It feels like forever ago that I started my modern kitchen makeover renovation. But I had to wait for an incredibly exciting feature over at House Beautiful before I could reveal the final kitchen renovation. When we bought the house, the kitchen was an upgrade compared to what we had in the old house, but it wasn’t perfect. The backsplash was busy and not my taste. The former owners give it a quickie flip renovation to help sell the house. They installed white cabinetry around the perimeter but left the original pitted granite and painted the old island black. When we bought the house, we said, “at least it has new cabinets”.
A few years ago, I visited Cambria for their Design Innovation week in Minneapolis…you can read more about that here. At the time a kitchen renovation was not really on my mind. We had just unexpectedly refinished the basement since the great flood of 2016 in addition to Potty Paradise. I was renovated out. But after returning home, I was dreaming of slabs and slabs and slabs of quartz.
Last January, I told The Boy it was time. His first question was, “And where are we getting $100,000 for this fantasy kitchen renovation idea of yours?” Ahhhh, good question sir! Let me dazzle you with my words. We’re not going to do a traditional renovation. We’re doing a skinny makeover — thank you Erica Reitman for that terminology. So what’s a skinny makeover? Well, to start, it means we keep the original white cabinets…all of them. Would I love to have navy or mushroom or dark green cabinetry? Of course! I love shiny new things! Was it necessary to swap them out? Nope. By saving the original cabinetry and working with what we had, we saved SOOOOOOO much money.
The original flooring would stay as well. Did I love it? Nope. But there was nothing wrong with it, and later down the road, we could install something new. Baby steps my friend. The fridge and dishwasher had been replaced shortly after we moved in because the lovely former owners did not disclose that the dishwasher leaked when we bought the house. The fridge bit the dust shortly after we moved in. The struggle is real when you buy a new house. Don’t even get me started. I mean, would I love a new True Residential refrigerator? Heck yeah, I would! It’s a showstopper, but when conquering a skinny makeover, one has a very tight budget. The fridge could maybe be another baby step down the road.
The double ovens will need to be replaced at some point, but for the most part, they work. The door doesn’t completely close on the bottom oven causing it not to keep its heat. While the fan is super loud on the top oven when it’s on, but can we cook a casserole or frozen pizza? Heck ya. Besides, the ovens I was eyeballing were $7,000. Ya, no…that’s out of the skinny makeover budget.
The biggest money-saver — and this was key — we didn’t touch the floor layout. No moving gas lines or water pipes. Everything stayed the same. We channeled surface makeover! So what exactly did we spend money on? Lemme break it down.
Replacing the old black pitted granite with new Cambria Quartz was where we invested our money. It was necessary and would completely transform the entire space. To really make the investment pop, I worked closely with my fabricator, MGT Stone located in Barrington, IL, to add extra details. The bold pattern on the waterfall island with the brass inlay and the floating shelf over the wet bar…those were those hummena, hummena, hummena details that really set the design apart.
New countertops meant investing in a new sink, faucet, and cooktop. Once you start cutting into the quartz, there’s no going back. You’re locked in. Since the existing was dated, an upgrade was necessary. I found this black quartz sink by Elkay and fell in love with this cooktop…although the brass tops cannot be cooked on. If you do, they turn gray…ask me how I know. Palm to forehead. FYI, they do shine up with Bar Keeper’s Friend and elbow grease.
A couple weeks prior to visiting Cambria, I was lucky enough to tour Delta Faucet’s headquarters. My faucet is by Brizo (owned by Delta). It’s one of the newer designs, and I love the brass and matte black finish. I’m also obsessed with the SmartTouch technology…and yes, I go around tapping all faucets now wanting them to miraculously turn on. We used the same Litze Brizo faucet and Elkay sink for the wet bar.
I could have played it safe with a white marble-like pattern throughout the kitchen…it would have looked absolutely beautiful. But with this renovation, I really wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone…much like I did with Potty Paradise. Also, I wanted to tone down the harshness of the white and black combo by adding creams and browns to warm the space up. Clairidge was not a pattern I thought I’d lean towards…like ever! It was bold and smacked you in the face…it was loud. But after chatting with Cambria, I decided to play around with it for the island. After using the Cambria augmented reality app and some Photoshop magic I thought, “huh, that design could make for a bonkers good focal point”. To really make it pop, I added in Ironsbridge for the perimeter countertops. The subtle movement was soft enough to still emphasize the island. Sweet, but what about the backsplash?
