February 12, 2014

kitchen reno lessons continued

I wanted to finish off the list of things we learned during our kitchen renovation. As insignificant as some of these points may seem, they felt like huge decisions that we needed to research. And as easy as it may be to make design decisions for someone else, it's really difficult when you are your own client. It's a whole different game when it's your money on the line, and every little detail becomes a huge project. So as promised, here's the second part of our kitchen lessons list (and here's a link to the first part):

10. Sink Pulls or No Sink Pulls

Lesson: There's no right or wrong choice.

Our stainless steel sink was included with our counters so we never really thought about choosing a farmhouse sink, kind of like this:


Speaking of old-timey sinks, I have friends who had an old fireclay sink (thanks google) in their rowhome, and glass shattered in it almost daily. Apron sinks are kind of trend right now, and they're really beautiful, but a little research will tell you they're really unforgiving when it comes to glass. Anyway, since we went with a regular stainless steel sink, we weren't sure whether or not to add knobs on the cabinet front. The panel in front of the sink is not functional so the knobs are useless, and I found an equal amount of examples with knobs and without knobs ... so, we just chose what we liked better.

11. Precious Space

Lesson: Take advantage of every opportunity for storage and measure your appliances.

We are really limited on space, so making use of every little corner was necessary. One overlooked area is the space above the refrigerator. Cabinets are not built to match refrigerator depths and heights, so we actually had to pick out and buy a fridge before we chose the wall cabinet above it. What you don't see is that it's actually built-out because there was no cabinet depth that matched our huge refrigerator. The cabinet above the fridge is amazing ... it holds all kinds of things that aren't used daily, like a roasting pan, fancy napkins, place mats, etc.

12. Convenient Shelving
Lesson: Fancy drawers are worth it.

Those pull-out shelves? They were well over $100 each, but were they worth it? Absolutely! When it came to convenient shelving, I knew it had to be done. The way I see it, you cook every day (in a perfect world ...) so you'll need to hunt for pots, pans, and lids everyday. I'm all for organization so this was a total no-brainer, I can find everything fast and don't have to reach far into the cabinet for anything (which is a win since I already need to climb the counter for the top shelves).

The above example of convenient shelving proves that anything is possible. We were told by two of the contractors that we couldn't do a half pull-out shelf because there was no space. They both wanted us to upgrade the corner to some crazy shelving that would pull out some crazy way, and of course, cost more than twice as much. Well, the contractor we went with did a little tweaking, he moved the oven a tad to the left and voila, we have a half pull-out shelf. Our corner is not wasted!

13. Slow Closure

Lesson: It's nice to have, but not necessary like everyone says it is.

We kept hearing from everyone that we must get the slow-close hardware on our drawers and cabinet doors. Here's my opinion, it's pretty cool, I can slam everything shut and it won't make noise, but does it improve the function of our kitchen? No. It just makes it quieter. We like the slow close, everyone's impressed by it, but really, it's not that special.

14. Counter Seams
Lesson: There will be seams and typically they won't be obvious, especially with quartz.

Most kitchen counters will need seams somewhere so that the stone doesn't crack. Usually it'll be around the sink since that's the thinnest and weakest spot. We chose quartz so the seam is not as obvious as it may be with granite, but either way, it's not a big deal. Seams don't take away from the look of a counter and sometimes they actually add some interest, like this butcher block:

domestic imperfection

15. Floors
Lesson: There are infinite options, choose what speaks to you.

The floor was the easiest choice for us, we saw it, loved it, and ordered it on the spot. However, we did look into other options before deciding on porcelain tiles. I did research on cork floors, wood floors, bamboo floors, and finally tile floors. There were pros and cons to everything, but ultimately, we chose tiles because they were easy to clean and basically water proof. We thought about adding radiant floor heating, which would have been easy (the contractor claimed), but we opted not to. I'll admit, it would have been nice to have that in the winter, but it's really not a necessity.

16. Trash and Recycling
Lesson: Make sure you know the size of the food disposal.

We were going to put our trash under the sink, but realized that the food disposal was way too big for anything else to fit. We worked with what we had and added a low bin for recycling, which ended up making life a lot easier. On a side note, Ikea has nice recycling bins that stack, unfortunately they don't fit under our sink.

17. Cabinet to Ceiling Transition
Lesson: The molding doesn't have to be flush with the ceiling.

I know some people like the molding to hit the ceiling, but in our case, we decided on a 'shadow line'. Our ceiling is not even, which is pretty common in old homes, so it would be a huge effort to make it flush. One contractor said his labor fee was high because it included things like replacing the ceiling to make it even ... um no. That's the beauty of our home, crooked ceilings, slanted floors, and cracked plaster walls. This is really a personal preference, but I don't mind a 'shadow line'.

