The nitty gritty of a kitchen overhaul.

Kate Heffernan
Nov 29, 2017 · 11 min read

You know how when you were little you dreamed of being a kitchen designer? Oh was that just me? Well let’s just say, I was really looking forward to doing this kitchen.

The layout I decided on is pretty basic and I knew pretty much exactly what I wanted to do the moment I saw the house last year.

Big plans. Please disregard messiness of this kitchen.

I went into this renovation and was like, this is just a little house in the country, we’re going to keep it simple and just do an Ikea kitchen. I was so adorable back then. While this is still a little house in the country, we have not “kept it simple”. We basically built a house from scratch inside of an old shell.

A friend of mine who is also mid renovation said she told her husband to strike the word “simple” from his renovation vocabulary since literally nothing in a renovation is simple. It may appear clean or minimalist in the end, but you bet your ass there were hours and hours of thought and consideration that went into making that thing look absolutely effortless. She’s 100% right.

A brief aside on Ikea kitchens. I’ve seen a few Ikea kitchens in my years and I really don’t think it’s a terrible direction to go. My first apartment had Ikea cabinets and they were totally fine. Not great, but fine. They were a little flimsy and, like Ikea furniture, you can just sort of tell they have a flat pack origin. But the price is compelling so you might just decide you’re ok with the trade off. There are some cool options with Ikea kitchens too, like buying the cabinet boxes from Ikea and having custom doors made at a place like semihandmade. They have a lovely new line coming out that I think has a lot of potential.

Sarah Sherman’s Line from Semihandmade

The draw backs in my opinion are:

  1. The insides are still somewhat flimsy
  2. You’re stuck working with very standard sizes so you can’t tweak things a few inches here and there to avoid filler between cabinets and make the most of your space
  3. They are not easy to install, unlike assembling your POÄNG in college, you will need significantly more than your trusty allen wrench. They really do still need a professional.

In short, I don’t think Ikea’s a bad option but it’s misleading to think you’re going remodel your kitchen real quick and cheap with Ikea. It’s still a major renovation, will still cost serious money, and you might end up with something less sturdy as you’d hoped.

Anyway, here’s the final layout for the new kitchen.

Final Plan

One thing I was kind of hung up on was that I did not want upper cabinets. All of the images I was loving online had one common element and that was that there were no uppers. About 15 years ago when my parents redid their kitchen I remember thinking I wanted everything be industrial like a commercial kitchen. Then 5 years ago I was like, everything should be white shaker cabinets, no excuses! Lately I think there is something about making a kitchen that doesn’t look so much like a kitchen. Maybe it’s a result of this open floor plan fetish we’ve had for the last 20 years, but I don’t want a massive kitchen that is the sole focus of my living space. I want something that feels more like furniture. Eliminating the big overhead cabinetry helps achieve that feeling in my opinion.

No upper cabinets and I guess maybe I like that hood cover? I didn’t do that though. Too late now!

There is also something lovely and casual about it don’t you think? The only draw back to no upper cabinets is it (shockingly) cuts down on storage. This is why I added some extra storage space on the sides of the island. I am also all about the drawers right now. All you need is one glimpse of this sexy dish drawer with peg board and you will be on board (nailed it):

v. hot

You’re at home like, “Yes Kate! We’re with you! All drawers from now on! Down with upper cabinets! Down with the patriarchy!” But then five o’clock rolls around, you drop your pitchfork and get a wine glass out of your extremely convenient upper cabinet and reevaluate everything. Let me tell you, there are no beautiful images of an innovative new way to store glasses in an under counter drawer on Pinterest. Believe. So I caved and added a pantry.

Here are my pretty autocad elevations.

The pantry has space for my wine glass. It also has space for some of the appliances that would have just been out on the counter and food stuffs which I also don’t love having under the counter tops (cuz you know, critters), so I think it was a good solution.

Ok, that’s the layout. Let us now consider the aesthetics of a modern country kitchen (this one’s a real think piece right?). This is something that I’ve struggled with in this house on the reg. I’m building a modern house in upstate New York. Sometimes things with clean lines and a modern look can just seem… out of place in the country. I didn’t want to do something too slick. Like to me, sleek Italian cabinetry, while often beautiful, doesn’t really make sense in a country house, at least not mine.

So beautiful, so not right in the country (in my opinion).

So I wanted to do something that walked that line. That’s when I kind of fell in love with the Sebastian Cox line from Devol.

I mean, these are pretty right? I thought they really struck that balance I was trying to find. They also happen to be made in England. So I shot them a quick note to see if they could just pop them over here for me. They said they would be happy to, shipping just costs about 10,000 GPB.

Sooooo we didn’t go that direction. Then I considered having a total rip off of these cabinets built locally. That did not go well either. The cabinet producers I talked to had some concerns about how this style would hold up and thought the boards would warp and twist. I’m not saying that happens with the Devol ones- they seem to take craftsmanship very seriously- just that I couldn’t figure out a good way to copy them. Come to the US, Devol!

