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When Life Hands You Lemons, Plan a Kitchen Renovation

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Hey y’all. I figured you might want an update from “The Handy Home.”  There have been so many changes, you won’t believe it! I have some amazing Before and After pictures for you. (Because I know how much everyone loves to see drastic changes.)

Kitchen Before:

Monotone cabinets and appliances. No visual interest.

Kitchen After:

 Ahhh, much better! Many different colors and textures. Polka dot pattern on the wall and stripes on the floor! TRENDY. This picture is so Pinterest-worthy I can’t wait to see those repins. 

Breakfast Nook Before:

Peninsula, trash can, and table blocking traffic flow and the view.

Breakfast Nook After:

Clear line of site, no tables or counters to block your sight line.  I love the open feel, don’t you?

Kitchen Sink Before:

Cluttered appliances on countertop. Tile backspash, very booorrrriinnngg. Tiles and the mat are a bit busy. My eyes don’t know where to rest.

Kitchen Sink After:

 Ahhhhhh, minimalist design at its finest. The eye focuses right on that beautiful window — or maybe not.

Don’t you like my minimalist design decisions? The kids are loving their scooter rink. But, I’m ready for change. Progress has pretty much reached a standstill. Last week we failed our post-mold remediation test. 🙁  I was not very happy to see our previous house guests return:

If you’ve never had the pleasure of having your head 10 feet from a jet engine, you can’t fully appreciate the mind numbing qualities that this beast can exert on your brain! We have four of these air scrubbers running in our home right now.

Honestly, after Sandy’s devastation, I am incredibly thankful for what we have.We have power, we have running water and although we can’t run our heat, those annoying air scrubbers put off enough heat to keep us warm. (We can’t turn on our heat until we pass the mold test?)

While we’ve been living in purgatory, we’ve made some life altering decisions:

I’m going back to work…

…on the kitchen that is! I was having a hard time relinquishing power to the contractors who are lined up to restore our kitchen and laundry room back to it’s previous state. I need to have control and get my hands on the process of rebuilding our kitchen. And, we’ve decided to make lemonade out of lemons by renovating our kitchen.

I also realized that one of my dreams of buying a fixer upper just came out of left field and blind-sided me. I have the opportunity to truly rebuild a gutted kitchen.

After the mold discovery and going through several stages of grief:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Acceptance

I’ve now arrived to the next stage: SHOPPING

A recap of this past week:

I escaped the whine of the HEPA filter fans to my favorite haunt and started exercising my creative muscles. I bought a kitchen desk and slab of glacier white granite from the Habitat ReStore for…wait for it…are you ready…$55!!! I have big plans for them in the new kitchen plan.

The boys and I suited up in safety goggles, gloves and ear muffs to rip out the existing backsplash. We had a lot of fun prying out the old tiles.

Handsome Guy and I spent a romantic Halloween afternoon in the crawlspace jacking up the house. We have one low spot (thanks to a previous leak) that we needed to push back up into some semblance of level before the flooring can go back in. There is nothing quite like the rush of “jacking up your house” and hearing wood creak and groan. I felt a little bit like Mike Holmes. Hoo Rah!

I spent half a day learning about tile. Floor tile, back splash tile, marble, glass, penny and even copper tile! The choices are endless and I’m not sure how I will ever choose. I might have to ask y’all to weigh in.

 The hubs and I made paper templates of our appliances out of craft paper and boxes. Every night after the kids are in bed we move them around and around searching for the perfect layout. I had three designers and my sister drawing up potential plans for our kitchen layout. We have yet to finalize our plans. But, I’ve been having a blast using this amazing FREE iPad (and iPhone) app called Magic Plan. I have DIY Diva to thank for introducing me to it.

Using the iPad camera, within 10 minutes I had accurate plans drawn up of our kitchen and have been playing with layouts.

I think the final plan may be a Frankenstein type fusion using bits and pieces from each.

I’ve created a Pinterest board with my kitchen ideas and several things are a definite (in my mind at least).

Butcher block countertops. Farmhouse sink. Light blue cabinets. Glass cabinets. With 148 pins, you’d think I’d be able to make a decision. Sadly I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Do you have any kitchen ideas for me? A bigger window? Open shelves? OR windowed upper cabinet doors? Granite, quartz, butcher block or marble – oh my! I need some advice. Have you renovated your kitchen or mudroom recently? Any regrets? Any must have features? I’m in serious need of a speedy kitchen renovation course because I know next to nothing about renovating a kitchen. Gulp.

