My Studio

iFoodReal studio is ready! 6 months ordeal is OVER! I can’t believe it’s done and I’m inviting you over for a cup of tea or coffee. Cozy up for this Beauty and the Beast roller coaster story.

If you are new, “Hi!”. A quick recap. In summer 2018, me and my husband Alex sold our house in Vancouver suburbs. And purchased waterfront acreage with a 26 year old house on it that has never been touched. Let me specify that it is located in central Vancouver Island. What attracted us obviously besides the location was a suite above the garage that we now converted into a studio. From which we run our business –

Let’s begin the tour…


My Studio

You come in on a main floor on a side of the garage. First of all, we changed the entrance door (and its frame) because it was rotten and beaten up hopelessly. Many things in this house are moldy and rotten. I think we paid $350 for it at Home Depot on sale. I was stoked. I haven’t painted it yet because I will be deciding on exterior wall and door colors later this year. Picking colours today is almost literally brain damaging because there are so many.

I also appreciate the window that lets light into otherwise windowless hallway. We are still missing a light fixture here which is a very long story. I placed it in a shopping cart at Ikea but it never made home to the island. It was almost divorce situation but now we are just waiting for someone who goes from the island to Ikea to bring it to us.

My Studio

If you look other way from the entrance as you come in, there was this wall with a pocket door. We removed it to open up the space and frankly to renovate less square footage. We also completely pulled off subfloor because it was stinking with mold really bad.

My Studio


My Studio

Moving upstairs. We will get back to the bathroom later.

I am super proud of my Pinterest staircase! I am saying “I am” because it was 100% my project. It cost $20 in paint and stain and then just our time. Fine, Alex did amazing job with the trim around it but I painted and siliconed it.

Do you wanna see before?

My Studio

On the left. That’s what we saw when we came to see the house – green carpet and duck tape. On the right. What I saw after Alex ripped off the carpet.

  1. I had to remove all carpet staples. About 200 of them!
  2. Because our walls are textured, the paint spray ended up on the stairs when the house was originally built. I sanded stairs for hours.
  3. Then Alex did the trim and I caulked it.
  4. Stain.

Totally worth it if you don’t rush. Stairs are expensive to finish. I didn’t want laminate because it is slippery. And at same time I didn’t want carpet because it gets dirty and it just doesn’t fit into our space. And carpet is expensive too.

My Studio


My Studio

OMG. My favourite part! The 12 feet long island that is basically all iFoodReal kitchen is. And I am IN LOVE because it is very minimalistic but so functional.

  • I custom ordered it from a local company. I got quotes from 10 companies. I’m super pleased with the results. Research was worth it. I loved that I completely could customize it to our custom space – even depth of drawers and width of pull outs based on my spice jar size. OMG convenient!
  • It is melamine and not wood. I couldn’t see any difference in feel and quality but the price difference is huge.
  • I wanted white cabinets with easy to clean grooves on the doors. No deep corners!
  • We saved money by buying and installing our own aged bronze pull handles – $12 vs. $2.50.
  • I wanted all drawers pull out and soft closing.
  • Part of me still thinks if I could go with Ikea cabinets but part of me is not sure I would be able to get what I wanted. It’s done now but I have heard very good things about Ikea kitchens. Just didn’t think of it back in September because I was still a city girl with “ew, Ikea kitchen” mentality. Rural life changes you (in a good and less privileged way: wink-wink). You become more simple and calm haha. I guess no “rat race” and “comparing with the Joneses”. Wink-wink.

My Studio


I would like to spend extra time to tell you about my wonderful countertop.

  • The countertop is Calacatta Marble LAMINATE. I’m super happy with it!
  • The price difference was 7 times cheaper than quartz. And I could not justify spending so much money on something that has value only to me. It is not my main kitchen.
  • It looks like real, doesn’t it?! I had my “aha” moment one night when I walked into a Home Depot and saw similar look waiting to be picked up. My jaw dropped because before I was like “ew, laminate”. The city girl in me.
  • On photos and videos, and in real life too, many would never be able to tell it’s not quartz or marble. You should see friends’ faces when I tell them.
  • The seam is barely visible.
  • I used to have laminate countertops in my kitchen and if you are a tidy person like me, it should not be damaged or bubbled. They are durable if you don’t leave water sitting on a seam for like 2 days. Hello, duh!
  • An argument “you can’t put hot stuff on it” is invalid. I could never do that with my quartz either because “what if…”.

So, get one if you were on a fence about it.

My Studio

My Studio

This is left side of the island with a bunch of drawers for photo and video equipment, pots, pans, glasses etc. Funny thing is that in a studio you don’t need many plates or much cutlery because there is no one to feed besides me. Haha.

