Oh, hello again and Happy New Year! We are back with a little update. 2017 was a wild year. And now that it has come to a close, we've been doing a lot of goal making, progress assessments, planning, and thinking about the opportunities 2018 will bring. We are pretty excited about the New Year and hope you are, too!
One of our goals is to post with more regularity...and this time really do it. We're making some changes to the blog soon, and we are excited to have you come along with us on the journey! 2017 was heavy for us, so not much blogging happened. I (Susie) lost my Daddy this year, and Christina has been renovating her older house and having a mountain of issues with it. Frankly, both situations are super hard, so we've been a bit distracted. Losing a parent is terrible and it has changed a lot about how I feel day to day. I've been a less engaged friend and have often felt like I'm just floating around in a bubble. My friend Kara, who lost her Daddy several months after me, wrote a beautiful blog post recently about it. She so perfectly captured how it feels. You can read it here. In 2018 I hope to write in a cheerful, funny way like Kara does, even in the midst of grief. Daddy would have liked that. He was sappy sometimes, but then ALWAYS followed it up with a joke. No moment too serious not to laugh. So I'm going to try to do just that.
Alright, I know you didn't come to an interior design blog to read about grief. I wont stop altogether, but I will move on to pretty photos now :)
Our kitchen! AT LAST!!! Victor and I decided to have a stressful first year of marriage. We bought a house, took on major projects with it, and all of this while Daddy was very sick. It was a lot.
When we bought our ugly littl....I mean.... our little house in January of 2017, I wanted to rip the kitchen out right away. There was a heavy dose of bad attitude towards things I wanted to change and I was getting annoyed with how real estate has gotten in Atlanta. The location we wanted plus all of the things we hoped for were so expensive and we didn't have the luxury of living in a different house while we renovated so I was feeling really frustrated. The list of fixes was long and I am ashamed to admit I sat down and cried during the inspection. Like a child. Honestly, if you've seen me this year for more than an hour, you've definitely seen me cry. That used to be mortifying, now it's like "Welp, tears. Here they come. Embrace it."
Aaaaaaanyway, we decided the kitchen couldn't be expanded because there were so many high priority fixes desperately needed like an HVAC as old as me, single pane inefficient windows, no insulation in the attic, water pooling all over the yard, and on and on and on. I'm a giant baby sometimes, so I cried because other things were more important than getting the kitchen I wanted. But I'm a giant baby who loves to cook and entertain, and the kitchen is very important for that!
The kitchen had laminate countertops that had been sponge painted to look like granite. The cabinets were sealed with Great Stuff (which is actually great stuff! just not ideally needed between cabinets), and then that was topped with duct tape that had been painted white. Some doors were coming off and/or missing. It felt cramped and narrow and dark.
The cabinet doors were non-paintable melamine with no pulls and some didn't close properly. There was also a weird little peninsula which I found to be a very confusing choice for a narrow, small kitchen. The refrigerator and dishwasher couldn't be opened at the same time due to the narrow space and the size of the doors. Oh, and if the refrigerator door was open, you couldn't even walk by. It was SO narrow.
The lighting also posed a few problems. When chopping vegetables, the angle of the lights overhead cast shadows over what I was doing and bounced directly off of the cabinet faces rather than onto the counters, making it hard to see anything well. Very little natural light came in through the window due to the wooden valance you can see stretching between cabinets over the sink.
When we first moved in some friends would supportively say "Oh, this is a cute kitchen" to which I would grouchily say "Are you kidding?! It's the worst!". Sorry, friends. haha! I would have preferred the kitchen be legitimately 1960s in avocado green and gold.
So, while we couldn't expand and make the kitchen a beautiful, large one with an island and all of my dreams in it, we did turn that turd of a kitchen into a beautiful space that I LOVE!
First, we gutted the kitchen. I cannot tell you how fun that was to do. Never underestimate the power of wielding a sledgehammer. Pure therapy. We decided to keep costs down by keeping the existing footprint of the kitchen. With the help of our friend and contractor, Paddy, we decided to push one wall (the one with the fridge) into the carport just a bit to widen the kitchen and make it more functional and comfortable without having to add on to the house or losing our parking spaces. Since we had the walls open, we decided to take out all of the old insulation and replace it with more energy efficient insulation and also spray for bugs. Roaches like old houses. We do not like roaches.
So we had a plan. We decided to make our kitchen feel brighter, bigger, sleek, and modern all the while not changing the basic layout. To do this, we eliminated the upper cabinets from the window side of the kitchen in favor of open shelves, and took out all uppers on the back wall altogether. Open shelves are polarizing. Some people love them, some hate them. Here's why we decided to go this route and why it may work for you: 1. the kitchen felt so narrow, opening up the line of sight would help to make it feel visually wider 2. the amount of light coming in from the back of the house was limited, and opening up that area would bring in more natural light (the more the better!) 3. my wedding china was hidden away in a buffet cabinet in the dining room, rarely being used. This would give us a natural place to display the pieces AND use them more often. 4. our house is a 1960s ranch with modern lines, so we wanted to keep with that style and be true to the era.
