Hello old friends!
It's been awhile. I announced the beginning of the renovation of our new fixer upper in the last post, and then I disappeared for 5 months. I'm so sorry I left without warning. I was trying to keep too many plates spinning at once: running the blog, moving across town, gutting and renovating the new house, and taking care of a toddler all day.
I burned out, and I needed to let some plates fall.
I ignored my blog and instead focused on family and spent my spare energy renovating the house. I've been posting almost daily on Instagram ever since that time, because it takes much less energy to post there, but I know not everyone follows me there, so some of you had absolutely no idea what was going on.
I had a reader email me and ask if I was dead.
I am not, but I appreciate the concern.
Anyway, after the house renovation was finished (at least the big stuff...I'll be working on little projects forever), I started to feel excited about blogging again. I had been spending every single evening as some sort of nighttime construction worker, so once I was done with that phase of life, I had energy for something else.
So, I'm back. With tons of pictures and stories to share about everything that happened while I was away.
And I'm going to start with the kitchen makeover. The kitchen is my favorite place in the house, and the project that gave me the most anxiety. I've screwed up so many things in the past (namely, having to rip up our floors, twice.), so I was beyond anxious. Plus, when we bought the house, the existing kitchen was just totally not my style and I would sometimes stand there and stare at it and sweat. I felt like no one understood my vision for it. Not a single person told me that, but I projected it onto anyone who would make eye contact. So, now that it's done, and I feel like my vision has come to life, I'm pretty excited. It was a hard project. I've never had the ability to just gut a kitchen and start from scratch, so it was also a lot of fun.
Like, gave me diarrhea and also SO MUCH FUN!
So, this is what the kitchen looked like the day we moved in. I remember being so stressed about it. It felt like a cabin. Which is great if you're in a cabin.
The view from the other side:
Just so much damn orange.
Remember how we lived with a mini fridge? For months? I was putting off buying a fridge until I knew what we needed, and it took a lot longer than anticipated to get everything moving on the reno.
The general mood around this time was 'just kill me now'.
Here's the view from the living room looking into the old kitchen. I just can't with the textured walls.
So, that's what where we started.
Now, let's talk about the actual kitchen makeover. We hired a general contractor (who had done a couple houses for my friend) and he handled the kitchen reno, resurfacing all of our ceilings, building the missing doorways (refresh your memory here...the doorway issue kills me), random electrical stuff, beam removals and installation of a header, and then the hardwood on our FOUR sets of stairs. We loved the two guys who did our last set of floors in our old house, so we hired them to do the hardwood floors and tile again. Our house was completely gutted within a couple weeks and the projects were completed within about 6 weeks, so everything happened really quick and our house felt like a beehive with people darting around everywhere. We moved in with my mom while all this was happening. Thank the Lord. I don't think I could have lived in the house during all of that with Ava. You would surely be hearing about my stay in a mental institution by now.
Also, I decided to save money by redoing all of the bathrooms on my own, painting every square inch of the house, and having Jesse install all the light fixtures. So, I handled all of that after the contractors were done and we were moved back in. And if you've been following me on Instagram, that's what you were witnessing....5 brutal months of me doing manual labor.
Not the best decision I've ever made.
Anyway, so back to the kitchen makeover. We met with a kitchen designer at Lowe's. She came out and measured and we discussed my ideas. It was really brief and to the point, mostly because when she arrived, I was prepared with a very terrible drawing I had made. I genuinely wish I would have taken a picture of it. It did delight.
A couple weeks later she emailed a few design renderings, showing what the kitchen would look like in various designs. And then we just went back and forth for about a week, as I narrowed down what I wanted. I think I went to the store once. I was pretty set on what I wanted, and also the kitchen designer just did a really great job of interpreting what I asked for. Some of what I wanted was not sold at Lowe's, so I sourced that elsewhere on my own and had our contractors install it.
Here are a few of the different design renderings I got before we started the kitchen makeover. I loved having these to look at, as it put my vision on paper and helped me narrow things down.
One of the things I was really going back and forth on was taking out the existing peninsula and creating a galley kitchen instead. I thought it would really open up the kitchen. And then I saw the reality of it and was like, I will have three tiny chunks of countertop space. Nope.
The other thing I was interested in was replacing the upper cabinets with shelves. Again, I saw the pic, and was like, nope. I still love open shelving, but I really wanted the oven and hood centered on that wall, and it just couldn't be done because of all the stuff we had to fit. Plus, I really thought about what open shelving would be like for my little brain to live with, and the answer is torture. I get stressed by a bookshelf. I'm kinda minimalistic, purely for my own self preservation, so I don't think I would have fared well. I imagine that I would have three bowls, one on each shelf, and be like, now what?!?
