Our Kitchen: What We Really Think One Year Later

As promised, we wanted to update you on what we think of our kitchen renovation now that we’ve lived with it for almost a full year. We’ll break down some of our bigger decisions and what we honestly think now. If you’ve ever planned a big renovation, you know just how many gazillion decisions and details there are and that sometimes you get so overwhelmed and just kind of sick of it all, you’re tempted to give up and say who cares! “Should this light switch go two inches this way or two inches that way… who cares?!” Plus, contractors often don’t give you a lot of time to mull over something and you have to go with a decision on the spot. So you may end up regretting a decision or simply change your mind later.

This wasn’t our first kitchen renovation, but when we renovated the kitchen in our last house, we kept the same layout and hired a kitchen designer to manage the whole process and make a whole lot of those decisions for us. This time we reimagined the entire space, tore down walls, moved the whole kitchen, and started from scratch with everything from the floor to the walls to the electrical outlets — and we designed everything ourselves! We only hired a contractor to execute the plans we made.

So here are some of the bigger choices we made and what we honestly think after living with them for a year:

Ikea cabinets –Love! We decided on Ikea cabinets for a few reasons: they’re affordable; they’re super customizable; you can design the layout yourself using Ikea’s online kitchen planner; parts can be replaced if necessary; and if we change our minds on the color someday we can easily replace the doors with something else, like custom doors from Semihandmade. Of course it’s always nervewracking to make a big decision like this — were we going to regret not going with something more high-end? Were they going to fall apart? Were they going to be a huge pain in the butt to put together? But after reading a bunch of other bloggers’ accounts of their own positive experiences with Ikea kitchens, we felt pretty confident going in and have no regrets.

The only difficult part was the ordering process. We don’t have an Ikea store nearby, so we have to drive either two hours to Detroit or two hours to Pittsburgh (and opening in June 2017, two hours to Columbus). We prefer the Detroit store and it’s an easier drive, so when Joey was just a few weeks old, we left her with Andy’s parents for the very first time and drove up to order our cabinets. We got there and they said, “Oh, but we don’t deliver to Cleveland.” UUGGGHH! They said we could rent a Uhaul and take them home ourselves that day, or we could order online to have them delivered from the warehouse in New Jersey… which they told us would be really expensive with shipping. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

We were devastated. The whole drive home we considered scrapping the whole idea, getting cabinets somewhere else, or even just living with our kitchen as is for longer, but when we got home we figured, we might as well see how much shipping would cost. We expected somewhere in the $3000-5000 range. It was more like $150. Um. Ok. For an entire kitchen? For reference, it was the exact same price when we later had just a couch shipped. I think whatever fits on the truck is a flat rate depending on mileage from the warehouse, whether it’s one small thing or a whole kitchen. We wish the Ikea employee would have been more helpful in explaining our options and realistic shipping prices instead of basically writing us off, but it all worked out in the end. The other frustrating part was that several pieces we needed were backordered, so we ended up having to wait until every piece was available before they would ship anything. Also kind of annoying.

We chose the Ikea Sektion cabinets with Ringhult doors in high-gloss white, and we are so happy with them them. We have absolutely no complaints. The quality is great, we love the look, they’re easy to keep clean, they have soft-close doors/drawers that are awesome, and we love all of Ikea’s shelf/drawer organization systems that keep us all neat and tidy!

No upper cabinets: Again this was a multi-part decision: we thought we’d have enough storage space in our lower cabinets/pantry, we wanted to save money, and we like the look of open shelving. We also figured if we ever change our minds, we can easily add upper cabinets later on — another benefit of an Ikea kitchen! We’re really happy we made this choice. We have more than enough storage space as it is, and it’s fun to rearrange the open shelves and give us some pops of color in an otherwise all-white kitchen. If there were more white cabinets there I think the kitchen might be too boring and too white. The only complaint is that our shelves are starting to bow a bit, which is annoying, since there isn’t even anything heavy on them.

Drawers instead of shelves — All of our lower cabinets and one side of the pantry are all drawers instead of shelves, and it’s been awesome. We decided to go with drawers because we loved the idea of being able to see everything all at once and not having things hiding and getting lost way in the back. It provides us with way more storage space because we can see everything front-to-back and don’t have to put things only in front. Ikea also has a lot of option for drawer organizers and storage systems that have been awesome for keeping us organized and putting everything in its place. We especially like our drawer spice rack and plate holders.