Next to the drawers is an open shelf with an Instant Pot, dutch oven and my props. I specifically wanted it open for easy access. And to be honest, to save $400.

My Studio

Another side is a working side of the island. Where I cook.


My Studio

I went with a simple electric 2 burner cooktop for many reasons.

  1. We do not have access to natural gas.
  2. It is smaller than a traditional 4 burner top => more countertop space. Don’t we always need more of it?!
  3. For a few years now, I noticed I don’t cook on more than 2 burners at a time. Just like I never felt like “I wish I had a double oven!”.
  4. It heats up fast enough for me.

Pull Outs

My Studio

Right under the cooktop are 2 drawers with all tools and measuring stuff I use during cooking. It is so convenient to grab anything I need while cooking. Especially when we start shooting videos…

My Studio

On both sides of me as I stand cooking at the stove, are 2 huge “spice” pull outs. They are so spacious that they fit all of my jars with spices, oils, grains, tea, baking stuff and you name it. I LOVE them so much! Basically cooking is so fast now as I do not have to run around the kitchen and into the pantry, and into hard to reach cabinets to get all ingredients. Pinch me.

Minimalism, I love you!

Sink and Faucet

My Studio

I wanted the largest one bowl sink I could get in here! It is just so convenient to throw everything into the sink as I cook and then later to load into a dishwasher. This beast fits a lot! Still need to buy the plugs for holes as it is meant for a 3 hole faucet I do not appreciate.

I am a fan of a pull down commercial style faucet. I find super convenient to take it off and rinse everything vs. the one with a hidden hose I always struggle to tuck back in.


It’s a regular stainless steel inside and outside tall tub dishwasher. Basic. You can see it in above photos. I used to have the same one in our previous house and I loved how it cleaned my dishes spotlessly. That’s all I care about.:)

So, that’s it for the right side of the island.


My Studio

Oven is located at the end (wall) of the island by the window.

  • It is electric and very basic. Basic in 2019 is pretty fancy though. It even has Keep Warm feature.
  • It has light. Believe it or not, some ovens don’t. I need to see the progress as I bake.
  • It gets so much light right by the window for the videos. And it’s also at perfect height for the camera.

I completely forgot! On both sides of the oven are stand up cabinets for baking sheets, cutting boards etc.


My Studio

This window is huge and it’s epic! I love it so much! It provides all the light for photography.

Alex is probably thinking “Thank goodness, it’s over!”. As much as he doesn’t like to be in a spotlight, he was “the contractor” that pulled the studio project off. He did absolutely everything himself besides some plumbing and electrical. I personally do not know any husband that can do that!

My Studio

Ikea linen curtains and rod because direct sunlight is not good for videos and photos. Very affordable option.


My Studio

I had to find the shortest fridge with the bottom freezer because of the vaulted ceiling/walls. I love mine! It is still so big, under $1K and cute!


My Studio

Here is all the magic after cooking happens. I wanted a desk not too big to take a lot of space. And not too small so my elbows are hanging (university life lessons). I still need to set printer on something. I also tried to keep it very simple because I hate dusting more than any other part of cleaning.

Wanna see before?

My Studio

That’s how it was when we viewed the house.

My Studio

These pics should be swapped.

  • After we pulled off laminate we saw that subfloor was stained and stunk so bad… Good thing you didn’t have to plug your nose.
  • After we removed subfloor we saw that insulation was completely infested with rat and mice droppings, their nests and some of their dead bodies. RIP. That’s when I started crying for days. But hold on, that’s not it.
  • We had to cut lower parts of side walls to access insulation in the attic (sides are the attic) because that’s where pests came in and lived because it’s warmer there by the hot water tank.

My Studio

  • Obviously after we had to install new insulation and subfloor. That took a lot of both of ours time.
  • Installed new drywall. And because of textured walls we had to match and put the textured Behr paint before painting. There was a point when we were saving drywall pieces from removed wall downstairs because of texture. And our drywall ended up being thicker than regular thus more expensive.

Do you understand why I was crying most of October and November?:)

Pendants are from Ikea.


My Studio

The desk is located right in front of this beautiful railing! And I’m saying beautiful because it is gorgeous! Have you ever looked at railings prices? Mamma mia. For this teeny tiny one it would be $1K and that’s without labour.

Instead, we spent $200! These are outdoor fence cedar posts we varnished ourselves. The handle on top is a gas pipe. And some cables. I saw similar idea on Pinterest and it totally worked. Super sturdy too!


