By Caitlin Kelly
When you’ve waited 25 years for something, it’s easy to get just a little obsessed.
We start our kitchen renovation soon, and the next four to six weeks will be a crazy time. The fridge will be in the entrance hall, for a while, (called a foyer here, pronounced foy-ur). We’ll make toast and coffee and juice in the dining room and, hopefully, grill or eat cold food on our balcony.
As we get ready, packing up all our cookware and tableware, we’re giving away a lot of stuff we haven’t been using or are sick of, so it’s a fresh start in other ways as well.
The galley kitchen is small — eight feet long with a 39-inch wide floor between counters.
Our sexy new Italian stove, a 30-inch gas Bertazzoni, comes with a free microwave, an item I have never owned or wished to own, so maybe we’ll use that as well.
If you’re thinking of tiling a large space, photograph the tiles, then make enough color copies — preferably to scale (i.e. their actual size) — to fill that space so you can visualize it.
Deciding to renovate is scary! It means making a big leap of faith — that Jose will keep his job, that we’ll be alive and healthy enough to enjoy it, that we’ll realize some of that investment if/when we sell the apartment.
It also means making a shitload of spend-y and permanent decisions: tile, counters, sink, faucet, flooring, walls, lighting, appliances. No wonder so many people freak out or hire a designer or just choose all-white as the safest default.
We’ve chosen, (yes, I’ll post lots of photos), a light green granite for the counters, a copper sink and oiled bronze faucet, these Restoration Hardware sconces and two sorts of tile, cream and an accent that is pale green, rust and cream.
The granite will be honed, which gives it a matte finish. I hate the glare and reflection when working on polished stone in a kitchen; we love it in our bathroom.
We’re skipping upper cabinets in favor of open shelves, also from Restoration Hardware. They’re about one third the cost and I just don’t like the hemmed-in feeling of cabinets.
Here’s the Farrow & Ball colors — cream for the walls, green for the cabinets.
The floor will be oak, either laid diagonally, (which visually expands the room) or herringbone, which I really prefer.
We’ve bought a Bosch dishwasher, super-quiet — I work a few feet from the kitchen and will be happy not to hear its noise.
In the mid 1990s I studied at the New York School of Interior Design, (and got an A in our color class, from our terrifyingly demanding Swiss teacher.) I did well and learned a great deal, so feel a little more confident than the average bear.
I know, for example, that red and green are complementary colors (think Christmas, but different) so the tones of red/rust and green will work together harmoniously. The cream will be variegated in tone and rough-edged but a neutral. We’ll choose the wall and cabinet colors after everything is installed and I can see how it all relates; we’re doing that work ourselves to save money.
A few things that have brought us this far:
— Reading shelter books — aka home design and renovation magazines — for years and creating a highly detailed file of photos for reference, everything from styles of electrical outlets to possible color schemes. When it came time to buy, I didn’t necessarily buy the exact items but I had a visual vocabulary and a coherent scheme. The look I wanted is English country kitchen but a bit rough-edged.
— Reading a wide array of design/home/cookware catalogs for inspiration and ideas.
— My Farrow & Ball color chart. We already have F & B colors in our living room/hallway (Gervase Yellow) and bathroom (mustard yellow.)
— Carefully examining others’ kitchens and talking to friends who recently renovated about what they chose and why. Learn from others’ mistakes!
— Knowing our $25,000 budget would be blown before we began, by about $6,000. Fuck it. I’m happy chasing more assignments when I see the results in front of me every day.
— Knowing, liking and trusting our contractor and his workmen, who did our bathroom renovation about four years ago. They were friendly, meticulous and did a great job. We’re happy to see them again.
— Once you start choosing your elements, keep a file folder of photos of all of it for reference.
— If you are adding three-dimensional elements, (like our sconces which are each 10″ wide and 10″ deep), make a mockup and attach it to the wall so you can see it in 3D, and how it fits with everything else before you buy. We made a color photocopy and stuck in onto a 10″ deep piece of foamcore (reinforced paper available at office supply stores) or cardboard.
— Reading blogs like Apartment Therapy, which features everyday renovations almost daily, with the backstory and a list of sources.
— Checking out Houzz for all sorts of design inspiration; they have 362,770 images of kitchens!
— Reading British, French and Canadian design magazines — whose editorial choices are often very different (and to my mind much more interesting) from that of American magazines. Europeans, especially, often live in much smaller spaces and so is ours. The monster American kitchen reno’s typically featured have no relevance for our needs. Nor their huge budgets!