This was the side view of both galley style options. I was just curious. That's why these renderings are amazing. It really gives you a good sense of what you would be getting. I had envisioned this really open kitchen, and instead it just felt like I would be standing around all the time with no counter space.
So, we decided to keep the peninsula, but to make it smaller, and to rearrange some appliances, etc.
Here is the final design we chose for our kitchen makeover. For reference, the things I told the designer that I wanted for the kitchen were white shaker cabinets (all the way up to the ceiling with crown moulding at the top), marble or quartz countertops, a custom hood, a counter depth fridge, and a stainless steel apron front sink.
As for the changes to the peninsula....the existing one had the sink installed on an angle and it drove me crazy. It took up counter and floor space and just seemed awkward. So, we moved the sink, moved the dishwasher, and made the peninsula smaller so that you have more room when you walk in the kitchen.
Here's the rendering that shows the kitchen from the other side. The house came with a fairly new oven and dishwasher, so we kept those and then I bought the matching refrigerator, in a counter depth version, which I am SO pleased with. I'm never going back to the big clunky version. It's a really nice space saver, especially in a smaller kitchen, and now that we are using it, I can't even tell the difference on the inside.
Once we decided on a design, it was time to gut the kitchen.
Here was Jesse's contribution to the kitchen makeover.
The rest was done by a very nice subcontractor who Jesse said looked like muscular Joey from Friends. I never really saw the resemblance, but it entertained me to no end.
The doorway to the hallway was gutted so that a pocket door could be installed, which I'm so glad I decided to have done. It lets us close off Ava's 'wing' (as I refer to it....her bedroom, her bathroom, and another bedroom are all over there).
It's so nice when we have people over or during her naptime.
I know it's a funky layout. That's probably why this house sat on the market for 4 years before we bought it. Well, that and the Tuscan eighties vibe. But, if I wanted to live in this part of town, in this very particular area, I had to be willing to get creative.
That's life. You make the best of it.
Here's the pic of the pocket door getting framed back in.
And then drywalled.
Around this same time, we had to replace all of the subfloors throughout the main level. Once we ripped up the existing flooring, the particle board was in really bad shape and even rotting in some areas, and I've already made the mistake of not replacing particle board subfloors once, so replacing it was a must.
Here's a pic of Ava and Jesse stopping by the house to check on the progress. We were living at my mom's house nearby, and we tried to stop by every other evening or so. We were so excited to watch things change.
After the kitchen was gutted and the subfloors were done, the hardwood flooring went in. I'll do a separate post on the floors, but for now, if you're curious, we used Provence Manor European White Oak in River Rock (in a 7.5 inch width plank). We found them at Heartland Hardwood Flooring here in Knoxville (the same place our last floors came from). I spent so much time and energy choosing the flooring, and I really love how they turned out. Can't express that enough.
Ava helped me pick them out.
This is the tile that was there, and it was just so not for me.
After a few weeks, the flooring was done and the cabinets were installed.
I felt like I could breathe again.
It's hard to explain.
I was just so nervous about everything and I didn't trust myself one bit up until this moment. It still had a long way to go at this point, but once I saw this, I knew it was gonna be what I had envisioned from day one.
Here's the opposite view.
And the little fridge hole, as I like to call it.
They hadn't put the crown moulding on yet, up around the top of the cabinets, which freaked me out at first, like who missed my memo?! But, it happened days later.
Apparently, a kitchen makeover doesn't happen in a day.
I knew that I was going to be in charge of painting every inch of this house by myself after the contractors finished their part. And it was around this moment that I started wanting to slap myself for not painting the orange wall before the cabinets were installed.
We ended up having to wait a couple months for a backsplash, and I was throwing a big Christmas Party, so I definitely got to spend an entire evening squatting on the countertop with a paintbrush. I mean, it would have taken 10 minutes to roll that entire wall.
Here's a pic of when the fridge finally arrived and I got to banish the mini fridge to the garage, a real celebratory moment.
Ava's mattress is in the doorway, I don't know why.
Ava's mattress is in the doorway, I don't know why.
The sink also got put in. There were no countertops, or water, but I kinda just hovered over it for awhile.
The sink is from Moen (They provided it for our kitchen makeover, and it absolutely made my life. I don't accept much free stuff on this blog, but you best believe, I was like, yes, please, fanciest sink you have. And it's hands down the star of the kitchen.)
