How about we renovate another kitchen? You in?
As you may or may not be aware, several years ago I bought a second house down the street from my own—an itty-bitty fixer-upper that we dubbed Bluestone Cottage. The whole thing has been a saga, from early momentum to extended periods of omg-how-am-I-ever-going-to-get-this-thing-done, to some triumphs like the basement laundry room and the backyard. In the background, framing was completed, rough plumbing and electric were installed, an insulation plan was finally approved by my building department and great progress was made there on the second floor (I’m taking on the exterior walls myself). Which is to say, it’s mostly finish work from here on out! This is a huge relief and makes me feel finally back in control after mostly waiting on legally-required tradespeople to get their acts together.
So when Lowe’s approached me about taking on the kitchen, I was ALL IN. Kitchens are usually the most difficult and expensive part of any renovation project, and once this is done, I think the rest of the house will feel relatively straightforward! I’ve wanted to tackle this adorable space ever since I bought the house, and I’m SO excited to see it come together at long last!
Care to take a little journey back in time with me?
Here was the kitchen in all her glory when I bought the house! It’s obviously very bad, in part because the house had been vacant for quite a while. Prior to that, it’s my understanding that the previous tenants absolutely wrecked the place before stealing all the copper plumbing and disappearing into the night. Something like that.
This house was renovated at some point (1990s, I think), so it lost nearly all of its original character. There was really nothing to salvage in the kitchen, which is a blessing and a curse! Let’s check out some of the fine features of this space.
One horrifying thing discovered during demo is that this wall was clearly opened up to create an enlarged doorway and some kind of pass-through or bar seating or something, but there was NOTHING structurally holding that wall up. Which is an original exterior wall of the structure (the kitchen appears to be a 1920s addition), so it’s somewhat miraculous the whole house didn’t fall down or sag significantly. So that’s fun!
This corner where the sink would have been was ROT CITY. Flooring was rotted. Subfloor was rotted. Joists were rotted. Sill plate was rotted! So we had to take care of all of that.
The old exterior door was pretty far gone, so I opted to replace it with a very similar one. Note that the window to the right there doesn’t match the other two and extends below where a countertop would sit.
Finally, maybe one of the most haunting things I’ve come across in a house—ever—was this basement access. SHUDDER. The house was sitting wide open when it was for sale, and I will never forget walking down there by myself into the darkest and most disgusting basement I’ve ever seen. It felt like the perfect place to get murdered. Yuck yuck yuck.
So we got to work! We gutted the whole space, addressed all the rot/framing issues, and swapped the super scary basement access for a polite set of stairs stacked under the main staircase.
EVENTUALLY, I persuaded a plumber to show up and do the rough-in for this house. It was an absolute nightmare, and he made off with thousands of dollars for an incomplete job that took over a year. PAINFUL. I hate him to this day, and I give you permission to hate him too.
All of this being said, the space itself feels full of potential and is so cute! The house’s ceilings are about 7.5′, and the room is about 9’x15′. There are only so many ways to go with a design plan, so I tried not to overthink it and just do what made the most sense—trying to maximize storage and counter-space, but keep it feeling as spacious as I could.
Here’s the basic plan! Which is missing a few elements (like the exterior door, and the new window going in next to it which will match the other two). A few notes!
1. The stove is staying in the middle of the wall between the two windows. This seems like an obvious choice. Standard 30″ range.
2. The sink will shift to under the window on the right side of the kitchen, looking out into the little backyard.
3. UNFORTUNATELY the dishwasher doesn’t fit to the right of the sink, so it has to live between the sink and the stove. I selected a panel-ready model so things don’t feel too appliance-heavy.
4. The fridge lives basically across from the sink. I got a counter-depth model, which will have tall pantry cabinets and space for small appliances like the microwave next to it. The whole thing will get wrapped in plywood to feel very built-in.
5. This leaves a little under 5′ between the two walls of cabinets, which feels generous enough for such a petite space.
Got it? Not complicated.
This will more or less be the view when you walk into the house, looking through the living and dining spaces to the back. That’s primarily why I chose to put the sink on the other end of the room, so you don’t see a kitchen sink the second you walk in the front door!
Can you see it now? I have a strong suspicion I’m going to be very jealous of this adorable kitchen, considering mine still looks like some half-baked mess of an idea of something that wants to be a kitchen.
Here is a very simple mood board I threw together to give you an idea! Quaint! Cottage! Kitchen! I’m hoping for something that feels simple and classic but well-designed, and keeping the budget between 10-15K. So the whole strategy is to spend money strategically—picking and choosing where to splurge a little and where to pinch pennies.
