Kitchen Remodel with A Couple Cooks: Part 2

Phase 2: Making it Real

Designing a new kitchen in a 1920’s home with your spouse sounds like a dream – at least, it did to us before we started. Don’t worry – we’re still married and have all our hair. But we did learn that renovation and kitchen design is quite the intensive process. When you’re in the throes of it, you’ll find yourself agonizing over small details you’d never even imagined: Full overlay or partial overlay cabinets? Grout colors? Undermount sink? The list goes on and on, and if you’re not careful, it can become a sinkhole. But it can also be an incredibly rewarding process for you to flex your creative muscle!

The Creating Phase is not for the faint of heart; get ready to make multitudes of quick decisions on an ongoing basis. Here are a few of our for surviving Phase 2 of your kitchen reno – making it real.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

“Quality / Cost / Style” Tradeoffs

So, you’ve come up with your major design, and you’re starting to think about picking finishes. How do you go about it?

With a world of so many possibilities, it’s hard to know where to start. As we went along, we found ourselves weighing some of the same factors for each decision: quality, cost, and aesthetics. For example, cost was a limiting factor for us. We bought our house with the intention of remodeling the kitchen, but still had to stick to a budget that we could afford. Unfortunately, as photographers and artists, we also love good design, so aesthetics is something that is very important to us. And as food bloggers who adore cooking, quality is crucial: we wanted to make sure what we purchased now would hold up over time.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

For each decision we made, we weighed each of these factors to determine how to move forward:

Counters: We knew we wanted long lasting, easy-to-clean countertops and liked marble or quartz, but weren’t quite ready to take the plunge for the entire room due to budget constraints. Instead, we chose butcher block for our perimeter counters, and went with a quartz with the look of marble on the island, cutting the cost of the counters in half.

Cabinets: Custom cabinets were our dream, but there wasn’t quite room in the budget to pull it off. Instead, we found basic shaker-style white cabinets from a local cabinet maker, and configured stock styles into a custom-looking design.

Range: Like most cooks, we were dying to have a double oven. But space and price constraints made us re-think our options and we ended up with a one and a half range from KitchenAid — two ovens, but less on the pocketbook.

Pick One Thing, and Work from There

A major lesson we learned in this process is that every project has some constraint – so the sky is actually not the limit. In our kitchen, it was space. Though bigger than our first kitchen, our new space was still built in 1920 when massive kitchens were not the rage. Since we knew we wanted an island with a light-colored, durable countertop, we built the rest of the kitchen around it: then came the contrasting dark island base cabinets, white perimeter cabinets, butcher block perimeter counters, pantry cabinet, and so forth.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

This theory works beyond the layout too. Deciding on cabinet pulls, shelves, faucets, and lights can be overwhelming! Find something you love, nail down the decision, and then start building the design around that item. We tried to pick finishes that were unique, but not so out of the ordinary that they distracted from the overall vibe.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

Creating a Mood Board

A risk with selecting your kitchen finishes is that you must make your choices based only on photos of the product, or if you’re lucky, a tiny sample of the material. Since we’re used to creating our art based on what we touch, see and taste, it was hard for us to imagine what it would all look like together.

To help, we created a mood board. As we picked each finish (counter, cabinet color, flooring, paint, hardware, lighting, etc), we copied a small photograph of it we’d found online into a document. Seeing the finishes together as we selected them helped us to imagine what it might look like together. Though we’d seen a myriad of kitchen images, none of them were quite like ours, so the process was kind of like jumping off a diving board and hoping we’d end up in the pool.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

A Little Splurge

Budget played centrally in all of our decisions. Since we were demolishing and replacing an entire kitchen, we worked to stay towards the frugal end as most of our costs were in construction, installation, and labor. However, we did let ourselves splurge a little, since we’ll be living with this project for years to come. Some of our biggest splurges:

Biggest unexpected splurge: Wine refrigerator, floor tile

Biggest planned splurges: Quartz island countertop, two sinks

Wearing the Stress

Planning a multi-thousand dollar interactive art project (i.e. kitchen renovation) with your spouse is certainly not for the faint of heart. We knew this at the start, but assumed those cautionary tales didn’t apply to us. Wrong! Projects like these test any sort of working relationship, including spouse, family member, friend, or whoever is part of your kitchen renovation, especially if you are living in a construction zone (thankfully, we were not).

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

Why the stress? Well, imagine making big decisions worth thousands of dollars without knowing quite how they’ll turn out, coupled with navigating the different “surprises” that come to the surface after you break ground. You may need to shed a tear or two, but don’t worry – it will all come out right in the end. And, it will end, even though at times it seems you might always been living with studs and sawdust.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen Remodel

Next up – guess what? We made it through and can’t wait to share with you Phase 3: our big reveal!


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