Kitchen Decision Making

I am planning a make-it-work makeover of our kitchen. As a reminder, it looked like this when we bought the house:


And it looks like this now (“now” = when it’s spotless and I’ve cleared all the crap off the counter):

Current Kitchen

Why not a full remodel?

If I were to totally renovate this kitchen, it would lead to gutting the entire space: tearing up the floor, pulling down the ceiling, moving gas and plumbing lines, etc.

I think renovation money should be spent on major pain points (either structural or emotional), and this kitchen isn’t one for us. I’m sure there’s some ideal layout that would maximize the space and make us marginally happier, but eh. We’re not Dream Kitchen people. We’re Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Kitchen people.

Also, I need to be mindful of not putting too much money into this house. (See this post from Room for Tuesday for some good thoughts on home renovation and property value.) If Jarrod and I are still here in 15 years (“here” = in this house or, you know, on this planet in a functioning society) and our property value has appreciated significantly, then we can reevaluate.

So, just like I did with my half-bath renovation, here’s a round-up of the decisions I’m making.

Floors – Proceeding with Cautious Optimism

The previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen, seemingly on top of the existing floor. No idea why they did this. During our home inspection, our inspector joked “You’re not allowed to ask why,” which is advice I’ve tried to bear in mind whenever reckoning with the previous owner’s decisions.

Cherry Floor.jpg

The floor is super red, clashing with the general aesthetic of the rest of the house. The internet gives me hope that sanding it down and applying dark stain will help kill the red (e.g. see this Houzz thread). It won’t match the oak, and it won’t be my ideal floor color, but it will be better than the red. Fingers crossed.

Cabinets – 100% Decided

They’ll get painted white by a professional. Painted because they’re otherwise fine – nice even, for the most part. White because I love white kitchens. A professional because I hate painting and I’m a perfectionist, which is a fatal combo when it comes to a job like this.

I’m hiring someone who specializes in cabinetry and has impeccable reviews. They spray the cabinets, so it looks (and lasts) like a factory finish. I’ll document this process when it happens, but here’s an example of their prep work:


Just thinking about doing that prep work makes me want to cry, so it is worth giving them a big chunk of my annual bonus to do it for me.

Hardware – Already Here!

I went with Amerock’s Blackrock line, which is what I’ve used elsewhere in the house (e.g. our entryway closet). It’s high quality metal, substantial, and affordable. $5/each for the pulls and $2/each for the knobs. Done.


Brass would have been a nice contrast to the black counters, but I didn’t find any I loved enough to justify the significant increase in cost over the Blackrock. I’ve decided to bring brass in elsewhere in the kitchen, like the lighting.

Lighting – Working on It

There are several recessed lights in the ceiling. Their placement was determined by no perceptible rhyme or reason – they’re nominally over the island and sink, but not centered. (See previous “Don’t ask why” mantra.) They were worse when we bought the house:

Ceiling Before

I replaced the eyeballs with new LED fixtures and they’re okay now.

Ceiling After

I am considering a pair of hanging pendants over the island, but that would require moving electrical and I’m not sure I want the visual clutter. Though I am swayed by how much I like these Pottery Barn Milk Glass Pendants


I’ll probably just replace the existing fixture with a new flush or semi-flush light. This submarine-porthole-looking fixture arrived today, but I’m thinking it may be too low-profile.

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 9.09.55 PM.png

Good thing about lighting decision making is that there’s no shortage of options!

Decoration – Temporary Insanity

With nearly everything else being black or white, I’ll add some color and warmth with decor. I’ve picked out a new rug, have a plan for art, moulding, and shelving, and am shopping for a new clock. Last week I texted Jarrod: “Kitchen brainflash: CUCKOO CLOCK.”


I was really excited about this modern one until we watched the YouTube chimes video – does that clock chime 20 times for 7pm?! PASS.

Appliances – Feedback Welcome

I prefer appliances to blend in as much as possible, so I definitely want a white dishwasher and fridge. I’ve already picked those out.


The oven is where I’m unsure. We need a slide-in gas range with the control area on the front. There are very few options out there. Based on cost and our specs, I’m leaning toward this model. But should it be white or black? White would match the painted cabinets; black would match the counter.

Range Options.jpg

I’m leaning toward white because matching appliances seems like the obvious answer – and I vastly prefer the white one – but I’m worried about the stark contrast between the countertop and the range top.

Here’s the existing range:

Black Range.jpg

Here’s a very crudely done Photoshop job to help(?) show the range top with adjacent white cabinets and dishwasher (don’t worry, my cabinet pulls aren’t Duplo-sized like that):

Range in Island White Cabinets.png

So, imagine that but way, way better. Do you think a white range top would be an abomination?