My Studio

We turned 3 piece bathroom into a powder room for many reasons:

  • We don’t need 4 full bathrooms.
  • Less cleaning and huge savings on renos.
  • By the time we are ready to sell the house it will be outdated again.

We had to gut the whole thing. Nothing was salvageable. We also installed a sub pump to pump drainage and sewage to our septic field. It was fun! What does it even look like? Will sub pump work? you have no idea how much more digging, shelter, electrical and roof sub pump needs.:) I hope you never find out.

Everything is from Ikea, basically. The only thing I did, I changed the bar pulls from standart Ikea knobs to aged bronze cabinet pulls. Big difference.

My Studio

Wanna see before?

My Studio

Paint Color

Last but not least, the paint we picked. It might be the most crucial decision for any space!

  • We went all white for video and photography purposes. And we just LOVE it!
  • Color is Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. It is crisp white. I LOVE it!
  • We went with flat (ceiling) paint to avoid glare in the videos from traditional semi gloss wall paint.

Bottom Line Is:

  • Beautiful kitchen just like healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. It was my main motto for this reno!
  • We chose to do most work ourselves because we are handy. Alex did everything. I painted walls and trim, caulked everything (there was a lot), and did stairs.
  • Reality is it costs a lot to pay someone else to do simple tasks we can do.
  • We didn’t want to spend time looking for people to do the reno, “babysitting” them and then dealing with them afterwards.
  • We hired only a plumber (which ended up being an asshole) and an electrician.
  • We came out wiser and stronger after this experience.

What Was the Hardest Part?

Research! Like where do you even begin? Research kitchen first because it takes months to make or work on the subfloor because we need floor to install the kitchen? We were new to the area with ZERO connections. Plus, we never built from scratch. Nor did we ever own a studio. Heck, there was even no cooking studio example or guide. It was an experience from scratch, truly.

Is it OK to have sink at the end of the island? Is flat paint OK for walls? Which sub pump to buy? How powerful bathroom fan should be? How wide and deep and how many and where kitchen drawers I should have? How many electric outlets and where on the island I should have? My head physically hurt many days in the beginning.

But like you heard me saying before people on the island are super nice. Sorry to say that but nicer than in a city. JUst the reality of life. Small community – people care more about each other. Our hockey family really helped us out. From giving good trades references, to literally doing some of the renos, to giving very helpful advice, to driving our kids to hockey so we could work on the studio. We are very blessed to live in our amazing community!

What Studio Renovation Taught Me

  • Patience. OMG, like no baby has taught me patience. Like I said in my IGTV video tour, at least if baby is driving you crazy, you still have this beautiful baby you love to death to look at. This reno was completely “I HATE YOU,  BABY!” experience. I learnt to wait. Like really-really wait. Like installing hot water tank that takes a week wait. Like no plumbing for 2 months because plumber doesn’t show up for 10 days.
  • Take one day at time. There were mornings I woke up in my super cold bedroom wearing a hoodie with a hood on my head staring at green walls and hearing a mouse trying to get inside through a taped fireplace. I could not hear the waves. Oh, I could not. And I thought it was just a bad dream. LOL. It is truly glamping here. Eventually I stopped crying and learnt to move forward. And take one day at a time some days. Because no one has died doing renos yet. And look, here I am. Alive and well. Still in same bedroom conditions but now I’m like “Whatever, it will get done next year”.
  • Do your own research and follow your gut. There was a point when I had to stop asking friends and acquaintances for recommendations and advice. Everyone has that friend that knows everything. And online everyone is a professor. The last thing you need when you are going through such trying and vulnerable time, when money are literally flying out of your bank account and you are questioning “was it worth it?” (everyone does, trust me) is “a friend” who has everything better, and knows everything better and got way better deals than you. And you probably never pointed out their imperfections out of kindness and sympathy. Truth is we are all so different in terms of life expectations and taste, that only you know what’s better for you. Of course, get recommendation for a good plumber. But a true friend will only lift you up, even if it’s not completely true, with words rather than making you feel less superior to them. Unfortunately, competition and jealousy are a part of us, humans.

What Would I Do Differently

  1. I would look into Ikea cabinets. I justs didn’t think of Ikea kitchen as an option. But I kept hearing such amazing reviews about their cabinets after I made a deposit on my kitchen. I was blown away who and how many people do it. I will definitely look into Ikea for the main house kitchen. Not sure if it will work because it’s a small area and I can’t lose precious space. I might have to go with completely custom kitchen but who knows.
  2. Take it slower. I felt like we rushed a bit in the beginning and it cost us a crappy plumber. After that we slowed down a lot and things went much smoother. But definitely taking time and think about things helps a lot. Even if you don’t know an answer today, it will come to you eventually.

