Kitchen Renovation: Nick Bylsma of Topeka, Kan., Surprises Wife With Weekend Remodel Job

Love letters, flowers and jewelry would make a lot of women swoon, but Nick Bylsma wanted to do something extraordinary for his wife, Melissa, on their second wedding anniversary.

So when she went away with her family one weekend last year, he told her that he'd be spending the time working. And that wasn't exactly a fib: She left on a Friday morning, and when she returned the following Sunday evening, he had remodeled the entire kitchen.

"How many women do you know who want something like that?" said Nick Bylsma, 28, of Topeka, Kan., an actor who plans to move to Los Angeles this year to pursue his dream full-time. "She never really liked the kitchen."

He described the original kitchen as "dingy and uninviting," with "Pepto Bismol-pink" tiles on the walls, cabinets covered on the outside with ugly tack paper and makeshift countertops that didn't have enough space. (Story continues after the gallery below.)

See the Bylsmas' Kitchen Go from Dingy to Dynamite
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Kitchen Renovation: Nick Bylsma of Topeka, Kan., Surprises Wife With Weekend Remodel Job

Nick Bylsma bought the house from a couple who had lived there for 40 years, so everything in the kitchen was out of date.

The cabinets were covered in tack paper, and the countertops were "old and crappy," Nick said.

The "Pepto Bismol-pink" tiles on the kitchen walls were one of Nick and his wife's biggest frustrations with the kitchen.

Nick described the flower tack paper on the cabinets as "ugly." Now began the task of remodeling everything, from top to toe -- in 48 hours. Here we go...

Nick peeled off all the pink tiles and spent eight hours sanding off the concrete backing that remained on the walls.

Then he primed everything with white primer, including the walls and the cabinets.

With the help of his father and brother, Nick then began taking out the old dingy countertops...

...and replaced them with new, updated countertops, which offered twice the amount of surface space as the old ones.

Then he tackled the floor. It was covered in old linoleum that had gotten dirty over the years with stains and mold.

So Nick began ripping it up, only to find a ton of tar backing stuck to the wood underneath. He rented an industrial sander to get it all up.

Then he used an industrial sander to sand the hardwood floor. After hours staining the wood and adding trim and crown molding, it turned into this...

A beautiful wood floor that looks brand-new!

After 48 hours of physical labor, Nick's wife's family members came over to put the finishing design touches on the new kitchen. And this is what his wife came home to on a Sunday evening after a weekend away.


"I didn't want to use it because I really didn't like that room," said Melissa Bylsma, 23, of the couple's old kitchen.

Over the course of the three days that his wife was gone, Bylsma peeled off the pink tiles, stripped the cabinets of their paper, ripped up the linoleum floor and took out the old countertops.

Bylsma said that he worked 37 hours straight with no sleep pulling up the linoleum on the floor and sanding and staining the wood underneath; cutting the trim for the floor and crown molding; painting the walls a light green and the cabinets an off-white; installing new countertops that offered twice the amount of space as the originals; and installing a dishwasher that had just sat there unattached. After he grabbed a couple of short naps, his mother and sister came over to help finish the decorating and install new light fixtures.

When she returned home, Nick told his wife that there was something he wanted her to see.

"I told her, 'I did something, and I don't know if you're going to like it.' I pretended like something was wrong," he said.

Bylsma made his wife close her eyes as he led her into their new, fabulous kitchen -- and then had her open them.

"I wish I had a camera to take pictures of her," Bylsma said. "She cried tears of joy -- she was so surprised."

"I was completely shocked," Melissa Bylsma said. "I don't think I could even speak. It was such a drastic change from what we had."

In place of the ratty linoleum floor was gleaming hardwood. The walls had shed their old '80s look. The appliances looked like new -- and actually worked. The whole place was so much brighter.

"I love looking at [the kitchen] now," Melissa Bylsma said. "I love cleaning it, making everything look nice.... I certainly didn't think he was crazy enough to do it all in one weekend."

The new kitchen has even turned out to be a gift for Bylsma himself.

"I'm not a cook, but even I spend more time there," he said.

Great Kitchen Makeovers
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Kitchen Renovation: Nick Bylsma of Topeka, Kan., Surprises Wife With Weekend Remodel Job
Whether you give your kitchen a new look with a few tasteful upgrades or rip it out and start over, being creative where you cook is the key.We asked kitchen remodeling and design pros for examples of what can be done, and at what cost. Here are six projects that cost between $37,000 and $100,000. For each kitchen, we show a BEFORE and AFTER view, with details of the work done and the materials and appliances used.
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BEFORE: This outdated kitchen in Sacramento, Calif, needed more than a face-lift. The counter height and lack of space made it nearly impossible for the resident, who used a wheelchair, to prepare a meal.
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PRICE: $75,000

Designer: Darius Baker, an award winning California contractor

AFTER: The widened doorways, lower counters and open floor plan make this kitchen highly accessible. There are roll-out shelves, lazy susans, and a sink that is wheelchair accessible. The finishing touches: stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.
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BEFORE: As part of an addition onto the back of the house, the homeowner wanted a bigger kitchen with a breakfast area. This Houston (Tex.) home was built as a 1930s-style English Cottage, and the homeowner felt the kitchen wasn't reflective of the home's original design.
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PRICE: $100,000
Designer: William L. Shaw Jr., Winner of 5 Texas 2007 Star Awards for kitchen design
AFTER: By adding space, the kitchen area was truly transformed. New cabinetry, granite counter tops and layout make the kitchen feel more organized and functional. This was an expensive renovation, but some of the stainless steel appliances were reused, and the original oak floor planking was restored.
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BEFORE: The homeowners of this kitchen in Tallahassee (Fla.) wanted a complete overhaul. Besides the washer and dryer being located in the kitchen, the 1960's feel and layout left much to be desired.
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PRICE: $37,000
Designer: Rachel + Michael Stiles, owners of Kitchen Solvers
AFTER: By arranging the kitchen against the far wall, thereby flipping the layout, this renovation gained a lot of space. New cabinets and Corian countertops complete the picture, making for an attractive, economical overhaul.The tile floors, backsplash, and new appliances added a more modern element.
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