Home Renovations: The Kitchen

By now I’ve told you all about how we leveled the floors, tore down a dividing wall, and painted every square inch of vertical space in our new house.  And while those were all major projects, by far the winner of Most Improved Room (and where we sunk a good chunk of our renovation funds) was the kitchen.  Rightly so, because when we bought the house the kitchen was the worst offender in terms of outdated décor and awkward layout.  Let’s revisit the yellow and orange vinyl, shall we?


The cabinets wasted quite a bit of storage space by not fully extending to the ceiling and the gigantic refrigerator ate up a large footprint in the middle of the kitchen.  Additionally, the kitchen was completely closed off from the rest of the house, making it feel smaller and darker.

Initially, we toyed with the idea of waiting to renovate the kitchen.  There were so many other projects on our wish list (sunroom repairs, new windows, bathroom tile, etc.) and doing the kitchen meant all the other stuff had to wait.  Perhaps we could live with just re-painting the cabinets and slapping some neutral vinyl tile over the orange and yellow flooring.  But once we tore the wall down, it became obvious that the kitchen is the first thing someone sees when entering through the front door and it would always have been an awkward eyesore without some heavy duty fixes.  Resale value has been at the forefront of our minds throughout this renovation process, so we decided that it would be worth it to invest in the kitchen sooner rather than later, while we weren’t living there and the place was basically a construction zone anyway.  My sunroom art studio will just have to wait.  #wah.

Once we gave the kitchen renovation a green light, our contractor and his team (Joe of JoeSal) went about gutting the entire room and squaring off the walls and steps leading to the basement and back doors.  The difference was huge already.

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We worked with Joe’s kitchen designer, Attila, to come up with a layout that maximized the functional space (lazy-susans in the corner cupboards, custom angled cabinets at the walkways, etc.).  The kitchen space is still quite small and it took some creative thinking to be able to fit additional cabinets, counter space, and a dishwasher.  At first, it seemed like the dishwasher might have to be nixed, but I have dreamed of living with a dishwasher my entire life and I wasn’t budging.  I think I even said, “THERE IS NO POINT IN MOVING TO THE SUBURBS IF WE CAN’T HAVE A DISHWASHER!”  I am so charming.  Eventually I compromised on a smaller 18” unit, but hey, small dishwasher is better than no dishwasher, right?  We also had to scale back on the size of the refrigerator since Attila’s design could only accommodate a 30” model, but we are keeping the old behemoth refrigerator in the basement so that we have the spare cold storage.

To save on appliance costs, we procured a secondhand stainless steel gas stove and microwave/vent set from a family friend for a nominal fee.  The old stove was electric, but we converted the entire house from oil heat to gas (another invisible but worthwhile renovation), and in the process had a gas line run to the kitchen so that we could have a fancy gas stove.  An electrician was also brought in to re-wire the kitchen – code requires that any outlets in the kitchen must be GFI, so we had to make those changes.  I guess my point is, with an old house, it rarely is just the aesthetics that need updating and though visually the change in our kitchen is striking, there was a ton of behind-the-scenes work that needed to take place first.

We approved Attila’s final renderings and once the plumbing, electric, and gas lines were finished, it was full steam ahead with the new kitchen and on to the more fun HGTV-type decisions.




We visited Attila’s showroom to select a finish for our custom cabinets.  I wanted to go for a trendier mismatched look for the upper and lower cabinets, but we played it safe with white shaker style fronts.  Again, all in the name of resell-ability.  I’m keeping those two-tone cabinets on my Pinterest board for a future home though.


The next stop was a visit to the granite and tile warehouse.  Mr. S and I agreed on a black and white theme for the kitchen and we both preferred a flatter look to granite (i.e., a less speckled pattern).  Like the wedding, Mr. S and I have very similar taste when it comes to home décor. #soulmates


In addition to similar taste, we found that we also have very expensive taste.  Up until the granite warehouse, it seemed like everything we were drawn to was priced at the higher end of the spectrum.  Needless to say, we were ecstatic to find out that our simple, plain black granite was not the most expensive slab in the warehouse and we rejoiced that, finally (!), we had cheap taste in something.

Before leaving, we also selected a beveled subway tile for the kitchen back splash.


