There are always up and downs in renovations and ours was no different. There were absolutely lessons learned along that way and things I might have done differently, though I loved how everything turned out in the end. I will say once you do a large renovation once, it makes the second one that much easier because you have an idea of what to expect (though the bathroom was just as challenging, but for entirely different reasons).
I compiled my top five tips and lessons learned below. Kitchen renovations are different for everyone, but hopefully my experience will help someone else as they plan to tackle the heart of the home.
1. Prepare your plan: Living without a kitchen is no fun and neither is living in a construction zone. Decide what you can handle before you get started. Some people are ok with washing dishes in the bathtub – the grossed me out so instead we went with paper products from Costco (at least we recycled them!). Also think about the time of year for your renovation; ours kicked off Memorial Day so we were able to still sit on the deck or on the screened in porch for most meals since the kitchen was off limits. We ended up doing a lot of take out and frozen meals, with the microwave and coffee maker living in one of the guest bedrooms. Hindsight, it would’ve been smart to freeze some crock pot meals and toss those in for a healthier meal without a proper kitchen. We did still have access to the fridge and freezer so were able to keep some food in the house.
2. It will take longer than you think: There are a combination of factors that impact a renovation timeline. Sometimes it’s on the homeowner, sometimes the contractor or sub-contractor, and sometimes it’s just out of your control. Always give yourself some cushion on your timeline and don’t be surprised when it goes over. Our timeline changed on day one – as the demo crew was ripping up the existing tile, we discovered that the previous owners had laid the tile over the original laminate so we ended up having three layers of flooring to remove. Demo ended up taking four days instead of the scheduled one. Another delay was when our new hardwoods somehow fell off the back of the delivery truck and then of course were back ordered for two weeks. Which leads me to my next tip …
3. Go with the flow: Things will happen and you can either panic and freak out, or you can figure out a way to make it work (in the immortal words of Tim Gunn). I about cried when the contractor told me we wouldn’t have enough width to do a hangover on the island for bar seating. We had to have 36 in. on either side in case we ever needed to remove the fridge – and I’m really pleased that the contractor thought about that because I don’t think I ever would’ve! I really wanted some kitchen seating in addition to the dining room so the contractor and I came up with a way to make it work. Rather than have the seating on the front of the island, we extended the counter top at the end of the island and widened it as soon as there was room. While I would’ve preferred four seats, I at least got three and can squeeze in a 4th when we really need it.
4. Trends are nice, but do what works for you: I watch “Fixer Upper” with every other home decor lover, but at the end of the day, I knew I had to decide what worked for our house and not choose only what was trendy. We’re the ones living here and it wasn’t going to help anyone if I designed a gorgeous, yet non-functioning, kitchen. So while open shelving is beautiful, I know me and I can’t handle the dust that would be on those shelves. Plus, it’s not in my nature to stack and put away everything nice and neat (baskets are my friends) so I knew I was better off with drawers and cabinets. I also did I wanted when it came to color scheme. I know gray and white are trendy and I love the combination (I used those colors in the master bath), but I’d always envisioned a warm and inviting kitchen with coffee as the theme. To bring a more warm, cozy feel, for me that meant more brown/tan tones and I went with the same travertine tile I’d used in my condo. I also did not want white counter tops or anything where I could see dirt so I went with a slightly darker granite. White quartz is stunning, but I would’ve lost my mind constantly cleaning the coffee stains!
5. Decide what are your “must haves” and be flexible on the rest: I had quite a few things on my non-negotiable list and in the end, I got almost everything I wanted. The only item I was a little disappointed by was not being able to squeeze in the glass cabinets on either side of the range hood into the budget, but I figure those can always be changed out at a later date. While it was disappointing, the pros far outweighed the cons and almost everything else came to fruition. High on my list were pullout trashcans (recycling & regular), hidden microwave, gas range, pantry and wood floors. And really, the whole goal was to use the space better, which was definitely accomplished!
In the end, even with the ups and downs, it’s totally worth it! I love that everyone congregates in our kitchen when we entertain and the island is the perfect set-up. It’s great for holiday buffets and is a barrier when I’m trying to cook but friends and family still want to chat (you stay on your side of the island, I’ll stay on mine). I do have plans for some small open shelves to the write of the pantry where we have some space, but otherwise the kitchen is by far the most finished room in the house.