Our New Kitchen – complete with photos

Finally, my long overdue (and just plain long!) post about my kitchen renovation. This was a big process so I have included a lot of information here. I won’t be hurt if you just skip to the fun part (the photos).

To be honest, while I was looking forward to renovating our kitchen, I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly over-the-top excited about it. The vision of my dream kitchen just didn’t fit within our current budget, so we decided to compromise. We settled on Ikea cabinets because they were the best value. I wasn’t really thrilled with any of the choices so although I have always said I don’t like white kitchens, a white kitchen is what we chose.

I’m happy to say that despite this lack of enthusiasm, I am thrilled with the outcome. Just about every aspect of this transformation exceeded my expectations. I guess it is good to set a low bar, right?

The Overall Process

The whole process was very interesting for us. In all, I’d have to say that went amazingly smoothly, especially given our uncharacteristically mellow approach. I’m sure no one will be shocked to hear me say that the Knight and I are typically pretty organized and thorough in our approach to things.

Well, this project was totally different. For whatever reason, we were pretty laid back about just about everything here. For starters, we chose our contractor based on the recommendation of a friend. The truth is that we didn’t talk to other contractors. We didn’t compare prices. Between our friend’s recommendation and reviews on Angie’s List, we decided to hire him. Bing. Bang. Boom. I’m making a shocked face myself as I type this paragraph.

We visited Ikea twice and picked our favorite of the available options. We put off the renovation for a couple of months after buying the cabinets. Mostly for financial reasons. So when the demolition finally started, you would have thought we would have been ready to go. Uh, not quite.

A couple of pictures of the display kitchen in the store

When we decided it was go time we called the contractor to find out when he was available. He kept saying in a couple of weeks. We waited patiently. Then, suddenly he called us on a Wednesday and said he would start the following Monday. Sure, no problem.

The day the demolition started we realized, oh yeah, we should probably go buy a range. And that’s how a lot of this went. Many last minute “oh, we need a _____.”  We made a few (relatively) quick decisions, which I’ll discuss more below.

And you know what, it all worked out great. There is something to be said for having no time to over-think things.

Here is an in-depth look at each aspect of the renovation.

The Cabinets

We wound up choosing Ikea’s white Abstrakt cabinets (Akurum bases, white Abstrakt doors on the bottom, frosted glass doors on top). Ikea cabinets come highly recommended because they have a number of advantages.

First, of course, is the price (and by buying the cabinets during the bi-annual sale, we got an additional 20% off). The cabinets are a serious bargain compared to what you can get elsewhere.

Second, Ikea cabinets offer a tremendous amount of flexibility. There are so many options that you can pretty much design a kitchen that fits your space/needs without a lot of custom carpentry.

Third, is changeability, for lack of a better word. A cool thing about the cabinets is that all of the base cabinets are standard and all of the hardware/fronts, etc. can be used interchangeable. That means that if next month, next year, or next decade we want to change the look of our kitchen, we can purchase all new door and drawer fronts and they will fit our cabinets. Our contractor estimated that such a facelift would cost only around $1000.

Fourth, I really like the functionality of the Ikea products. Most of the cabinets come with dampeners (those cool things that make the drawers and drawers close gently). They offer tons of cool storage options like different interior shelves/organizers. One of my favorite features is an option which I have always dreamed about: appliance garages (what they call Avsikt roll front cabinets). Years ago I saw a kitchen with a small corner cabinet that had a roll down front so you could hide your coffee maker or whatever. I love the idea of keeping counters clear. Well, Ikea went beyond this and we ran with it. We purchased two counter-to-ceiling appliance garages. Now we can hide the juicer, the Vitamix, the coffee maker, the tea kettle, the food processor, and whatever other gadgets we like. Pretty cool!

Fifth, Ikea is just an awesome store with phenomenal customer service. The employees at theWoodbridge store have been a pleasure to work with and have really helped us maximize our options. They even have a cool computer program (available on their website and in-store) that allows you to play around with different options and see sketches of what your design will look like. The store offers a generous return policy (90 days) and there has been no problem with multiple exchanges of shelves, drawers, and whatever else we needed. I have zero complaints about Ikea and their customer service.

The only disadvantages, in my opinion are 1) they didn’t exactly have the design/color I had in mind; and 2) now that everything is installed, I kind of see why the cabinets are cheaper. The particleboard thing doesn’t bother me. It all looks fine to me. I know I’m really being nitpicky, but little details bug me like the fact that interior hinges are huge. I’m sure that more expensive cabinets have nicer hinges but really, is it worth paying double for cabinets because of this. Not in my book.

