Article by: Mitchell Parker

Norma Rushton and her partner, Randy Dyke, really wanted a waterfront property in the Vancouver area but were quickly priced out of most places. When they lucked into a mobile home on the Stave River about an hour east of downtown Vancouver, they were thrilled at the great location right on the water at a good price. But that’s where their excitement ended. The home was in bad shape and needed major repairs.

BEFORE: Recently they started adding more storage and function to the original kitchen (shown here), which had been picked apart since it was built in 1970. For example, the backless cabinets had been cut up by previous owners to make room for a larger refrigerator and stove, leaving little storage. “The cabinets were starting to get useless,” Rushton says.

AFTER: Determined, Rushton, a high school theater teacher, spearheaded a complete gut and remodel, choosing all the materials, fixtures and appliances, while Dyke, a retired water taxi driver, did a lot of the work, including installing the drywall, molding, trim, backsplash (twice) and new window and patching the floor. The couple painted everything together. Professionals installed the cabinets and countertops. 

But best of all, the couple got discounted help from their contractor neighbor, Milan Vaclavik of Milan’s Home Renos, who took care of the plumbing, framing and electrical work at a friendly rate. 

Though the homeowners considered getting granite countertops, they ended up going with Formica instead. “Granite is too hard of a surface,” Rushton says. “I wanted something a little more forgiving.”

BEFORE: A bank of upper cabinets and a floor-to-ceiling cabinet made things a bit claustrophobic and blocked views between the kitchen and living room. “I wanted to be able to sit in the living room and see out the windows of the kitchen to the water,” Rushton says.

AFTER: They reduced the size of the upper cabinets and did away with the tall cabinet altogether, opening up the sightline between the two spaces. “Now you can actually chat with whoever’s in the kitchen,” Rushton says. 

The couple had a couple of remodeling disasters along the way. Rushton had found solid oak cabinets at a discounted price that she really liked, but when they arrived, they were the wrong model. With the renovation already under way, she had to make a tough decision and went with the different cabinets, which ended up throwing off all their measurements. 

The backsplash was another compromise. The first one that Rushton put up was “a horrible mistake,” she says. She had found peachy-taupey-colored porcelain tiles that looked great lying on the counter. But as soon as she installed them vertically on the wall, the angle of the light turned them green. A local tile guy informed her that artificial colors tend to do that and suggested a natural stone product instead. “It was either I live with it or let the money go,” she says. “I let it go and went and got marble tile instead.”

BEFORE: The washer and dryer were shoved into a storage closet in the kitchen, while an old cabinet did the work of storing bowls, platters and mail. 

AFTER: The homeowners replaced them with a stacking washer and dryer unit, an Ikea unit of sliding drawers for a pantry and a place for the vacuum cleaner. “It was all about getting what I need for putting things away,” Rushton says.

Sliding doors nicely seal off the laundry and pantry area, freeing up clutter near the pristine river view. 

Rushton says they budgeted about U.S.$8,000 but the actual cost came in at just over $11,000. 

Here’s some of the breakdown: 

Cabinets: $2,300
Cabinet handles: $170
Countertops: $675
Closet doors: $250
Washer, dryer, microwave: $2,000

Lighting: $335
New flooring (closet): $85
Wood: $85
Paint: $170
Backsplash: $335 
Sink: $250
Window: $60
Labor: $1,000

Ikea shelving: $300
Drywall, insulation, plumbing fixtures, electrical wiring, switches, plugs, power tools, screws and brackets, taxes and other miscellaneous expenses: around $3,200



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