Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Kitchen Remodel

Our recent kitchen remodel lasted 6 months. 6 looong months. During the summer, our 8 year old son would walk in the door after a busy day at his summer program and announce, "Ahhh...home unfinished home!"  We survived though (and stayed married) and are ready to tell you all about it. 

This one was different.  Overwhelmingly, alarmingly, surprisingly, all the -ly'ies different.  Like as in, if I knew now what this would have involved, I may have been too scared to tackle this one. Of course we are thrilled with the outcome and glad we bit the bullet, but this remodel was no easy feat.  

We weren't prepared for how quickly a kitchen remodel can spiral into each adjoining room.  What started out as..."Let's take out the wall between the kitchen and the dining to make it feel more open!" quickly turned into "MIGHT AS WELL DO _____________, TOO!"  Beware that this is the most dangerous and expensive phrase in a remodeling scenario.


We'll start at the beginning.  The wall in the photo below was our biggest problem.  The kitchen was completely closed off from the dining area because of the small door frame constricting the space.  
The white door leads to an upstairs bedroom and we typically leave it open for air flow.  Except when it's open, its only impedes the traffic coming to and from the kitchen.
The stove was in a terrible position, right against the wall, which made it difficult to use the two burners on the left.  
On the other side, the fridge was right in the middle of the room, making a narrow kitchen feel even more narrow. With the fridge door open, no one could pass by because of the door swing. The large pantry cabinet was great, but I would take counter space over cabinet space any day.
The old kitchen had just one heat/cooling vent and pair that with small door frames, it would heat up pretty quickly without the ability to circulate air through it.
And although I love, love, loved that dining room light fixture, I could rarely center the table under it because our dining area is a pass through and centering the table makes it difficult to walk around. I wanted to remove the light fixture and replace with recessed lights so I wouldn't have to call more attention to an off centered dining table.


Fast forward to today and things are feeling much lighter and brighter!  What once was a galley kitchen is now completely open to the dining area and can handle multiple cooks at once.  I spent many months drawing out the kitchen of my dreams on graph paper and it has been so gratifying to see it take shape.
Removing the wall between the rooms has unified the main living areas.  Opening up the stairwell has helped, too.  We raised the height of the stairwell door a few inches to make it easier to move furniture to the 2nd floor.
I purposefully staggered all of the appliances so that if I were at the stove and Brent was doing dishes (are you getting the hint, Brent??), we wouldn't be standing directly back to back.  I considered centering the stove on this wall to make the wall of cabinets feel more symmetrical, but that would have meant the dishwasher would be directly in front oven. No good because there are usually two of us working in here at once.  More than anything in this new kitchen, I wanted a long stretch of counter top to spread out on.  In the old kitchen, I would have to work in three separate areas because not one of the three areas was enough to accommodate all my bowls/ingredients. Planning a kitchen layout really makes you reflect on HOW you cook.  
 Look at the two photos above.  Notice anything missing?  Outlets?  Switches?  They are all under the cabinets!!!  Brent used toggle switches for the under cabinet lights and the light above the sink.  I love that there aren't any outlets cluttering up that gorgeous backsplash! 

The counter tops are quartz, that we went with because of their durability and require zero maintenance.  Love them and can't say enough good things about them. And bonus, since our kitchen is pretty small and doesn't have any corner seams, we were able to get a remnant slab for half price!