Our granite installation included a stainless steel sink and we had a déjà vu moment of the toilet aisle at Lowes when trying to select a kitchen faucet.  What is the difference between an $80 faucet and a $300 faucet?  The world may never know…

Though we spent far too much time in the faucet aisle, I had done enough Pinteresting to know exactly what I wanted for the cabinet pulls – slim, sleek, and minimalist.  There weren’t too many options at Home Depot that fit my criteria, which was probably a very good thing because we were in and out of that aisle in five minutes.

And my most favorite purchase for the kitchen: the pendant lights.  I loved the look of staggered pendant lights over the kitchen peninsula, but at $99 a pop, it seemed a little pricey for the look I was going for.  It was the CB2 Firefly pendant light to the rescue  – five pre-staggered pendants affixed to one base (bonus: less work ergo less cost for the electrician to wire one light instead of five separate lights).  I’m so happy with how it looks in the kitchen and it makes for a very impressive greeting when entering our front door.


How far have we come from our old kitchen?  Let’s see…

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We are still on the hunt for a pair of counter height stools to place at the peninsula and there are some touch ups that still need to get finished, but for now we’re extremely happy with how our kitchen turned out.  We’ve increased the efficiency of the space as well as infused our own style.  Let’s hope our kitchen can realize its full potential if/when we learn how to whip up some impressive dinners.  So far we’ve only tested it with instant coffee.  It has passed with flying colors.


  1. says

    If I may be frank, I think you were absolutely right to forego some of the other renovations and focus on the kitchen, especially if you’re thinking of how it can help resell it–this is SUCH a vast improvement on the original and it feels so open and airy! I love the pendant light fixture too–it’s visually interesting yet maintains a minimalistic simplicity, and I’m sure it looks great when it’s on too.

    AMAZING job!

    • says

      Thank you! I also read somewhere that kitchen renovations have the best return on investment when it comes to re-selling a home, so that played heavily into our decision to go forward with the gut job. The pendant does look good when it’s turned on – very bright!

  2. Anita says

    Though it be small, I LOVE how your kitchen now is. We have a small kitchen, but I don’t think I would mind it as much if my kitchen was as sleek as that. (And I LOVE to cook, so I use mine all the time). Ditto for dishwasher being a must!

    Everything looks great together!

    • says

      Thank you! Yeah, with how small our kitchen is, it was really important to be able to maximize as much space as possible. The kitchen in our studio now only has 11″ of counterspace, so it’s not really conducive to cooking (and NYC take out is just too easy). Hopefully our new kitchen in the suburbs will inspire us to cook and get creative! 🙂

  3. says

    “THERE IS NO POINT IN MOVING TO THE SUBURBS IF WE CAN’T HAVE A DISHWASHER!” Yep. You tell ’em girl. I LOVE how your kitchen turned out- that tile! Those lights! It’s a little dream. 🙂

  4. says

    You don’t need me to tell you, but the kitchen looks amazing!! The subway tiles are everything.

    I LOL’d at “Why move to the suburbs if we can’t have a dishwasher?!” We’re pseudo house hunting right now, and your dishwasher is my backyard. Why move out to the ‘burbs for a crappy little outdoor space? I want a deck and rolling hills!

    • says

      Oh Steve and I are completely intimidated by our backyard…like it’s so much nature… What are we supposed to do with it all?? Hope you find your dream house soon so I can take some inspirations from your backyard skills!

  5. Susanna Scott says

    Love your kitchen! It’s quite similar to the style we’re going for – white cabinets, black quartz counter tops, marble back splash (children of our times, eh?). I love following your house posts as you’re several steps ahead of us and it’s fun to see how things change!

  6. says

    I LOVE how it turned out! Especially the light fixture – amazing.

    If you still need kitchen stool ideas, we love our Tabouret stools from Overstock, and they were so cheap! I think they came in a 4-pack, and we just needed three so we use the fourth as a plant stand.

  7. says

    The difference from before to after is amazing! The black & white is classic. Love the cabinet style you chose as well as those lights. We bought an old house almost 6 years ago and it’s still a work in progress and probably will be for a long time LOL! We spent several years taking vacations instead of sinking $ into it, changing that starting this summer!

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