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Photographer Kayla McKenzie Brings Vision to a DIY Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen after the remodel

Kayla McKenzie’s work as an architectural photographer and Matt Reilly’s background in construction made them a well-qualified team for remodeling their kitchen. When they first toured their eastside Bend home in 2017, McKenzie admits to feeling apprehensive, unable to make out its potential. But after a little creative thinking and hard work, the home’s potential is now on full display. The kitchen’s once dark, uninviting ambiance has successfully transformed into one of warmth and light. 

The Kitchen before and after the remodel
The kitchen before and after the remodel.

The Before 

The kitchen is the first thing a person sees when walking through the front door, making it a focal point of the home and a high-priority project for the couple. The original kitchen was cloaked in dark hues. “Dark browns and navy blues, low ceilings and big cabinets that took up a lot of space. It just felt really claustrophobic,” said McKenzie. 

The home, built in 1997, was a rental for most of its life, with each new landlord giving it a surface-level makeover but never a full update. When the couple moved in, they could touch the kitchen ceiling due to the three layers of floor that each new owner had installed over the previous one. The tiles were cracked, the appliances were outdated, and the doors were drafty. There was a lot to be done, but McKenzie and Reilly got to work giving the kitchen all the care and aesthetic updates it needed. 

The Vision 

McKenzie pulled a lot of inspiration from her extensive experience photographing beautiful Bend homes, collecting different elements from each and collaging them together to create her vision. The couple’s main intention was to create a luminous and open space, a kitchen people want to spend time in.  

The Process  

They tackled the remodel one project at a time, spreading them out across a couple of years. For those who want to take on their own remodel, McKenzie points to teamwork as the foundation of the project’s success. “Just tag team everything as much as you can,” she said. “We had our designated roles. I’d paint during the day, and then he’d do installs at night.” 

The first and most urgent task for them was replacing the doors to the backyard that weren’t adequately sealed. From there, they refreshed the cabinetry, covering its wood with 10 coats of thick white paint and updating the hardware. 

To create more space, they replaced one wall of cumbersome cabinets with beautiful floating shelves, now their favorite part of the kitchen. They found the natural wood planks on Craigslist, finished them and installed them. Reilly says it was both the most challenging and rewarding part of the remodel because of the creativity and craftsmanship needed to create a clean, sturdy and functional look. 

Next on the to-do list was updating the floor, which was a more significant undertaking than they initially thought. What was supposed to be a two-week-long project turned into a couple of months due to the multiple layers of floor and sneaky black mold found growing in the baseboards. Today, where there once was dark marble-patterned tile, is light Lanier Hickory luxury vinyl plank flooring from SmartCore.

The final large-scale project to complete the kitchen was to replace the navy marble laminate countertops with sleek Mystic White quartz slabs from EleMar, the only project that necessitated bringing in external contractors. JMC Stoneworks in Redmond cut and installed the countertops. The couple finished the kitchen with a white tile backsplash and a spacious Kraus sink.

Walking into the kitchen now feels like walking into a patch of sunlight, and their goal of making it a central gathering space has since come to fruition. “It’s now the place we hang out whenever we have our friends over,” McKenzie said. “I honestly don’t think a single person has ever sat on our couch,” she joked. 

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