The next step was choosing countertops. I wanted marble, I wanted it so bad. Ava and I went to a bunch of different stone places around town and drooled over marble slabs. Honed Calacutta was what I was lusting over. I had the fever.
I lived with marble in our last kitchen (below), so I knew what I was up against. It was crappy pink marble and cut into tile, but it was marble, nonetheless. It would etch and stain every time I set a cup of water on it, and I was such a crazy person (with way too much time on my hands, back then) that I literally used to buff the etches out every so often with an orbital sander and a automobile buffer pad. What was wrong with me.
. And yet, somehow, I was certain I could do it again. But, like, with brand new fancy marble.
Ultimately, I agonized over the decision long enough that I realized that I wasn't listening to myself. I could pretty much envision myself rocking back and forth in a corner crying 'patina'.
I want to be able to allow my guests to drink red wine without following them around. I want to be able to pour salsa on my countertops and just roll in it, if the mood strikes. I want to be able to cook with Ava and have her leave dirty handprints everywhere. I don't want to constantly stress out over anything in my house. And btw, I know a lot of people say you can seal it and it's fine, but I just had to trust my little anxiety-ridden gut on this one. I am not a person meant for marble.
So, I went with Quartz countertops. And I've never looked back. I love it.
I couldn't find any quartz I liked at Lowes, so I went to a specialty stone place and ordered Caesarstone Quartz countertops in Frosty Carrina. I am summarizing quickly so as not to create a 45 page post, but I did so much research and looked at so many different countertops, and this was the one that spoke to me. I loved that the veining was so subtle in this one.
And the main reason I decided to get quartz countertops is because they are super durable and will stay looking brand new with very little maintenance. And that has proven to be true. I basically just wipe them down every so often with water. Or some Method countertop cleaner. And if you do leave anything on it overnight and it happens to stain, you can fix it. This has only happened once, I think it was kid's cough syrup, and it came right up with Softscrub with bleach. I found that solution on Caesarstone's actual website, and lo and behold, it was legit.
So, the quartz countertops are amazing, but the actual installation of the countertops was a total headache. Solely because we had a bad contractor that was sent to us by Lowe's. You can buy Caesarstone through Lowe's, but you have to go through a specialty stone store that they will refer you to. The contractors installed them wrong and had to come back several times to fix it. At one point the countertop was installed with about a 2 inch gap between the countertop and the wall. Like, um, what goes there, guys? Turbo caulk? And they had written letters on the different parts of the countertop in ink (I guess to help with install, I dunno.) that we couldn't get off. And then, as a special cherry on top, they scratched up the sink AND the dishwasher during the install.
Oh, and I specified a squared countertop edge on the quartz countertops, and they send slabs with rounded edges, and I ended up just caving on that one. Because they kept sending back the SAME guys to fix the damage, three separate times, and it was enough to give me a heart attack. In the end, everything was installed correctly. The ink was removed. The scratches on the sink and dishwasher were able to be buffed out. And Lowe's gave us a partial store credit. So, it worked out. But, it was a total headache. And that's just honesty.
The below pic was towards the end of the install, where they said it was done, and we later discovered that they left wood shims underneath the countertop. So, that obviously resulted in an additional visit.
Can I just reiterate the word 'hassle'?
Anyway, I tried to keep some perspective. Like, Virginia, you are installing a brand new kitchen. Get over it.
Here's a pic of when I started to paint the new pocket door.
I had new doors installed throughout the house. I chose the 2 Panel Carrara. Not sure where these were from, as we ordered them through the contractor. But, I love them.
I painted all of the doors in the house black (specifically Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze).
The backsplash I had my heart set on was this marble herringbone from the Tile Shop. I loved the look, but from what I remember it was about $20 a square foot. So, no.
And then when we got that Lowe's store credit, I just happened to find something comparable there, for much less. So, back to Lowe's I went to trust them with subbing out another installer. This was months after our GC was done, and we had that store credit to use towards the installation, so I crossed my fingers and went for it.
And fortunately, the contractors they sent us this time did an impeccable job. They were in and out in a day, and it was meticulously done. So, you just never know what you're going to get. These guys were super professional from the moment they knocked on our door though, so I had a good feeling. The other guys (the quartz countertop guys), I truly had a weird feeling from the moment they started. Trust yo gut.
This was during the install.
