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FINALLY! The big kitchen reveal: Part 1

You guys where do I begin? I have literally waited 7.5 years for this moment. I have talked about "my kitchen" to my friends so many times. (Sorry girls). I feel like at just about every gathering, piled around the kitchen with our wine and our woes (remember those days?), I would share what I was going to do down the road. I could see her in all her glory~ I could see past where she was back then. I also knew that I didn't want to settle on so-so just to get it changed quickly. I didn't want some mediocre counter tops if I couldn't afford exactly what I wanted in the moment, or meh lighting or tiles. So I waited. I chipped away at this kitchen in SO MANY steps (so many in fact that I needed to put this into 2 posts), all of which seemed to make a huge impact along the way. Which is something I promote a lot: You don't have to do everything in one fell swoop. For those of you that can, YAY, so fun! But for the vast majority, it's totally ok to have a vision and chip away at it over time...7.5 years even. It does come together eventually and feels a lot less overwhelming when your whole kitchen isn't under construction. Patience truly is {an annoying} virtue. Not one that I always have, I'll admit, but sometimes we are forced to be patient. But you guys... the waiting patiently is over. She's done! OMG I WANT TO SCREAM IT... SHE IS D.O.N.E. DONE!!!! She is so beautiful and so happy that you can just feel it when you walk in. She's been good to us all these years and so many memories have already been made here. I'm just so glad she can proudly hold her head up high, knowing she is finally at her finest. Yes, apparently my kitchen is a she (I recently named her Millie) and she has a whole heart and personality and Toy Story for homes (as all houses should!). Mkay, maybe that's a bit much. Anyway, I digress, let's start by going wayyyy back to the beginning shall we?

The Beginning

YALL. I MEAN. First of all I just want to say that I sent this image to my friend the other day and said "omg look at this fugly kitchen. Can you imagine what I would do if I could get my hands on it?!"... she was like "omg girl you would KILL it." etc etc... and then suddenly wrote again, "wait... IS THAT YOUR KITCHEN???" We both busted out laughing at how hard it is to see it here, but yes indeed this was apparently my kitchen at one time . Boy do I LOVE a good transformation so this post is just SO FUN. So I will say that when we first walked into this kitchen it was actually not quite this bad. Clearly the previous owner's realtor told them that they needed to neutralize the space to appeal to more buyers, so the walls were your basic builder cream when we first laid eyes on her. Boring but not heinous. The chandelier was there but it didn't have the little red shades on it, and the pot rack was gone but they did a crappy patch job, so I knew exactly what had once been there based on the lumpy holes. That being said, I think it's worth showing this shot. It's just crazy to me to look back. BUT... what I did see, as soon as I walked in, was that this kitchen had good bones. Real hardwood floors, real wood cabinets, a spacious open layout, and I knew I could handle the rest. In fact our whole house was that way. It actually sat on the market for quite some time. It did NOT show well and others didn't seem to be able to see what I could see (which worked in our favor for negotiating)! But this house has been amazing to us... it just needed some love and attention. You'll see.

Ok so this IS actually what it looked like when we first moved in. Just kinda blah and ready for all the love and attention. So we started with paint. I always say: paint and lighting are the easiest and fastest ways to completely transform the vibe of a space.We were busy changing out lighting in other various areas in those beginning days, so I wanted to wait until I had a clearer idea of exactly how I wanted the kitchen to look. We did choose to paint the walls and the cabinets, refinish the hardwood floors, and change out all of the appliances upon moving in. I will say that I never liked the paint I chose in the beginning. I did the very thing I always advise against which was to just go for it rather than sampling. So it was super blue and that was never my intention, but I just left it alone for a few years before I couldn't take it anymore!

The above photo was pointing out the old lighting from a previous post, but it was all I could find of the floor stages and that not so great blue paint.

Somewhere along the way I also decided to paint all of the interior doors black and replaced the solid door that goes down towards the basement with a glass french door. It opened up the space so much more and also helped guests refrain from walking into the pantry which is situated just beside the basement door. (Truly they did that). So it was a great choice!

The Pony Wall

The next thing that I couldn't stand was this pony wall between the kitchen and the family room. Our home is so open and this "half wall" just completely cut off the flow. So my dad and his friend came up to visit from Richmond to help me remove it one afternoon. Taking out the structure itself wasn't intimidating, but there was an electrical outlet in it that I needed to reroute, so that's where they stepped in to help. I wanted to make sure it was done to code as electrical fires are a scary thing!

Once we removed the structure and rerouted the electrical outlet, we needed another threshold piece of wood on the floor (which my dad's friend routed out for us to be able to seamlessly tuck in the carpet) and to repair the wall where it had attached. Rather than doing drywall repairs, I decided to shiplap that section as well as the area around the pantry to the stairs in the kitchen to add some fun texture.

The Shiplap

Then here was the new pantry area updated with shiplap:

The Island: Stage 1

I had extra materials and decided to add shiplap to the base of my blah island to make it look more custom and bring cohesion to the space . I added some moulding as well and painted it grey.