The photo below is the view when you walk in from our garage door into the kitchen.  We put the pull out pantry between the fridge and the wall so that the fridge door can swing all the way open, allowing us to get drawers/trays out for cleaning. We built the fridge cabinet to accommodate a 36" wide counter depth fridge, but we're waiting to pull the trigger on a new refrigerator because our current fridge is working just fine. TIP: We used a recessed electrical outlet for the fridge and the stove so that they can slide as far back as possible to the wall.
I love that view into the dining room!  I used to be so closed off in our old kitchen, having a conversation with someone at the dinner table while I'm in the kitchen has made the biggest difference.  For most families, life happens at the dinner table and now I can actually see it!
Let's chat about this sink. When the salesperson was over and looking over our plans, she asked what type of sink I was going to use.  I knew a white farmhouse sink wouldn't be a good fit because I was afraid of the maintenance and I wasn't thrilled with the idea of a bright white sink against warm white cabinetry, so I assumed stainless steel was my only option.  She mentioned how stainless scratches quite easily and that I should look into a quartz sink.  BEST DECISION EVER!  This thing has been indestructible.  I love the color, it's a matte black/charcoal and extra deep.  The drain is offset so I don't have to push the dishes to either side to find the drain.  And having an undermount sink is a life changer.  Since we do so much prep on the counter tops next to the sink, sweeping crumbs into the sink has been a dream.  The matte black faucet swivels, pulls down and out and has two spray settings.  Love.
Increasing the size of the window has given us a better view of the backyard and it lets so much light into the kitchen!
Side note: the drawer in front of the sink tips out to reveal two storage containers for sponges and a switch for the garbage disposal.  Brent even used a special switch for the disposal that you have to hold down to operate, so when you take pressure off the switch, the disposal turns off.
As for the backsplash, from the beginning, I had planned to do a classic white subway tile but I couldn't pull the trigger because the subway tile was a bright white and our cabinets are a warm white.  I didn't want the cabinets to feel too creamy, so we needed to find a white backsplash tile that had a warmer tone to it.  You can see the subtle differences below and why I went with the arabesque pattern.
Switching gears to hardware, this one took an embarrassing amount of time to nail down.  I knew I wanted the little glass like knobs on top because they seemed to match our house.  But choosing the hardware for the lower cabinets was torturous!  We needed two different sizes, a longer length for the large drawers and a shorter length for the doors and small drawers.  We finally found this hardware from Amerock called Rochdale and it was perfect.  
 The knobs are from Hickory Hardware and called Crystal Palace.
The biggest surprise in the remodel came in the form of hardwood flooring.  Years ago, we salvaged matching hardwoods from a friends house, knowing that someday we'd put them in the kitchen.  When we remodeled our bathroom, we learned our existing floors were only 3/8 thick.  The flooring we had salvaged was the right width but 3/4 thick. Our existing hardwoods are very difficult to find and if you can find them, can be pretty expensive so tile was going to be our second choice.  The thought of having a transition between the kitchen and dining kept nagging me because I knew it would interrupt the flow of the house.  At the last minute, I begged Brent to take a look at the hardwood flooring to see if he could make it work.  He ended up running every single strip of reclaimed flooring through the table saw to get it to the correct width.  Twice.  Once on each side to shave it down.  Then he ran each strip through a planer to get them to approximately the same thickness. That did the trick and after some belt sanding we were able to get the floor laid perfectly level with the existing flooring.
Unfortunately, that was the easy part.  Next we stained the floor with the color Spring Oak and applied 4 coats of oil based poly. Problem was, we couldn't just poly the kitchen floor or the existing floor would have a different type of sheen.  In order for this to feel right, we were going to need to screen and re coat ALL the hardwoods on the main floor. We pulled all the trim from the bedrooms (we were going to be replacing it anyways) and cleared out the furniture.  Next I scrubbed every inch of the flooring with dish soap and water and a green scrubby pad.  As it dried, Brent came behind me with a screening pad attached to a pole sander.  He used a fair amount of elbow grease because you really want to scratch that top surface of existing polyurethane.  Then we vacuumed the dust, wiped everything down with mineral spirits and applied two coats of oil based polyurethane called Fabulon in a satin finish with a lambswool applicator.  As long and arduous as that process was, it was totally worth it!  It feels like we have brand new floors.  No more little scratches from the dogs nails, they are just as smooth as glass!  Apparently if you have hardwoods laid in place like we do, doing this screen and re-coat process every 5 years or so will really extend the life of your hardwoods.  In the photo below, it's pretty tough to tell where the old floor and new floor meet.
