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:

downstairs18

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:

CabinetPrep.jpg

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.

amerock-blackrock-hardware.jpg

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

pb-classic-pendant-milk-glass-o.jpg

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.”

Clock.jpg

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.

white-appliances.jpg

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.

Half-Bathroom Before and After

I detailed the half-bathroom renovation drudgery in previous posts, so now it’s time for a whole bunch of before and after photos! All of the sources are linked at the end of this post.

Before:First Floor Bathroom.jpg

After:Half Bath Under Stairs.jpg

The moulding around the door was replaced with a simple Craftman style that is more appropriate for our 1913 bungalow. I used Metrie architrave (the part above the door) plus trim from Home Depot. The vintage five panel door is what would have been in the house originally – I picked it up for $20 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore here in Chicago.

Before:Door Before.JPG

After:Five Panel Door.jpg

Five Panel Doorknob.jpg

The previous tile was overly high: it crowded the window and made the room feel short. I chose the beadboard height so that it was as tall as the faucet – that way when people turn off the handles, there’s little risk of water splashing on the wallpaper.

Before:Half Bath Monet.jpg

After:Powder Room After.jpg

Another choice that helps make the room feel taller is continuing the wallpaper up the sloped ceiling. The Cole & Sons wallpaper is so beautiful; it looks hand-stenciled.

Wallpaper on Sloped Wall.jpg

There’s an odd wood stump up there from a staircase beam, so I put a vintage brass duck on it because why not.

Brass Bird Flying in a Bathroom.jpg

I love the new matte white hex tile from EliteTile. Porcelain mosaic tile feels perfect for a bungalow bathroom, and the black grout will be easy to keep clean.

Before:Half Bath Toilet Before.jpg

After:Kohler Toilet.jpg

The support post bump-out fits in with the room a lot better now that the beadboard and baseboard wraps around and continues down the rest of the wall.

Before:Half Bath Tile Tower.jpg

After:Bathroom Bump Out.jpg

Another big change I’m very happy with is the window trim. The window previously looked really rough – you could see the brick around the edges. Now it looks like a feature of the room, not an afterthought.

Before:Window Before.jpg

After:Glass Block Window.jpg

Jarrod is a birder, and he’s always admiring the John James Audubon Birds of America book on display at Northwestern University, where he works. I sent him a link to Joel Oppenheimer’s Audubon listings sorted by ascending price, so we could find an entry-level piece. Jarrod selected boat-tailed grackles, and I picked up the print at Oppenheimer’s beautiful gallery in Chicago. It’s a 1856 hand-colored lithograph.

Tip: All of Audubon’s Birds of America illustrations are available for free download as very high-resolution files (10,000 pixels!) via the Audubon Society’s website.

Framed Audubon Print.jpg

This print is the only art I have in here; I may eventually hang something over the toilet, but for now I’m letting the wallpaper do the work. I’m keeping the windowsill simple as well with a woven tray, tissue box, and plant.

Bathroom Window Sill.jpg

One more photo just because I like this detail!

IMG_2100.JPG

The bathroom finishes are a mix of matte black and antique brass. The Tolson toilet paper holder from Rejuvenation matches the vanity knobs.

Brass Toilet Paper Holder.jpg

I reused the bathroom’s existing sink: there are very few sink options available with such a shallow depth (14″), and this one was in perfectly fine shape. It looks so much better with a new black faucet and a new vanity.

Before:Half Bath Sink.jpg

After:Bathroom Sink.jpg

I customized an IKEA SILVERAN vanity with paint, tapered legs, and brass knobs. I also reduced the depth of the vanity to fit the sink. This was one aspect of the powder room that I thought might be a total fail, but I ended up being 100% pleased with it. So, I am super glad I did not waste money on an expensive custom vanity (all of the quotes I got came in around $1k). I’ll share details of this IKEA hack in a follow-up post.

Before:Half Bath Vanity Before.jpg

After:IKEA SILVERAN vanity hack.jpg

I purchased the rug, tissue box cover, and antique brass bird hook when I redid our apartment bathroom. There’s actually an identical bird on eBay right now – but she’s $175 and has a candleholder on her head! Looks like my $14 bird “hook” used to be a sconce before her hat fell off.

Brass Bird Hook.jpg

Going back in time, here’s what the bathroom looked like when we bought the house.

Before:downstairs11

Interim:Half Bath Mirror Before.jpg

After:Dark Vanity with Brass Mirror.jpg

The light fixture was lowered and replaced with a Schoolhouse Electric sconce. I love those faceted shades. The switches and outlet were moved next to the door, which is the logical home for them.