(I couldn't find a great pic of this as it's been years, so ignore the extension that says "ignore me". That part is coming in a moment! But this will give you an idea)

The Lighting: Stage 1

As you can tell by now, I really meant it when I said we did this project in chunks. I hated the lighting in the kitchen and knew that I wanted to make alll sorts of changes there. I had recessed lighting all over the kitchen that was just too bright and then the one chandelier over the eat-in area, but it wasn't even centered over the table. Our pantry was always dark so I wanted to add lighting there as well. Rather than adding a boring light INSIDE the small pantry, I decided to add an adorable light on the outside so that I could enjoy it even when not in use. We deleted the recessed light over the sink and moved the light box to the wall above the window so that I could have a cute swing arm sconce light there. (And by "we" I mean I had a contractor do that. Again, moving wires isn't in my skillset just yet). And finally, in that same stage we had the light box moved over the actual table and added a gorgeous new light that I love! There was more lighting to come, but this was a perfect stage 1 that made a huge change!

The Island: Stage 2a

This stage was by far the most exciting for me and was going to cost a bigger chunk of change, so I waited YEARS for it. I LOVED that I had an island in our kitchen when we moved in, as we had a much smaller kitchen back in our condo, but this island was so small (about 28" wide x 48" long) and just felt so wrong for the space. I was also so excited to finally have granite countertops when we moved in but these were NOT pretty. They were your basic builder-grade, "everyone has the same standard counter", version of granite. I know, first world problems. But mama likes pretty.

So first things first: for me to have a larger island, I needed a larger base. I also wanted to add seating as we didn't have space for this at our tiny island. Our kitchen, while feeling open and large overall, is actually relatively narrow for an island, so having an overhang with seating along the back side wasn't an option. The only way for me to have space for seating was to extend the island longer, but NOT add any more cabinetry. So I decided to keep the island base that we already had, which saved us big bucks, and just built a look-a-like end piece to support the new counter length. I didn't just want two basic legs at the end, so I decided to build something that would look more substantial to balance the weight of the much larger counter. We went from 4 feet in length to 8 feet, and I squeezed in an extra 5" in width). I'll save all of the actual details about that build for another post, but here was the outcome!

The Island: Stage 2b

Next up was THE pièce de résistance. The actual counter top slab! I waited so long for this that I was beyond ecstatic for this stage! I had searched and searched for years for the slab that I would love. I just couldn't find "the one'. I knew that I wanted quartz for it's durability, but I really loved the look of honed marble. Marble would have been a nightmare in my house with young boys and a lot of pasta sauce and red wine, so that had to be out. Believe me I tried to justify loving the patina that would surely come with actual marble counters but I brought home a sample, dropped a fork on it (which left a hefty mark), and knew immediately that I would later hate that decision. So I narrowed it down to quartz but I just could NOT find one that made me say "wait is this marble?". I could always tell it was manmade. The patterns were either wayyyy too veiny in their etching or way too repetitive which just looked manufactured. Then I stumbled upon MSI's Calacatta Trevi and I was sold! I walked right up to it, felt it, and said "wait... is this marble??" That's how I knew she was it!

The next big decision was whether or not to make the island slab look extra thick, by doing a mitered edge. I LOVED everything about this look but the price difference was quite significant so I feared it may not read as significantly as it cost. However, I also knew that a large island deserves some chunk and that I would always kick myself if I didn't get it the way I truly wanted it. This decision troubled me for days and days but ultimately we went for it. I am SO grateful that we went with this choice as it absolutely makes the statement I had hoped for!

The Lighting: Stage 2

Once the island was installed we could get a better gauge of lighting placement. We deleted the 2 canned lights over the island and put in 2 new pendants lights evenly spaced over the new island. My sister found these perfect pendants from West Elm (I did the large geo shade in milk glass) as I needed them to be cohesive in the space but not feel competitive with alllll the other new lighting strewn across the room. That being said I also didn't want to match the other lighting exactly which would make things feel monotonous and boring. This step took me quite some time (somehow it's MUCH harder for me to make decisions about my own home than it is for me to create designs for others!), so my sister saved the day on that one!

We also put the other recessed lights on a dimmer switch so that they weren't so bright when we turned them on. The ceiling now had all sorts of fun patches that would need to be painted (which meant we would need to paint our entire first level as it's all connected) but that would have to come later! I also painted the window above the kitchen sink black which gave it a much more modern feel. Love!

Nowwwwwww things were really starting to take shape! Mind you this stage came along in Feb. 2020 so I waited 7 years for this! The island and new lighting made a HUGE difference in our whole kitchen vibe and I'm still obsessed with sitting there today!

Next up:

When $&!t got ugly! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this final reveal. When things got really ugly before they got even more beautiful!

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Plaid Runner (mine is 2.5x12)

Plaid Rug (mine is 6x9)

Kitchen Chairs (no longer sold in white)

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