Well guys, we just hit month eight of our kitchen and living room renovation, and we owe you all a super-sized update. I have a lot of mixed feelings at this state in the game; mostly happy, happy, joy, joy, but also a few frustrations and tears. I would say that as of today, we are about 90% done with all of the planned DIY and installations. Once we put away the tools and let out a sigh of relief, I will be sure to share our budget breakdown, lessons learned (quite a few), what we would have done differently (quite a few things here as well), our thoughts on living with an open concept, as well as why we picked specific items for our kitchen (flooring type, counter type, appliances, hardware, etc…). We also have a few specific installation tutorials in the works (flooring, crown moulding, closet doors, etc…).
Before we dive in, I also wanted to take a minute to talk about the kitchen “reveal”. Lately, the thought of that is making me quiver. The more I reflect on our space and the One Room Challenge, the more I realize that I should have been OK “revealing” an unfinished living room at the end of the six weeks, instead of making rush decisions and forcing a fully furnished and accessorized space. Do I regret doing the challenge? Not for a second. It has been incredible having a finished living room, and I believe in learning from experiences even if they don’t turn out as planned. But here is the thing, can we have a little heart-to-heart here guys? I am no good at rushing a space (evident). As my 8 year old would say, “It is not my jam”. Although I think the end result of our living room was beautiful, the longer I lived with it, the more I started picking it apart and realizing all of the mistakes I made. And I also acknowledge that much of it was due to the last minute rush to paint and furnish and source accessories.
Some of the mistakes were costly and some are more easily fixed. Many of them allowed me to grow and learn which is extremely important for me to recognize. When I didn’t blog, if I made a mistake I could evaluate, course correct on my own timeline, and work through things without judgement from anyone but myself. But sharing with the world that when we installed the fireplace built-ins, I cried like a baby because I wasn’t sure if I was making the right choices… yet powered through anyway to hit the challenge deadline, is hard. And admitting that we made mistakes with our furniture layout and space planning, is also hard. Acknowledging that the room needed to have some time to just be without all of the extra side tables, baskets, chairs, accessories and art… is hard.
When I didn’t blog, I never “revealed” a room to myself or my family. I just slowly worked on things here and there and our home continuously evolved over time. But in the land of DIY blogging, it seems that reveals are the norm. We all feed on that next big room update and final source of inspiration, before hopping on to another blog to find more. And I am completely guilty of being a part of that process, as I have had my share a room and project reveals here over the years.
But once the kitchen is finished being installed, I really, really want to take my time furnishing it and decorating it. And I am sure some of you think 8 months is already too long, while others understand that because we have done 85% of the installation and work ourselves, that 8 months really isn’t all that bad. I still have rugs to pick out, kitchen window treatments to select, new dining chairs to source… And I have to find ways to tie my living room, kitchen and dining room, all together so they are cohesive and warm and family friendly. These things can’t be rushed. Not by me anyway.
After the One Room Challenge reveal, our living room felt really heavy and over-done next to our completely unfinished kitchen. I told you we took off the cocktail hour makeup, but we eventually toned it down even more to yoga paints and a pony tail. Nothing we put in the room initially has been discarded or wasted, but a few of the items have been relocated to other areas of our home where they work even better… (because we all know I love re-using what we already have to evolve and decorate our home).
So when it comes to the kitchen, I will continue to share the changes we make as we make them (the good, the bad and the ugly), and I appreciate your patience if things seem slow and if “reveal” day is three years from now. Although we blog about our home, we also live in our home and invest our time and money into our projects. We are learning; we are not designers and we are really just here to share our journey. I have had to remind myself a lot lately that we are not a team of magazine editors or a DIY television crew, and that it is OK to take our time. Most importantly, we want to encourage our readers to do the same.
So the kitchen! It really is getting there! The good? Our trim, crown moulding and toe kick are all finally installed!
For the most part, Bryan and I were on the same page with the kitchen. The hard parts for us were when something unplanned/unexpected happened. Then we hit walls and our eyes bugged out and we bickered about solutions. Renovations can be stressful! But compromise is definitely key, and that is what we did when it came to the crown moulding. As soon as we held up the IKEA moulding that came stock with our cabinets, I shook my head no. Bryan half-grinned because he could have guessed that would be my reaction, and then he asked me what my solution was instead. I told him that I had envisioned something a little more substantial and that we could come up with our own combination using trim from the home improvement store. The problem was those beautiful beams we installed. Their angle in comparison to the tall cabinets, didn’t give us a lot of wiggle room where the shallower cabinets were installed. The two options he gave me were to either install the IKEA moulding and leave the beams be, or install the chunkier moulding and cut into the beams, impacting their overall integrity and design. I had no desire to ruin our new beams, so we compromised. The deeper cabinets received the trim treatment I wanted, while the shallower versions received the stock IKEA trim. This compromise meant that no beams were harmed during the installation.