About working with a spouse. I think there is nothing I could change about how me and Alex renovate together. We are just so different how we work. Yes, we did fight. And sometimes a lot. Fall was rough. There was a lot of legal stuff involved with home inspector and plumber. We are good now. And we are OK to move forward with house renos. It’s just the way it is and the way we are. And it’s fine. There is nothing to do differently about it except to survive married till the end. And I’m sure we can. It’s not as bad as people tell it is if you don’t have to deal with legal stuff.

Would We Do It Again?

Oh, boy. We learnt so much during this process. I would do it again. Alex said “NO”. But he would. If you have the right location, anyone would do it. If you are thinking about something like this and have a gut feeling you should do it. Then do it! Don’t listen to anyone else.


My Studio

Next. What’s next? Idk, friends. Life. JK.

We are starting to produce meaningful recipe videos for our Youtube channel. That was the whole reason why we moved in the first place LOL. Isn’t it sad that Youtube is dictating my life?! JK. I would have moved anyways.

That’s why I gotta ask you “What recipe would you like to see first?”

  1. Healthy freezer meals
  2. Baked chicken thighs
  3. Chicken burritos
  4. Almond flour banana muffins

Or anything else?

Cheers, friends! Thank you for being so patient while waiting for beautiful final photos during this crazy process. I have the best community of the most loyal friends here. You know who you are! We talk regularly and we know each others names. I still wake up with a hood on my head but I’m more now in “I can’t believe I get to do this job from my studio” mode. And now I hear the waves.

Thanks for all the clicks and views! And you are welcome for all the yummy recipes.:) Love you lots!



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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. Olena, I just read this wonderful renovation saga. You’re such a great girl, so interesting and funny. I love the details. You’re very generous to share all that. Keep enjoying your wonderful cooking studio!

  2. Hi Olena. I just found you as I was looking for a recipe for yummy and good for you protein bars. I know you’re not a fan of diets but I’ve unfortunately tried a zillion. Some work some don’t. My biggest obstacle is having time to exercise. I’m a single
    Mom of a 16 year old who has ADHD as well as a few other learning disabilities and a 21 year old in his 3rd year of college and work full time and most weekends. They rely on me for most everything as their father is a bit selfish. Anywayyyyy, I recently tried the Keto diet which seemed to work well for me. What I liked the was having a protein bar for breakfast. It made it easier for me in the morning. So I’m looking forward to trying your protein bars and other recipes. By the way, Your studio is beautiful! Best, Dina

    1. Hi Dina! So glad you found iFoodReal! Please don’t be shy to leave me a comment with a star review once you make the protein bars. Have a great week!

  3. I got a new job in January, Olena. It is very time consuming and I have not had much time to “see” you. The studio looks awesome! I’m happy you are happy. Now I’ll have to go check out some of your new recipes! Take care,

  4. good for you! I am truly happy for you and your family. and on a side note, we love the almond flour banana muffins. and I never look at recipe videos. but follow what your viewers want, I can just read the recipe. I have been on your site for years…..Love you!

    1. Thank you, Uli! Awww, you have been following me for years! Honestly, comments like these bring tears to my eyes. Alex always tells me I do a very important job – teaching people to cook healthy. And I guess I forget about it often. Like I’m not a doctor or charity but comments like yours realize me that I do have a positive impact on people’s lives. Makes that 0.5% of asshole comments not get to me at all.

  5. I love everything you did! Great taste in decorating, just like food! “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” and you look alive and well! I can’t wait to see the rest of the house.

    1. LOL yes I am alive and well. I thought of your encouragement often along the way. Renos truly won’t kill me, so I knew I would make it alive at some point. 1st world problems, really. Thank you for your compliment!:)

  6. What a wonderful warm inviting space you’ve created: I could see you cooking happily in there! I admire you from the bottom of my heart: hard to imagine what you went through, and it’s not just labor, but extensive research on “how to…”
    But you did it!!! Now everyone would have an opportunity to enjoy watching you cook and learn!
    I think by now all people and groups that I’m a part of know your website haha. It would be a crime to not share your delicious dishes!
    You are my inspiration not just in the kitchen!

    Thank you and all the best to Ifoodreal!

    1. Hi Luda! OMG yes, research! I completely forgot about it already. See, how quickly we forget. Yes, research was mind blowing at the beginning stages. So true! Aw, thank you so much for sharing my recipes! Without loyal friends like you there would be no ifoodreal. I’m serious! Please know that haha. xoxo

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