We’re seriously thinking about buying a house. Which is crazy talk when you consider we live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. I mean, we’re currently renting a ~1,500 sq foot, 3 br, 2 ba house built in the 70s with no insulation and it would sell for $1.3 million. (Insert crying emoji face here.) Rent is also exorbitantly high. So, while the real estate is stupid expensive, it actually makes more financial sense to buy. Plus, Google is building a brand new headquarters just down the road and other big tech companies have already invested in commercial real estate around San Jose. As crazy as the prices are now, signs point to them going even higher over the next few years.
Because houses are so expensive, if we do decide to buy one there’s a high likelihood it will be a fixer upper. And y’all know I’ll be taking you along each step of the way if we go down that road.
For now, I’ve been daydreaming about how I would want my house to look if we do completely renovate one. When we lived in Cincinnati, we bought a fixer upper and did a huge interior renovation. I’ve been reflecting on that process and thought I’d share a bit over the next couple weeks about what I learned through it. All those lessons will come in handy should we decide to pull the trigger on a house here and jump into another renovation.
So, here goes!
Cincinnati Kitchen Before
When we decided to buy our Cincinnati house, the first thing we agreed on was the kitchen had to go. It was super dark and depressing. It had the original orangey-brown 1980 builder grade cabinets and cheap laminate counters with zero counter space.
One of the great things about that house was the many large windows that let in a ton of light. In the original layout, the formal dining room was at the front of the house and had a huge window. The kitchen backed up to the dining room, but was separated by a wall (where the stove and cabinets were placed)– with a door to close off the kitchen. Maybe in the 80s women were supposed to be in the kitchen and neither seen nor heard, just serve the food? Who knows, but it was obvious that wall had to go in order to create more space for the kitchen and to allow that amazing light to reach more of the main floor.
The inside wall of the kitchen had a large built in pantry, which was actually really nice. The refrigerator was to the right of the pantry.There was a strange, very unusable counter and cabinet space to the right of the fridge. Not totally sure why someone thought that was a good idea. I’m sure there was just an extra foot of space along that wall so they just threw in the cabinets. Why not?
Here’s the original layout (obviously, not anywhere close to scale…):
Our main goals for the kitchen were to allow more light to flood in, open up the space (it felt extremely crowded), cool down the yellow/orange tones (this was a goal throughout the entire house), create a space where we enjoyed cooking again, and provide a comfortable gathering place for our family and friends.
Cincinnati Kitchen After
We ended up going with Ikea cabinets for a variety of reasons. I wanted white cabinets with clean lines and a classic look. The Shaker style of the (now discontinued) Adel model fit the bill. I won’t go on and on about the benefits of Ikea cabinets, lord knows enough bloggers have done that. I will say the look, customizability, and quality is unmatched at that price point. The Martha Stewart line at Home Depot was also a front runner, but once we got down to pricing, Ikea won by a long shot. Of course, there’s a lot more grunt work that goes into the whole process, but the trade off was worth it.
Here’s the final layout:
You’ll see that we had two eating areas, but no formal dining room. In the six months from when we moved in until demo started, we probably used the formal dining room twice. It was a complete waste of space for how we lived in our home. So we nixed it. We took out the wall between the kitchen and dining area. We didn’t miss the formal dining room at all. We hosted large gatherings fairly often in the updated space and I felt we were able to spread out and be more comfortable once the renovation was complete.
Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of the entire finished product. Maybe I was in denial of the fact we had spent so much effort making the space the way we wanted it, and then we had to leave it. Who knows? Regardless, the place still looks great unstyled and with crappy iPhone photos.
I loved the open, light and airy feel of that kitchen. We had ample cabinet space and it all just worked together well.
I was wary about using butcher block counters, but we decided to give it a go for a few reasons. One of which was Ikea butcher block is stupid cheap, so we figured if we hated it after a couple years we’d only be out a few hundred dollars. It would be simple to change the counters out to something less high maintenance. I also love the look of butch block counters with which cabinets. I definitely appreciate the modern farmhouse look, which is what I was trying to achieve here.
Fortunately, butcher block wasn’t as difficult to maintain as we thought. We only had to sand it down once in the 18 months we lived with it. Mineral oil was the only thing we used to seal it, and as long as we were careful about not letting moisture sit on the counter for too long, we were good.
Hands down, my favorite aspect was the custom open shelving Seth designed. I wanted something with clean lines using the same butcher block as the counters. He suggested we have beveled edges, which I thought would look weird. Since I figured we didn’t have much to lose, (it would only be $100 to buy enough butcher block to redo them if his idea looked bad…) I let him go to town. They turned out beautiful! The brackets are from West Elm (which they don’t make anymore, unfortunately) and looked great with the light wood and white cabinets.
If I had to do it over again, I’d probably go with different cabinet pulls – probably matte black to go with the shelving brackets. Everything else I would keep just the same.
Having been through this process once makes it not so scary to think about doing a large renovation in the future…Of course my style has changed a bit over the past few years, but my attraction to clean, simple styling in the kitchen is strong as ever.
Stay tuned for more on the lessons I learned from renovating our Cincinnati house. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a new (old) house to share with you soon. Keep your fingers crossed for us!