In the photo above, you can see a heating/cooling vent that we cut into the toe kick of the base unit.  We also added another one at the opposite end of the room to improve the air flow.
Ahhhh...this table! We got lucky and picked up a Magnolia Home farmhouse table for half price at Hom Furniture.  Pier 1 sells an 8' version on their website.
The dining room used to have a chair rail that was original to the house.  Removing it meant a really noticeable paint line.  The best way to fix that was to skim coat all the walls in the dining area.  That means applying a full coat of joint compound to the entire room.  When I step back and look at before/after pictures, it looks like we simply painted the wall.  Before and after photos can't fully encompass the scope of work and effort it took to do a job correctly in order to end up with a high quality result.
Tutorial for the family photo display can be found HERE.
But the real bread and butter of this remodel is THE CABINETRY!!!  Until this point in my life, I really thought the only options for purchasing affordable cabinets were through the big box retailers. We'd gone that route before and had good luck. However, I didn't know what I was missing. Our cabinets are from Sioux Falls Kitchen and Bath (for those of you in SE South Dakota, NW Iowa and SW Minnesota) and here are a few things I've learned with my first custom cabinet experience.
1. They send a salesperson to your house to look at the space and give you options and ideas to utilize every single square inch of the kitchen and tweak the layout if they see issues. Most of us will get to design one or two kitchens in a lifetime, do yourself a favor and call in the experts because they have so many years worth of experience to apply to your space!
2. Custom cabinets don't require fillers since everything can be made to the exact size you want.  When you purchase from a big box store, they will only have standard sizes available (unless you upgrade and spend more $$$) and they send fillers to fill in the gaps.
3. The salesperson will know what types of options exist for storage.  I had been contemplating a dish drawer and it was so helpful to talk to someone that could tell me whether or not they were a good idea. Below is our pull out pantry.  I had never even seen this type of unit before so would have never known this was available!
I picked up a bunch of these little metal baskets in silver and black from Wal-Mart and they fit perfectly in the pull out!
4. High quality hardware comes standard with all Sioux Falls Kitchen and Bath cabinets. This means every single drawer, door and pullout is a slow close and all drawers and slide outs are on full extension slides so you can get to the back of the drawer.  
5. The ability to have doors and drawers replaced, if they become damaged, gives me the biggest sense of relief. I can't imagine how difficult that would be to accomplish if you order your cabinets from a big box retailer that ships their cabinets in from five states away. And what if it's three years later and they don't even sell your particular cabinets in your particular color anymore?  
6. You get to choose ANY color - yessss!!!!  For some people, having limitless choices on a cabinet color could be too overwhelming.  I knew that I wanted White Dove by Benjamin Moore.  Sioux Falls Kitchen and Bath works with Sherwin Williams paint but can color match to whatever you like. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that our cabinet color matches all the trim, crown and doors in our house. If we had to go with a stock white cabinet, I'm not convinced it would feel as cohesive.
7. You get more options! Look at the matching panels on the upper and lower cabinets.  Normally you'd see a flat panel there but I love that we got to add this beautiful detail. There are also many more door styles to choose from depending on your taste.  
8. Custom cabinet shops offer more than just cabinets. We also purchased all of our crown molding for the kitchen, dining and living room, door trim for the entire main floor and base trim for the whole main floor through Sioux Falls Kitchen and Bath. In the photo above, you can see the new crown at the ceiling and new base trim that Brent wrapped around the base of the fireplace.
9.  Our salesperson coordinated the counter top installation for us.  All we had to do was pick out the slab and she took care of the installation scheduling and invoicing. This was a great benefit as we have never purchased stone tops so we weren't familiar with the templating and installation process.
10. And the bottom line - custom cabinets can be affordable! If you're in the market for cabinets, make sure you get a quote from SF Kitchen and Bath or whatever custom cabinet builder is in your neck of the woods. I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised to find high quality custom cabinets with luxury upgrades are going to be comparable in price with the home improvement stores.

