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After The Renovation: The Kitchen

by - Monday, January 20, 2014

I wanted to thank you all for your comments on my previous post. Your responses epitomized what I love about blogging: conversation, community, and a sense of not being alone. Thank you for that!

In the comments, one reader brought up the interesting point that perhaps a blogger's story has been told once all the Before and Afters have been revealed. That's a valid question. The story of my own house might be nearing an end - but the story of my home, well, I've come to realize that's really what I've been blogging about all along and that has many more chapters left :)

Speaking of Afters, can it really be five years since we renovated our kitchen? Its always fun to see the Before and Afters but I thought you might be interested in hearing about how the kitchen is holding up in case you are planning your own kitchen renovation. Here's a few things we love and some we might have done differently.

The Cabinetry

When we were searching for cabinets, we narrowed it down to three providers: AyA Kitchens, IKEA, and Lowes. We considered a few factors: price, the durability of the product, availability of special features like glass doors and pullouts, and the quality of kitchen our neighbourhood demand (for resale purposes) - and ended up getting semi-custom cabinetry at AyA Kitchens. I never realized how much wear and tear a kitchen actually takes. The doors and cabinets have held up exceptionally well with no sagging and they still glide and close softly. There has been some chipping on the inside of the glass cabinets but that is a result of our nicking the doors as we take out the dishes.

One decision I am really pleased with is using deep pot drawers instead of cabinets for the lower units. In my old condo kitchen, I had lower cabinets with shelves and things would get lost in the dark corners. We don't have that problem here. Its very easy to store and pull out our baking pans. There's no digging around the cupboards and we can see what goes where.

The Layout

How to get a well-designed kitchen? Simple - ask the kitchen professionals. We met with at least five kitchen planners at different stores during our search and asked them how they would lay out our small 8'x15' space. We took all of their best advice and incorporated it into a single plan. Meeting with the kitchen pros is free and getting the plan right is critical so I'd suggest spending lots of time researching options.

Our best layout decisions: (1) itemizing each and every kitchen item beforehand, from cookie sheets to KitchenAid mixer to recycling, and planning a permanent home for them; and (2) placing the largest fixtures (the fridge and full-height pantry) the farthest away from the main entry. With a home for everything and an open layout, our counters stay clear and the kitchen feels big and airy.

Media Centre

It might seem unnecessary but the media centre might be my favourite part of the kitchen. I like cooking but anything that makes the task more enjoyable, like music playing on the speakers or an episode of House Hunters to enjoy while the water boils, is a bonus. This corner is also a good place to pull out a cookbook or set up the ipad when I'm meal planning.

The Countertop and Backsplash

Sadly, these two elements are the ones we are probably most disappointed with. The Kashmir White Granite still looks good for the most part but the area around the sink has become darker from water absorption. We do seal annually but the granite right near the front of the sink always seems to be darker. I have used a poultice in the past to remove stains and will have to do that again!

The marble backsplash is also a bit troublesome. I know that marble countertops require regular maintenance and are more prone to staining, but I didn't realize we would have the same issues with a marble backsplash. The area behind the faucet has dulled in colour and is not as bright white as the rest of the backsplash. Water splashing also means that the grout between counter and backsplash regularly gets washed away. I think we've regrouted that area four times now.

What I would change: I loved the look of the mini marble tiles but, especially for a kitchen, I would use a backsplash tile that is larger and has less grout lines. Perhaps a glass tile like in our laundry room. I also realize we need very low maintenance countertops so a quartz countertop like this would have been more appropriate for our family.

The Flooring

We used an olive toned porcelain tile for the floor. I love the colour and texture of the tile but it is really tough underfoot and you can't stand in the kitchen barefoot for long before your legs start hurting. I've had ceramic tile in previous kitchens but for some reason, this porcelain tile feels more rigid, even with the Ditra underlayment we installed beneath it.

One other regret is that we didn't put in-floor heating under the tile. We thought about it too late and the electrician had already been in to do his work so we opted not to delay the schedule and went ahead without it. Worst decision ever, especially considering that our kitchen is exposed to the cold from the sliding doors.

Bottom line, a kitchen renovation is not something you want to do half way. If you can't afford a quality kitchen and all the bells and whistles you're craving, save up until you can. There are qualities that a better constructed kitchen brings - doors you don't have to constantly realign or repaint, the feel and weight of premium hardware in your hand, cabinetry perfectly sized for your kitchenware - and over time those small qualities keep you in love with your kitchen day to day instead of leaving you wanting to rip it all out again in a few years.

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