2023 RHC Finalists

2023 RHC Finalist Kitchens

2023 Resourceful Homeowner Celebration Winner: Al Serrano

Where others were seeing problems, I was seeing potential.

-Al Serrano, Client

Al Serrano's Story

When Al Serrano, the 2023 Resourceful Homeowner Award recipient, moved back to West Michigan after living in Texas for eight years, he wanted to purchase a home and he wasn’t afraid of an older home in need of work.  He recalled the conversation with his realtor, “I actually said, ‘I want a project house.’”  So, when he toured only his second home ─ a rather tired-looking 108-year-old structure that had all the tell-tale signs of having been a rental for many years ─ he didn’t bat an eye.  “Where others were seeing problems, I was seeing potential,” Al shared, “We made the offer, and it was accepted.”

While solidly built with beautiful features such as tall ceilings, heavy trim, and hardwood floors, the S.E. Grand Rapids home was being sold in “as-is” condition for a reason. Al developed a game plan where he lived in his hometown of Holland, commuted to his job in Grand Rapids, and then worked on the house well into the evening hours, and then drove back to Holland.  Al kept up this routine for the first year and a half after purchasing the home.

The list of urgent items began with a new furnace. Later, Al addressed several exterior drainage issues including the installation of glass block basement windows and a hand-dug French drain to shed water away from the foundation. He then shifted his focus inside to the second floor. He shared, “I wanted to completely remodel the only bathroom and all the bedrooms so that when I did start to live in the home, I had one finished and clean space.”  

Al was eventually able to move in and turn his focus to replacing the tired kitchen. “I started by going to a bookstore where I purchased a book on kitchens.” Al then learned of the HRS Remodeling Together Program and soon began to regularly attend the Fix-It School workshops on Saturday mornings.  The book helped guide the design discussions with HRS Self-Help Program Manager, Mike Zamarron, and the two produced what turned out to be a stunning and practical layout.

The kitchen project went smoothly with the lone exception of discovering the old bulkhead over the upper cabinets was full of wiring.  Al ended up building a new, narrower profile bulkhead which saved the expense of rewiring and maintained the desired effect of more space above the cabinets.  “The new design accomplished everything we set out to do.  We added a dishwasher, Lazy Susan, tucked the stove inside the cabinets, and moved the refrigerator to an underutilized corner.” 

And when it came to installing the ceramic tile backsplash, Al laughed and said, “After using a smaller tile in the upstairs bath, when it came time to do the kitchen, I switched to a much larger tile. You finish twice as fast!”

In addition to taking the program workshops and in-home coaching, Al selected kitchen cabinets made in the HRS Cabinet Shop. “I was able to save a lot of money and I ended up with a much higher quality cabinet,” he commented. When asked about the two-tone paint scheme – a shade of gray on the base cabinets with a crisp white on the overheads – Al shared, “I saw the combination somewhere – maybe in the book ─ and I knew wanted to do something similar.”

Since Al still wants to finish his dining room and has hopes of restoring the original hardwood floors on the main floor, spending the $500 in Modern Hardware gift card that came with the award will not be a challenge. “With the kitchen behind me, I am eager to finish the rest of the main floor. I also want to tackle the basement and make it a better and brighter storage space.”