Sources - click for links

Cabinet, trim, crown color - Benjamin Moore White Dove
Wall color - Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
Upper cabinet hardware - Hickory Hardware Crystal Palace
Undermount sink - Karran undermount black
Backsplash grout - TEC Power Grout in Silverado

Sunday, March 12, 2017

1930's Cottage Bathroom Remodel

In early December we were ready to start our bathroom remodel after saving and planning for months.  It's hard to believe that the smallest room in the house could take so long to remodel, but I'm glad we took our time and scrutinized every single decision and detail.  Taking a room down to the studs and starting over is overwhelming!  You'd think that having a fresh palate to start with would make things easier by allowing you to do whatever you want - but sometimes too many choices can be burden.  Paralysis by analysis.

In many regards, we were lucky with this room remodel because I was adamant that the bathroom must reflect the character and age of our home.  Since our house was built in 1939 and looks like a cottage on the exterior, I chose as many features as I could that would make the bathroom feel original to the home, but clean and fresh.  I'll touch more on those design decisions as we work through the photos.
But first, the BEFORE:
Having lived with the old bathroom for over 7 years, we gained plenty of insight about what changes needed to happen in here. 

1.  The vanity.  Lots of things not working with this vanity style.  It was too low, too wide and too deep for the space.  There was less than two inches between the vanity and the toilet tank, which made it a pretty tight squeeze back in that corner.  Brent is 6'4" tall, so trying to shave using this sink was uncomfortable.  And finally, this bathroom is way too narrow to have a 24" deep vanity. 

2.  Storage.  The medicine cabinet also felt like this huge beast affixed to the wall which made the room feel even more cramped than it already was.  And forget about a place to put towels!  The linen closet is outside the bathroom door, so if you forgot to grab a towel before your shower you'd have to skitter out naked to the linen closet.  #hopetheblindsareclosed
2.  The wall texture. There was a thick and rough texture applied to the walls that would actually hurt if you accidently rubbed against it.  I doubt that was original to the room, probably was added at some point to cover problems with the plaster walls as an easy fix.  Unfortunately, there was really no way to scrape it off, so pulling all the old plaster off and putting up new sheetrock was really the only way to go.
3.  The lighting.  There was just the one vanity light in the room which just wasn't bright enough. 
4.  The floor.  Grout was missing in lots of places and the flooring had a blue tone to it.
5.  The cast iron tub.  This was an amazing tub and we considered salvaging it but the cost to have the porcelain refinished was almost the same price to buy a new cast iron tub.  The original bathroom did not have a shower, so at some point, someone added one but didn't have the plumbing added behind the wall, so that was important to us to add a legit shower to this bathtub.
And with a breath of fresh air, we are so happy to share the AFTER photos!  Come on in and have a look around...all sources will be linked at the bottom of the post.
What a difference, huh!!??  The shallower pedestal sink takes up so much less floor space and allows the room to flow.
We removed the overhead vanity light and flanked the mirror with sconces to soften the lighting.  I chose two different fixture finishes in the room.  Oil rubbed bronze fixtures for the lighting and polished chrome for the faucets and towel bars.  We got pretty lucky with these sconces from Lowes - only paid $10 each for them.  Thank you for being on clearance!
As you scroll through these pictures, keep this one little thing in mind.  Brent MADE all of the woodwork in this bathroom.  And I don't mean he bought it off the shelf and cut it to fit, I mean he MADE it.  Still blows my mind.  For example, when we were looking at base trim options, they were all too skinny and I wanted something thicker and more substantial.  So my dad and I went to a construction supply store in Sioux Falls (Stan Houston for you locals) and I chose a router bit with the trim profile I liked.  Brent used that to mill the base trim.  For the door and wall cabinet trim, he made what they call a step trim, which is a solid piece wrapped in an L shaped piece to create a profile.  The shiplap is poplar and Brent cut a tongue and groove in it for a few reasons.  It eliminated any nail holes on the face of the boards because you nail into the joints.  That was a huge relief to me that I wasn't going to have to fill a thousand nail holes!  And we also were aware that a bathroom is a high moisture area so the tongue and groove should prevent moisture from sneaking behind the wood.  In summary, Brent is awesome and I'm always impressed by his ability and more importantly attitude about approaching new projects that challenge him!
I think the toilet was the one thing we could salvage from the original bathroom, since we had just replaced it a few years ago.
Ahhhh...our new shower!  Subway tile was an easy choice here since it feels classic to the style of our house.  I chose a light gray grout because white would probably not stay clean based on my ability to forget to clean things.  We tiled all the way to the ceiling but you can't see that in the photo because it is really difficult to photograph such a tiny room!
And lets talk about this tub.  First off, I was absolutely positive that we needed to replace the old cast iron tub with a new cast iron tub.  I love how they keep bath water hot forever, they feel so substantial and sturdy and the porcelain practically shines!  The bad news is that there must not be a big market for cast iron tubs, probably because they are so heavy.  This one weighs 300 lbs and it took four of us to carry it into the house.  The other tricky part is that we only wanted a 30" wide tub to leave as much floor space as possible in the bathroom.  That meant there were really only 2 models of Kohler cast iron tubs to choose from.  The only downside is that it isn't quite as deep as our old one but I do like that it is very easy to step over the side in order to shower.  That's important for us as our kids use this bathroom and it makes it easier for them.
We added this shower niche to hold our bath products.  And funny story, we sized it to fit the large Costco bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash since that's basically all we use.  An important note about installing subway tile.  When we bought this tile, we couldn't figure out if we were supposed to just butt the tiles together or if we were supposed to use small spacers.  The tile dipped at each of the edges, creating a groove, so we took that to mean that we didn't need to use spacers.  When we installed them, we kept them tight together without spacers - this made a 1/16" grout space.  If you want a thicker, more substantial grout line, you CAN use spacers.  We are glad we went the route we did because we wanted minimal grout lines.
We are keeping all of the original doors in the house.  I took this one down to sand it and put a few fresh coats of paint on it.  The hinges were covered in old paint from previous paint jobs so I put the hardware in an old crockpot with some dish soap and cooked the paint off.  I'm actually strangely excited to do that to the rest of the hinges in the house now.  Pretty gratifying to peel all those old layers of paint off of the metal.

