budget, I couldn't be happier with how much we were able to accomplish in the space with so little money. Literally every single thing in the kitchen was altered in some way, and it went from being a completely unusable, truly disgusting place to one that we can actually use and enjoy!
The kitchen definitely turned a lot of potential buyers away, since I think most people saw it as a total gut job. Instead, I saw a relatively large space (old houses are notorious for their tiny and awkward kitchens, so the size alone made me optimistic) with functional cabinets, plumbing, and a working refrigerator—I knew it wouldn't be my dream kitchen, necessarily, but I also knew we could do a lot with it as long as we were willing to put in the hours.
As with any low-budget renovation, we had to carefully evaluate each aspect of the space to decide what things were salvageable and what needed to be replaced. While the floor and the stove were well past their expiration dates, almost everything else could be refreshed with some heavy cleaning, careful prep work, and paint.
From there, it was a matter of familiarizing ourselves with various materials available and finding the sweet spot between price, functionality, and aesthetics. The floor, for example, is black VCT—the same hard-wearing vinyl tiles normally used in hospitals and schools. The uniformity of the black tile feels far more contemporary and sophisticated than it is—at around 69 cents per square foot, it was not only extremely budget-friendly but also simple to install. (It's also easy to maintain.) The same is true of the subway tile—all of the tile and supplies came in at just around $200, it was relatively simple to install, and it totally makes the space.
As a very recent first-time home buyer, my biggest piece of advice is to try to avoid feeling overwhelmed by what you don't know. Buying a house (especially an old house!) is confusing and hard and stressful, and by the time it happens, I think a lot of people are paralyzed by the fear that they can't do something, or don't know how to do something, or will end up breaking something irreparably. The easiest way to take away that apprehension is to face it head-on: by trying new things and learning through research and experience. And if you mess up, almost everything is fixable!
For more information about Daniel Kanter and his kitchen makeover, visit Manhattan Nest!