Kitchen Renovation — Inspiration and Plans

There are so many things I love about our house. I love the original features, like the hardwood floors, tall ceilings, and original windows and transoms over the door frames. And I love the way that we’ve made it our own. Unfortunately, I did not feel the same way about our kitchen. So, naturally, we decided to rip the whole thing out and start from scratch.

Before:

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Our kitchen, dining, and living areas are all one open room, so I wanted the kitchen to look like it belonged in the same space. The rest of the room feels cozy and collected — I guess what people would call “eclectic”. We have a lot of antique and mid century modern furniture, travel knick-knacks, art on the walls, and colorful Persian rugs. We’ve focused on natural or honest materials like wood, wicker, brick, wool, and linen. My goal was to bring those same vibes to the kitchen. However, that’s so not what kitchens are like, by their very nature! Kitchens are all about uniform cabinets, cold stainless steel appliances, and straight-up functionality. It was a challenge figuring out how to bring warmth and visual interest to a mostly practical space.

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In addition to reflecting our personal taste, there were other considerations too. As a historic preservationist at heart, I wanted to honor the 100-plus lifetime of the house and make choices that seemed period-appropriate. And as a Realtor, I had resale value and increased equity in mind. I’m not sure how long we’ll be in this house, but I don’t want it to look dated or worn out by the time we decide to sell it. Basically, I wanted the kitchen to look timeless and not (too) trendy.

Floors

I seriously considered mosaic tile (Galatoire’s style) or some ornate Victorian pattern— both would add some much-needed old world style to the kitchen. At the end of the day, I decided that would be too stark of a contrast to the hardwood floors in the rest of the room. So I tracked down some salvaged wood that would match the grain and width of the existing floors. In a city like New Orleans, with historic houses and renovations around every corner, salvaged material is big business. I was found a supplier who was just about to pull some heart of pine tounge-and-groove out of a 1910s house in Greensboro, Louisiana. Perfect.

For fun, my rejected flooring ideas [click the picture for the source]:

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Cabinets

Over many years of reading design blogs and living vicariously through other people’s renovations, I’ve seen some amazing Ikea kitchens, often with Semihandmade doors. Ikea cabinets are an affordable option with just as much integrity, quality, and warranty as more expensive alternatives. And considering that a local company, Blue Bag, will deliver and install Ikea kitchens in New Orleans, it was an easy choice to make. The Bodbyn doors, a medium gray with traditional paneling, was the Goldilocks choice. Not too dark or too light (I’ve seen too many white kitchens). Not too rustic or too modern. Although Semihandmade had some great (mostly shaker-style) options, I didn’t love them enough to add another factor to the renovation.

Some examples of gray Bodbyn cabinets in action:

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Open Shelving

Open shelving is one thing where I totally surrendered to a trend. I had my reasons though. Hopefully, displaying kitchenware on shelves will elevate them to objets d’art, which will kind of replicate the way we display other knick knacks around the house. Airy shelves instead of blocky upper cabinets should give the kitchen a similar balance as the rest of the room. Speaking of “airy,” I intend to have totally floating shelves — as if by magic. The key is having thick enough wood that you can bore holes in the middle and hide the brackets.

Some artfully arranged floating shelves:

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Countertops

I was probably the most excited about new countertops. I’ve been dreaming of luscious Carrera marble for forever. Now, marble comes with many, many caveats. And everyone in the world will try to tell you that you’re making the most foolish choice! Yes, I know it’s a soft stone. Yes, I know it can stain and etch. But I want it anyway. A couple of articles helped me feel much more comfortable with my choice (here & here).

In my mind, nothing can compete with the warmth and beauty of marble. I felt that honed (matte) Carrera marble was the absolute right choice for the antique look that I was going for in my kitchen. And I decided that I will welcome the patina it will develop over time. Coincidentally, around the time of making this decision, we visited Charleston and saw Carrera marble bars/counters/tables everywhere. And they looked great despite all the red wine, lemon juice, and who-knows-what that has surely been spilled on them by thousands of people!

I especially like the combination of marble counters and matching backsplash:

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 Backsplash

Yes, I mentioned that marble backsplash already. I also had another grand idea:

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We saw so much beautiful tile on our trip to Morocco and Spain — like works of art! I think this 30″ by 30″ space in the kitchen will be the perfect opportunity to splurge on something beautiful. Moroccan cement tiles are definitely having a moment right now, so I’m going to proceed cautiously there. I have my eye on some hand-painted terracotta tiles at Stafford Tile & Stone. I think the latter will be a more timeless look.

Something like this:

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 Appliances & Fixtures

This aspect of the planning was all about functionality. Ok, maybe a bit about form as well. We chose a matching KitchenAid appliance suite with a somewhat industrial or “professional” look (this was the showroom consultant’s lingo and apparently all the rage right now). Despite this description, I actually think that the style really suits our home, because it kind of evokes an era when appliances were more utilitarian-looking. Anyway, my main concern with the appliances was actually resale value. Buyers like the appliances to match and trust certain brands etc. We also chose a touchless faucet, which I’m actually kind of excited about. It’s something I never thought I needed or wanted, but it was a fun way to embrace some extreme modernity in an otherwise traditional kitchen.

Final touches

The accessories will really allow me to warm up this kitchen and bring in some textures that we have in the rest of the room. I’m thinking…

simple unlacquered brass hardware that will patina over time:

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large wicker pendant light over the island that matches our Marcel Breuer Cesca dining chairs and reed roll-up shades:

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either arched or bare-bulb wall sconces over the shelving:

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and another vintage Persian rug or runner, of course:

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So far, we’ve done the demo and made most of the decisions. Wish me luck that everything goes according to plan!