New Kitchen Part 1: The Design

Oh, hello, September. You've arrived so quickly. Oh, and hello, Labor Day.
Towards the middle of summer, I decided I wanted to set up a little "home office" for myself. I wanted to get a simple desk and I started looking on Ikea's website for cheap (but pretty) options. If you want to see a few photos of my office set up, you can check out my travels blog. Somehow, my desire for a new office also blossomed into, "We should redo our kitchen." We had been discussing redoing the kitchen for years but never actually did anything. It was fate because Ikea was having it's annual kitchen sale and we decided we wanted to take advantage of getting up to a 20% discount so we got right into planning.

While my sister and I were at Ikea shopping for my desk, we looked at the example kitchens and took notes and photos of the elements we liked. We also perused the cabinet door selections and the countertop materials to figure out which ones we liked best.

I thought that it would be prudent to share this renovation journey on my food blog, since our kitchen is the reason that this blog is even possible. I'm going to warn you now that this post is rather verbose and lengthy but if you are also looking to redo your kitchen with a strict budget, it could be interesting and hopefully it will be helpful.

Why are we renovating?
Our kitchen hasn't been touched (minus a bit of paint) since the house was built 50+ years ago (1962) and while most things are still in great condition (which says a lot about the quality of work back then), a few of the drawers have been non-functional (re: broken and useless) for a few years now, the bottom fell out in one of our base cabinets (the one below our stove), and it was just time for a style upgrade. Plus, there's just not enough counter space and the countertops themselves are dingy.
{our kitchen now}
Planning, goals, and budgeting
I dove into my usual routine; I hopped online and read reviews and many personal blog entries about kitchen renovations using Ikea cabinets (check out my favorites: 1, 2, 3) and I was more than satisfied that they would be attractive as well as reliable. Before I started designing, I decided on a budget of $10,000. To some, that is too much money, to others, it's puny; to me, it was just right (hey there, Goldilocks). It was a large enough sum to be able to get an entirely new kitchen and splurge on some nicer elements without putting myself under financial strain.

It's important to evaluate what you want from your renovation. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start making any major decisions:
  • Is your kitchen in good condition and are you only looking to make a few cosmetic changes? For example, just changing out the cabinet doors or painting the walls a new color.
  • Do you want to tear everything down and rearrange the layout completely?
  • Are you somewhere in between where you need new cabinetry but you like your existing layout?
  • Do you need new appliances?
  • Do you need new flooring?
  • Can you work with your current layout?
  • Can you DIY?
  • Do you want to hire professionals to do some or all of the work?
Once you figure out what it is you want, you can then decide how you want to use your budget and where you can splurge and where you can scrimp. For me, I was fine with our current layout so I knew we could DIY most, if not all, of the work, which meant there would be more money that could be put towards nicer countertops, more cabinets with drawers instead of shelves, and new appliances.

I had three main requirements/goals for this renovation: I wanted a pantry; this was the #1 priority. I also wanted a kitchen island with bar stools. And lastly, I wanted an "integrated" dishwasher so that it would blend in nicely with the cabinetry. It's a prudent idea to have some tangible goals so that you have something you are working towards and some boundaries to keep you focused.

The design process and using the Ikea Kitchen Planner
I took a few measurements, popped on Ikea's website, and used their kitchen planner to work on a layout. The planner is great because you throw in all of the components you want (there are options to add in your own appliances with specific measurements to customize your kitchen beyond Ikea products) and it'll spit out an itemized list with prices.

Ikea's cabinetry system is modular so you can pick and choose what you want for your space which is both a good and bad thing. Good: because it's modular, it's easy to select what you want (cabinets with shelves, pullouts, drawers) and put it where you want (including creating a kitchen island that perfectly suits your needs). Bad: because it's modular, there are a limited set of sizes to choose from and you might not get everything to fit how you want it to and end up using filler panels (or brainstorming other creative solutions, like using a hidden spice rack to take up some space).
Before I got into the "meat" of my layout, it was important to pick out appliances because those measurements were needed to make sure the layout would work.

Ikea's appliances are made by Whirlpool and they offer a 5-year warranty so I was perfectly content buying their integrated dishwasher ($499). I looked up reviews and the majority of people have no complaints. Oh, and we decided to purchase an extractor hood ($379) from Ikea as well. Extractor hoods aren't particularly exciting to me so I wasn't keen on channeling my neuroses towards research of that particular item.

As far as our fridge and cooktop + oven goes, we desperately needed new ones. Our fridge is quite old and though it's still in decent shape, it's got issues and I wanted to replace it. We ended up choosing a Kenmore fridge from Sears with a bottom freezer. It's just the style I wanted and the price was right ($999.99 at the time of purchase).

Our current oven and cooktop are the originals that came with the house when it was built in 1962. Both work fine and I actually like their look - they've got a vintage vibe because they're aqua green with rounded edges - but we're in the market for something new and shiny and modern. We decided to just get a range with the cooktop and oven combined for space reasons and budgetary reasons. We ordered one from Frigidaire via Sears ($649.99 at the time of purchase). The main selling point was that it has five burners on top - four normal and one longer one for a griddle - which is what I was specifically looking for - and it has a broiler drawer, which is something that gets utilized quite often in our house.

