I can’t provide you with kitchen updates since I’ve never actually provided you with… well, anything much about my kitchen at all. To tell that story, let me take you waaaay back to see our house when we bought it. Back then, the house we love so much was bursting with the wrong kind of character. The walls were various beiges, the wall-to-wall carpeting throughout was shaggy green, and everything was coated with stale smoke and grime.
However, the kitchen was a brighter spot… because it was entirely yellow.
Yes, that is a laminate counter, backsplash, and floor all in different shades of yellow. Try not to get too jealous.
These were not the only features. We had handles in the middle of the upper cabinet doors, a wall cutting the room off from the rest of the house, and awesome boxy window cornices.
Even though we really wanted to MAKE ALL THE CHANGES right away, we prioritized other things in our renovation. Full kitchen renovations are expensive, and there were some things that we needed to do (like replacing leaky windows) and some things that we thought were more important for our enjoyment of the house (like an open floor plan and new floors).
It was also a mindshare issue: we had so many decisions to make about the house as a whole and didn’t have time or energy to plan our dream kitchen. And this is a room I want to get right.
Instead, we decided on a half makeover, where we would take advantage of some of the things we were already doing in our renovation and make some affordable or temporary fixes, but leave a lot of the projects for later when we have the time to really figure out what we want.
Fortunately, a lot was already going to be taken care of during our renovation. As part of creating an open floor plan in the front of the house, we were already tearing down the interfering wall between the kitchen and the dining room, solving the problem of the room feeling so cramped, dark, and isolated. (If you want the full story, you can check out my full post about my renovation.)
Rather than a small kitchen with a single window and a cramped formal dining room, we now think of this space as a luxurious eat-in kitchen with light from all sides.
We were also already installing new bamboo floors throughout most of the house, and it made total sense to tear out that orange and brown vinyl floor and run the bamboo through into the kitchen to go along with the open flow. (Bamboo flooring is pretty durable, and also naturally mold-resistant, so it is not a bad choice in a kitchen.)
But even with these major changes already taken care of, we still had the old-but-mostly-working appliances, the yellow counter and back splash, the chipped and scratched cabinets with handles in the middle of the doors, the vinyl baseboards, the leaky faucet, the boob lights, ugly sink, beige door, grayed vinyl replacement window, and beat-up trim and window cornice.
I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.
We figured out what on that list we could live with, what we could take on now, and what we could chip away at through affordable upgrades or DIY projects over time.
The “live with” list included the appliances, cabinets, cabinet hardware, lighting, and sink. Why? They all work. We like the current layout and storage options, so we’re not sure yet whether we’ll replace the cabinets or just paint and upgrade the ones we have when we finally do a big renovation. And as much as we’d like shiny, new, efficient appliances, ours are working fine (besides a leaking dishwasher which we were able to get fixed). Plus, waiting has the added benefit of allowing us to hold out until we switch from oil to natural gas, so we can eventually get a real gas range instead of electric like we have now.
We also decided we could live with the gray vinyl replacement window so long as we took down the cornice and replaced the old trim to match the new stuff we were having put up in the other rooms through the renovation. It cost virtually nothing to add this on to the existing scope of work.
However, we chose not to live with the yellow counter and backsplash. We were already doing a lot of demo in the renovation so it was no problem to have the old ones taken out with the rest of the trash… leaving us with this when we moved in:
It’s open! And look at that beautiful floor! And lovely blue paint color! But where’s the counter? We lived without one for about a month. It sure made unpacking and organizing easier (hello, open drawers) but it was a total pain for everything else… like cooking. Even worse, the dishwasher couldn’t work without the support of the counter, so everything had to be washed by hand in small batches (because there wasn’t a lot of surface to lay them out on).
After much thought, we chose to go with laminate counters. As much as I LOVE the look of wood or marble, I am not prepared to take on the maintenance. I prefer a counter that does not pick up stains or need water to be wiped up right away. Personally I think it is a good trade off to just avoid putting hot pans down on the surface.
Also, laminate has come a long way from that bad-imitation-of-wood-grain-with-a-persistent-brown-edge that you are all imagining right now. We got ours with a clean beveled edge, in a dark gray with blue undertones and a bit of shine. It’s from Lam-Art.
For the backsplash, we weren’t ready to replace it with something permanent like tile until we knew what we were going to do with our cabinets. I considered just painting it, but the surface was in too bad of shape, and I don’t love that look anyway. So I decided to try a DIY solution.
I considered fabric like Sage used on her stairs, but that would have gotten too messy in a kitchen, and setting it behind glass or fiberglass would have been just as involved/permanent as tile. Instead, I installed a temporary backsplash using renters wallpaper in a tile pattern.
I love how it turned out. A full tutorial on that is coming up next week! (Update: here!)
We also replaced the faucet – the old one was leaking and looked like it was on its last legs. I really wanted a cool commercial style faucet like this one.
However, the Advisory Committee (Brad) was not interested in that industrial look. But this might be one of those mythical cases where “compromises” are a “good thing.” We ended up with a faucet that we love, that is probably better suited to the overall style of our house.
At the time we bought this, it was priced at more like $200 – not cheap but not unbelievable. With the good quality and the simple and modern shape we’re confident that we’ll have it and love it for the long haul.
(What, you noticed? Yes, our plumber did install it the wrong way, with the control pointing toward the middle of the sink. That doesn’t make it any less beautiful. We’ll try to fix that eventually, but for now it doesn’t really bother us.)
So what did all this get us? Here is our kitchen today!
Not perfect, but it is bright and open, with natural light coming in from two sides and our bamboo floors flowing right into the dining area. The openness makes a huge difference in how much we enjoy the space. Just take a look at how much the “view from the kitchen” has changed!
And no one is sad to see that yellow go away. The counters look a bit bluer in these pictures than they really are – they are really more of a slate than a blue. The color looks pretty good with the tone of the cabinet wood, actually. If only they were in better shape, with different handle placement!
The backsplash really brightens up the room, and I love that it brings in a lot of the bright colors we use throughout the house – yellow, red, and blue – in a way that is not overwhelming. It fits in with our house, but is actually a little calmer in comparison.
However, as much as I love it, I cannot claim the space is done – not even for now. I definitely need to get off my butt and paint the baseboards, which are currently showing splotches of glue from where we tore out the old vinyl ones. It would take me like 5 minutes to just do this, and it would make such a big difference.
Also on the “short term” list is a change of lighting. When we finally pick and install our dining room chandelier, I also plan to replace the living room light (currently a temporary open bulb) and the two kitchen lights. I’d like to do a schoolhouse style flush mount for the central lights in the living room and kitchen, and then pick a cool pendant for over the sink.
Finally, I want to paint or replace the exterior door, which, in all its beige glory, is a lone holdout from the earlier days.
After that, it is time to start dreaming about the real renovation!