When we bought the house:downstairs13

Interim:Bathroom Door

After:Bathroom Five Panel Door.jpg

When we bought the house:downstairs10

And now:Powder Room.jpg

I love this view:Round Brass Mirror in Bathroom.jpg

Portrait of a Lady who is Relieved this Bathroom Renovation Wasn’t a Huge Mistake:Round Brass Mirror.jpg

Sources

Previous posts

Bathroom Decision Making

Looks like I am moving forward with the half-bathroom remodel! I hit my savings goal thanks to our tax refund, annual bonus, and squirreling away of money. Now I get to dive into a capital project.

For reference, this is what our bathroom looks like currently:

Bathroom

It’s tucked under the stairs, in the center of our home’s first floor.

Stairs Bathroom

Virtually everything you see will be changed, so I have a lot of decisions to make. It’s equal parts fun and stressful. I’m nowhere near a congealed plan, but I wanted to round up the major choices. Many of you commented in my reader survey that you’d like to see more in-progress details, so here goes.

Floor Tile: Decided!

Marble tile doesn’t feel right to me for a bungalow bathroom, so I zeroed in quickly on porcelain mosaic tile. Here are a few options I considered:

Tile Options.JPG

Jarrod saw the penny tile and said “They don’t fit together!” and now I think he’s right: it’s weird each tile is an island in a sea of grout, instead of being more like a puzzle piece.

I was on the fence on basketweave vs. hexagonal until I stopped to appreciate the tile of the wine shop in the Merchandise Mart, where I work (the Merchandise Mart, that is; I don’t work in the wine shop. I would be terrible at that job, because I am an undiscriminating lush).

Wine Shop Floor.JPG

Simple matte white hex tile with black grout. Worn and imperfect, it still looked beautiful. And, this tile is very common in original bungalow floors. I’ll order it from Wayfair. Decided!

Wall Beadboard: Decided, ugh, Menards

Did you know Menards charges a 25% restocking fee for anything you order from their website? I’m not talking custom orders: just off-the-shelf online orders. I ordered something recently and was vexed – vexed! – to learn this. Don’t worry: I channeled my grandma, pushed back, and was issued a full refund.

Beadboard Sample.jpg

Anyway, I want a v-groove beadboard with wide planks, because it looks more modern, and I want it a few inches taller than the standard 32”. The closest thing I could find to what I have in mind is at Menards, unless any of you lovely readers have a hot tip.

Faucet: Decided, with fingers crossed

I want a matte black fixture, which is a limited pool of options. I plan to reuse our existing sink (to save money and reduce waste, and because I like it), which requires a centerset three-hole faucet – further limiting my pool of options. This MOEN Kingsley Centerset 2-Handle Faucet is The One.

Faucet.jpg

The cost was hard to swallow, but when it arrived it was clearly worth it. This thing is remarkably heavy. It’s beautiful. My only concern is that the arc of the faucet may make the water stream be too close to the front of our shallow sink. Fingers crossed.

Vanity: 78% chance of success

Our bathroom requires a very shallow sink and vanity. The 14″ x 24″ sink in there now is as big as the space can handle. Hours and hours of perusal of every online store plus lots of local shops did not turn up a wide variety of options.

I got quotes from a variety of places for a simple custom vanity, all of which came in around $1k (for the cabinet only – sink excluded). I am not opposed to spending that amount of money in general, but a tiny vanity isn’t really where I want to sink my budget.

Quote.png

Why not a pedestal sink? You see this sink from the side, which is the least attractive part of a pedestal sink due to the supply lines and wall drain (for example). I know there are some nice kits for exposed plumbing, but I’m just not feeling that look here. Also, a vanity is the only opportunity for storage in this bathroom.

So, I am going to use the $109 IKEA SILVERAN vanity as a starting point, and customize it with brass hardware, inky-black paint, and furniture legs.

SILVERAN Cabinet.JPG

I’ll buy the pine version because all of the parts are solid wood. The $89 white one is foil/plastic-coated particleboard, which feels and looks a lot cheaper.

Here are some inspiration photos for the general vibe I’ll be going for, though none of these are exactly the end goal:

Dark Vanity Inspiration

Here’s the tricky party: I need to cut the vanity’s depth down to size to fit our 14″ sink. The 15″ SILVERAN is too deep, and the 9″ version is too shallow. So, that could end in total disaster. I’m willing to risk it, because I’m excited about this idea and I like the challenge.

Wall sconce: So many good options

Schoolhouse Electric – Davis Double Sconce ($199 fixture + $44/shade)

Davis Sconce.jpg

I would get the brass finish with the faceted shades.

Davis Sconce Faceted Shades.jpg

Rejuvenation – Graydon Double Wall Sconce ($399)

Graydon Sconce.jpg

Wade Logan – Rickford 2-Light Wall Sconce ($95); maybe too modern, but sharing because it’s such a good deal!

