Part II: designing our new kitchen

I know we’ve kept you waiting for too long. So, without further ado, here’s the reveal of our kitchen reno! 
When we left off, we had finished reinforcing the structure in the basement to carry the load for the new open concept space and the bulkhead was built to hide the beam and HVAC.

As our goal of removing that wall was to create a more functional space, we wanted to add an island to provide extra cabinet storage and counter space. We leaned on the good folks at IKEA as they have a sizeable inventory and selection. A helpful tip: ikea has a few kitchen events each year and it can save you considerably if you’re looking to redo parts or all of your kitchen. When we purchased our cabinets and counter, they were offering $100 store credit for every $1,000 spent. Not a small savings!


The existing wall of cabinets was white so we went two-tone with the island and opted for a light grey base cabinets. As the kitchen lacked counterspace, we wanted to find somewhere to hide the microwave. We ended up with an open cabinet in the middle with electrical included (which is to code for islands in Ontario.) Oh, and because our contractor wasn’t much of a craftsman, we needed to find a solution to the butchered island sides. We ended up wrapping them in reclaimed barn board from our recently opened local barnboard store



In terms of counters, we wanted a product that would work well with both cabinet colours as well as our backsplash. The limited counter space also meant that we could spend a little bit more on the surface material. We used granite in a previous kitchen reno and didn’t want to go that route this time around. We considered butcher block (which we used in another previous reno) and liked its warmth and uniformity, but as the kitchen opened into the dining room with hardwood floors, a built-in wood buffet and original wood trim, we thought it could be overkill. Ultimately, we decided on a white speckled quartz. Reason being, we liked the look and feel of the stone but also liked the low maintenance that came with it. Unlike granite which needs to be sealed every few years or risk staining, and wood which needs to be treated regularly to avoid water damage, quartz is a man-made product which requires no maintenance beyond surface cleaning.

The biggest pop of colour in the kitchen comes from the backsplash. In a previous kitchen reno (the one with the granite counters), we found a 1×2″ frosted glass tile called Polar Frost. That was one of our favourite design features we’ve used in any of our projects and we knew we wanted to capture that look in a future reno. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find that exact tile again and we had a difficult time finding any neutral glass subway tiles that we could agree on. Once we’d exhausted the big two big box stores, we checked Rona on a whim. Sure enough, they had a 3×6″ grey glass tile (Tom thinks it’s green, but hey, to each their own…) in stock and, wait for it, on clearance! It worked out to around $2.50/sq ft, so we bought what we needed and a few extra cases for future projects! We paired that with a bright white grout which really pops. The lesson here is to never rule out the smaller retailers (Rona, Home Hardware, Ace Hardware) and your local hardware stores as they may just have what you need!

The range hood was a great find. We knew we wanted the stainless chimney stack style hood, but we’re ok with passing it up if it didn’t make financial sense. Most prices for these products were beyond what we wanted to pay so we were content going without. However, while at IKEA ordering our counters, I looked at their hood selection on a whim and found this baby in the clearance section…for less than half of what the Home Depots of the world were listing them. Sold!


We retired the ceiling fan light fixture in the kitchen (seriously?!) and updated the lighting to recessed pot lights. This was done to improve the light quality but also allow the addition of two pendant lights over the island without creating too much visual stimulation.

Essentially, the kitchen, dining room and adjoining hall were one space at this point, so we felt that it all needed on consistent paint colour. We went with light grey to support the other design choices, like he cabinets and counters. The rooms had some existing bead board wainscotting and we had blended drywall with plaster in a few spots so it could all use a freshening up!

To finish off the space we added a few unique and original visual pieces to really make it our own. We painted the door leading out to the back deck a navy blue to pick up those grey and blue scale notes. Our talented friend Jaime Drayer designed a couple of art pieces to spice up the new bulkhead columns. (Can anyone name the song reference for the “collard greens” piece? I’ll give you a hint: think west coast!) Finally, we blew up the land survey which was done on our property in 1985 (which is older than me!) and had it printed on canvas and mounted. Our daughter thought it needed some extra lines so she added them in…with marker. We took a magic eraser to it which worked well, but decided to leave some of it on the canvass. Why? Now it’s a truly original piece for our house and family and, at the end of the day, this whole project was to create a space for our family to come together to make memories. Now we have a memorable piece of art our child helped create…and an interesting story to tell!


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