It’s me, Orlando (and no that’s not my kitchen above, just inspiration) You may remember me from Secrets from a Stylist and my Orcondo series on this here blog. Well guess what!?! I’ve moved YET AGAIN. It’s not my fault. My boyfriend who I totally loved totally dumped me. BUT DON’T LET THAT DEPRESS YOU. The upside to all of this is now I get to design a whole new apartment and start from scratch ONE MORE TIME (until the next time!). It’s like totally fun except for the fact that life is meaningless and I will die alone and no one will find my body for literally days. MAN THAT JUST GOT DARK. Sorry.
Because I love puns and hashtags, I’ve named my new place Chateaulando. Nothing was ever gonna be as catchy or cute as Orcondo, but we’re all just going to have to deal with that and mourn what we have all collectively lost. The “Chateau” part comes from the fact that my building is French Provincial style and very close to the storied Chateau Marmont. The “ando” part comes from my name. GOT IT?
Today, we’re chatting about the kitchen, which was the first space I tackled when I moved in. Full disclosure: I’m renting and this kitchen renovation has been the biggest waste of money EVER and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t. It was a huge mistake and I’m an idiot for making it, but I’ve accepted that and am moving on. (You can read a bit more about the harrowing experience I had with my sketchy landlord and my totally ill-timed lay off from my full-time gig here). But, since I’ve already started it and there’s kinda no going back, today we’re going to talk about what I plan to do and WHY.
Above is the plan for the general direction I want to go with the kitchen, but before we even get into that, I feel like I owe you an explanation of why anyone in their right mind would ever pay to renovate their own kitchen in a rental. Firstly, I’d just gotten out of a relationship in which I’d designed my dream apartment with someone who I loved very much who ended up being all “NO THANKS GET OUT.” I had a strong desire to not feel like I wasn’t taking a huge step down into a terrible, depressing apartment. But all the apartments I looked at were either awful and had no character or had gross ugly kitchens. The LA rental market is pretty out of control still, even though nationwide rent prices are apparently downtrending. Second, I am shooting a book right now, so I needed a place I could have photo shoots in that looked presentable and different than the condo (which I shot that before I moved out). Third, my landlord was all “I’ll split it with you!” (read my other post to see what happened with all that). Let’s just say that didn’t end up happening. Fourth, the previous kitchen left much to be desired. Like, not a terrible kitchen. Totally doable. But for a designer/blogger who uses my house a set on a daily basis, I needed something a little more photogenic. I’m saying this to let you know, if your kitchen looks like this, I’m not judging your kitchen, it just wasn’t for me. Like if we Freaky Friday’d and you had to be a design blogger with this kitchen, I bet you’d wanna change it too.
One of my biggest pet peeves in older apartments is when cabinets don’t close. Like you’ll close a cabinet, walk out of the room and when you walk back in the cabinet’s all “HAY.” Like wide open. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH, CABINET! None of these cabinets closed properly and the landlord actually looked into getting them restored. I liked that idea but the restoration company came back with a $7000 quote just for the cabinets (not including new countertops, appliances, flooring, or anything else) so this option was going to be very expensive and kind of a “meh” transformation. Like “OH GREAT WE JUST PAID $7K FOR OUR CABINETS TO LOOK THE SAME!” Also, the cabinets weren’t original to the 1939 building (they seem to have been put in sometime in the sixties) so I didn’t feel like I was ripping out anything historic. Many of them were rotting and the wood smelled like mold. It just wasn’t a pretty picture.
The kitchen is relatively tiny and I wanted to add storage as well as make the space much more efficient. I am a big dinner party person. Like I love having friends over and sitting in circles and all talking about our feelings. It’s so much more fun than being in a restaurant because you can actually hear people. Just thinking about it now makes me wish my friends were with me inside this blog post, and instead of this being a blog post, it was a dinner party, and instead of staring into this computer machine, I was gazing into a friend’s eyes, asking her about her childhood and her dreamz. ANYWAYZ…
I don’t know why refrigerators have to be so big. Like I get it if you have a big kitchen. In that case bring on the giant fridge. But in tiny apartments, NO MA’AM! This guy was way too huge for my lil ol’ kitchen. BYE REFRIGERATORFELICIA.
