A Kitchen Crafted for the Eco-Friendly

With an eye toward sustainable materials and strategic planning, amateur woodworker Gayle Christopher transforms her kitchen from 1970s drab to dazzling.

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Photography by Jean Allsopp, Styling by Libba Hardwick

Photography by Jean Allsopp, Styling by Libba Hardwick

Ever since Gayle Christopher bought her Leeds, Ala., home, she had a sneaking suspicion that there was a stunning space lurking somewhere within her homely kitchen. Figuring out how to release it was another story. "The space was trapped in the '70s with fake butcher-block plastic, dark wood and years of accumulated schmutz," Gayle says.

Faced with the task of undoing several decades' worth of style missteps, some homeowners might have started speed-dialing contractors. But Gayle, an amateur woodworker who enjoys designing and crafting furniture, was confident she could handle the renovation on her own.

With a tight $2,500 budget, she knew she'd need to choose her materials carefully and preserve whatever existing elements she could, a challenge in line with the way she approaches all of her projects.

From the time she started planning her kitchen overhaul, she made it a priority to choose recycled materials when possible and minimize waste. And though she'd never tackled jobs such as putting in a garbage disposal or cutting tile, she figured she'd learn along the way.

A Kitchen with Recycled Design

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Cabinets and Hardware

The cabinet boxes were sturdy enough to keep, but the doors were beyond rescue. Gayle fashioned new ones from MDF plywood, framed them with plain wood garden stakes cut to size (a more economical solution than lumber), and gave them a coat of crisp white paint.

New door pulls, found at a home center, cost less than 70 cents apiece, allowing her to splurge on cup-style drawer pulls that add a hint of the classic style she craved. To open up the space, she left the doors off the cabinets nearest the ceiling and installed LED lighting that illuminates dishware, cookbooks and other kitchen odds and ends.

Countertops

After a little research, Gayle settled on Paperstone, which she liked for its affordability as well as its green composition. "A kitchen countertop made of recycled paper has a paradox to it I just couldn't resist," Gayle says. The company shipped slabs across the country to her. She cut them to fit and mounted them in place. "The only help I had during the entire project was unloading the slabs from the truck," she says.

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Recycled-paper countertops and a simple tile backsplash anchor the classic palette.

Recycled-paper countertops and a simple tile backsplash anchor the classic palette.

Bamboo flooring, another eco-friendly choice, supplanted the worn vinyl in both the kitchen and the breakfast area. Gayle ripped out the laminate backsplash and mounted traditional black-and-white tile in its place. She installed a new faucet and double-bowl sink and discarded the seen-better-days range in favor of a new model.

These days, the revamped kitchen lives up to the classic beauty that Gayle imagined when she first started planning the project. She's proudest, however, of persevering through the hard work of bringing it to life. "I like the final result, but I love the feeling of having a vision and following through on it even when I wasn't sure how I'd actually get there," Gayle says.

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