Rickford Sconce.jpg

Rejuvenation – West Slope Sconce ($399)

West Slope Sconce.jpg

This babe is my favorite by far, but I’m afraid the size options won’t work. 27″ is too wide, and 15″ seems too short.

But first, I have to choose wallpaper.

Wallpaper: All over the goddamn place!

Literally and figuratively all over the place. There are over a dozen wallpaper samples currently taped to our bathroom wall, in a wide range of styles. You know the Crazy Wall trope, where the detective’s obsession with the case is his downfall? That’s me in this bathroom.

Crazy Wall of Wallpaper.JPG

If you’re also on the hunt for good wallpaper, the brands I’ve been looking at include:

My Top 3 contenders are:

York – Stencil Overall (YC3414) (only $14/roll!)York YC3414.jpg

The online photos are so flat and lifeless – ordering samples is necessary to see what they’re really like.

York Stencil Wallpaper.jpg

Don’t worry, that antique bird towel hook is definitely staying. (I used it in our last bathroom.)

York – Ashford House Flower Vine (AK7500) ($14/roll)York AK7500.jpg

Speaking of channeling my grandma! In real life, it looks rich and hand-stenciled.

York Wallpaper AK7500.jpg

Cole & Son – Dialytra ($125/roll, unpasted, which will add a bit to the hanging cost)Cole Dialytra Pattern.jpg

Cole & Sons has the best product photos, which must be what $125 a roll gets you.

Cole Dialytra Paper.jpg

One point of consideration is that there are several awkward corners and angles in this room. A pattern with strict lines may make that more obvious. A botanical print would be more forgiving of the not-perfectly-square space, especially with the sloped wall (due to the overhead stairway).

Here’s a slap-dash, not-to-scale mock-up I put together back when I was thinking I’d do a white vanity, which – now that I’m looking at this – is maybe back on the table. Sigh.

Bathroom Options.png

I’m torn because I want something interesting, but it also needs to vibe with the rest of the first floor. You see it as soon as you come in the front door. I want the bathroom to be interesting when you’re in there, but I don’t want a bathroom to command your attention from our foyer (although I guess we could just keep the door partially shut).

Most importantly, I don’t want to go all wackadoodle just for the sake of punchy After photos.

What’s Left to Decide

Every time I feel like I’m close to having considered all of the decisions I need to make, I remember a ton of other things left to decide.

  • Mirror: Preferably wood and antique, circular or with rounded corners
  • Door
  • Bathroom fan: I have not even looked at the options. Surely this is an easy one? I’ll just buy whatever is rated highest.
  • Art
  • Baseboard and trim

Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll do plenty of other posts detailing the exact budget, final design board, and contractor plans. If you feel strongly about any of these options, please weigh in with a comment!

Thanks so much for all of your feedback on the reader survey – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your funny, thoughtful, and encouraging remarks. It’s made me really excited to keep on blogging, and it’s warmed my paint-it-black heart.

Entryway Progress: New Chandelier and Rug

We have a side-entrance bungalow with a nice central entryway, opening into our kitchen on the right and our living room on the left. I suppose you could call it a foyer if you’re feeling fancy. It was far from fancy when we bought the house, though: it was super gross.

Entryway Before.JPG

I made it not-gross with cleaning and painting, and I made it functional with Flor carpet tiles and a peg rack (both leftover from our apartment). Otherwise, I didn’t spend much effort to make it look nice until recently.

Entryway Before 2.JPG

Here’s where we started. I can do better than just not-gross!

New Light Fixture

First up, I added a new ceiling medallion and light fixture: I bought the Mid-Century Long-Arm Chandelier from West Elm.

mid-century-long-arm-chandelier-o.jpg

You guys, when I first start dating Jarrod (13 years ago!) this tiger blanket was his actual bedspread. Not in an ironic way, either. He’s had it since he was a kid, and now it’s an excellent moving blanket / project cushion.

Tiger Blanket Light Fixture.jpg

The chandelier is super heavy and was a challenge to install but, ultimately, nothing insurmountable. I’m really happy with it now that it’s up there.

Hanging Light Fixture.JPG

The adjustable arms work great here because the closet throws off the center of this space. I was able to arrange the arms to balance out that corner.

West Elm Mid Century Long Arm Chandelier.JPG

New Rug

I also added a new rug: a Mazlaghan Persian rug found on eSaleRugs.com for $250.

PersionRug.jpg

It was the first time I’ve purchased from eSaleRugs. I appreciate that they post a lot of photos of each item, and their free shipping and free returns policy suits me well, too: I’m prone to buyer’s remorse, so it made it easier to pull the trigger. Thankfully, there was no need to make use of that return option – their photos are remarkably accurate.

