Novice DIYer Wraps Up Solo Kitchen Remodel After Five Years

In August 2020, Brittany Joyner finished a complete remodel of the kitchen in her 1956 ranch-style home in Los Angeles. She began the project in Fall 2015 with little more than a vague idea of what she wanted and the courage to venture into the unknown.

The project took five years because Joyner isn’t a professional carpenter. She’s not an architect, interior designer or even an accomplished DIYer. It took five years because she built everything from scratch and she did it all herself.

Joyner made a lot of the furniture she used to fill her house after moving in in 2012. Prior to that, her experience with DIY was just the basics: sewing, painting, gardening, landscaping and everyday plumbing and electrical.

“It took blood, sweat, tears and perseverance that would make Patton tremble, but it’s done and I couldn’t be happier,” Joyner tells Family Handyman. “Without the benefit of a formal woodworking education (or) plans specific to my design, a lot of it was just trial and error.”

Driven by Vision

All told, Joyner built all the kitchen cabinets from scratch, added electric outlets, hard-wired under-cabinet lighting, installed a backsplash, custom-designed a range hood cover and engineered a pull-out spice rack, trashcan and coffee station.

Her journey toward the perfect kitchen was long and arduous. There were times when her frustration could have gotten the better of her. But she never quit, even after testing, retesting and retooling every custom-made cabinet in her kitchen.

“The reason I never wanted to quit was because I could the potential in what I was doing,” Joyner says. “With each cabinet that got built … I got to see the vast improvement from the original garbage cabinets to the custom-designed, custom-crafted ones I was building in the shop.”

Advice to Future DIYers

Before she ever put saw to wood or hammer to nail, Joyner researched. She visited Ikea more times than she cares to admit. She flat-out stole ideas from her friends’ kitchen cabinets. But her research didn’t stop at aesthetics.

She encourages anyone taking on a project like this to read through plans online and create their own plans based on their space and needs. She recommends using actual kitchen items to dry-fit shelf placement and establish drawer height.

“I built an entire cabinet just to house my instant pot,” Joyner says with a laugh.

Anyone who has ever taken on a DIY project knows big box retailers don’t always make products that fit every space. The best part about customizing your approach to these DIY projects, Joyner says, is getting exactly what you need and how you need it.

Above all else, Joyner says, don’t worry if you mess up. “Mistakes are great; learn from them,” she says. “Live with … some of them. I have no regrets.”