While I’d originally planned to get most of the kitchen sponsored, the main sponsor (an appliance brand who will FOREVER REMAIN NAMELESS) turned out to be such a big nightmare that I ended up just paying for a lot of the stuff myself just to get it done. Towards the middle of the renovation, I got laid off and started getting extremely worried about money. I was worried I might have to sublet my apartment and move in with my parents to save money (for serious, read here for more on that, my life is a joke right now but I’m still laughing at it. Mostly). In which case the apartment would need a kitchen because no one is going to rent an apartment with no kitchen. The point of bringing all this up is not to be like WAH WAH LIFE IZ HARD but more to explain that this is a budget makeover. I’m trying to do this for as little money as possible while adding in a few elements that made the kitchen feel polished and exciting.
My goal going in was to spend about $3000-$5000 of my own money, but I have the feeling that when I add up all the costs it’ll add up to around $10,000 to $12,000. Obviously not the kind of money you wanna spend after losing your job, but I kind of felt painted into a corner. Like a corner that hadn’t even been built yet because my kitchen was just an empty box of sadness and failure.
One sponsor did come through in a major way, and that’s Semihandmade. They customize Ikea cabinetry, creating kitchens with a high-end, custom look at a much lower price point. They were great to work with and I’m really happy with what they did. I chose simple shaker style cabinets. Not groundbreaking, I know but the point here was classic. Which is why I’m also going with simple white tiles for the backsplash. If the style of the kitchen had its own hashtag, it would probably be #BASIC or #TRENDING but I think there is a time and a place for going full-on classic traditional, and that time and place is Chateaulando. MMMMMMKAY?
This is the general layout of the room:
Because the gas lines and water were already set up, the layout of the kitchen had to stay basically the same. Which kind of made designing it way easier. Usually, designing under a few constraints makes the process move way more quickly. I always tell clients that as soon as they’ve made a few decisions, it’s a lot easier to make the rest. I wanted the kitchen to have the same classic, traditional feel as a kitchen from one of my previous client’s homes. Since it was an older building, I wanted the kitchen to be relatively in keeping with the style of architecture and the time period in which it was built.
I want to stay pretty neutral with the surfaces, so I’m looking at white, grey, and mid-tone walnut finish on mostly everything. The counter is going to be super inexpensive wooden countertop from Ikea. The flooring is cheap tile from a local store called Cosmos Flooring, and the backsplash tile will be simple white tile, also from Cosmos (If you want the same tile, call them! Support small businesses!). For the backsplash, I am considering doing the same cute parquet treatment I did at the condo, but I’m not sure that goes with the traditional vibe I’m going for.
With lighting as with everything else, budget was the main constraint. I wanted to spend as little as possible while not having a totally depressing kitchen. West Elm had some amazing-yet-affordable brass options, so I went with their flush mount and hanging pendant. I’m trying to get someone to install some very basic Ikea under-counter lighting, so we’ll see how that goes… I can’t really afford to pay an actual electrician to do it (all the quotes I’m getting are around $1200-$2500) so trying to figure out if I can make it simple enough that a regular handyman can do it. We’ll see. I hate dark, shadowy kitchens so I really hope it works out. Here’s hoping I don’t start myself on fire whilst trying to do it myself.
By the time you read this, the kitchen will be NEARLY done. Em and I are teaming up for the reveal NEXT WEEK and I’m really excited to share it with everyone. So many questions left unanswered:
WILL I BE ABLE TO INSTALL THAT STUPID UNDER COUNTER LIGHTING?
WILL I CHOOSE A DUMB PARQUET OR TRADITIONAL SUBWAY TILE PATTERN?
WILL I START MY STUPID SELF ON FIRE TRYING TO DO MY OWN ELECTRICAL WORK?
WHAT WILL THE DUMB FINAL RENOVATION BUDGET ADD UP TO?
WILL I HAVE TO MOVE IN WITH MY PARENTS BECAUSE I’M STUPID BROKE?
Tune in next week and find out the answers to (most of) the above questions.
Okay I love you bye!
For more info on this kitchen renovation project, and for some hot goss about layoffs and landlords, read my post on Hommemaker.
Inspiration Photography by Tessa Neustadt courtesy Homepolish