Word to the wise, display pieces you love and actually use. I cook A LOT. Like, every day, at least one full meal. Some people say not to do open shelving if you cook a lot, but I don't entirely agree. I say, do it if it works best for your space, but display things you'll use and not items that will just sit there collecting dust and grease. If you do put items on the shelves that you wont use frequently, they'll need to be washed before use. Last year, I used my wedding china one time. Since the renovation has been completed, I've used it at least 6 times.
The kitchen was short on functional storage, so we took the wall that was a chalkboard wall beside the refrigerator and created a real pantry with pullout shelves. The back wall with the range was to be a focal point for the kitchen with a hood that feels like something the Jetsons might have, plus clean, pretty glass tiles all the way up to the ceiling. We chose glass because it's more reflective and dimensional than ceramic and would therefore add more light and airiness to the space. We added a couple of extra drawer stacks on the bottom rather than cabinets in most cases for optimal storage space. We wanted the kitchen to feel bright and modern but still welcoming and warm, so we elected to stain the lower cabinets in a walnut color that picks up on the darker tones from our original hardwoods and go with high gloss white flat front, full overlay doors for the uppers. The kitchen faces an open concept living space, so we wanted it to feel balanced when looking in from the other room. To solve that, we planned to do a waterfall countertop that comes down the side of our stained lower cabinets and create a white end on both sides; the pantry and the waterfall opposite the pantry.
Now that the plan was in place, the walls were sheet rocked and the cabinet boxes went in. We had plastic up across from the laundry to the back door, so I couldn't back up too much to get good photos during the process.
Then the electrical, cabinet doors, and countertops went in. It felt cool, but not quite a kitchen until the tile went up. That really made a big difference! We chose to have the tile laid stack bond for a really clean look with very straight lines. Simple, clean, and accurate!
We wanted that tile backsplash to feel totally uninterrupted, so we decided to put the outlets and switch for the disposal in the countertop. We chose white pop-up outlets so they disappear into the white countertop. You can see the cutouts for the faucet, push-button disposal and outlets in the photo above.
There are lots of options out there for solid surface counters. We chose quartz in solid white so that it almost feels like a space-age material you might have come across in the 60s. We had the edge mitered and cut in a knife-edge so that we got a super cool effect. Quartz also has added benefits of being more stain and heat resistant than other materials, really sturdy, and made with stone!
One of my favorite things in our kitchen is our white faucet with blue enamel sink! It's a unique color and a nice surprise to visitors. It also makes washing dishes less horrible. Also, I'm a big fan of our panel-front dishwasher. It vanishes into the cabinets and makes it feel much more seamless.
The last thing to go in was the open shelves. We made sure to have under cabinet lighting (very low-profile LED lights) built into the cabinets and shelves and switched with the other lights on the wall as you enter the kitchen. It makes allll the difference! So does the pendant light we added. I love the clear but diffused light it casts as I wash dishes or if I just want to leave a light on for Weezy (my dog) when we are out.
Getting the spacing right for under cabinet lights is very important to have even, clear light. There are lots of options for under cabinet lighting also. You can go with a strip of lights, independent plug-in lights, lights with plugs attached, etc. We opted for direct-wire lights on a switch and asked Paddy to build them into the cabinets and shelves. Very happy we did that! Since everything is full overlay and there are no aprons to cover on the shelves, this was the cleanest and prettiest option, not to mention how functional it is!
Speaking of function, the pantry is probably too exciting to me. Previously, I was using two upper cabinets to cram everything into and if I needed to get the flour out, I had to rearrange 15 other things to make sure I didn't create an avalanche of pantry items when pulling the flour out. The soft close, strong glides on these drawers are EVERYTHING! We also decided early on that we didn't want the microwave out on the counter. Counter space is scarce in a house like ours. We have way more now than before, but still not ample. To solve that, we had a plug put into the back of the pantry and the microwave has a cozy little home now. I rarely use it anyway, so this is better for me and since we went with all white enamel on our appliances, this kept us from having to get a new microwave ;)
We also put in pull-out dog bowls in the base of the pantry. This is not only extremely adorable, but also really functional for us. Weezy eats her meals in about 30 seconds or less. She's not one to savor, so having her bowl out all the time just isn't necessary. I do have a water bowl for her elsewhere for the rest of the day, but this allows me to tuck her bowls away after meal times and keeps the house looking a little more tidy.
I haven't organized the rest of the pantry super well yet, so please disregard the somewhat haphazard nature of this right now :)
THE SNEAKY STORAGE
Lastly, we had a weird issue to solve. The corners of the kitchen before left a lot of wasted storage space and we didn't want to sacrifice that available space when we built our new kitchen. So, we got Lazy Susan storage for both corners. Pots and pans go on one side by the stove, and my rice cooker, crockpot, food processor, etc. go on the other side. I can easily access these when I need them, but when I don't, they're tucked away in that funky corner using that previously empty space.
AFTER AND BEFORE
So tell us, what do you think of the renovation? Anything you especially liked? Anything else you'd like to know? Something you would have done differently?
PS. The more we make this house our own, the more I love it and the less I want to call it ugly :)