We went and picked up our appliances a few weeks ago and they sat in our garage until they were ready to be installed. I'll share what I think about them once we've been using them for a little while.

The selection of pre-designed kitchen islands left me unimpressed so I just picked out a cabinet with large drawers and a second cabinet with shelves and stuck them together to stick in the middle of the kitchen and added cover panels to make it look complete. Like I said, you can work with the components to customize everything.
The kitchen planner is an awesome tool but I'm warning you that it's a little (re: a lot) buggy so make sure you save your work and save it often. There's no autosave so set a timer or something. You'll need a username and password to save your design and because it's all done online, once you save your work, you'll be able to open up your kitchen design at Ikea and go over it with a kitchen specialist. You can see that the program spits out a printout with plan views and elevation views with all of the dimensions, which will help you confirm that everything will fit in your kitchen.
What also helped me and my design process was to print out drafts of my layout and mark it up with notes on how I wanted to organize all of our stuff and where we should add open shelving and lighting and all that jazz. This helped me decide if we needed more storage, drawers instead of shelves, a better arrangement, etc. This whole process of arranging and rearranging and fine-tuning the layout took me about a week and a half [07/27/2013 to 08/07/2013]. Admittedly, I'm a little indecisive, really neurotic, and I have a minor case of obsessive compulsive disorder, but it should take everyone at least a few days to come up with a good design, sit on it, tweak it, and perfect it.
My design is quite simple and isn't too different from our current layout except for the location of our refrigerator. There were a few reasons for this. One: I didn't want to have to deal with rearranging plumbing, gas lines, and/or electricity - at least not drastically - I wanted this project to be as DIY-able as possible. Two: our radiator runs along one wall (the one with the two windows) so it wasn't really a choice to place any cabinets along that wall, as pleasant as it might've been to be able to look out the window while washing dishes. And three: I actually enjoy the way our floor plan is now. It's a pretty efficient layout. I like the idea of coming into my house, emerging out of our "foyer" and seeing an open kitchen. The kitchen truly is the heart of our home. I love cooking and even more, I love eating so I quite like that it's a focal point.
The three-dimensional renderings are useful, as you can "tour" the room and make sure things are laid out the way you want. The reason some of the screenshots I'm sharing look a bit different from the others is because at one point, I decided to remove the countertops, toekicks, and cornices because I didn't want any of the default options available in the Ikea planner program. I picked out the hardware at Home Depot and the toekicks will be DIY from molding. I think these small details will help our kitchen look less generic and more expensive and custom.

As far as the countertops go, I knew I wanted quartz countertops, which are available at Ikea, but because the price differs according to location and distributor, it's not shown on the website. Laminate and butcher block countertops are available on the website and you can add them to your design in the kitchen planner.
I perused many websites while planning this renovation and I loved the idea of just building the cabinets on top of a platform (the Family Handyman has some detailed instructions). It's a practical solution and it'll make leveling the cabinets easier (because instead of leveling each individual cabinet, you just have to make sure the platform is level). Plus, it'll provide a nice surface to attach the toekicks to. I also like the idea of installing our own deco strip/valance/whatever you want to call it instead of the default Ikea ones.
As far as colors and style go, we did our best to keep in theme with the rest of our house. We don't have a super distinct style but in general, our home decor is simplistic, welcoming, and dog-friendly. So, we wanted something that looked modern but homey and classic. We chose a color palette consisting of warm browns and pink-toned whites and avoided anything that would make the space look too clinical or like a science lab. And we picked an accent color, which is something I'll be sharing later on in this series.
Ikea has a kitchen sale three times a year. These days, the deal is that if you spend $3500 you get 10% off and if you spend $4500 you get 20% off. Take advantage of this sale; the savings are great. We ordered our kitchen during the July/August sale. I'll be sharing the Ikea shopping experience in my next post - during this trip, the kitchen specialist informed us that Ikea's kitchen sales are usually around February/March, July/August (the one we took advantage of), and October/November.

By the way, most towns have rules about filing (and paying for) permits to do home renovations. Minor adjustments - things like painting, new wainscoting, adding a kitchen island - do not require permits. But if you need to fiddle with gas lines or plumbing, if you're moving walls (especially load-supporting ones), or other major items that have potential safety concerns, you may need to file a permit. Even if you're doing minor improvements, it's better to be safe than sorry and check with your city.

And just a final note for when you're designing: measure and measure again. Measure at least twice and if you don't end up with the same exact numbers each time, measure again! It would be quite a shame, not to mention terribly annoying, if you ended up designing your new kitchen around incorrect measurements.
Stay tuned (if you're interested) for details about the actual shopping process with Ikea and other fun things like choosing paint colors and tiles. I'll be mixing in my renovation posts with normal recipe posts so just look for the label "new kitchen."


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