I’ve always heard people say that “kitchens and bathrooms sell houses” but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone quantify that. When looking for our home, admittedly, a lot of the ones that we passed on were because of these spaces, but especially the kitchens! If the kitchens didn’t wow us — or at least have the potential to wow us, I wanted no parts of it. So I get it.
As soon as I saw our new house, I could see my future kitchen — a tweak here, a tweak there, and it would be perfect for us. I actually sketched on scrap paper, with our realtor, my ideas and she confirmed that it was totally doable & worth it. We made an offer that night.
But here’s what no one tells you when they’re telling you how valuable it is to update your itch — how much time and money (and anxiety) can go into creating a kitchen that’ll make you go “wow!”. We knew early on that we had no desire to break down a bunch of walls, relocate plumbing, and go through all the tv-worthy-drama of a reno; but we also wanted to make sure we got the most bang for our buck to get the kitchen of our dreams. What would be our kitchen reno sweet spot? To make sure I’d achieve major design impact without breaking the bank or the walls, I made a few well-calculated design decisions with my design bestie Rashida Banks — based in the other Washington (she’s in DC and I’m in Seattle) who’s also planning a mini reno for her kitchen! With a few bi-coastal Zoom chats, we began strategizing ways that we could get our kitchens to their fullest potentials while keeping costs & stress down. And the best part? You guys get to follow along with BOTH of us as we figure out this wild ride. We’ll be sharing our conversations, our struggles, our “aha moments” and naturally, our final reveals–plus you’ll get to see two kitchens get totally transformed from two similar but different perspectives. You’re welcome.
Now you’ll hear from the both of us and what we are tackling and our individual plans…
When we started house hunting, my husband and I were pretty clear on a few things, including the kind of kitchen we wanted. Every home we considered, we kept in mind how close to (or far away from) the existing kitchen was from the kitchen we wanted. I would look at listing photos & assess whether or not the kitchen would be worth the work. We’re not crazy about walls but we’re also not “open concept” everything folk, and this kitchen was the perfect sweet spot. To get the look and feel we’d want, a gut renovation wouldn’t be necessary and we could make a huge impact with minimal reno.
Hi Everyone…Rashida here! I can’t believe after 7 years of living in our home, we’re finally tackling the kitchen. You would think the red floor grout would have pushed me to pick up the sledge hammer the day we moved in, but we were just so happy to have a place we call home. Trust me if I could have a sit down with the person who decided to make the grout the same color as the cabinets, they would have some explaining to do. Did you run out of white grout? And what’s with the marble threshold?? Questions that need answers.
Now, I would be the first to say that our kitchen isn’t in terrible shape. The layout and flow of our kitchen is what I love most. There was once a wall where the island stands, separating the kitchen and dining space. Removing it was a good call. I’m sure the person who decided on that, was NOT the same person who decided on red grout (as you can tell, the floor grout is the thing I hate the most). The cabinets are a classic shaker style, which I like, but the cherry finish reminds of kitchens from 2006, and we’re in 2020 so it’s time for a change. But that’s it folks! Those are the only two things I like about our kitchen.
The kitchen is flanked by the dining room & an eat-in area. Since we don’t need both, removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room — a non load bearing wall — and updating the cabinets would extend the floorplan and create a true galley kitchen with more than enough space & storage. Instead of keeping the two peninsulas, we’d add a wall of cabinets to replace the eat-in area, maximizing the kitchen’s overall footprint, while still having the dining room as a place for family meals.
In addition to the flow & function of the space, we also wanted to make style updates that would reflect our family. While the current cabinets were clearly fairly new, the deep brown cabinets & beige countertops are not our jam. Even less our jam? The boob lights & ceiling combo happening overhead.
For context, we bought the home from the original owners from nearly 40 years ago, so a lot of the style choices don’t surprise us, but we’re of a different generation and want that reflected in our home. As two 30-something millennials, the only thing in the kitchen that reflects us — stylistically — are the black stainless steel appliances that were clearly a recent upgrade. We want the rest of the kitchen to be as chic & sleek as the appliances.
So what’s changing, you ask? EVERYTHING. I wrote out my “If I could have my way” list, and surprisingly most things are doable. This will not be a full-on gut job, just an invasive facelift. Right now, our kitchen feels heavy and dated with the cherry cabinets. I want to freshen it up and make it feel brighter and bigger but still cozy. A lot of my inspiration pictures that I’ve collected over the years have creamy white cabinets, something black, brass hardware, light countertops with veining, wood tones and just an overall classic cafe cottage feel.
To keep costs low, there’s some work we’re going to do ourselves, while the bulk of the heavy lifting will be hired out to a contractor to make sure we get everything done right and done once. So once the wall is removed — by a pro! — we’ll be installing new cabinets, countertops, backsplash, hardware, plumbing, and lighting. Whew…that’s a mouthful.
