We’ve been noodling on how to best tackle our kitchen for 2.5 years now, and we’ve landed on three potential floorplans (a week ago when I first took a stab at writing this post it was one, but alas, I’ve reopened a few of our previous ideas…). This is a good reminder that sometimes you have to live with your house for a while to see what makes the most sense, and sometimes you have to consult the masses because you’ve hit a wall, ha!
Backing up, let me introduce you to our kitchen in it’s current state:
And those wide-angle listing shots (we made a few changes):
A few things that I need to address before we proceed:
Yes, our kitchen was renovated about a decade ago and for the most part, it’s a reasonably functional kitchen. The appliances have served us well, and while we don’t plan to reuse them, we will find them a good home.
While this kitchen has been updated, it 100% does not align with the style of our house. It’s DARK in here. There’s no reference in the design to this being a 1940’s Colonial. It’s just a mid 2000’s bachelor kitchen.
Before you tell me we ought to paint all the cabinetry… yes, I know it’s a possibility, but for two reasons we probably won’t. The first being that these cabinets are not good quality. They’re an unfortunate laminate/MDF situation. If they were wood, yes we would keep them, but they genuinely are not good quality. The second reason being that the amount of dirt that accumulates in those ridges in the front panel of the doors is next level. These doors are impossible to really clean, and it drives us insane.
We’re going to be tackling renovating our kitchen this summer, so I’m deep in the research phase right now and am trying to learn as much as possible about how to design a super functional, beautiful, and on-budget kitchen. A few weeks ago, I asked on Instagram about what you all had learned from past kitchen renovations, and received so much incredible advice. Since the feedback was so immensely helpful, I’ve assembled it all by category below. If you have any additional feedback to add, please share it in the comments! Let’s dig in:
1. Lighting and Electrical Placement
Overhead Lights: Think about where lights are placed overhead to ensure that when you’re working at the countertops or at the sink that the light is in front of you and not behind you to avoid shadows being cast onto the space in front of you.
Dimmers: Make sure all your lights are dimmable, so you can avoid being blasted by super bright light. This is great advice for every room in your house.
Under-counter lighting: Account for dimmable under-counter lighting, it’s very helpful. Also, make sure if you’re working with a custom cabinetmaker that the bottom of the cabinetry allows for the lighting to be flush with the cabinetry.
Outlets: Don’t forget about your outlets! The placement and orientation (horizontal can be a good idea). Also, make sure to source beautiful outlets and covers to avoid them ruining a beautiful backsplash. Think about where you’re going to need power within your kitchen, so you can keep your small appliances in a convenient place in the space.
Drawers: You guys are ALL about the drawers, and I couldn’t agree more! Drawers can be a lot easier to organize and access than your standard cabinet doors with shelves. Leverage deep drawers for pots and pans, and medium-depth drawers for plates and bowls. Add drawers under your stovetop for cookie sheets, muffin trays, and the like.
Pantry: If you have a deep pantry, add drawers so you can access everything that gets pushed to the very back. This really allows you to make the most of the space. You can never have too big a pantry, so make sure to allocate a good amount of space for food storage.
Non-Cooking Storage: Consider how you can find a home in your kitchen for other items like large serving pieces, cookbooks, and dog treats.
Appliance Garage: Nobody wants to look at lots of clutter in their kitchen, so think about how you can build in enclosed storage for your small appliances like toasters, microwaves, blenders and coffee-makers. A coffee bar that’s enclosed behind doors is a nice way to keep all your morning coffee items contained and out of sight, especially if you continue your countertop into this cabinet for easy cleaning.
Recycling and Trash: Don’t forget about enough space for recycling and trash, if you have extra space, it doesn’t hurt to make room for larger trash and recycling bins.
Cutting Board: Consider a slide out cutting board that looks like a drawer with a hole for trash for easier cooking prep.