NOW. OBVIOUSLY. IT MAY GO WITHOUT SAYING. This is a very strange time to be renovating a kitchen. Or doing anything, really. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, and aside from the mass trauma and grieving process we’re all experiencing, it just makes everything more challenging. I’m used to frequent trips to get supplies, and now I’m trying to rely completely on orders and deliveries. Vendors are closed, leaving some parts of this totally up in the air. So to some extent, this kitchen plan will evolve alongside the changing situation in New York and across the country, and that’s OK. I can be flexible. We’ll all figure this out together.
1. For appliances, I’m aiming for mid-range—nice but not nice enough to totally break the bank, and from a trusted brand since I’d like to sell this house when all is said and done. I’m thinking this Whirlpool range, this Whirlpool fridge, and this Bosch panel-ready dishwasher. I like the clean lines of the Whirlpool appliances, and I have no problem with a stainless finish! I love that the stove doesn’t have a big panel/digital display in the back with settings for reheating chicken nuggets and whatnot.
2. For cabinetry, I’m going fairly low-end with IKEA (for what it’s worth, I adore IKEA kitchen cabinets!) and DIY shaker fronts from Semihandmade. There aren’t a lot of cabinets, so upping the budget to accommodate non-IKEA fronts felt worth it. They won’t be as beautiful as the deVol ones on the mood board, but hey—can’t have it all.
3. Lighting! Because the ceilings are so low, flush-mounts for the ceiling and sconces on the wall should provide enough light and look cute doing it. I was super thrilled to find these affordable and classic sconces at Lowe’s, along with these lovely schoolhouse-y flush-mount fixtures! Four light fixtures for about $400? Not bad at all.
4. THE. SINK. Oh yes he did. Definitely a splurge for America’s sink du jour, the Kohler Whitehaven. It’s gorgeous, it’s farmhouse, it’s enameled cast iron, it will last a lifetime, and soon it will be HERE. I squeezed in a 30″ model—a little large for this small space, but I think a nice big kitchen sink is so nice and it felt worth making it work.
5. For the faucet, I went with this affordable black Delta number that I used in the last kitchen I did at Burgevin Gardens. The homeowner and I were both really impressed by the quality and while I love the look of a couple unlaquered brass taps or whatever, realistically I’d want to live with a modern single-lever sink with a pull-down sprayer. Sue me!
6. For the backsplash, we’re going cheap cheap cheap with a new take on inexpensive white tile. I have a plan, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done, and I’m psyched to do it!
7. Knowing full well that I’m walking right into commentroversy here, I WANT MARBLE COUNTERS. I love honed marble counters unapologetically, and I’m one of those people who thinks they get better with age after an initial awkward phase as they start to accumulate patina. Here’s the thing: this is totally up in the air. I had it all scheduled and budgeted, and now my trusted local countertop source is closed until further notice because of the virus. So I don’t know. Might be time for a Plan B. I was so excited for the marble, though—I NEVER have the budget for natural stone on my jobs, but I wanted something fancy in this kitchen and was so excited to just go for it and take this thing to another level. Sigh. (yes I realize this is hardly something to complain about at a moment like this, but when has that ever stopped me before?)
8. FLOORS! While the existing floors are now just OSB subfloors, I’m re-laying the antique pine flooring that came out of this house! It’s going to be so pretty, and it’s nice to add some of the old back into this completely new space. I want it to feel like it’s been there forever! I’m glad we seem to have reached a point as a culture where people are no longer shocked and appalled by wood floors in a kitchen, particularly because I think having continuous wood throughout the first floor of this house will really help expand the small footprint.
9. Originally I wanted to do beige cabinets in the last kitchen at Burgevin Gardens—we ended up going with a deep blue that I think was totally the right call, but my beige cabinet dreams are not dead! So I think this is my moment to live out my beige-iest fantasies. I still cannot explain why I am so gung-ho about beige all of a sudden, but it’s not for me to know.
10. Hardware! Totally TBD, but I did order a sample of this rather expensive (but I don’t need THAT many of them!!) glass bin pull, and it’s so damn pretty. So we’ll see about that.
Ya dig? Let’s make it happen! Me and my quarantine-roommate, Juliet, are about a week into work, and so far things are going swimmingly. It’s so nice to have a buddy to work with! Juliet has also been helping me film stuff for Instagram Stories, so you can now see the project unfold on the daily AND be treated to a whole lot of my beautiful face and unparalleled physique.
PS—I just want to say a huge, HUGE thank you to everybody who has become a patron over on Patreon! I’m completely blown away, very touched, and extremely grateful. Nearly overnight it’s become a significant portion of my income, so I’m working on ways to make it super worth it for you. I’m the luckiest blogger guy in the history of blogger guys. Thank you, thank you, thank you.