What I’m looking forward to most is having the dining room entirely open to the kitchen, which will drastically change (for the better) the way we use the entire area. Keeping the load-bearing wall saves us money & creates a privacy barrier from the front of the house, where the living room is, to the back wall in the kitchen.
As I mentioned, the previous owners left us with some very spiffy new black stainless steel appliances that we absolutely plan on keeping, but as for everything else — they can go. Although, full disclosure, the white beadboard has grown on me and may stay… maybe! (it’s hard to see in the before photos but it’s in the “eati-in” area)
We wanted to make sure the new finishes we chose reflected both of our personal styles while still keeping the charming vibes of the house that we fell in love with. I made decision choices that would feel custom without sacrificing any of the home’s innate charm.
We’re not design purists but I am also cognizant of how certain design choices can feel out of place. With the cabinets being the largest change, we went with a shaker style that could feel like it belonged there all along. I wanted something that had the same construction of our new IKEA Besta door fronts from Semihandmade — that’s in the media room aka a new reveal coming your way soon! Who knew that my new media fronts would actually be a foreshadowing for the kitchen design — neutral contrasts, clean lines, classic design — with an exciting new product launch that I get to share with y’all… later lol.
Keeping the palette neutral with the cabinets & countertops let me play with a few design options — be it some bold backsplash or blinged-out lighting — but you’ll have to wait and see what ends up having the most star power because the way these COVID delays are setup, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. But here’s the moodboard as of now:
1. Kitchen Inspo Source | 2. Sink | 3. Pendant | 4. Faucet | 5. Countertop | 6. Fridge | 7. Cabinet Fronts | 8. Pulls | 9. Flooring (came with house) | 10. Wall Tile | 11. Wall Paint | 12. Ceiling Paint
So here’s the plan: We’re not getting rid of the cabinets, instead, we’re going to paint them ourselves (QUICK! Someone talk me out of it). And since the cabinets don’t go up to the ceiling, I’m going to use a paint trick that I learned working at Benjamin Moore to make them feel like they do. We will get rid of that silly cabinet that sits over the island, and replace it with open shelving. We actually use that cabinet a lot, but I have some storage solutions up my sleeve that will make up for the loss. We’re also going to jazz up the hardware for something in the brass family.
The backsplash and tile on the island just make me dizzy, so it will be switched out to a beautiful stone layered in a subway tile format, that’s less busy. And by the way, you’ll see me write and hear me say “island” but I know it’s a peninsula…(just feels weird to say). Speaking of the “island”, we’re going to add a waterfall edge. A quartz waterfall edge to be exact, which I’m over the moon about. It’s a design detail that really modernizes a kitchen. So bye bye granite countertops also from 2006.
There are many things about the kitchen facelift that I’m excited about, but nothing brings me more joy than to rip out the floors. The floors will be replaced with a beautiful natural black stone. This will be the dramatic element for the kitchen. I always like my space to feature one “drama” element; the detail that stands out and contrasts with the rest of the finishes.
Now to enhance the function of the kitchen. We have a pantry (yes it’s small), but a pantry nonetheless. Right now it’s not being utilized to its full capacity. There’s a lot of wasted volume. So I will have my contractor transform that pantry to a pull out pantry where I can utilize the entire space and see everything. The last functional thing I’m changing is moving the microwave to the island and adding a range hood in its place for better ventilation. One, I love that look better, and two, it actually vents the air and food smells outside rather than recirculating through the house.
Here’s the moodboard to help you visualize.
1. Cabinet Inspo Source | 2. Countertops | 3. Pendant | 4. Window | 5. Door | 6. Faucet | 7. Sink | 8. Backsplash Tile | 9. Handle Hardware | 10. Stool | 11. Floor Tile | 12. Runner | 13. Wall Paint | 14. Cabinet Paint | 15. Nook Paint
Albie here to finish us up!
With this being our largest undertaking as both new and seasoned homeowners, we are equally excited and nervous — definitely keeping our fingers crossed for a fun and bump free ride (let’s hope right?). The decision to do a reno of any size isn’t easy, and to be honest, we’re just gonna officially dub these invasive facelifts because that is a lot less anxiety-inducing. In any case, a project of this size means juggling a lot of design decisions — did we mention we’re the project managers for each of our transformations? Having our husbands as sounding boards helps — A LOT — but having each other to lean on, especially creatively, is gold. It guarantees that one or both of us isn’t in a corner wishing I never touched the red grout and beige counters. As design besties, we already turn to one another for everything from a new vendor to a project hashtag. P.S. feel free to drop your suggestions for our kitchens. And if you have any kitchen renovation questions (or advice) don’t be shy. We’re going to be sharing our woes and wins and candid conversations as we navigate our kitchen upgrades, culminating in the final reveal here on the EHD blog; but don’t forget to check in on us on the gram at @albieknows & @rashida.banks.