Kitchen renovation: What worked and what didn’t

We’ve been in the new house for almost three months now (!). Most of the boxes are unpacked, much of the furniture has found its new spot — for now!

We’ve still got contractors coming to nearly every week in drive and drabs — a new painter touching up the mistakes from the first, a new plumber to fix the oversights of the earlier ones — but inch by inch, piece by piece, it’s coming together.

Of all the spaces in the house, I think I agonized the most about the kitchen. Designing the layout, choosing the appliances, granite, tile, cabinets, these were all my descisions, my challenges to work out.
Could I have hired a professional planner? Maybe, although we didn’t really have that in the budget.
Did I want to? Not really, because the only person who really knows what I really need in the kitchen is … me!
But this means that the only person I can really blame for the things that haven’t worked is also … me!
What worked

Large prep sink – most prep sinks are small 12″x 18″ units but there is enough room for a 24″ sink in the island. It’s proven to be fantastic for soak-defrosting, filling with veggies to be cleaned and prepped, even depositing a very grubby small boy to rinse following a juice-related catastrophe.
Contrast/dark island – I am not always a fan of different finishes because it can so easily look disjointed, especially in spaces that are already busy. But while we wanted a white kitchen, we opted to have dark grey cabinet doors on the island. The reasoning was threefold: 1) there is bar-style seating all along one side and I wanted to avoid cleaning footprints; 2) the cooktop is in the island and I wanted to avoid having to scrub cooking splatter and 3) we wanted to visually minimize the sheer size of the 10′ long island (because I don’t always want to have to clean it — can you sense a theme here?)Instant Hot Tap – I absolutely LOVE this little guy! We use it every day for tea, cereal, warming milk etc. It’s also amazing for cleaning really stubborn, baked-on food from pots … not that I ever leave dishes unwashed over night or anything 😉

Drawers and pantries – drawers are always touted as the best use of space in a kitchen, more functional than cabinets with door as you can actually reach — and use — the back corners. When planning out the kitchen, we installed two large pantry cabinets with drawers in two sizes. The lower ones hold appliances and heavy items while the roll-out uppers corral all the little items, the cans and bottles and bags, that always seem to get lost. I have one shelf at the very top where a drawer would be too high, and that gets used for tall items like cereal boxes and chip bags.

What didn’t

Pull out garbage – this was one of the new ideas with the new IKEA kitchen system, SEKTION. It seems like such a great concept: just pull out and dump your trash directly into a bin beneath your sink. But as with so many of the “great” ideas with the latest IKEA system (like rolling it out without anything like sufficient planning — but that’s a whole other story)  it needed some more figuring through. Within a month, the frame started to bend because it’s only attached at the very bottom. We ended up making and installing support brackets ourselves and cutting down the tray to accommodate the plumbing. It’s not the only thing that IKEA will need to re-think …

 Plastic toe-kicks – One of the big “improvements” with the SEKTION system was the plastic toe-kicks that are supposed to make maintenance so much easier. Except they must not have actually tried them in a real kitchen first because the first time (and everytime) you open the dishwasher … they pop right off! IKEA’s great solution? Cut a notch into it! With that handy-dandy allen-key I presume?

Horizontal Handles – originally, I planned to install the handles on the upper cabinets with horizontal handles to match the ones on all the drawers. The only problem? Pinch-points we hadn’t considered when a door was close to another cabinet. Yes, I should have thought of that … because physics. But I’m pretty disappointed that the IKEA kitchen planning tool or the planners whose job it is to watch for these things didn’t spot it either!

Spacing beside fridge – this one isn’t an IKEA issue, it’s an appliance issue. They don’t allow for the internal drawers to open until the door is open to about 110 degrees, even though it was advertised as being functional with only a 90 degree opening. This has meant removing some of the drawers for the time being and considering taking apart all the fittings on the interior wall to move the fridge over by 3″ to allow enough clearance.

What we’re still getting used to Induction cooktop – I agonized over the cooktop, trying to weigh the familiar utility of gas against the unknown but highly recommended efficiency of induction technology. What won me over to the electric was the safety issue — knowing that little hands wouldn’t be burned if they reached for a hot element. Sure enough, both of our kids have made attempts to do exactly that and I’ve been hugely relieved that nothing more serious than “oh it’s hot!” occurred. This more than balances out the irritation of having to replace all my pots and pans and never being able to find a decent, large sauté that’s induction-compatible.

All in all, I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It’s light, bright and, most importantly, it works well for our family.

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  1. This post couldn’t have been written at a better time for me! We’re about to plan our kitchen and I’m so nervous because like you, I’ll only have myself to blame! Yikes! We’re also going for larger drawers over cabinets for the same reasons and probably handless though I know it won’t take long for my little monkey to figure it out! The kitchen looks gorgeous! Thanks for linking up to #babybrainmonday xx

  2. It does look light, bright and really beautiful. It is great that you are so honest about what worked and what didn’t. My parents put in an induction cook top and love it, but yeast did require new pots and pans (not cheap) but worth it. Thanks for sharing #mummyandus

  3. LOVE your kitchen! We are considering building our next house and just thinking about all the design opportunities for the kitchen make me giddy, but scared. I, too, would opt for all white with a grey island (grey lower and white upper also crossed my mind). So many decisions! Looks great

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