All of the lower decorative moulding pieces, as well as the filler pieces have also been installed. Every new piece of trim that was put in had me oohing and ahhing, it is a total game changer in making a kitchen feel finished.
One thing we can’t decide on is how to handle the last random beam above the kitchen window. The debate is to either build a valance box connecting the cabinets and letting the beam fade away behind it as the rest of the beams do, or to let some custom roman shades try to do all of the work. I just know a random beam above the window completely bugs me, but that is where it had to fall due to the support in the ceiling.
Another item up for debate is the toe kick. Hubby says no toe kick where the dishwasher pulls out (the dishwasher doesn’t have a spot to attach the toe kick and we need to be able to pull it out should it ever need repairing), and I say YES! That gap is no bueno. The solution we are toying with is to add some sort of decorative toe kick feat at the starting and stopping points of the toe kick, to make it look a bit more intentional.
The gap really is only noticed from certain angles, but again, I am not sure that I like it.
The rest of the good? I really like how things are turning out in general. The finishes are classic and pretty, everything has been really easy to clean and the work area has been much easier to navigate than our previous kitchen. So many wins with all of the updates we have been making.
And I love our glass faced cabinets, they have to be one of my favorite additions to the kitchen (they aren’t “styled” yet, so no judging).
Since we are having a heart-to-heart, let’s dive into the bad.
The biggest bad? We are at a basic “new build” phase, where everything is white and feels very sterile to me. Don’t get me wrong here, I love the finishes! Especially after living with faux green marble counters and tile for 13 years, this neutral palette is a very warm welcome. But the white ceiling, white cabinets, white dining chairs, white trim and moulding…. so much white. I love white, but enough is enough. I am ready to layer in warmth and some character and so excited to start making this update feel like home. But again, I know that will come with time and use.
Also, I wish we would have had our outlets/switches behind the counter moved down lower, maybe even turned. I don’t like I can see them and may have them fixed before we backsplash. Random, but one of those overlooked details.
And one more debate; the upper cabinets in the dining area….
I miss our teal hutch every day, but the truth is that these cabinets fit the space SO much better. They offer twice the storage and take up half of the floor area. And for those who have asked, that teal hutch is still living in our guest room, I am not letting it go without a fight!
So what’s the prob Bob? Errr, Jen?
The problem is that after we added the crown moulding, the cabinets became quite top heavy. And although we still have furniture legs for the base cabinets, I am not sure that will really help. The dining cabinets are the same height as the rest of the kitchen cabinets, but being that the lower half is narrower, the top becomes overwhelming at times.
So the debate here is whether to keep or remove the upper cabinets. The lowers are not going anywhere… We use every ounce of their storage, as well as the counter on a daily basis. We have really appreciated this addition to the dining area. But the uppers only hold some entertaining drinkware at the moment, so I know we don’t need them. They were added as an after-thought in an effort to hit the 20% off mark with our cabinet purchase (at IKEA you have to spend so much to qualify for their annual 20% off sale) and I am wondering if they are just too much for the space to handle. But if they go… what to do in their place? Rustic shelving? Art? Both?
And another bad? I will just keep loading them up OK? You guys always say you love the “real life” struggles. Going big today friends.
I have been hinting at the fact that we had a very large snafu with our center island, and that it has caused me to hit my head against multiple hard objects. It has really been one problem after another, and although the quality is beautiful, there were a few mistakes behind initial the design. In fact, it is a good thing that we listened to the number one piece of renovation advice and over-budgeted by 20%. Because mistakes will and do happen. And although they totally stink, with most major renovations they are inevitable at some point or another. But when they happened to us with our island not once, but twice, we needed to take a long break and reassess. And I needed to read a lot of renovation reality stories online with my husband, so that we could feel better knowing it doesn’t just happen to us. What helped us get over our hurdle was reading the stories where even kitchen and design professionals have experienced flawed designs and installs, ultimately meaning that redos were part of the game. But truthfully, no matter how many other stories you read, it still stinks worse than the heavily manured corn field down the road.