Junk Drawer: Plan for a junk drawer. As much as you don’t want to have one, you indefinitely will end up with one.
It’s amazing how complex the storage can get behind cabinet doors, some of my favourite kitchen accounts to follow for storage inspiration on Instagram are Humphrey Munson and Studio Dearborn.
3. Where to splurge
One of the biggest themes I heard was that it can be hard when you’re in the middle of an expensive project like a kitchen renovation to splurge on some big ticket items, but that a lot of you regretted not splurging on what you really wanted from the start. The lesson: don’t compromise on what really matters to you, despite it sometimes being the more expensive option, since you can’t easily go back and change your mind once it’s been installed. The items you wish you’d spent more on:
Larger 36″ ranges
A nicer backsplash, either one slab of stone or nicer tile
Also, make sure the high cost of the project doesn’t scare you away from taking some design risks.
And one area not to splurge: solid maple interiors on your cabinetry are an expensive splurge that rarely gets seen and doesn’t make much of a difference in the scheme of things.
4. Cleanability & Durability
Trim: Simpler trimwork and profiles will keep from becoming dust magnets.
Paint: Professionally painted woodwork is way more durable in the long-term. Make sure you use paint that’s graded for cabinetry.
Fridges: Measure for the exact fridge depth so it doesn’t stick out. Opt for counter-depth fridges so they don’t take up as much real estate in the kitchen (this is one of my biggest pet peeves and is currently an issue in our kitchen).
Panel Ready: For a cleaner look, opt for panel ready appliances (the standard in Europe, but are becoming more popular here), however, be careful that the weight of the panel itself is on spec for the appliance, so as not to impact the mechanics of the appliance. We’re hoping to use an integrated, panel-ready fridge in our kitchen renovation because I just don’t typically love how much visual attention the standard fridge often commands in a space.
Range Hood: Don’t do a combination microwave and range hood, the ventilation is never as good (also an issue in our current and past kitchen), and it’s a missed opportunity to make a statement with your hood. We’re going to be hiding our microwave away since we rarely use it, and have no desire to look at it every time we’re in the kitchen. Make sure the ventilation on your hood vents outside and that your ventilation is powerful enough for the room.
Dishwashers: Stainless Steel fronts on dishwashers will show water drops, so be careful about the material you choose (Another issue in our current kitchen).
6. Countertops, Backsplashes & Flooring
Countertop Material: There was a lot of conflicting opinions on this one. Some people wish they hadn’t gone with quartz because it’s isn’t actually as indestructible as people say it is and can scratch and stain. But, lots of people love their quartz counters and are happy they went with them. Some people regret doing marble because it’s high maintenance, while others are happy with how it patinas and ages. One common sentiment is that a busy or loud countertop choice will boss your kitchen around visually, so it might not be the best place to go bold.
Tiling: Take the backsplash all the way up to the ceiling if you’re tiling. Don’t feel rushed to install your appliances before your backsplash in the event that you want to run your backspash behind the range and need access.
Floors: If you’re doing tile on your kitchen floors, be aware that lighter floors will show a lot of dirt and wear quickly.
7. Layout & Size
Sight Lines: Make sure there are clear views to other rooms for watching kids and entertaining
Adjacent Rooms: Consider continuing the same cabinetry into other adjacent spaces, like the mudroom and laundry room for a more cohesive look and more functional storage.
Size: Ensure the space is large enough, on paper might look good, but the room starts to fill up fast with cabinetry and appliances.
Islands: Go with a larger island if you can and really maximize the storage within the island.
8. Sinks & faucets
Sink: Go with a big, deep sink if you have the space for it.
Faucet: For ease of use, a single lever faucet with an integrated sprayer is the way to go.
And some general advice: trust your instincts, and don’t let poor quality work slide. Know that it will take longer than you expect. And don’t cut corners, at the end of the day your kitchen is a workspace that is one of the most hard-working rooms in your home, so make sure everything is as high-quality as possible.