DIY Project: Alley Kitchen

A Grant Park couple give their kitchen a whole new look for less than $1,000

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Kitchens are easily the most expensive room to remodel in a home, but that didn’t intimidate Kate Mattison and Matt Mewis. Small budgets often lead to more creative solutions, assert the optimistic expectant parents. “I’ve always been handy,” says Mewis, a graphic designer by day. “But more importantly, I’ve never been afraid to try something—especially when Kate challenges me to make it happen.”

The nine-by-nine-foot, black-and-white kitchen in their 1920s Grant Park townhouse needed a complete redo. They wanted a more open space with old-house character but modern flair. “We definitely wanted it to be environmentally friendly also,” notes Mattison, who is an interior designer.

Good idea #1 Use discarded bowling lanes as countertops. At $5 per square foot, that’s a strike. Mewis had seen this material converted into a dining table on a home show, so he went to Craigslist and typed in “bowling lanes.” Voila—a local hardware store was selling wood salvaged from an old alley. The maple planks were worn and discolored in spots, but that gave them an interesting patina, says Mattison. To adapt them for use in the kitchen, Mewis cut the boards down to size, sanded them with a friend’s equipment, then resealed the wood with natural tung oil.

Good idea #2 Buy used cabinets from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. The couple are fortunate to live near this local salvage resource, and they check often for donated treasures with bargain price tags. (It’s also where they found miniature subway tiles for the backsplash.) Their cabinets once hung in the original skyboxes at Philips Arena. Mewis trimmed them down, restained them a lighter color, and added sleek hardware from the Home Depot. The price of the used cabinets? Less than $60.

Good idea #3 Eliminate upper cabinets to free up space. Mewis ripped out the dated cabinets and installed floating shelves instead, using adjustable wall brackets for support. The open floor plan also means that stylish details stand out, such as the painted accent squares on the walls, a graphic calendar, and a pair of translucent pendant lights made from vintage Mason jars by an enterprising friend. Installing stainless steel utensil, wine, and pot racks from Ikea saved both money and storage space.

Atlanta Habitat ReStore
519 Memorial Drive, 404-525-2114,
Reclaimed Lighting

This article originally appeared in our March 2010 issue.