renovation post-mortem: kitchen

Kitchen Main View-1

Now that we’ve had some time to live with the decisions we made in our renovation, I’m going to occasionally look at how different aspects of it turned out.

The kitchen is typically the most functional room in the house, and receives the biggest investments in appliances and built-in furniture. So let’s start there.

On the whole, our kitchen turned out really well. But there are a few areas where we could have done better.

  1. Though not visible in the photos, we put the monorail lights on a dimmer switch. Completely unnecessary.
  2. The switch for the dispose-all (hidden behind the coffee canister) is a little far from the sink. Not a serious problem, but there it is.
  3. The spacing between the counters and the wall-hung cabinets is 18“; the cabinets also have a deep lower lip (hiding the undercabinet lights) that puts the bottom shelf about 21” above the counter. This means we have only two shelves that are readily accessible, and that’s because we have positioned them close together (see below). If I had this to do over again, I’d use 15“ spacing and less lip.


The island is very useful. Several people (including our contractor) suggested that we should have designed it as a peninsula rather than an island. This would have bought us an extra 36” of counter space and storage below, but at the cost of poorer traffic flow, which was a high priority for us.

Kitchen Island

Storage underneath the island is open to the kitchen, and contains pots and pans, small appliances, and the microwave. Someday we may get tired of kneeling down to get at the microwave, but for now, this is acceptable.

The butcher-block work surface on the island turned out to be even better than we hoped. Having a continuous five-foot long cutting board where you can spread out is a practical luxury. We do almost no prep work on the quartz-composite countertop, although it is handy for rolling out dough.

Storage for cookware in general is adequate but tight—we need to stack some things just so in order for them to fit. Considering the amount of room we had to work with, it’s an acceptable compromise. We could use an extra 6 sq ft or so of base-cabinet storage, but there was really nowhere in the kitchen we could have found it.

Storage for foodstuffs in the pantry is fine, and the elfa shelving there came in handy. We repositioned the shelves three times in the first week to get everything just-so, and being able to look up through the wire shelves is surprisingly handy. We still need to optimize the spice drawers by getting a bunch of matching-size jars. Note that, for lack of anywhere else to put it, we’ve stuck the toaster in the pantry (lucky thing there was already an outlet there). Note also our “liquor cabinet” on a low shelf, and cookbooks on a higher shelf. Normally the pantry is covered by some cheap white curtains, which I’ve got pulled to one side in this picture.

Especially considering its size, traffic patterns are good, and two people can work in the kitchen without getting in each others’ way. Landing pads for pots and pans around the stove are a little crowded, but in practice not a big problem. Keeping the island as an island—rather than as a peninsula—was for the best.

Kitchen floorplan

We had originally planned on hanging a pot rack over the island, but once we got moved in, we decided we didn’t really need it, and that it would create too much visual clutter. We’ve also been planning on hanging some sheetmetal on one of the walls to use as a magnet board, but we’ve never quite figured out where it should go. We like having the walls clear. That magnet board might wind up in the office.

Getting custom cabinets rather than factory-made cabinets was a bit of a contentious issue during the renovation, but in retrospect was the only way to go. Factory-made cabinets would not have been available in precise fits for all the spaces in this kitchen (nor in the custom height of our island), and when you need to make the most of available space, you really don’t want to round down even 3“. These cabinets are also really nice and solid, so they feel like a good value. The quartz composite countertop is another of those practical luxuries, and so is an undermount sink—both make cleanup a little bit easier, and when it’s something you do at least once a day, those little bits add up. And as trivial as it seems, the high neck on the sink—something I insisted on over Gwen’s objection—is another little thing that makes my life easier (since I do most of the dishes). It makes it easier to move big pots and pans in the sink.

2 thoughts on “renovation post-mortem: kitchen”

  1. That’s an awful lot of room you have set aside for “refer.”

    Seriously though it’s interesting to see your design decisions and how they’re turning out for you. Looks very user friendly. I like the lighting.

  2. dragonfly jenny

    It looks great! Damn, y’all are ORGANIZED! And it’s good that you were really aware of your priorities, so you could stick to your guns when lotsa folks were recommending a peninsula instead of an island.

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