Okay, enough about Ikea. On to more fun stuff. We looked at the display kitchens in the store and both agreed that the contemporary white kitchen was our favorite. I’ve really never been a big fan of white kitchens, but given the options, our space, and our big white leather sectional in the great room, we went for it. We opted for a combination of the glossy white fronts and the white glass fronts.

Counters

Remember what I said about not overthinking? So, when we originally started this project we were thinking soapstone. We’d seen it in a couple of our friends’ kitchens and loved it. But when we were at Ikea buying our cabinets they convinced us to go ahead and pay for granite counters – through them – because if we did that at the same time that we bought the cabinets we could get 20% off the granite as well. And if we changed our minds we could get a refund. We looked at all of the 12’x12” squares, held them up to the cabinet fronts we had chosen, and picked out a nice speckled pattern. Since that was taken care of, I let the soapstone idea go….until….

And then we got to a point in the renovation where we needed to start thinking about our backsplash. I went online and looked for pictures of backsplashes with the granite we had chosen. As it turned out, I pretty much disliked every photo I found of our granite. What looked great in a one-foot square sample looked busy and cheap in large scale.

Luna Pearl Granite

So then we embarked on a last minute journey to try to find soapstone. We finally found the perfect stone but it turned out to be roughly double the cost of the granite we had originally picked. We decided to splurge since we both totally loved it and felt that it gave our kitchen the look we wanted. It turned out to be the right decision and we have no regrets about increasing our budget for this.

Here is a closeup of the spyder (or spider) soapstone we ultimately selected.

It is actually much darker than this with the finish/treatment applied, as you can see in the pictures below, but this photo really shows the unique pattern in the stone. It is a completely smooth surface.

Appliances

Fortunately, we were able to keep the Sub Zero refrigerator and Kitchen Aid dishwasher that came with the house. We just needed a new range (and range hood), a new oven, and microwave. For the oven and microwave we decided to go with Ikea’s brand (the Nutid line) because of the look they would give the kitchen.

The range we chose was a GE Café dual fuel range (from Sears). I could really write a whole post about this. After we bought it we found out that good friends of ours had the same one. They were raving about how much they loved it and the Knight and I were kind of scratching our heads. A range is a range, right? Nope. This thing rocks! Not only does it look great, but it is POWERFUL and functional.

Love it! The bottom drawer is also an additional oven - not just a warming drawer or storage space.

I’ll just say one more thing about it. Power Boil. It’s crazy. One burner has two rings of flames which means that the liquid comes to a much faster boil than on a standard burner (see the picture at the end). But the coolest thing about it is that it is so powerful that the boil doesn’t stop when you add something to the pot. So you know how you usually add pasta to the water and then wait a bit for the water to come back to a boil. Yeah, well, not with this baby. It takes very little time, if any, to return to a rolling boil. So cool!

We also selected a range hood. I had seen a curved, stainless steel range hood in a house we looked at a long time ago and had it in my head ever since. There were only two such hoods on the market so that made things pretty easy.

I think somewhere along the way I actually researched the reliability and reviews of all of these purchases, so don’t worry. Thank you Consumer Reports.

Backsplash

The first thing that people comment on when they see our kitchen in person in the backsplash. Frankly, we feel like creative geniuses for picking it out ourselves. Really, though, I think we got lucky.

After finally picking out the soapstone – like the day before it was ready to be fabricated and installed – we had to choose what would go on the wall behind the range (and in between the appliance garages). I went online and selected 6-8 various kinds of tile, which the Knight narrowed down to two favorites.

That weekend we went to a few local stores to see what we liked in person, and didn’t really find what we wanted. What we did find was outrageous prices. So, as a last ditch effort before buying online – sight unseen – we decided to stop at Lowe’s on the way to our friends’ house for dinner. BINGO!

Not only did they have a tile we loved, but it was about 1/3 of the price of what we found in local stores, and about 30% cheaper than the online stuff. Oh, and we had a coupon that we received in the mail and the Knight convinced them to also let him use his military discount. Score!!!

When we got the tile home we were blown away. It was a mixture of stone and glass that perfectly incorporated all of the elements and colors of our kitchen. It was even better than we imagined it could be. It has such an impact and we love it!

Harmony

I just have to share something really cool about the whole process. I envisioned a stressful, difficult process for this renovation. This is the first time I’ve ever undertaken any significant home improvement like this. I have, however, witnessed friends going through it and it seems to always suck. And it is rarely a good thing for whoever’s marriage is at stake. 

