Week one: transforming our awesomely 80s kitchen

Hi guys, I thought a little change of pace would be fun since we're in the middle of a big renovation at our house. Today: the inside scoop on one of the most exciting parts of the project. Over the next month or two,  I'll share all the tips, design ideas, and lessons I learn as things unfold. Get ready for lots of before, during, and after pictures. Fire away with your reno and design questions and let me know if you'd like more information on the materials we chose.

We made a big move from Boston to Santa Monica last spring, found a great rental, and took a deep breath. After we recovered, we started to look for a townhouse in our favorite Santa Monica neighborhoods.  That search came to an end in late November when our amazing friend and realtor, Jennifer, called and said, "I found the perfect place for you guys, but it’s going to need a little zhushing."

As soon as we walked in, I knew she was right. The bones were great, the construction was solid, and the location couldn’t be beat.

Shawn, however, was skeptical. This place put the "b" in bland. 

After the showing I was totally excited. Unfortunately, I was the only one who felt that way. Shawn was willing to be convinced but it was going to take some serious work on my part. The two big issues on the first floor were obvious: the kitchen was closed off and small and everything looked as plain as Wonder Bread.

Over the next week, I went a little crazy coming up with a design plan. We went back for a second look, ideas in hand, and Shawn was on board. Now we’re in the midst of a fast and furious renovation. 

Designing a more spacious kitchen was priority one.  A weird little pass-through into the dining room combined with a gargantuan fridge that sat almost on top of the sink made for a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere.

The little pass through that couldn't.

The little pass through that couldn't.

The world's largest fridge. Shawn says I'm exaggerating, but seriously. Look at it.

The world's largest fridge. Shawn says I'm exaggerating, but seriously. Look at it.

The best feature though? The amazing ode to the 80’s: matching white tile counter and backsplash, white appliances, and traditional off-white cabinetry (you know, for a splash of color).    

The pink towel really sets things off.

The pink towel really sets things off.

Fortunately, the overall layout of the kitchen was fine, which was great news. Moving gas, electrical, and plumbing lines to accommodate new positions for cabinets and appliances is one of the quickest ways to add dollar signs to a budget. 

The big structural change we decided to make was to remove the wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the first floor.  Fortunately, the wall wasn’t load-bearing (so, no chance the house would fall down). But if it had been, we could have added a beam in the ceiling above to support the weight of the house.  Being able to skip that step preserved a little money in the budget.

Shawn inspecting the kitchen after the contractors finished the demo and framed the new wall.

Shawn inspecting the kitchen after the contractors finished the demo and framed the new wall.

Now, we’d have that open concept space we wanted for the first floor, but I wanted to reclaim the storage we’d lost by tearing down a wall. If we’d been willing to raise the ceiling, the easy answer would have been to replace the existing cabinets with something taller, but raising the ceiling gets pretty expensive. So we decided to add a floor-to-ceiling pantry on either end of the counter, flanking the new, wide-open entrance to the kitchen. This gave us all the storage back and it’s going to look pretty cool.

I mean, really. How much more open does this feel?

I mean, really. How much more open does this feel?

As you can see from the floor plan, the last thing we did was close the old doorway into the kitchen. Who needs a door when you take out a wall? This meant we can move the (now appropriately sized) fridge down the wall a bit, add a few more cabinets between the fridge and the sink, and give everyone some much needed breathing room.

Officially "closed."

Officially "closed."

I would love to add an island to our newly u-shaped kitchen, but in a 10x10' space, we just don't have enough room. Fun fact about islands: You want 36" of open space on each side to accommodate the island, the rest of your kitchen, and you.

Next week, how we came up with the design concept.

I'd love to hear all about your reno experiences and any questions you have about our process so far. 

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