Stove in the island & the layout in general — It took us a while to settle on a final layout and we even posted a few options right here on the blog for your input (here and here). We loved your suggestions and actually rearranged some things because of them! One thing we were always sure of, though, was that we’d really like the stove to be in the island. When I was growing up that’s how our kitchen was set up in a similar open concept kitchen/living room area, and I just remember how great it was for me to sit at the counter while my mom cooked. It’s still one of my absolute favorite parts of our new kitchen, too. Joey isn’t sitting at the counter yet, but I love that we can keep an eye on her wherever she is.

The only complaint we have about the island itself is that the paint has become a real mess. On the sides and by the stools, I think the wood wasn’t primed well enough and the tannins (wood’s natural oils) are seeping through the paint, leaving splotches and weird dark spots. Plus there are smudges where our knees and shoes rub on the wall by the stools. The island is painted with the same eggshell paint (Sherwin Williams “Snowbound”) we used on the walls, so we might just re-prime and re-paint with a semi-gloss paint that will be easier to wipe clean, but we’ve also debated a bunch of different solutions, from painting a different color to using wallpaper to wrapping the whole thing in wood — what do you think we should do?!

Quartz countertopsChoosing counters was one of the most stressful parts of our renovation and at one point we even talked about just not having any! Ha can you imagine?! We had an idea of what we wanted — white quartz — but it was so tough to find the right white. We ended up choosing Silestone “White Zeus Extreme” on the back counter and LG “Minuet” on the island, and we love them. So far we haven’t had any problems with staining (though we’ve had a few close calls, all saved by Barkeeper’s Friend and elbow grease). There are a few teeny tiny chips around the sink where pots and pans have bumped into the edges during washing, but those honestly don’t bother us. I love, love, love how much counter space we have and the crisp white counters make the kitchen bright and clean (even when they aren’t so clean, ha).

No backsplash — Some of our contractors thought we were weird when we said we weren’t doing any backsplash, but we didn’t see the point. Our sink is directly in front of a window, with no gap between the counter behind the sink and the window sill. The counter goes right up to the window sill. With our stove in the island, there’s no wall to protect from grease splatter. Best of all, not doing any tiling means we saved thousands of dollars, yay!

Ceramic floor tiles — One of the things Andy and I debated a lot when planning our reno was what the heck were we supposed to do about the kitchen floor. Our current kitchen is made up of what used to be a dining room, that had wood floors connected with the living room, and the old kitchen which had floor tiles. So we knew we had to replace the floor, but with what? Andy wanted tile and I really wanted wood floors that would be seamless with the living room to create one big open space, and I thought having a different floor would look weird and make the space feel smaller and disjointed. We got an estimate on matching the wood flooring (original red oak) and, well, it was a lot, and it was never really going to really match perfectly. Andy finally talked me into considering tiles and took me to look at some samples. Once I saw some options, I came around and decided that it might actually work. We ending up choosing Silver Stone Matt Grey ceramic tiles from The Tile Shop. I actually think the floor looks awesome and I’m so happy I listened to Andy!

We do have two small-ish complaints about the tile, though. #1: it’s hard on your back after a while. Most days when we’re cooking a quick weeknight dinner, it doesn’t matter, but on days we spend a lot of time standing in the kitchen, like when we make pizza dough, you have to wear shoes to feel comfortable and even then you get sore. #2: the light grey grout is a pain in the butt to keep clean — does anyone have a trick that works?

Hidden microwave — You may have noticed that there’s no microwave sitting out on our countertop… thank goodness. That’s because we have it in one of the pantry cabinets. We had our electrician add an outlet behind the pantry when we he was wiring the kitchen, so we have the microwave on a shelf in the pantry. When the microwave is on, we keep the pantry doors open, to make sure there’s plenty of airflow, but it’s awesome to be able to just close the doors again and not look at it when we’re not using it.

So there’s a few minor complaints, but overall we are SUPER HAPPY with every big — and little — decision we made in our kitchen. At this point there’s almost nothing we want to change. There will always be tweaks here and there, because we enjoy that and get bored quickly, but we also love that we purposefully gave ourselves the option of making some changes in the future if we ever do want to!

Is there any part of our kitchen that you’re curious about? Anything we left out? We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions!

To see a complete breakdown of all the products we used in our kitchen, see: “Our Kitchen & Living Room, One Year After Renovations — All the Pictures!”

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