Tile after tile after tile, everything I chose fought with the island and nothing should take away from that beauty. I changed courses and tried using the same Ironsbridge design for the backsplash, everything seems to fade away making the island the showpiece. I did a little snoopy dance.
The old island cabinet base was replaced with simple black cabinets, but to make it stand out even more, I added these brass pulls from Buster & Punch for added sparkle. They shined on the white cabinets, but holy luxe when installed on the black doors combined with the Clairidge quartz. This hardware almost didn’t happen. The original pulls were your basic brushed nickel from the local hardware store…nothing wrong with them, but also nothing super special. The Boy pushed back since the cost of pulls can add up…especially when you need about 50. We decided to wait on ordering anything until the quartz was installed, but in the end, new pulls just leveled up the whole look.
Another bit of a splurge was replacing the old bar stools. It was another conversation of do we need to replace them? Nope. Did I want to? Yep. What I had were wooden wishbone chairs. What I wanted were brass cantilever bar stools which I found at Scout Design Studio. Their website describes them as a little sass and a lot of class. I couldn’t agree more. The leather is fabric so that definitely helps with little kids, pizza, and chocolate hands. Everything just wipes right off.
The last bit of jewelry that kicked the design up a notch and really transformed the space was lighting. Basic globe pendants would be beautiful but safe. I wanted luxe, serious sparkle. While perusing High Point Market, I waltzed myself into Hudson Valley Lighting and fell head over heels in love with this chandelier. How perfect would it be over the tulip table?
The artwork is by local artist and vintage collector Kelly Caldwell…you can find more of his art on Instagram at @sovietfrance. I’ve been a long time for quite some time, but when I saw this piece…well, it was a perfect fit for the space. I love how it plays with the woven leather back Arthur Umaoff chairs from The Savoy Flea.
I found this chandie while poking around on the Hudson Valley Lighting site. It’s bananas. The warm bulbs softened the shiny chrome and the smoked glass is pure perfection. Plus it has kind of as 80’s vibe to it. I went back and forth between this light over the tulip table or the other…in the end, the crystal rod chandelier won the island. Yes, I know it’s gonna be a mess to clean grease and gunk off of it, but ya, don’t care. It looks spectacular.
One major eyesore was the wet bar. It resided in the living room and was straight out of the 80’s. Textured laminate countertops and french country cabinets. The whole look needed to go. When we first moved in, the initial thought was to remove it entirely, but after hosting a couple parties, we saw how valuable it was for entertaining. Guests mingled outside the kitchen and helped themselves to cocktails. With the kitchen being renovated and the wet bar on the opposite side of the wall, it naturally became part of the makeover.
The same black cabinetry used for the island replaced the painted french country, but I chose a third quartz design…yes a third. Now, normally I would not advise this insanity. It’s kinda like using 7 different fonts in graphic design. But Ironsbridge was so subtle and there was one design that my heart yearned for…Brittanicca Warm. I saw the very first test slab come off the line while visiting Cambria. We were not allowed to photograph it, but you can make bet that I drooled all over it. Time to break some rules.
Cambria’s Brittanicca Warm would become an accent wall of stone with a floating shelf in the center. To see how the heck we managed that, you can read about the fabrication and install process here. The three designs just worked together…thank goodness because that could have been a very expensive booboo to fix.
I used the same Buster + Punch pulls on the wet bar as the kitchen, but instead of brass, I chose the matte black. Now, if I could do it all over again would I keep the black or change to brass? I’m not quite sure of that answer. Part of me says yes…part of me says no. The brass pulls on the island are so shazam and this is quieter. I like how the floating shelf just shines bright like a diamond.
The final detail was the vintage door. I searched high and low and finally found this one. When I showed Brian, my contractor, he took a deep breath. “We can do it, but it’s gonna cost more. The entire door need needs to be reframed because it’s not a standard size.” Do it guys! This was the final stretch, and we were on budget. To go a few hundred over…I’ll do that all day son, and boy oh boy was it worth it. It’s backlit and fanfreakintastic! Oh, and yes, that is the original glass.
SPECIAL SHOUTOUTS TO MY TEAM FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN!
Without you, I would have failed greatly. Thank you for helping me through the process and creating such an amazing space!