You can read more about our kitchen disaster and renovation in these updates:




30 replies
  1. Shannon Fox
    Shannon Fox says:

    Oh my! I love what you’ve done with the place 🙂 So sorry for all the icky stuff, but when the new kitchen is in, I’m sure you’ll forget all about it. Sort of like childbirth. haha. My advice is to get what you really love and makes your heart sing! I wanted white cabinets, and wish I would have just went for it, budget be damned. It wasn’t that much more, but it felt like a lot at the time. Hope the jets are gone soon!!

  2. Christine
    Christine says:

    So happy for you! You are really taking this in stride. I am thrilled that it seems things will actually be better than worse for you in just a few weeks. Keep on smiling and blogging about it. It helps the rest of us get through our woes as well. 🙂

  3. Toni
    Toni says:

    I agree…go with what you love because you will likely have it a long time. I recently gutted the 1970’s kitchen in the home we bought and remodeled. I wanted white cabinets but went with solid maple because it was a little less expensive (my cabinets alone were $17,000)….everyone thinks they are beautiful but I still wish I had white. I do like the island in contrasting Espresso. I love my 39″ Stainless farmhouse sink and the cabinet next to it with the pullout trash and recycle bins and the pretty blue pendant lights above the island. I took out the wall and incorporated the breakfast room into the kitchen to make it much larger (the dining is right next to it and we didn’t need both. In addition our kitchen opens to a courtyard dining area that we use often) I added a desk for my computer and it is handy to have it right there where I spend much of my time. I love the glass fronts on a few of my cabinets, the built-in wine rack and bookcase for cookbooks, the recessed ceiling lights and the subway tile backsplash with stainless steel and glass block trim. Worth the splurge….Silestone countertops, 36″ glass top stove with warming element and adjustable burners and a pantry with pullout shelves as well as large cabinet drawers instead of doors & shelves. Not worth the splurge: My $1000 stainless dishwasher that is very quiet but has already had computer problems, convection oven (I never use the convection option), Xenon under cabinet lights that are nice but I rarely use and the fancy vent hood that looks pretty but is a pain to keep clean. I also really like the ss Ikea rods that we added just under the cabinets to hang utensils, etc on. I don’t have anything on my countertops but a knife block and a coffee maker. My kitchen has a very clean, modern look with flat face doors and long stainless handles. Very different than what I’ve had before but I really like it. I don’t have a website but I could send you photos or they are on my Facebook. Good Luck and have patience. It is worth the wait!

  4. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Brittany, I’m sure you will pick something that is just right for you and your family. I really like the idea of the blue cabinets. I am so over the white cabinets, granite, and stainless steel. It has become ubiquitous. If I were remodeling my kitchen I would get cabinets that are easy to refinish. That way you can change the look with paint rather than tearing out and starting over. I also like glass doors instead of open shelves. I’m too messy to have open shelves : ) And I may be the only person in the world who does not like granite, marble or quartz counter tops. I find them cold and not user friendly (drop a glass and it’s history) and a lot of upkeep. Also, if you get a dark color, every crumb shines like a diamond. I know this goes against popular opinion, but that is what I would do if I had the opportunity! Good luck. I look forward to seeing your new kitchen.

  5. Sue
    Sue says:

    What an exciting opportunity, with so many choices to make. And, of course, when you have to make choices that are expensive, and that you’ll end up living with for many, many years, you’re very likely going to feel overwhelmed! My advice is to go with your gut feeling, and then realize that you will second guess yourself as soon as you’ve signed on the dotted line! Ignore those 2nd thoughts and just make yourself a warm, bright spot for your family. Ultimately, it’s not the choice of paint color, tile or appliances that make your kitchen the heart of your home. It’s all the people who will join you there to prepare a family meal, or to sit over a cup of coffee at your table – no choices to make there, the important “parts” of your kitchen are already in your life!

  6. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    It’s so exciting and yet exhausting rennovating a kitchen. We did ours last year…we took down a wall that separated the kitchen from the living room; added a bar; new cabinets, new sink, new appliances and new floors for living room and kitchen. The only regret is that when the budget gets tight (and it will) make sure you get the touches you want. I wished I would have gotten the drawers that have a slow closing mechanism and also drawers that roll out, but our budget couldn’t handle it. All in all, the kitchen looks great and I even got to paint my accent wall red which suprisingly to my family actually looks great!! My advise is to pick the things that you absolutely want to have and then compromise on other things that maybe aren’t as important. Can’t wait to see the update!!

  7. Richella @ Imparting Grace
    Richella @ Imparting Grace says:

    Brittany, you have done an absolutely wonderful job of taking this mess into stride and making the best of the situation. I know you must be tired of being kitchenless, but your sense of human shines through brilliantly in this post! Your new kitchen will be marvelous, I know!