So, here are some of the finished pictures after the kitchen makeover, the best I could get with my poor photography skills, but you'll at least get the idea. It's a space I truly adore. I spend half my life in here, I swear.
I don't know that I've ever been happier about a room in my house. In the words of Shania, Man, I feel like a woman!
I really hate having to get all of the real stuff out and attempt to get those really nice pictures (at least once!) and sometimes I notice something I forgot, like a backpack or an ipad, and just say, screw it, and then it just all goes downhill and I start using my iphone for photos or end up taking random candids at night to show you what it really looks like. Pretty sure all of these things will happen here. I am not meant to have perfectly styled photos. I resist it with every fiber of my being. I mean, are we pretending like I could do it if I really wanted to?
Maybe I should become a swim instructor. I haven't figured my life out yet.
Here are a few pics before and after the kitchen makeover, taken from the same angle.
And from the other way...the before:
That little chalkboard is a thrift store mirror I painted.
(This photo should demonstrate just how much I don't stress about these quartz countertops. But, like, don't do this.)
I haven't installed any pendant lights over the peninsula yet. I haven't found what I'm looking for there yet, and I've been looking for a long time, and part of me just wants to drywall over the holes. I'm still pondering.
The chairs I got from CB2. They are white leather with chrome legs, and I really, really love them because they don't take up much space and are pretty comfortable.
The rug is my favorite thing in the kitchen. It was in my grandmother's house for decades and she gave it to me a few years back. I've been hoarding it for years, never having the right spot for it. And as the kitchen started to come together, I started looking online for little antique rugs, and I realized I had this one rolled up in the garage. It was a real lightbulb moment. I'll never ever move it.
I'm also really in love with the custom hood. It was one of my few splurges during the kitchen makeover, and worth every penny. Not having to get any appliances (except the fridge and microwave) really helped me with the budget.
The faucet was also provided to us by Moen. It's the Brantford spot resist stainless steel faucet and it has a little pull down handle, which I absolutely love. And obviously that sink. The freaking sink. For specifics, it's the Moen 1800 series stainless steel single bowl sink.
I love the way the kitchen looks at night, too, with the lights on.
We installed undermount lighting under all the cabinets, and it's just so warm and inviting.
My grandmother also gave me some of her china and silver when we got married, and I never used it, thinking I would ruin it. When we moved here, and started unpacking, I decided to unpack the little beauties and use them. I'm sure I will end up ruining them, but I'm never going to have any formal dinners or fancy parties where people use silver, so what am I waiting for? I put my gold Target scissors in there, too, because they deserve it.
Here's a good before and after comparison.
I obviously couldn't be bothered to take down the baby gate.
And another one.
So, that's the kitchen makeover.
Omg I did it and it turned out okay.
To all of you who have interacted with me for months over on Instagram, thank you for sticking with me while I wasn't writing blog posts, thanks for cheering me on, and thanks for being so excited about me coming back. It really means the world to me, and it was just what I needed during a time when I was my most insecure and anxious. There's not enough Lexapro in the world to substitute for the mental boost you guys constantly gave me during the renovation.
For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram (where I've already shared these and SO many more....like, tone it down, Virg.), here are a few snapshots of us living in the kitchen over the past few months.
I strapped Ava's booster seat to the lucite chair. It does delight the mama.
I mean, just a girl in a tutu spaghetti strap dress in the dead of winter. You make it work, friends.
We're pretty happy here in the new house. My life is always kinda messy. I have a strong personality, and I'm kinda always flinging about and trying to find my way. I'm feeling softer lately, like things make more sense. I can just be myself. I don't know if it's the house, the toddler, or a combination of the both. Or maybe the fact that I've persevered through both.
Thank you guys for being here. I'm so happy to get to share with you again. And I don't take it for granted for a second. It's truly a blessing to get to do what I do, even if I have to take a break once in awhile.
I'm thinking my next post will be about the living room and the dining room, perhaps the pics from the renovation when the flooring was going in, etc. There's a lot to talk about in this area. So, I think I'm headed there next.
I'm hoping to kinda work through all the areas in the house that are completed, bit by bit, and then later on, we can move on to all the stuff that is not done. I mean, like I painted 2 of my 3 bathroom floors. I got to the end of the reno budget we had set aside for this house, and was like, welp, I'll just start painting everything in sight that can't be gutted, and we'll circle back around later. And as a result, I accidentally created some fun (probably temporary) solutions that I actually kinda love.
From limitations comes creativity, my friends.
I feel like I just accidentally Luanne De Lessep-ed that line.
Love you all.