So, I was repeatedly shocked by how easy it was doing this with the Knight and I was so grateful. We were on the same page the entire time. I still can’t believe it. It was just really fantastic to have the same vision for the project.

Our Contractor

The contractor we hired was Sabri Eriksen of Eriksen Home Improvement. Overall, I’d have to say we were happy with him. He was pretty reliable, the guys he had do the work were professional and very skilled. The workers were extremely neat and clean and they would carefully clean up before they left every day.We are really pleased with his attention to detail, not to mention that we are thrilled with the final product.

Our one gripe has to do with the additional charges he tacked on at the end. Without going into the whole story, we were surprised that after the kitchen was completed he essentially added about 30% more charges than he originally quoted. He had a reasonable explanation for each charge, but it still left a slightly bad taste in our mouths.

For example, his quote only included painting the walls that were “touched” by the renovation. So, the two additional walls that were left and the ceiling required a charge that we thought was a little high. We felt that many of the charges were ones that should have been anticipated by him when he quoted the project in the first place.

Another example is that he had to do some additional work to get the cabinets to work right because the house is old and the floors aren’t even. Well, the house is old. That fact didn’t change between the time he gave us a quote and when the work was completed.  We would have thought that he could have predicted that there would be some additional work required to get the cabinets to fit properly in a 60 year old house. In any case, we would have liked to be kept informed throughout the process and not surprised by a 30% overage at the end of the process.

So while I would recommend him, I would suggest that if you hire him you ask him along the way to keep you apprised of any additional charges. We did discuss our concerns with him at length. With that said, I think we would probably call Sabri when we are ready to redo our bathrooms. His work was good and even with the overages we feel that the price we paid was reasonable. He was a pleasure to work with, too.

Additional Thoughts

If I do say so myself, I think we made some good decisions here and it has made a big difference in the usefulness of the kitchen. For example, all of the bottom cabinets are drawers instead of doors.  The space is so much more usable than it would have been otherwise. We have all of our dishes in one drawer and it is so much easier to put them away and access them than when they were on a high shelf.

The two tall pantries (next to the refrigerator and next to the appliance garages) contain pull out shelves. Pretty much every day since the renovation one of us actually says out loud “I love this kitchen.”

We are also very happy with the lighting options we chose. We have a combination of LED and Xenon lights both under the cabinets and in the cabinets than have glass doors.

As for things we would like to change…. The first thing is that it would have been great if we could have redone the floors at the same time, but we decided to wait on this due to the cost. Since the great room and the kitchen are eseentially one big room, that’s a lot of tile. 

Also, remember that Sub Zero fridge I mentioned? It turns out that Ikea doesn’t make panels that fit our fridge that match the cabinets. Soooo… the contractor painted the panels white. I’m just not thrilled with how they came out and we might see if there is anything else we can do about that. There is an option to get stainless steel panels but I don’t think that’s the right look for this kitchen.

The Pictures

Without further delay, here’s the good stuff.

Before

 You can’t really tell that the color of the cabinets is best described as a grayish mauve.  

During

I took pictures every day. Here’s just a sampling of some of those daily shots.

Our makeshift pantry

 

 

After!!! 

 

 

My mixer lift! A dream come true! (Not purchased from Ikea)

Notice the front right burner! Power Boil, baby!

Please let me know if you have any questions. Despite the long post, I haven’t even scratched the surface of my thoughts about this kitchen. I’d be happy to talk to you more about this, or better yet, show you the final product in person.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caroline
    Apr 08, 2012 @ 12:38:38

    First – your ukitchek is GORGEOUS!! It came out absolutely beautiful! Second – I really enjoyed reading your in-depth descriptions about the things you chose and why. I’m not in the market to renovate anything right now, but if I ever am, I’ll definitely be coming back to your post for tips, etc. Enjoy your brand new kitchen!!

    Reply

  2. Patty
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 03:11:46

    Love your new kitchen! Your wall color looks to be a gray color. What color did you use. Is it a pure gray or does it have an undertone? I’ve been having a hard time finding a perfect gray that doesn’t have any undertones of either green, blue, purple, etc. I’m also looking at putting in soapstone. Trying to find a hard version that is dark charcoal/black with dramatic white veining. Again, you have a beautiful kitchen!

    Reply

  3. Marisa
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 15:03:07

    Looks amazing, Cat!

    Reply

  4. Justyna
    Jul 10, 2014 @ 13:07:02

    Can you let me know where you got the mixer lift ? 🙂

    Reply

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