Kitchen makeover | The before

Kitchen before entryway

We’re kicking off the New Year with a series on Melissa’s kitchen renovation.

Tune in every week to see the space evolve from outdated to timeless.

Everything but the kitchen (sink and all)

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then ours was in need of a triple bypass. When we first toured our house two years ago, I have to admit I was unimpressed. The house had good bones, the right amount of bedrooms, and a really big backyard. The kitchen, however, was a bit of a downer. It’s pretty much the first thing you see when you walk through the front door, it was hard to see past the cramped layout and outdated finishes. But, in the ever-competitive Bay Area housing market, the homes at the top of our list were either too small for our growing family or completely out of our financial reach. When our bid on another house fell through (the seller’s agent told us not to bother, since our max bid at well over asking was so far below what others were offering), our realtor urged us to rethink this house. The owners would like the idea of selling to a young family and besides, she said, the house was below much of the comps in the area. We submitted our offer and crossed our fingers, fully expecting a bidding war. Miraculously, we got a call three hours later that the house was ours.

Kitchen before clutter
Left: The catch-all space. Right: Stuck drawers

Fast forward two years: We repainted all the rooms in the house to make it brighter; added recessed lighting in the main living spaces and the master bedroom; replaced tired old carpet in the family room to match the original oak flooring; and slowly furnished and decorated the space to reflect our style.

But the kitchen still wasn’t working for us. It was awkward and severely lacked storage. The lower cabinets were deep and difficult to get things in and out of while the upper cabinets were all oddly sized. The drawers either stuck or refused to close properly. Organization was a nightmare. The 6″x6″ white floor tile that extended into the dining area and front entryway showed every little spot of dirt or water and seemed impossible to keep clean. The appliances were a mishmash of styles and colors.While the previous owners were nice enough to leave the very large and relatively new refrigerator behind, it took up a lot of space—physically and visually. And there were still those green countertops…

The deciding factor came in July when we found out that we’re expecting our second child in the spring. If our kitchen was cluttered and disorganized with just one toddler running around, what sort of kitchen nightmare could we expect with the all the added baby paraphernalia? Our kitchen reno wouldn’t just be a matter of aesthetics but of functionality and efficiency.

Kitchen before view to front window
All 90 square feet of the kitchen

The Platonic ideal

It’d be great (not to mention dramatic) to completely open up the kitchen and expand it, even be able to see into the living room where our little girl spends most of her time. Other houses we saw during our house hunting days had done exactly that, ripping out the wall and creating a kitchen island. While everyone loves a kitchen island, Rikki felt it weird to walk through your front door right smack into your kitchen. As it turns out, seeing appliances from your front door is bad feng shui. We aren’t very traditionally Chinese, mind you, but a lot of feng shui is based on good common sense. We also felt that construction costs could skyrocket if we started opening up or tearing down walls.

So, Rikki and I agreed that we would keep the basic footprint of the kitchen, but reconfigure the cabinetry and appliances to be as functional as possible. We’ve all read about the Work Triangle between the sink, stove, and fridge, but there had to be more to it than that. I dove into researching kitchen efficiency and came across this article from The Kitchn about setting up the space according to zones:

  • Consumables (food)
  • Non-Consumables (dishes, drinkware, utensils)
  • Cleaning (sink, dishwasher)
  • Preparation (food prep area—countertop or island)
  • Cooking (stovetop, oven or range, and/or microwave)

Using this logic, I started to draw up a floor plan.

Kitchen new plan zones
Kitchen plan by zones

We would place the fridge (a new, counter-depth one, if you please) on the wall opposite where it is currently and add a pull-out pantry next to it. This would be the Consumables zone. All food, fresh, canned, and whatnot, would be stored here.

The Non-Consumables would actually be split into its two categories: everyday and special/guest. Our everyday things would be stored above the dishwasher and near the sink to make putting them away easier. As someone who, admittedly, procrastinates putting things back in their proper places, this will (probably) make sure I have no excuses about hauling plates from one side of the kitchen to the other in the future. Our “guest” silverware, plates, teacups, etc. could stay in the cabinets closest to the dining area and be on display. The sink and dishwasher would pretty much stay where they were, though the sink would be centered on the window to give a good amount of counter space on either side.

The Preparation area would be to the right of the sink, between Cleaning and Cooking zones. Mixing bowls, pots and pans, spices, oils, and utensils would be placed here. The Cooking zone, of course, would also stay the same. The one thing Rikki asked for was an actual range hood rather than a microwave/hood combo. We use the microwave just to reheat leftovers, so having a smaller one tucked under the counter or in the pantry wouldn’t be a big deal.

Armed with our new plans, we needed to get an idea of the look, feel, and materials we wanted in the kitchen. Just as important was finding a general contractor to help us out and finish the project within a reasonable timeline (and for a reasonable price!). We crossed our fingers again and hoped luck would be on our side a second time.

Have you been through a renovation? What finally made you decide to take it on? Was it a major gut job or a cosmetic lift? We’d love to hear about your own experiences!

Next week: Our kitchen inspiration—a melding of two minds

Kitchen Before Dining
Dining area and den beyond

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