Rug 1.JPG

That’s all for now! I’ll return tomorrow with a post detailing the final change I made in this first batch of improvements: new(ly altered) closet doors.

Entryway Progress.JPG

Update: see Adding Moulding to Inside Out Bi-Fold Doors

Bedroom Makeover: Before and After

We’ve lived in our house for a little over one year now, and our bedroom has come a long way. There was certainly nowhere to go but up! The only good thing about this bedroom’s original purple paint is that it makes the after photos look so much better.

Let’s start in the landing, which you can also see in my bathroom makeover post.

Before:Bedroom Landing Before.JPG

After:Bedroom Landing.jpg

I’m still loving those new black hinges, and the rest of the bedroom is looking pretty good these days, too.

Before:Bedroom Before.jpg

That sign taped on the sloped wall was for our painter: it says “Paint angled walls Irish Mist.” The ceiling is a flat off-the-shelf white, and the walls (including the slanted sections) are Irish Mist from Behr. The room looks much less choppy and steep without the stark contrast of purple vs. white.

After:Bedroom.jpg

This room is hard to photograph because the window is so huge – which is one of those good problems, as far as I’m concerned (e.g. “my gold bricks are too heavy”). These were our curtains for a couple of months:

Bedroom Sheet Curtains.JPG

Which was still somehow better than what was there before:

BedroomBefore.jpg

I hung IKEA curtains. It’s a double-rod, and there are actually eight curtains up there: it’s such a wide window that it required two panels per side. So, four white curtains in front, and four blackout liners in back. (If anyone’s interested, I can do a more detailed post with specifics.) We’re still using the same furniture and lamps from our previous apartment bedroom, with two changes: the rug and the bed.

Bedroom Window.jpg

The rug is a wool kilim I found on eBay for only $88 from www.ecarpetgallery.com. I think the color it adds saves the room from looking too sterile. It is very thin, so a nice rug pad was a necessity. I like dual surface rugs pads: the scratchy felted side grabs the rug, and the latex side grips the floor.

Our platform bed is the P-Series Basic Bed from Night & Day Furniture. It’s nothing fancy: solid wood, sturdy, and cheap. We bought it for around $300 nearly 10 years ago from Right-On Futon in Chicago; I’ve also seen them online on Amazon and Wayfair. I used it previously with my DIY upholstered headboard, but a wall-mounted headboard wasn’t an option here because our bed is in front of a window.

I decided to add a simple, low-profile headboard to our existing platform bed instead of buying an entirely new bed. Thankfully, this furniture company still makes this line, so I was able to buy a headboard that fits the frame perfectly. I went with white, and painted the bed to match.

Bed Painting.jpg

I lightly sanded the original finish, primed with oil-based primer, and then rolled oil-based white paint with a foam roller for a smooth finish.

White Bed.jpg

In the end, you don’t see all that much of it, which is what I wanted:

Bedroom Nightstand Window.jpg

The IKEA RAST nightstands that I stained and painted for our apartment are holding up great. Jarrod’s side of the bed features a Chicago hawk illustration by Diana Sudyka, commissioned by WBEZ for a web feature. When he’s not out birding (like he was when I took these photos), his binoculars hang on the peg rack.

Bedroom Nightstand.jpg

My side of the bed includes a vintage dresser, plants, and a photograph of my mom and my aunt taken in the 1960s. I picked up the perforated metal tray at H&M last week. They have some really nice home items these days and, if you’re in Chicago, the newly-redesigned Michigan Avenue store is much less of a hellhole.

Bedroom Dresser and Plants.jpg

Bedroom Dresser.jpg

The closet area is pretty much the same – the mirrored doors don’t look as bad now that the purple is gone, but I’ll probably replace them at some point.

Before:upstairs6

After:Bedroom Doors.jpg

Before:upstairs14

After:Bedroom IKEA Dresser.jpg

This clearly isn’t a fully finished room! Those IKEA storage bins aren’t part of my forever plan, and someday I’ll get around to unpacking that box.

My long-term plan includes:

  • Remove the light kit from the fan. The fan is fine as-is: it’s inoffensive, and it’s quiet, but I do not need an additional three overhead lights on top of the four recessed lights. No one wants seven overhead lights in a bedroom! Removing the lights will make the fan even more inconspicuous.
  • New/vintage nightstands
  • New/vintage dresser to replace the IKEA bins, and/or reconfiguring the closets to maximize storage space
  • Upgrade to a king bed. Eventually, this white queen bed will move to the guest room (which currently has a full size bed), and we’ll ascend to a kingdom.
  • Unpack that box

There’s no urgency for any of those things, however. Especially that box. If I haven’t needed anything from it in a year, maybe I should just bring it to Goodwill and let them unpack it…