18. Island or No Island
Lesson: If there's space, absolutely. If it's a little tight, get a small island!

I'm obsessed with kitchen islands, they're amazing. I don't care how big or small, they are all so incredibly useful. Yes, they take up space and it's really obvious when there's more than two people crammed in our kitchen, but I still wouldn't give up having an island. It's my go-to when I unload groceries or the dishwasher, it's where I chop things and make dough, it's just perfect.

A very short list of what I'd do differently: 

- I would paint right after kitchen was complete, because at this rate, it'll never get done.
- I would change the exterior door during the reno to avoid awkward gaps between the tiles and door jamb.
- I would caulk between the backsplash and counter instead of just grouting.
- I would skim through the appliance manuals right away, because there's features I didn't know about.

February 7, 2014

new island counter

My parents have always been huge fans of renovations and they see huge potential in literally everything. And this is where I realize that I'm more like my parents than I ever thought. They were one of the main reasons I started this whole blog thing, so they could be in the loop on our plans, progress, and finished projects. Even though they have tons of great suggestions, we update things as we have time and money, so it's been slow following up on their visions. The one thing both my mom and dad kept insisting was that we add a hard surface to our Ikea kitchen cart. I put it on the bottom of our list since I felt we had other projects I'd like to finish first. 

I actually liked that the cart was all wood and all one color, but it wasn't useful as additional counter space. The wooden top is porous and very soft, so I didn't use it often. It just so happened that my dad was getting some things delivered from Poland, so he figured he could order a slab and ship it along with everything else he was already getting. I gave him the measurements of the wooden top and thought the slab could have a cutout to fit over the cart instead of permanently gluing it. He sent me the website of the manufacturer and I picked out a few options that I liked. My dad ordered two, one that I picked out, a light marble, and one he picked out, a gray quartz. To my huge surprise, I like his pick better! It has a more uniform look, like our existing quartz, and the gray ties in our stainless steel appliances. Since it fits over the wooden top, we can take it off or switch it out with the lighter marble top. It may sound crazy to order such a small piece of quartz from Poland, but it's actually a lot cheaper and the quality is amazing. Plus my dad offered, so why not?

It's so convenient that I find myself using it every time I cook, it's not just extra space for when I unload the dishwasher or groceries. Before, cleaning was a pain, paper towels would shred on the rough wood and drinks would leave rings. Now, it's as easy to care for as our existing quartz counters. 

I also wanted to mention a little trash update we did, since it's right next to the cart. We had a plastic narrow trash can before that was fine but kind of annoying to open. When we added little Mila to our family, this trash can became problem. She quickly realized that if she attacked the trash can, it would fall over and she could have fun with all the awesome things we threw away. 

So we got a new one! I got it at Bed Bath & Beyond and it was expensive, but luckily it was a floor model and I had a coupon. 

So thanks to my parents, we have an awesome cart with a pretty counter! Now we're just hoping the little one doesn't figure out a way to knock over this trash can ...

February 4, 2014

woodsy decor

I recently realized that there's a common theme in our home. It wasn't planned, it just happened unintentionally and I'm loving the result. Our living room has gotten pretty woodsy and warm ... well at least it appears warm, we actually keep it pretty chilly around here. The wood, rattan, and woven baskets make it feel more cozy since a lot of our furniture is a little on the modern and simple side. As far as trees and wastefulness and responsibility goes, I did think about sustainability. The two pieces we got from Etsy are made from reclaimed wood and and the stump we got from West Elm is FSC certified, more on that here 'We Care: West Elm'.
Here's a run down of our woodsy living room:

Console from Etsy: It's simple, unique, sturdy, and the perfect home for stuff like keys, mail, cards, etc. As a bonus, a big basket fits underneath for shoe storage.

Mirror from World Market: This was a necessity, I had to run upstairs to use a mirror before, but besides the obvious functionality, it's really pretty.

Media cabinet from Etsy: It fits everything including those huge cable boxes, doesn't make our giant TV look so giant, and makes the living room feel more casual.

Side table from West Elm: This isn't just a tree stump, it's the perfect side table and stool. I wish I could say I cut it down somewhere myself, but I'll settle for free delivery.

Tray from West Elm: I wouldn't use this as a serving tray, but it makes a nice coffee table centerpiece. The wood is a neutral background or can be the decoration itself.

Basket from Crate & Barrel: This basket cost less than an identical one half its size! I guess they had a lot of them left over since no one needs a basket this enormous, but it's a perfect fit for our table.

So our scattered and empty house is slowly looking more complete. It's been pretty fun getting all these separate pieces and seeing everything come together. It's amazing how somehow things just work!