With the framing complete on our addition, windows installed and new siding underway, it’s time to turn my attention to interior matters and that means – IT’S TIME TO PLAN MY KITCHEN! I can barely believe it. I stood in the new framed out kitchen space this morning and actually had a “woah…this is going to be good” flash of happiness. I would be lying of course if I told you that I hadn’t already thought (a lot) about what I want the new kitchen to be like. I mean let’s be honest, I’ve basically designed the entire thing 4 different times in my head. This is frankly is the root of all my problems. I have a new found respect for clients who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of a designing a kitchen and while I may have some experience to draw from on certain things (ie. drawers are better than cabinets any day, don’t stress about mixing metals, etc, etc.) where I really flounder is in committing to just ONE design. There’s just too many pretty things/ideas/finishes to choose from! Throw in the added pressure of wanting to do something a little different (but not weird) and this is SO HARD.
Before we start, I think it’s appropriate to take a quick look back at what our old kitchen looked like. These are as real as real gets with laundry on the table and dishes in the sink, people. Believe it or not this is the kitchen after we updated every single appliance because the previous dishwasher, fridge, microwave, cooktop AND mini wall oven all stopped working within 6 months of us purchasing the house. So yes, I got new appliances but the real issue in this kitchen was never the appliances (minus the wall oven which I’ll get to) but the lack of prep space and storage. I prepped every meal, packed lunches, etc in that 2×2 space between the range and the sink. I seriously lived in those 4 square feet with that absurdly low upper cabinet smack in my face, often plating meals while balancing them on the sink The only food storage I had was in the form of an upper and lower lazy Susan. I want to cry just recalling how many times it got jammed because a can of something fell off the back. And even though I replaced the old ugly light with a much brighter, better looking one, after the sun went down the original green tile reflected the most unflattering, unproductive light.
And because one day, I know I will look back in sheer horror, I have to share this – for almost 4 years…FOUR YEARS!!!…I stored all my pots and pans in this broken wall oven. Why? Because it was some very odd mini European apartment sized (not kidding, that’s actually what the repair guy told me when I had a service call after it stopped working) wall oven. Any wall oven I actually had an interest in purchasing was too large for this space and would have required totally re-configuring the cabinets, as would ripping the oven out.
The other side of our kitchen was a melody of doors – to the mudroom/back entrance, the powder room and the dining room/rest of the house.
So there you have it. We moved into this house and downsized by half AND THEN added another human. I pretty much lived in the kitchen as I’m sure many of you can relate to. I don’t want to sound like some whiney, spoiled brat because I am totally aware that there are many families dealing with much tighter spaces, even less storage space, etc etc and clearly they are just better at editing their belongings or organizing than I am because I really struggled with this kitchen. When it came time to brainstorm what I wanted in our new kitchen, my list was pretty short AND I had the advantage of being able to draw on my real life experience with our last kitchen in our house in NC. That is to say, I knew what worked and what didn’t for the way I use a kitchen. So here’s my wish list:
Usable, clear prep space – I need an island back in my life and I’d really like it to be parallel to the range/cooking zone with the trash just a step away. And I don’t want a sink in the island. I don’t even want a prep sink in there. I just want one glorious, flat surface.
Minimal upper cabinets, maximum natural light – This is 1000% a direct reaction to how dark our old kitchen was and how perpetually in my face those upper cabinets were. I want windows! Glorious, big windows and I will gladly sacrifice upper cabinet storage to get them.
If you’re a long time reader of the blog than you might remember my old walk-in pantry in our home in NC. Would I love a walk-in pantry again? Um…of course I would! But I knew that was not in the cards for us with the size and layout of our addition so I needed to make something else work. I love the idea of these floor to ceiling cabinet pantries. Look at all that glorious storage!
The above stuff was honestly the easy part for me. But figuring out how to make it actually all work in the given space…yes, that of course is the trick! And THEN add in the complexity of picking finishes and committing to one look? So, so, so hard! I will address finishes in a whole other post but for now, let’s just tackle layout and functionality.
I know where my limitations are and designing the intricacies of a kitchen is definitely a hard limit for me. Thank goodness the kitchen design experts at Metropolitan Cabinets stepped in to help. My kitchen designer there, Wendy Savino has been the most incredible partner throughout this planning process. I can’t say enough good things about her! Her expertise coupled with her eye for detail and calm demeanor has been the perfect yin to my Pinterest obsessed, “but look at this new shiny thing” yang. She has patiently walked me through so many options and revisions, I think at this point I talk to her as often as I talk to my husband. Here’s a brief summary of the last 3 months of our lives together!
This is the main sight line into the kitchen when you walk in from our new back entrance/mudroom and I seriously wavered about what to do on this wall. Beyond knowing that the range was going here, I didn’t know if I even wanted upper cabinets at all on this wall or in the kitchen in general. I was so focused on having it feel open and bright (because my old kitchen was neither of those things) that I really considered just having the hood here with some open shelving to either side. Ultimately, Wendy and I agreed that it would leave me with not enough storage and would overall not jive with the traditional aesthetic of the house. She also helped me work though my “overthinking it” moments like doors that both opened away from the hood (because I didn’t want to walk around a door to reach into it when I was cooking…sounds great in theory but didn’t look right) and together we came up with a creative solution to hide the coffee maker in an appliance garage with faux drawers on the left to match the 3 actual drawers we’ll have on the right to house phone chargers, etc.
Having gone with traditional uppers at the range, I still really wanted some open shelving in the kitchen. Wendy devised a way to satisfy my desire for display space but still have a prep surface and storage. This wall will house all my pantry/small appliance items as well as our refrigerator and even refrigerator drawers! Be gone beer bottles and juice boxes! I am so excited to get my crisper drawers back (does anyone else lose their crisper drawers to beer storage or is that just my life?)
The sink wall was probably the easiest one to design because I knew I didn’t want upper cabinets here at all. Instead we focused on where to position the window and Wendy worked with our architect so that it would be centered on the exposed space remaining after the 15″ uppers at range wall were installed. This actually means the window is installed further left on the wall than center but it will LOOK centered which is all I really care about. Beyond that, we played around with where to put the trash and dishwasher. I didn’t think I wanted the trash in the island but then I thought back to my last kitchen in our house in NC and realized I did all my prepping at the corner of the island with my back to the range while I faced the TV in the family room. This is the exact setup of our new kitchen so having the trash on that corner makes total sense.
So there you have it. Wendy came by the job site yesterday to do some measurements. We have some minor tweaks to make but otherwise, my new kitchen order is ready to go and I’m SO SO SO EXCITED to see it all come together. If you are in the Boston area and planning a new kitchen, save yourself the time and stress and second guessing and call the kitchen experts at Metropolitan Cabinets. I have been nothing but impressed with their staff, product offering and incredible expertise. Designing a kitchen is like a very expensive game of dominoes. Think you want a thicker countertop? Well, you better make sure your builder knows the kitchen window needs to be set at a certain height in order work with the counter. Think you want a certain single handle faucet? Have you checked to make sure it will clear the window sill over the sink and won’t bump into it when you turn it on? Etc, etc, etc. Even small choices can have a dramatic effect on things down the line and those little things can quickly turn into big budget/headache things if you don’t know to look out for them.
Next week I will share the final design and finish selections of the kitchen from lighting to tile to counters. Looking forward to it!
This kitchen design series is being produced in collaboration with Metropolitan Cabinets & Countertops. All opinions expressed here are entirely mine.