Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creating Our Own Dream Kitchen

We have renovated many kitchens over the years - everything from minor updates (new hardware & appliances) to major gut jobs.  And we've always done them with an eye for resale, trying to balance our needs and desires with what a later buyer might want.  But for this house, we decided to focus on us.  We probably won't live in this house forever - but we wanted to design it with just our needs in mind.

So, I wanted to do a custom kitchen with custom cabinets.  For years, I've lusted over inset cabinet doors - but could never justify the cost.   So instead, we had always gone with semi-custom cabinetry in our own remodels. But this wasn't a giant kitchen and this seemed like a great approach for our new house.

But first a quick lesson on cabinet door styles.  The least expensive cabinets (and a traditional style found in many older homes) is a standard overlay.  It has a door or drawer that partially covers the cabinet.  That means that the cabinet has a frame on it, which shows around the edges of the door and drawer.

Full overlay (sometimes called European) is put on a frameless cabinet and the door covers the entire cabinet.  This is much more popular and gives you the maximum amount of access to the cabinet space behind it - because there is no frame to get in the way and the hinges are mounted at the very edge of the cabinet.  It also provides a more seamless, cohesive look.

Inset cabinets are custom made and fit inside the cabinet frame.  There is no room for error, they need to be perfectly square and fit exactly.  Because of this, they are also more expensive.  And in my mind, they have a more traditional style, particularly suited to a New England home.

If you're going with inset cabinets, you need a very good cabinet maker.  I wanted ours to be made by Cook & Cook Cabinetry.  They are a small, family owned business in Scarborough Maine.  We made an appointment with them and fell in love with their approach and process, as we toured their cabinet making shop.  We were ready to sign on the dotted line, when we discovered they were so booked with other jobs, we would have to wait several months for our cabinets - putting our whole construction schedule in serious jeopardy.

So, while I was extremely disappointed, there was also a bright spot.  They had introduced us to Robin Amorello, owner of Atmoscaper Design.  Robin is a top notch kitchen designer and has become a good friend.  The first time we met Robin, I brought along my dog eared folder of magazine clippings. I pulled out my favorite kitchen - and discovered it was a kitchen she had designed!!  How cool is that???  She had a client that wanted a kitchen that looked like the one in the movie 'Something's Gotta Give'.  And the photo below was what she came up with.  Isn't it a gorgeous kitchen?  We used it as the inspiration for our kitchen - but on a much smaller scale! (want to see what the 'Something's Gotta Give' house looked like in the movie?  Hooked on Houses did a great post about it with lots of photos!)
Photo:  Atmoscaper Design
We made an appointment, sat down with Robin and our blueprints, and got to work.  We wanted a big island, with plenty of room for working, as well as seating to chat with the chef (that would be Richard - he's a much better cook than I am).  We wanted a 'hutch' to provide attractive storage as well as have a furniture look, reminiscent of old style kitchens and similar to the one in the photo above.  And we have a lot of cookbooks, so some bookshelves would be great.  We have a big stove (seriously, when you have a husband that loves to cook, he can have any kind of stove he wants), so I wanted a display area above it, to try and hide the giant exhaust fan.  And finally, I hate the look of microwaves, so we needed to try and find a place to hide it.

We sketched out a couple of ideas and then Robin came back with two options.  The house was just getting started at that point (only a few exterior walls were up), but we laid out two by fours and did a mock up of the island with sawhorses - much to the neighbor's entertainment!!!  And we finally settled on this design.  

The back wall has the hutch (including glass cabinet doors) and a big farmers sink under the windows.  The dishwasher will be hidden behind a wood panel, to the left of the sink. The hutch will feature glass doors, shelves and a bead board interior.
The side wall has the range, the refrigerator and the door to the pantry. We are also going to include small awning windows between the counter and the upper cabinets.  This is something we had done on a house when we lived in Phoenix and loved how it brought daylight onto the countertops (and they provide some nice ventilation as well).  We included big drawers - we love them for pots and pans!  And we'll disguise the vent hood with a mantle style wooden hood, that gives me lots of room for decorative pieces.  Finally, we had room for a small pantry to the right of the refrigerator.

We played with different ideas for the island and settled on this approach.  We loved the curved edge for the butcher block top - and wanted to make it big enough to seat four.   And since the butcher block would be 42 inches tall,  it gave us the extra bonus of providing a taller spot to hide the microwave - with a lot less bending over to use it (see elevation B below)!  The back of the island will be covered in bead board (which can be easily painted, since it will inevitably get scuffed from people sitting there).  We also included a small prep sink, roll out trash/recycling cans and a bookcase (elevation D) for our cookbooks - even though they are becoming obsolete as we start using an iPad instead!  Robin was great to work with throughout the whole process, she helped us find another cabinetmaker and we got everything ordered.

For the backsplash, I wanted to use white subway tile - but dress it up a bit with this Walker Zanger recycled glass and marble mosaic.  Since our house is close to the beach, I wanted to use colors and textures that blended with the beach - shimmery and sandy.  I included some iridescent glass bars from Oceanside Glasstile to heighten the effect.  

For the island, our contractor planned to make a custom cherry butcher block top, including the beautiful curved edge.  And we wanted black granite for the rest of the counters - that will imitate soapstone, with much less maintenance.

Does it look like the kitchen from 'Something's Gotta Give'?  Well there are probably some similarities.   But when we get it done, it will be all ours!

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  1. Can't wait to see the finished pictures! I love classic black and white kitchens. That is the nice things about small kitchens, they don't cost a fortune to remodel!

  2. This is beautiful. I have never seen that film, but I will now. My favorite film kitchen is any one with a full kitchen staff in it!

    1. Thanks Mitiz! And it's a fun movie - you should definitely check it out!!


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