Something else to note here since you can see so much of the new drywall.  We did something here that we've never done before - we DIDN'T TEXTURE THE WALLS OR CEILING!  I think in other parts of the country, specifically the Northeast, it's very common to not apply texture.  We decided to go this route because the rest of our main floor is plaster with only a very light texture on it and we wanted to match that as best as we could.  This meant Brent had to be absolutely perfect with his sheet rocking and taping which meant some extra time spent on those steps.  We love how the walls and ceiling feel so soft without the added texture.  And bonus, if we ever ding up a wall, super easy to patch!!
Storage was a major problem in the old bathroom, so to combat that, we designed three cabinets to be recessed into the walls.  Brent of course made all of the cabinetry.  We ordered a custom sized mirror from a local company to fit the medicine cabinet frame.
We have a linen closet in the hallway just outside the bathroom door.  We contemplated closing off the linen closet from the hallway side and simply making a door to it in the bathroom, but that would be weird to have to go into the bathroom to get cleaning supplies and sheets.  So we built this cabinet to open into that linen closet to allow you to grab towels out of the closet but from within the bathroom.  Life changer.  Just below the linen cabinet is our laundry chute.  There was no way we were taking that out! 
This is inside the medicine cabinet.  Tons of storage in here!  And if you look closely, you can see that we have lost the lid to our toothpaste.  The shelves are all adjustable.
We got lucky with this cabinet above the toilet as it could be deeper than the medicine cabinet because of the framing.  All of the doors have soft close hinges so the kids can't bang the doors shut.  Even where we placed that outlet was an intentional decision.  I'm telling you, when you have such a small space you have to consider every choice to maximize efficiency.  Down the road, I figured our daughter, or whoever may be living here, would use that outlet to plug in a curling iron or hair dryer.  But since we chose a sink with a smaller ledge, they would need a place to set these hot items as they warmed up.  I figured they could plug it into that outlet and set it on the top of the toilet tank as it heats.
Here's a close up of Brent's trim that he made - door trim, base trim and shiplap.  If I can remember correctly, I think we used quarters to space our shiplap.
And while we're here, lets talk about this floor!  It is a marble basket weave tile from Lowe's.  Kind of spendy but when you are remodeling a small space you can go for higher quality finishes because you simply don't have to buy that much of it.  We used a charcoal gray grout to make it easier to *appear* clean.  I love how the light bounces off of it.  This tile felt like an easy choice in the bathroom since it seemed to match the house and the bathtub and the pedestal sink.
Finding the right pedestal sink took some time.  We needed on as narrow and shallow as possible but one that still had a ledge around it to set items as you get ready for the day.  I could already imagine my frustration if I had a sink without a ledge (big problem with many pedestal sinks) and all of my stuff kept falling into the bowl.  We found this one for $200 at the home improvement store and are very happy with it so far!  Plumbing a pedestal sink can be extremely difficult - just ask Brent :)
Hopefully we all get wiser as we age, and something small but important I've learned is to have faucets with only one handle.  It's too tricky and time consuming to get water temperatures just right when you're messing with a hot and cold handles.  One handle also seems to keep more of the water drips from your hands over the bowl of the sink instead of on the surface of the countertop.