The first problem was that our oven didn’t fit in the initial design, and Bryan had to trim our custom cabinet to make it fit properly. Not cool but we are big kids that can figure things out and get over it, so we did. But problem two was even bigger. I had picked out a range, cooktop and downdraft combination that was all given the green light to work together and fit the island cabinet specs (by our cabinet designer), but this is where a general contractor or kitchen professional would have been really helpful (lesson learned). Downdrafts are not typically intended to be installed behind a range, just behind a single cooktop, unless you purchase very specific downdraft models. Ours was installed behind the range, but when our HVAC folks came to hook everything up, the downdraft didn’t function properly. Heck, it didn’t even turn on. So we called the downdraft company and they sent us replacement parts a week or two later and notified us that they were going to track down a warranty approved repair service. Oh! But due to the fact we live in the middle of nowhere, it could take a few weeks to find someone to help us out. And it did.
Once the repairman was finally in touch with us regarding our appliance, he informed us that it should not be placed in behind a range at all, and that it will often times void the warranty because a range can overheat the downdraft system. Say what? So now we were back to square one, but we already had a counter and island sized and installed to work around and we were really struggling to find the proper appliance fit. This is where much of the head banging happened. And even some tears. OK, who am I kidding, I sobbed like a freakin’ baby. Someone get this girl a Kleenex.
And today we have a brand new slide-in range and downdraft sitting in our entryway, and that is not something I would have expected to be happening at the 8 month mark. The HVAC and counter folks are scheduled to come back within the next two weeks to make the new, hopefully correct, setup work. And if things don’t work? I may be knocking at one of your doors to ask you if I can move in, so be ready. At the very least, I may need a padded room. Please wish us luck!
And now for the ugly! Ready to laugh? I love to make y’all laugh, even if at my own expense.
With all of the white, I have been trying to bring in wood tones to warm things up. I had a brilliant idea to turn the bi-fold doors into a french door swing situation (which worked!) and stain them in a pretty wood tone. Um… although I sanded and was careful with my staining, they still turned out orange toned and blotchy. My intentions were good going in, but ultimately I am not sold on them just yet. I am going to try sanding them down a bit and adding a second coat of stain in a less-orange tone. If that doesn’t work, I know they can always be painted. Just thought I would share the hiccup. Also, see the new appliances in the background? #crazytownoverhere
So there are the renovation realities. Some days, I wonder if we got in over our heads with this project. And other days, I am so impressed with all we have been able to do, on our own. I know that it will take time for all of the pieces to come together, and I am trying to be forgiving when things don’t. In fact, I have to thank Mandi from Vintage Revivals for her recent speech at the Haven conference; it was just what I needed to hear at that very moment. She mentioned that her most favorite and popular project was her camper, the Nugget. But she also shared that to get it to a state that she truly loved, she had to be open with her readers about her trials and do-overs. And even more do-overs. She thought at points that she had taken on too much and that she may never cross the finish line, but pressed on to create something quite magical. OK, so magical doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, the girl has skillzzzz! So although a camper and a kitchen are like apples and bananas, I still appreciate that she was honest about the hard parts, and that she continuously worked at something, even if it meant taking three steps back to move forward. That is what I need to remember at this point in our renovation, 8 months in.
Let’s end on a good. We love the floors. We love our cabinets. We love our counters. Like really love our counters. Oh! And the big ol’ deep sink! That thing
hides holds dishes like a champ. And the size of the island has been incredible because it has become the hottest spot in our home. With this renovation, my experience in the kitchen has turned from dreading to cook, to wanting to learn every last secret family recipe.
We still have to install the legs to the cabinet behind the table, finish the flooring and trim down the hall and figure out the kitchen window/beam situation. Then I can pick out back-splash and really start playing with the fun finishing touches. I hope you are ready for three more years of kitchen blog posts! #wink And feel free to weigh in on our dilemmas in the comment section below, we always love hearing from our readers!
Updated kitchen to-do list:
HVAC/Oven/Cooktop Install counters Set island cabinets Install hardware on island cabinets Replace garage door Install flooring Frame in refrigerator Finish installing cabinet side panels Install cabinet toe-kick Install cabinet crown moulding Panel gap above fridge Trim floors, doors and windows
- Install backsplash
- DIY a coat closet door
- Add shelving and doors to nook above coat closet (?)
- Install legs to built-in side cabinet
DIY message center
You can follow all of the kitchen progress here.