Monday, October 28, 2013

New Kitchen Part 9: Finishing Touches

Admittedly, a lot of labor goes into the demolition and painting and cabinet installation when you're remodeling a kitchen. It's really grueling and works your muscles. But I have to admit, it was also a lot of work to get the loose ends tied up because though it didn't cause as much sweating and muscle cramps, it did require a lot of willpower to get it all done.
New cabinetry and refinished floors elevated our kitchen from a cruddy old mess to a more modern and pretty room but what really made the kitchen go from good to great were the finishing touches.

Though our budget wasn't suited for a high-end kitchen, I still wanted our kitchen to look high end (duh) and the way to do that was to take generic-looking Ikea flat-pack cabinetry and make it look built in and pretty and to take an ordinary-looking kitchen and add personal touches to make it look custom and unique.

One thing we decided to do was to make custom color switchplates for all of our electrical sockets and light switches. We purchased plain old wooden switchplates from Home Depot and we painted them to match the walls and then we replaced our current (tacky) ones. It didn't cost much money - an average of $2 each - but I think it made a huge difference.
Another aesthetic decision we made was to return the cover panels and leave the cabinetry "bones" visible in some spots. This isn't everyone's aesthetic for sure, but I actually like the wood veneer paneling and I think it looks pretty so I wanted to leave it exposed. To some, this is the opposite of a finishing touch and it looks unfinished, but to me, the cover panels were going to be a pain in the butt and I didn't think that they would look all that great in our kitchen. I actually think they looked kind of ugly. No offense to those who like their Ikea cover panels; I'm sure it looks great in your kitchen but this is just my style. And honestly, we could have gone for the white cabinet skeletons but we preferred the birch.
To make our island look more complete, we added plywood to the back which served a few purposes: to reinforce the flimsy Ikea cabinet backing and to cover up the ugly flimsy Ikea cabinet backing. We painted the plywood with a few coats of Behr's China Cup (which matches the Ramsjo white doors quite well) and then added some corner molding around the exposed edges to finish it off. You might be wondering why we didn't use beadboard, which seems to be the popular choice for islands these days. I hate beadboard. I think it can look nice but in general, it just doesn't suit my style and that's that. If you like it, use it. I don't, so I didn't.
Adding molding and valances and toekicks to the cabinets was one of the most important tasks in making our kitchen look finished and custom. It was a little tricky, admittedly, but it was 100% worth it. I did a lot of brainstorming to figure out how to attach molding to the top of the cabinetry in a pretty and seamless way because 1) Ikea cabinet bones and doors are flush so there's no lip and 2) we had about a 4" gap between the tops of cabinets and the ceiling. Why a 4" gap? I didn't want the cabinets to be too high because I'm short and I didn't want to have to tiptoe to reach the bottom shelf. Also, our ceiling slopes slightly so I didn't want to emphasize that imperfection. Take a look at Sarah Richardson's advice on making over a kitchen with big-box suppliers for an example of cabinets that aren't taken right to the ceiling (she's awesome).

To attach our molding to the tops of the cabinets, we just attached little pieces of wood to the cabinets using a strong adhesive and then used a nail gun to secure the molding to those wood pieces. This technique made it so that we didn't have to actually poke any holes into the cabinets themselves.
To attach the deco strips, we used tiny baby L-brackets, which worked out nicely. You can see a small gap in the joint, but don't worry. We'll be using caulk to fill in the joints to make everything look seamless and perfect. You can also see what a difference adding trim made to the wall around the hood. It looks so much more complete and professional, don't you think?

We also had to put together our dining set and bar stools. We stained a plain pine table (yes, it's from Ikea as well) using an antique stain. I really love the way it looks. One thing you will notice (when I eventually share my finished kitchen) is how tiny the table is, and yes, that choice was purposeful. My family has a tendency to take any bit of available horizontal surface area and cover it in stuff. What stuff? I don't even know. Just any stuff that's available to be put on a countertop or tabletop or windowsill, and it creates clutter and I hate it. Without this space available to us, we will be forced to finally put things away and/or throw things away and it will be marvelous.
You might wonder what we will do about entertaining. Honestly, we don't entertain enough to make me worry about it. When my extended family is invited to come over (I have 4 aunts and 2 uncles in the US, dozens of cousins - most of whom have kids, so we have a pretty big family), we usually set up a buffet-style meal. The younger people head upstairs to watch television and eat around the coffee table, the matriarchs sit at the dining table, and the men sit at a Korean fold out table, Asian style (a.k.a. on the floor). I don't anticipate it being a big deal. Plus, I wasn't going to design my kitchen/dining room around the prospect of having one annual party.
Lighting, of course, is super important. We picked out track lighting and a pretty glass pendant light from Ikea and kept our chandelier. We used the default bulbs that's meant for the track lighting, a vintage-style Edison bulb for the pendant light, and 'daylight' bulbs for the chandelier. They don't all give off the same color of light but honestly, it's not a big deal. The daylight bulbs perfectly mimic daylight and brighten up the entire room and they don't clash with the other lights. The track lighting provides a little extra spotlight for when we're using the stove and when we're sitting at the island and doing dishes in the sink. And the pendant light provides a little visual candy in the foyer, which is fine because it's more of a decorative piece than a functional one and that's an acceptable purpose for the space.
The last little bit of work we had to do, that still falls under the category of finishing touches, is putting everything away. We have a lot of stuff (and I ordered some new stuff) and it had to be organized properly so that our kitchen could run efficiently. And of course, there was all of the decorative touches, which I actually just finished.

Oh, and once that was done, I treated myself to an ice cream for a job well done. FYI, these are the Blue Bunny mini birthday cake cones and they are awesome. Don't mind the clutter in the background - most of that stuff is down in the kitchen now, thank goodness.
Thanks for reading. Next post will be the completed kitchen! EEP!

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