In such a small space, lighting is critical and it must come from several sources.  We have the wall sconces, an overhead light, a very bright shower light incorporated into the shower fan and natural light.  For the overhead light, we went fancy!  I've had my eye on this small chandelier from Lowes for sometime and this was the perfect space to use it in. 
 You can see all of the light sources in this photo.
Did you know that choosing an extra long shower curtain makes a space feel taller?  Most shower curtains are 72" long, this one we chose is 84" from rod to floor, which makes the actual curtain about 80" long.  Some people go so far as to hang a 96" curtain which would take it to the ceiling but we didn't want to block the light from the shower fan by going that tall.  Just don't forget to get an extra long liner if you go this route!
 We hung a simple towel hook next to the sink.  Big splurge - we even got a set of 4 new towels from Costco.  The bath towels are surprisingly thick and luxurious!!
Here's the view when you approach the bathroom from the hallway.  This view gives me all the heart eyes every time I glance in there!  The shiplap wall was actually sort of a last minute decision.  I had been thinking about it but worried it would be too trendy to stand the test of time.  So Brent sheet rocked that wall.  Before he started to tape and mud it, I meekly mentioned that I was thinking about shiplap.  We both agreed that it matched the existing character of our home and that it could work.  As long as we used high quality lumber so that it would last for a long time, we figured it would look great.  I honestly had no idea that it would transform the look of this room so profoundly!  The shiplap also allowed the recessed cabinets to blend in with the wall, instead of having the contrast of white cabinets against a potentially colored wall.  Especially in a small room, the less you can break up the space visually, the calmer it will feel.
Paint color.  Ugh.  Took me five times to get it right.  I thought I had the right color after the fourth try but after seeing it up, I just knew it wasn't right.  The colors that didn't work BTW were Wickham Grey, Chelsea Grey, Grey Owl.  Seeing a theme here?  I though I needed to do a gray tone to tie in with the black and charcoal of the floors.  But since different grays have different undertones, all of those paint colors could mesh the warm white (Benjamin Moore White Dove) of the shiplap wall with the blacks and charcoals of the floor.  That meant we needed to do a color on the wall but I didn't want anything that was too harsh.  This Tranquility by Benjamin Moore fit the bill.  Not too blue, not too green, not to gray.  It's a little more washed out than Sea Salt.
The window shade was an $8 find from the clearance section at Home Depot.  That's a new double hung Anderson window as well.
Almost done!  Since this is a family bathroom, it was important to us that it work for everyone.  Owen, our 7 year old, is just a little too short to see into the mirror.  Brent built him a small stepstool out of rustic oak.
The best part??  It opens up to also double as our small bathroom trash can!  We have a cockapoo named Lily, so having an open trash receptacle in the bathroom is a terrible idea.  Since we want this bathroom to feel as open and airy as possible, filling the floor with a stepstool and a trash can didn't make sense to me - so why not combine the two!
 Well that's it!  Three months of hard work.  My brain hurts from all the choices, research and how-to videos but it was all worth it.

Source List

Bath Fan - Costco - doesn't seem to be available anymore
Shiplap Paint, Trim & Door - Benjamin Moore White Dove
Wall Paint - Benjamin Moore Tranquility
Shower Curtain - Bed, Bath & Beyond - not listed on their website
Window Shade - Home Depot clearance, not on their website