We’ve been living with our renovated kitchen/sunroom/dining room/mudroom for about a year now, and we still marvel that we get to use such a beautiful space everyday that looks so different than when we first bought it. Of course there are always things you learn along the way and would reconsider if you had a do-over, so now that we’ve been using the space for a good long while I thought I’d follow up and share a few of the things we especially love and the things we would have done differently if we could turn back time.
Things we love
I should start by saying that on the whole, we love the whole dang thing. The kitchen part of the space used to look like this:
(I made sure there was a cat in both photos — the same cat, in fact.)
And the sunroom portion used to look like this:
And now it looks like this:
So as an overall transformation, we love everything. We love the light, we love the functionality, we love how simple but colorful it is…it’s the best and we’re the luckiest ever.
But in terms of a few specific things we’re particularly happy we did, I’d have to say:
1. Knocking down The Wall between the kitchen and the sunroom, which used to be totally separate rooms with a glass door between them.
That was the most significant structural change we made, and it wasn’t the plan we originally had when we bought the house — we thought we’d open up a passthrough on the other wall of the kitchen in order to make it open to the living room.
However, Naomi convinced us that opening the kitchen up in the other direction made so much more sense, and she was so right. The sunroom gets so much light from the windows on three walls and we never got to appreciate it because we basically never used the sunroom — it was just this weird separate room that we passed through on our way into the house and then we closed the door behind us and entered our dark kitchen. Now we get all the light from the sunroom into the main area of the house, plus it’s easy to use as a sunroom/dining room combo (plus mini mudroom), AND our living room can remain a separate cozy space where you can’t see if there are dishes in the sink.
2. The “pantry wall,” and especially our little recycling center.
This back wall of the kitchen used to hold a really large buffet:
So we knew that when we removed that, we needed to create a lot of new storage. We managed to add cabinets, a deep pantry, the fridge, and a place to store our recycling bins to the wall, much of it cabinetry that my dad and I built together.
We love all this storage, but I especially love the cabinets we built to hold our recycling bins (paper and plastic/metal have to be separated in our city):
I think these cabinets look so professional and well done, it makes me really proud of the work my dad and I did together plus it is so convenient and nice to not have to store our recycling out in the open where all our guests were always thinking it was the trash can and putting trash in it (black bin in the left corner of this photo, with a piece of paper taped on telling people it’s recycling).
3. Replacing our double sink basis with a single sink.
Our kitchen used to have a double sink basin, and it was the worst. Neither half was big enough to fit a large pot or pan to soak, and it just seemed like the biggest waste of space. So when it came time to get new counters, we took the opportunity to get rid of it and replace it with a single basin.
Our not-so-new-anymore sink is amazing and so convenient and I will never go back to a double basin.
These are all examples of things we were able to do because we lived with our original kitchen for over a year before even drafting the renovation plans, so we had a chance to learn what things would make a big improvement in our use of the space. There are about 5 million other things we love, but I’ll stop there because you’ve already heard me brag about my awesome kitchen a million times. Now I’ll share a few of the things I’d change.
Things we’d change
1. Our white corian counters.
We went with corian solid surface counters because they are relatively affordable (we paid $1,033 for 30 square feet) and they’re incredibly durable, and I picked white because the electric blue counters always showed every crumb and I thought a lighter color would do the opposite. However, I was wrong.
I still really love the look of these counters, the main problem is just that they, too, show every crumb and spill. And I’m really not a neat freak, but for some reason having clean kitchen counters is a thing for me — so I wipe down the counters completely 1-2 times a day. That’s really not a problem because it’s good to have clean counters, but I’d love them to hide detritus just a little better. I realize in retrospect that it’s not the light/dark differentiation that determines if dirt will show but the solid/patterned distinction — so if I were to do it again, I’d pick a material with a little more variation in it so that each speck of dust wouldn’t show quite so much.
2. Shoddy workmanship
In a few places in the kitchen, I cut some corners. In particular, in places where I joined two cabinets together that used to be in different places (which I did in a few places because we relocated both upper and lower cabinets), I used wood putty to hide the seams and in some places didn’t get totally smooth finishes. For some reason I always think paint is going to disguise textural flaws and it never does because that isn’t how paint works. The results aren’t horrendous, but they annoy me when I see them and I think contrast with the rest of the work which doesn’t look as much like it’s a DIY job.
In retrospect I would have spent more time getting the cabinets lined up better to begin with, then more time sanding the putty to a smooth finish before painting.
3. The floor (maybe)
We have light blue/gray Marmoleum Click floors that I like in a lot of ways: I love the color, it’s so soft underfoot, and it’s quite durable.
On the other hand, it does show dirt because it’s a solid color (though it cleans up easily) and there’s that small section where the dye is slightly different (which I talked about here).
That alone wouldn’t be enough to reconsider our choice, but I do wonder if there were other options we could have considered for a similar cost. We picked them because I loved the color and they were a fairly affordable option (and could go over our uneven plywood subfloor), but we didn’t know when we bought them that we’d need to pay for installation — we thought we’d lay them ourselves (more on why we weren’t able to do that here). We ended up paying $3,150 for the floors (including installation), which comes to about $8.25 per square foot. That’s still pretty reasonable, but if I’d known the full cost I just would have considered more options that I rejected earlier in my research because of price.
In the end I don’t know that we would have gone with a different option, but I think I’ll always wonder.
So there you have it, a few of my favorite things I get to enjoy every day and a few things I (might) have done differently. On the whole, a year later we’re still loving it!