Sara’s Kitchen “Update” Spirals Into A full Renovation (Plus – Help Her Choose A Design Plan)

photo via deVOL

Recently, I decided that I was going to put all my #shelterinplace energy into one room – my kitchen. I spend most of my free time in there these days after all. And last week I shared my initial plan for a $3k budget, kitchen UPDATE. Last week feels so long ago. Almost as if it was a different lifetime. A different life. Remember in that last post when I said I pull triggers fast and impulsively? Well, I’ve really done it now. Let me fill you in on what’s transpired since that last post went live.

the current situation . . .

So many of you commented with some amazing suggestions – “Rip out all the top cabinets and just do open shelving!”. Love it. “Why not invest in new lower cabinets at least?” Why indeed! And then a few of you shared your own “update” stories. Most of them went something like, “we did a kitchen update so we could enjoy our kitchen until we could afford a full renovation . . . that was 25 years ago.” I can see how that could easily happen – you put a little effort into the kitchen, and it becomes functional. Suddenly everything else becomes more of a priority than fully renovating a room that is already good enough.

Finally, while talking through plans with my dad, we realized that it would be easier to take care of a few things now – like moving electrical, getting rid of the back door and centering the window, and picking permanent flooring (to save money we’re going to install some of the leftover pre-finished hardwood that’s been sitting out in the garage, which we used throughout the rest of the house). Which kind of made us wonder if it was just worth it to do . . . everything. The first part of our renovation took almost a year and half because my dad was going back and forth between here and NY, where he works. But right now, he’s kind of stuck here. So it makes sense to take advantage of that uninterrupted time. Plus, he’s really, REALLY excited for something to do. Like me, my dad is a bit of a workaholic. Must be genetic.

So, WE’RE BITING THE BULLET AND FULLY RENOVATING THE WHOLE KITCHEN. Now I know that there’s going to be a lot of you out there that will be bummed with the change of plan, and trust me, I was really excited to take on a simpler “update” project and document it. But I also really want to take advantage of the fact that my dad is here and happy to help us. And it makes more sense to hustle and get it all done. It’s a really small kitchen, and he thinks it will only be a 5 week project. Don’t worry though, it’ll still be a DIY project. And this time I don’t have a full-time designer taking care of all the hard stuff for me (I will forever be grateful to Velinda for designing our living room and dining room. She also happened to do her own amazing little budget kitchen reno, and built a super cute mini kitchen in her basement). Folks, I’m about to learn how to install my very own sink.

We’re also going to try and keep the budget down where we can as well. Besides using leftover flooring to save money, we’re going to go with Ikea cabinets (but hopefully get Semihandmade cabinet fronts to elevate the look), I already bought our sink on Craigslist for half of what it would have cost new, and doing most, if not all of the labor ourselves will certainly keep the cost down. But I also want to keep in mind that this is the only kitchen renovation this house is going to get.

In preparation, I spent most of this long weekend binge-watching the most recent season of Riverdale (a show so extra that you can’t NOT watch it), pinning design ideas, bugging Julie to help me with a cabinet layout plan, and putting together different kitchen design options. So now that I’m on a tight schedule to design my dream, forever, permanent kitchen – WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? Let’s get into the options . . .


photo via oakstone homes | photo via the identité collective

Part of me wants to go in a light, neutral direction. With a gray or oatmeal lower cabinets, and light uppers. There’s something very traditional, elegant, and timeless about this direction to me. And I’m really considering splurging on stone countertops. It’s still nice and smooth for rolling out doughs, but won’t compete with the warmth of the wood on the floors. Plus, stone will keep butter very chill for biscuit and pie dough making (yes, this is a serious consideration for me when designing my kitchen).

Which leads me to Option #1 – Taupe/gray lower cabinets, white upper cabinets and walls, light colored appliances, stone counter, and a warm organic window treatment. I love how light and traditional this design feels. It makes me think of lazy Sunday mornings baking bread and drinking tea. My biggest concern with this option? Mac won’t like the light lower cabinets.


photo by tessa nuestadt | design by amber interiors | photo via farrow & Ball

Next up we have the idea of going for dark, dramatic lower cabinets in BLACK. I have a feeling this is going to be Mac’s favorite option. There is something really elevated about the look. It’s cozy, while still feeling high end. And dark lowers might be a tad easier to keep clean in a kitchen, right? My concern with this option is that it’s going to be a lot of DARK in the house. The TV room is dark, the kitchen would be dark, and I have design ideas for the front bathroom that are dark. I don’t want the house to feel too heavy.

So here we have design Option #2 – dramatic black lower cabinets, dark appliances, and a gray and white striped window shade. This design makes me think of hosting Saturday night dinner parties, and mixing up cocktails for our guests in this kitchen.


photo by lauren miller | design by ashley montgomery | photo via kelsey leigh design co.

Moving right along. There’s a part of me that’s still really interested in bringing in a color to the kitchen – namely green, which is the overall theme for the whole house. Green in a kitchen feels very English countryside, and I think the green still plays really beautifully with brass accents and a marble counter.

Here we have Option #3 – Green cabinets, dark appliances, and a more traditional blue striped window shade. The green is very saturated, but that’s the only option that Semihandmade has in a green tone. Truth be told I don’t mind it – I love how rich it is. Plus this kitchen (below) from deVOL makes me really want a GREEN kitchen.

photo via deVOL

Semihandmade do make customizable doors that come unfinished so you can lacquer them yourself whatever color you’d like, but I don’t have too much faith in my dad and I being able to give the cabinets professional-quality lacquering. And I want our cabinets to be well done, so they last. My concern with this design is that the green will be too saturated, and will feel like too much color next to our TV room.


photo via jenna sue design | photo via a beautiful mess

Stone counters aren’t going to come cheap. There’s a big part of me that wants to go for them anyways. You know, splurge on one aspect of the kitchen that will make a big impact. Plus I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen, so I might as well make it the room of my dreams. But there’s another part of me that knows how much more affordable wood counters would be, and they would still look beautiful.

So for my final option, I’ve thrown in wood counters instead of stone, and nice neutral window shade to bounce the warmth around. This could work with dark or light lower cabinets, but for the sake of a design board I’ve popped in a lighter option. But maybe I go part stone, part wood? Best of both worlds?

Now the question is which is my favorite. The truth is I’m really torn. PLUS, it’s not just my kitchen. Mac needs to sign off on the design plan, too (as soon as I get him to sign off on a full kitchen renovation, which I’ve already decided we’re doing, but he may or may not know is happening yet).

But I’m also desperate for the opinion of my fellow EHD team and YOU. This is the first time anyone is seeing my design boards, and I’m waiting with bated breath for advice. What direction do you think we should go in? Because there’s nothing like peer pressure to help you make a permanent decision about your home 🙂 HAPPY TUESDAY, FOLKS!

Opening Photo Credit: Photo via deVOL

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