Update: Thanks for the feedback so far! To clarify: the reason I would replace the existing range even if it’s with a different black range is because I hate the existing one. I want grates that cover the entire range top so you can slide pans around, and I want a broiler that it’s in the oven, not in the bottom drawer. Also, this oven’s temperature is 25 to 50 degrees off – I know that’s something I could fix if I liked the oven, but I don’t.

23 thoughts on “Kitchen Decision Making

  1. Omg that tj orange chicken line Also so interested in how much cabinets cost if you’re willing to share via email if you decide not to in post? Even just the quote. White cabinet mini revamp kitchen dreaming for this tj chef too Thanks for considering–Excited to see how this goes for you! Mairead

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Thanks, Mairead! I don’t mind sharing numbers at all. The kitchen cabinets will cost $2,750. That includes washing, filling holes, sanding, caulk, 2 coats of primer, 2 coats of paint, and poly top coat. It is a splurge for sure, and I’m only game to spend that much money because 1) the cabinets are high-quality and 2) I want this to be a long-term solution. Good luck on your kitchen revamp!

  2. Long time follower, first time commenter. Why not stainless range w black top? It will match your fridge AND counter.

    1. I was going to recommend the same as Josh – we have a stainless range and white dishwasher and white fridge, and I like the way it looks.

      Question for you (since we have the same cabinets) -the doors seem flimsy, maybe b/c of the hinges? Do you have this issue? They kind of bang when I close them…

      1. Sally: Nope, our doors are very sturdy – they have nice European hinges. I think our cabinets may be a similar style but a different manufacturer.

    2. Hey, Josh! I’m replacing the fridge with a white one (sorry, I updated the blog post to make that more clear). I’m worried that a stainless range might feel totally random without any other stainless in the room.

  3. Normally I’d say if your appliances are white, so should your range be. However, because your range doesn’t face outward, isn’t next to or near the dishwasher, and would stand out like a sore thumb when partnered with your black countertop, I am leaning towards black. I really do not like black appliances, but I really feel as though that’s your only option. That being said… why are you replacing your black gas range, with another black gas range instead of just using the one you have. Did I miss that explanation?

    1. Good question! I updated the post to address it. I really dislike the existing oven. I want grates that cover the entire range top so you can slide pans around, and I want a broiler that it’s in the oven, not in the bottom drawer. Also, this oven’s temperature is 25 to 50 degrees off – I know that’s something I could fix if I liked the oven, but I don’t.

      I agree with you – as much as I dislike black appliances, I’m afraid that I know in my gut a black range is the way to go…

  4. Ned Flanders says, “That’s a dilly of a pickle!” Still, black appliances give me a gross 90s bachelor pad vibe, and mismatched appliances are a thumbs-down too. And I think that the substantial black grates on the white one will help it blend with the counter. Also, white appliances are just better. I considered going with white for our kitchen, but caved to the SS default cuz more options especially in counter-depth refrigerators, which we needed and which is apparently a weird California thing.

    Also, having the cabinets professionally painted is so correct. I wish I had done that, and I chastise past Erin for it sometimes.

    1. Erin, you’re reading my mind. (Except for the Simpson’s quote – my mind doesn’t know those.) I totally think the edge-to-edge black grates would ease the transition for a white range. UGH. I keep going back and forth on this – every time I think my mind’s made up, it’s like a reset button gets pushed and I return to indecision mode!

  5. I think the contrast between the black countertop and white range is fine…but a white range is going to be hell to clean. At least with back the burned on carbon fades into the background.

    1. We’ve had a white range in a couple of previous apartments and I wish I could remember how hard it was to keep it clean! I feel like this black range shows mess, too, but you’re probably right that it’s not as bad.

  6. I painted cabinets once. Never again! I support your decision to hire that project out to the professionals, not that you were waiting for my endorsement. :) #whitekitchensforever

    As for the range, I think I like Josh’s suggestion of stainless/black. I am all about form over function, and white would be a project to keep clean unless you are one of those people who stay on top of housework 100%.

  7. one word-


    (also the GE Artistry line is quite stylish (I have the stove and love it) but it is discontinued and you’d have to buy online sight unseen)


  9. I’d love to know who is painting your cabinets. I am embarking on a ikea-semihandmade kitchen Reno and despite my professional contacts I can’t find anyone that will commit to just painting cabinets.

    Also, I commented on your insta story but I think if you go for a refrigerator and dishwasher with stainless handles you could do a stainless range. After all, the sink and faucet are “appliances” and are already in that finish. There seem to be many black topped stainless slide in ranges in the market.

    1. Hey, Lucas! I’m hiring Giant Painters: They’re scheduled to do the job in early April, so I’ll be able to vouch for quality after that. They have really great reviews on Angie’s List – fingers crossed.

      You’re definitely right about our sink and faucet; also, the toaster and trashcans are stainless. It’s between stainless and white at this point, and I’m leaning toward white. Given my ambivalance, I think it makes sense to choose the cheaper, matching option.

      I checked out Mike Shively’s portfolio – you all do beautiful work!

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