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.

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