  8. Cher @ Designs by Studio C
    Cher @ Designs by Studio C says:

    Brittany, I feel your pain. I completely gutted and renovated my kitchen (BY MYSELF) a little over a year ago. I built the cabinets myself as well as the countertops. It took me seven months to complete it because I was going to school, working, and raising two teenagers. I don’t regret a single second of it! I got custom cabinets, a smooth cooktop, a dishwasher that didn’t sound like a freight train, and a wall oven at the proper height for a tall girl such as myself out of the deal. I still walk in and feel so proud about it. I am still in love with it and wouldn’t change a single thing! Good luck with your project – You’ll enjoy it!!

  9. DeDe@DesignedDecor
    [email protected] says:

    What are those two little rooms between the kitchen and dining room? Can they be removed? I can see more space and cabinets by removing them? Not sure if it is possible but it seems possible by the floor plans. I just renovated a gutted kitchen this past year. We gained so much space by looking outside of the box. We knocked out a wall between the dining room and kitchen. Even though I lost a wall we ended up gaining more room. We also knocked out a small exterior wall to build in a double oven. This allowed us to have a double oven without having to take up floor space. You definitely need to plan some type of island. Good luck and have fun shopping!

  10. Kristi @ Creative Kristi
    Kristi @ Creative Kristi says:

    I’m so sorry for your situation but so happy you get to design an awesome new space, and you have power & the ability to take care of this situation! (I’m not sure we’d have the cash to do that if that happened to us–which scares me).
    Good luck and I look forward to watching the progress!

  11. Barb
    Barb says:

    Our kitchen remodel looms ahead. We may just resurface the cabinets and add molding to the standard builder’s cabinet doors. We love our island instead of peninsula, and only regret it is fastened to the floor and not movable, like a farm table would be. I also wish the island had drawers instead of doors, and might replace just the cabinets for that island. SO many ideas to ponder. Sorry you had to deal with forced destruction, but a clean slate is so nice in the long run, albeit extremely expensive… ugh

  12. Marie in BR
    Marie in BR says:

    Well you are certainly keeping a good attitude about your impromptu remodel. Does your homeowners cover any of this? I can’t wait to see what you come up with. If I weren’t in the middle of a baby room redo, I would head right home and start a kitchen overhaul myself. Keep your chin up and the hammer swinging:):):)

  13. Katie
    Katie says:

    I have butcher block counters from Ikea and I LOVE them. We’ve had them for almost a year and they’re great. The place I use the most for food prep is developing a really nice patina and is super smooth. I originally thought I wanted to use them for a while and then get stone, but I love them so much I never want anything else.

  14. Barbara in CT
    Barbara in CT says:

    You really are being such a good sport about a miserable situation.

    Start your decision making process with what you definitely know–butcher block counters, blue cabinets, farmhouse sink and get samples of the possibilities and see which work well together. You have lots of good choices pinned. Basically, you need flooring and back splash that work with your must haves. You can’t have too many “stars” in the room.

  15. Jeff Patterson
    Jeff Patterson says:

    Can’t wait to see what you choose to put into the kitchen. It’s awesome that the boys are helping out with this project. They will be super experts by the time they’re teenagers.

    Thanks for sharing the MagicPlan app. I already installed it and am looking forward to tinkering around with our master bathroom.

    Keep us posted on all the updates 🙂

  16. Pine Tree Home
    Pine Tree Home says:

    So exciting. I can’t wait to look up that app because I’ve been known to bring graph paper and pencils on vacations.

    When we were doing our kitchen remodel I had my heart set on an apron front farm sink. The kitchen designer told me to think twice because you can get wet while washing dishes. I ignored her. I love my sink, but I can vouch that I do get splashed with water all down my front side when scrubbing big pots. So pull on the rain poncho! Knowing this, I still would have bought the farm sink. It just looks so darn cool.

  17. Tors
    Tors says:

    Lots of drawers! Biggest tip I can think of, it’s always the one thing I wish I had put in more of in my kitchen. Good luck with it all, can’t wait to see your progress and final decisions!

      • Felicia
        Felicia says:

        Yes, we were lucky to have the space we did, and we choose to put in an “L” island because we wanted to define the kitchen space a little bit more. The house has no walls between both living rooms and the dinning room, so it was just so open! The island does a nice job of breaking it up 🙂
        Hey I wanted to also let you know I just built a website http://www.ttpcloset.com where my readers can know shop some of the home decor items they liked within in my home. It’s still a work in progress, but something I am trying to do to be more interactive and helpful for the people who always ask where I buy all my accent pieces!!

        The Tiny Professional


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