After a lot of consideration, I ended up having our cabinets built at a cabinetry company called Crown Point in New Hampshire. I had a family connection there which made it significantly more affordable for me. Plus, I got to go visit their workshop and see a little of what goes on behind the scenes. The company is family owned and seems like an excellent local employer so I felt good about the decision to work with them. What I had in mind was definitely less traditional than what they typically do but they were super game and seeing their work in person convinced me that the craftsmanship was incredible and that would be well worth it.

I decided using raw wood instead of painted cabinetry would help me achieve the look I had in mind. I like how you can see the wood grain come through in the Devol cabinets and I think that’s what gave it a bit of a rustic sensibility.

Wood and white. I know, you’re surprised with my choices aren’t you?

So I moved in this direction. The standard options for raw wood were slightly limited. I think this may be a sort of newish trend so maybe there will be more options in the future but to avoid a 20–30% up charge for something custom, I went went a standard wood and did, you guessed it, quarter sawn white oak. Just like my floors. What can I say? I love white oak.

My cabinet door sample and pieces of my floor boards.

This tends to make people nervous when I tell them the cabinets and the floors match. Everyone really wants you to do contrasting floors and cabinets. Well I’m not, ok? And I think it’s going to work (**fingers crossed**) and here’s why:

First, here’s my inspiration photo:

You’ve seen this one before, it’s an installation photo from the Hudson Company which is where my floors are from. These cabinets are very close in tone to the floors and I think it looks lovely. Also side note, they did a very beautiful horizontal tongue and groove thing here that I’m in love with.

Second, my floors are unfinished and will need to be sanded and sealed. This means that if everything is just too darn matchy matchy, I can tweak the floors a bit to add some contrast with the cabinets. Above, the floors seem a bit lighter than the cabinets so I may do a light wash of lye on the floors to lighten them up if it seems necessary. It’s all very Danish. I actually think my floors are lighter than the cabinetry anyway just based on the the samples but I guess samples can be misleading so we’ll see. Did I convince you? I hope so.

As for the actual style of the doors, I went through about a million iterations of this before settling on plain old slab doors. For a while I was doing a tongue and groove look (like you can see in the sample door I had above). I think this would have been beautiful but the price tag was just prohibitive (remember that custom up charge I was talking about? The real kicker would have been custom wood and custom door style! You could really spend an infinite amount of money on cabinets). If money is no object for you, do this tongue and groove look and send me a pic! I want to see what it will look like.

Tongue and groove on the left, slab on the right

One of my goals with these posts is to be transparent about pricing. Since I got a family discount here I don’t think that’s particularly useful but I can tell you that full price our cabinetry would have been close to $30k. Deep. Breaths. Cabinets are not cheap dude. Renovations are not for the faint of heart.

Ok. Counter tops. Here’s what I got:

Just kidding. I got white Caesar Stone obviously.

I’ll admit it. I spluuurged big time on my appliances. Approximately once every 48 hours I tell Andrew how unbelievably excited I am for Baby’s First Wolf Range. This was probably pretty over the top but of all the places I tried to save money, I just felt like, this was one where I wanted to go for it. As far as fancy ranges go, I got a relatively basic 36 inch 6 burner. I’m not a woman who needs a griddle, nor do I know anyone who does. But I did the red knobs because, you know, when in Rome.

You may have noticed in my elevation I have a floating shelf that goes around the room in front of the windows. In my head originally this was going to be stainless steal and really thin (see left photo below). Now I’m not sure if it should just be wood (see right photo below) but I’m going to wait and see what feels right as we get closer. I think both could be nice. Let me know your thoughts and feelings.

Floating shelf ideas

For hardware, I’m sticking with matte black like in the rest of the house. I’m doing a Delta faucet and drawer pulls from Top Knobs! Such a cute name.

The sink I got is a white fireclay under mount sink. I, no joke, bought this sink in June. Not because it was anything special but because my carpenters got me all freaked out that they needed to know the size of the cabinets and thus the size of the sink waaay back then which was simply not true and in retrospect is completely ridiculous. It’s nearing the end of November and the kitchen cabinets aren’t even arriving for another two weeks. The sink has been sitting in the garage since June. Ready to go!

Finally tile. Oh tile. The amount of time I spend mulling over various forms of white tile. I think I’m going to tile from the counter top up to the aforementioned shelf and I have two options I’m deciding between. They are extremely similar and as I’m writing this I’m nervous to put the two images together and see how actually completely the same they are.

This one is from Clé
This one is from Winchester Tile

Nope, they’re different. For starters the one from Cle is 4" sq while the one from Winchester is 5" sq. I’m mean here, I think the one from Clé looks a lot better. Also, that installation! With basically no grout line? Is this even possible? But I promise you the one from Winchester is absolutely gorgeous in person as well. They both have a very handmade feel compared to the rest of the house but I think it will soften things up a bit and will be a really nice detail. I can’t decide which one. Wish me luck!!!

Ok I think that’s it. EASY, RIGHT?? Here’s my rendering with some detail off since it’s from a little early in the process but I think the vibe still comes across.


Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade