Make my kitchen fan-freakin'-tastic!
February 22, 2013 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I am getting ready to do a kitchen remodel. I've been thinking about this since before we bought the house 6 years ago, and am finally ready to take the plunge. Give me your best kitchen ideas!

I've perused other kitchen remodel threads, like this one, this one, and this one, but would still appreciate any other thoughts.

The kitchen is a good size and overall good layout. I'm leaning towards refacing the cabinets since the overall amount of storage and layout are fine, we just want to update the look. We are replacing the stove, dishwasher and microwave (we bought the fridge--counter depth, faux stainless, side-by-side--6 years ago and don't need to replace it now). We are replacing the existing L-shaped island with a more space-efficient rectangular one.

Ideas I'm considering that I'd love feedback on from those who've done it:
--soapstone counters (spendy, but I'm drawn to a natural, matte surface with character. alternatives I should consider given those desires?)
--undermount fireclay or cast iron/enameled sink (I have an enameled sink now, and prefer it to stainless)
--garden window (love the idea of an unobstructed view over the sink, but too difficult to keep clean?)
--glass tile backsplash (will this look too dated in a few years?)
--drawers in the island, retro-fit pullouts/rollouts in the existing base cabinets
--microwave in the island, instead of over the stove (easier to reach, but too weird/trendy?)
--replacing a single set of upper cabinets with cabinets that go all the way down to the counter, to hide "landing zone" type stuff (mail, keys, bills, etc.)
--mostly drawers in the new island, for things like my home office stuff, kidbubbaclees' school stuff, etc. (is there any other kind of awesome island storage I should be thinking about?)

Plus, what kitchen thing do you have that you absolutely luuuurve? Thanks!
posted by msbubbaclees to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
I cannot speak highly enough about our Zodiaq countertops. They look great, they're basically indestructible, and the price was pretty reasonable. I'd recommend going into a Home Depot or whatever to take a look at some samples, at least.

We did a glass tile backsplash, and I don't care if it'll eventually look dated or not -- it's cheerful, it's easy to clean and I love how it looks. Definitely make sure you're using the right kind of grout and seal it properly, though -- we neglected that last bit a little and we have some maintenance to do as a result.

The things I love the most about our kitchen:

Cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling -- no gap for dust to accumulate, and lots of extra storage for things we don't have to reach all the way.

A built in cookbook shelf and wine rack that our contractor put together -- it feel self-indulgent but it's just been SO HANDY.

A roll-out pantry -- much much easier to find things, particularly little jars of spices or boxes of tea. We used to have condiments that would kind of migrate to the back of our cabinets, forgotten and never used -- no longer!

(We took a lot of photos of our kitchen for the folks who did the design for us -- you can see them here on their Facebook page, if you're curious)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:17 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

I can speak to some of this!

I have a flat window, over my sink and everyone who sees it is jealous as hell. As it is, it's a pain to clean, if you get one of those green house ones, it will be even moreso.

Glass tile backsplash. Yeah, I think it's too trendy to last. I opted for plain, white subway tiles and I'm really pleased with the result.

Microwave in the island, is good, or over the stove. On the counter (like mine) not so good.

I like drawers in the island, do them really deep so you can put the weird appliances you only use a few times a year in there.

I want to retrofit my cabinets with roll out thingies. So good idea there.

We manually refaced my cabinets with fingertip moulding, and painted them (they were 1962 dark stained oak.) We then replaced a trash compactor with a Ready Assembled, unpainted piece we got from Home Depot. We took the regular doors off, and fabricated new doors out of MDF and fingertip moulding. Painted to match. Then when we got the granite counters, we had to have the sink cabinet remade, and we did the flat door/fingertip moulding and paint thing again. It's very versitile!

I love the hardwood floors in the kitchen. Those were matched and site finished to blend in with the existing floors. Excellent value, excellent looking. So pretty.

I go weak in the knees when I think of my broom closet. We took an eat-in kitchen nook and added a run of cabinets, ending in the broom closet. So much good space!

I also love that we knocked out a huge part of the wall between the kitchen and the dining area. So much light!

I had a Farmhouse sink from Ikea that we loved, but when we got the counters, we replaced with an undermounted one. I kind of miss the sink.

Have fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2013

(ugh, "Don't have to reach all the TIME" -- missed the blasted edit window, too!)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2013

I have an open dish rack right above the dishwasher where all our day to day plates, bowls, coffe cups, etc go. It is the simplest thing in the world to empty the dishwasher every morning.
posted by readery at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Get a sink like this one. I got a ceramic one from American (That I can't locate now). Having the drain in the corner means you can use the garbage disposal even when the sink is loaded and you can also fit a baking sheet in there.
posted by Ferrari328 at 2:27 PM on February 22, 2013

Externally vented and very powerful hood over the stove.
posted by slkinsey at 2:31 PM on February 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

I would love a water tap over the stove and cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling. I would also like more drawers in my kitchen, the deep cabinets are hard to get into.
posted by florencetnoa at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2013

I have something similar (mine DIY version: a wire shelf spanning the cabinets on either side of my sink.) of what readery mentions and it's awesome because drying racks always get kinda grody and the alternative of not having a drying rack (like my inlaws do) is annoying. Google "dish drying closet" for other options.
posted by vespabelle at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2013

i love the penny tile look. i don't think this will look dated in a few years at all, as long as you keep the colors neutral enough.

as a huge baker, i also love the pioneer woman's flour/sugar drawers. seems so much easier to scoop flour out of a giant drawer rather than a little canister.
posted by kerning at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

A proper stove hood would be my #1 suggestion. It makes it practical to use high heat on top of the stove, e.g. you can grill a steak or make a stir fry without setting off all the smoke alarms.
posted by mr vino at 3:05 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

A river sink. Holla!
posted by HeyAllie at 3:09 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have all drawers on the bottom half of the kitchen, with the exception of under the sink and one pull out cabinet for baking sheets. I love it! Get an over sized sink if you can. Ours is small and I hate it. We also have little apothecary drawers under one cabinet and I really like them. They're perfect for things like sauce packets (taco seasoning, chili seasoning, etc.) I keep candy in another, another holds snack nuts, and there are candy making supplies in the last one.
posted by wwartorff at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2013

Kitchen countertops normally have a 28-inch depth but we extended ours to 32 and it makes all the difference. There is room for stuff like the coffee maker and the toaster AND room to prep food without removing said appliances.

You can get granite done in a matte finish.

I do think glass tiles will be out-of-style very soon (if they're not already).

We have a HUGE window in front of the sink and I lovelovelove it. It can be a pain to clean but I don't care. Love it.

Nthing stove hood. I have one that's nearly commercial grade and I can't believe how wonderful it is and I will never live without one again.

My main sink is big enough to put a cookie sheet in it, flat. It's super deep, too, so it can be full of dishes (like during a dinner party) and you can't see the dirty from the table. Wonderful. Also, stay away from sharp corners in the sink if you can; rounded corners make it SO MUCH EASIER to clean.

Double ovens are fantastic if you entertain frequently or host big family events a couple times a year. I like the idea of the microwave in the island. I think it makes the kitchen look less busy at eye-level.

On preview, yes to all drawers on the bottom.
posted by cooker girl at 3:34 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're looking for an interesting natural matte countertop I saw some cool looking all-wood countertops at IKEA. They weren't cheap, but they looked warm and amazing.
posted by steinwald at 4:00 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When redoing a very 80s kitchen, I ran across the Kitchens forum at the Gardenweb site

These proved to be invaluable as I had never taken on a kitchen renovation and had no idea where to start, what questions to ask, where to find information. It gave me many ideas on products to buy, which to avoid, design trends. I just can't say enough good about it.

The kitchen forum caters to the TKO (totally kitchen obsessed) while the appliances, lightings, and related forums help with their respective areas.

I am in no way connected with gardenweb but couldn't let your question pass without letting you know about this resource. Good luck..
posted by Ginesthoi at 4:13 PM on February 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you're looking for a more reasonably priced countertop, I'd check out concrete. You can DIY it if you're into it, but there are loads of places that will install these custom for you. I've had the joy of dealing with them in a commercial food setting, and they're fantastic.

They can be stained to match just about any color scheme, and should also be sealed. If done properly, they're pretty easy to clean.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:29 PM on February 22, 2013

These may not be part of your scope of work, but I've see these in other kitchens & thought they were great:
- a slide-out garbage/recycling bin that it part of the lower cabinet run.
- an under-mount compost container with a hole in the counter, right next to the prep area. Just slide those peels right in there!
- a bar-height counter area (one side of the island?) where folks can sit & chat with the cook.

As you plan, cast a critical eye on your existing lighting and electric outlets. It doesn't sound like you are planning to open up any walls, but this is your best opportunity to make changes. (built-in speakers connected to your stereo!)
posted by TDIpod at 6:59 PM on February 22, 2013

Our quartz countertops are wonderful.

My main advice, tho, is about sinks. If you go with a pricy countertop material and an undercount/top mount sink, it really turns into some money. First, they charge you for the countertop area that will be replaced by the sink (that's often $300). Then, they charge you to cut the hole in the countertop ($250). Then, you need to buy a sink, and it's pretty easy to spend $400 on a decent one.

Instead, we bought the aforementioned IKEA farmhouse sink ($180). The counter material doesn't run in front of or behind the sink. So you don't pay for the material, or for a hole to be cut, and we love the sink– kinda small, but that means more counter and since it's just one cavity it's larger than either side of a two-cavity sink.

Since you're keeping your cabinets this advice may be moot.
posted by carterk at 8:10 PM on February 22, 2013

Best answer: Matte stone countertops? Let me share what I learned about these during the renovation we did last year. We ended up with soapstone in most of the bathrooms and slate countertops in the kitchen and in one bathroom. If we had it to do over again, we likely would have gone entirely with slate.

Materials: We definitely like the matte stone look. I also wanted material that was as strong and maintenance free as possible. I always liked slate, so I googled "slate countertops" out of curiosity and stumbled upon the article linked above. I ordered some samples - big flat polished tiles a foot square - and we put them on our existing counters and used the for a while.

Slate works well. The downside is that it scratches and leaves white marks, but this only happens when very hard things get dragged across it, and you can fix it in an instant by literally "wiping the slate clean" - some soap and water clean it up, or some mineral oil in the worst cast. The upside is that (for good slate) it is essentially impervious to chemicals and heat, and is very strong. We tried everything we could on it - oils, acids, sharpie markers - and everything cleaned up pretty easily - some steel wool took the very worst of anything off. It has a matte finish, comes in cool colors and has some streaking or patterns - "movement" the designers call it. There is no need to seal it or anything but clean it with soap and water. You can put mineral oil on it if you want to bring out the movement, but it dries off eventually and looks splotchy while it does, plus you can see the small scratches.

And because I really liked chem lab countertops for look and durability we also looked at soapstone. It was harder to get large samples, so we couldn't work on the surface, but we tried all the same chemicals and it was also impervious. There is a lot more information about soapstone than slate, so it seemed risky, so we decided to get soapstone for the bathrooms.

Cost and suppliers: here is the deal: if you go to a kitchen place near you and ask for soapstone or slate, they will likely quote you a price that is well over the cost of granite. In fact, the price I was quoted for soapstone was $99 per sq ft, and slate was over $100 per sq ft. This is insane, and you can do much better. We have over 70 sq ft of countertops in our kitchen, and price was an issue, and we got it for much less.

Good quality impervious slate is quarried in Vermont and New York. You can buy it directly from the quarry for $40 a sq ft - we bought ours from Sheldon Slate, and I flew up pretty cheaply on Southwest to visit the quarry and pick slabs. Oh, the $40 is for the finished size, not the whole slab. We ended up with enough left over material to make an extra countertop for a laundry area. Shipping to the DC area cost about $600. I found a fabricator (recommended by the quarry, through they were not that awesome) who agreed to do the final fabrication and installation for a flat fee instead of a sq foot price. The slabs were shipped to them, and they did all the work. Overall, all costs included, it ended up about $65 per sq ft, which is almost half of what I was quoted and which is similar to good granite. We got light green slate for the kitchen, in part because it came in larger slabs, and grey slate for one of the baths. The grey is cool but would be too busy in large pieces. We are really happy with it to date.

Soapstone mostly comes from overseas, but it is still quarried in Virginia at Alberene Soapstone. Again, I drove down to the quarry and picked out slabs. We mostly got Old Dominion, but for the nice ground floor guest bath we got Alberene. The Old Dominion is pretty soft, and got small chips in a few spots during the installation. It is more grey in color naturally. You can treat it with something like Tenex Tiger Ager and it makes it look wet, which is pretty, but for now we haven't treated it though we might for a change later. Is was about $29 per sq ft, if I recall correctly. The Alberene is nicer, much harder and darker, though it was $39 a sq ft, and the slab sizes are smaller.

In the end we like it all, but like the slate better. It has cool patterns (especially along the edges) and has a very nice feel to it, but Alberene soapstone is also nice. The Old Domion is ok, it may grown on me more if we treat it to darken it.

Send me an email address by memail and I can send you some pictures of what we ended up with, if you like, as well as slab pictures if you want to see what it looks like (this offer valid for other MeFites as well).
posted by procrastination at 8:18 PM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

If disposal then get an air switch. Takes the walk switch away and is safer.
posted by Freedomboy at 9:06 PM on February 22, 2013

Something we've had for two places now: 40" countertops. Wow.

Even our friends who are 5'2" agree that it's far more convenient to reach things at elbow-height instead of just-under elbow height. If you have space for a bar-height anything, put your dishwasher there, and raise it so that the top of the dishwasher is just under the countertop lip (with a drawer underneath for towels or what-have-you).

Your back will thank you.
posted by Seeba at 2:33 PM on February 23, 2013

40" tall countertops, that is - - - instead of the standard 36".

2nding cooker girl that 32" deep is the way to go.
posted by Seeba at 2:35 PM on February 23, 2013

We did a complete kitchen overhaul and remodeling of our 11x19 foot kitchen last year.

The three things we did that I'm most proud of:

1) Our tile guy suggested epoxy grout, which will not stain like regular grout, although it costs a bit more, as does the installation. This was money well spent.

2) We had all electrical switches and outlets on strips at the base of the upper cabinets against the wall where the tiled areas are. This way, no switch plates interrupt the pattern of the tiles (which are white subway tiles with a few colorful accent tiles we got from Israel. We have 28 electrical outlets, and about 20 of them are on the strips, out of site from normal eye level perspective. It sounds like a lot, but we NEVER have to unplug anything to plug something else in. Also, we had the switch for the garbage disposal put inside the cabinet under the sink instead of on the tile wall.

3) We have xenon under cabinet lights, because I hate fluorescent lights. We also replaced 450 watts worth of overhead halogen lighting with 18 watts worth of LCD cans, and have great illumination. the LCD lights were way more expensive than halogen or incandescent would have been, but we're saving a lot of energy and the light is clean and bright.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:10 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

We just redid ours last year. Stuff we now have that I absolutely love:

- Zodiaq countertops; they are all that.
- French door fridge with a big freezer drawer under (it's counter depth too so stuff doesn't hide in the back and spoil)
- cabinets flush with ceiling, omg so much more storage for all those weird things like the giant roasting racks & soforth that we use once a year but REALLY REALLY NEED when we do.
- Drawers, big deep ones, NOT cabinets, for all the under-counter storage. Really. Almost every new place in Europe we've seen does this and there's a reason - it is tremendously space efficient. Also easier to store a bunch of stacks of random plates and bowls in a big drawer-with-dowels than in a little dinky cabinet.
- get "frameless" cabinets for the ones you do have - ours were something we found at Home Depot and there's an incredible amount of space inside because it's not being eaten up by a useless decorative door frame.
- we moved the sink from the 50's era facing-the-window awkward corner, to front and center, facing outward in the middle island, with lots and lots of prep space on both sides and the dishwasher directly to our (dominant) right hand side. It is FANTASTIC for working on stuff with people in the house because even if you're washing dishes or prepping food, you still get to be social.

We had the luxury of working with an architect who is also a friend of ours, but we also budgeted extra to pay him to design all of this stuff right and figure out all the "gotchas" and space and materials weirdness that may come up during the project. Our kitchen was originally a little near-galley thing in a midcentury modern 1000 s.f. ranch house. We originally had an annoying partition wall in between the kitchen and livingroom / dining area. We demo'd the partition and installed the island instead, but we were still working with limited space in which my husband wanted to fit a ginormous fridge and 36" induction cooktop and massive wall oven/microwave combo. So yeah, we had to be extremely savvy with every millimeter of space.

It was worth every penny we paid our architect, because we didn't run into problems with fitting appliances into the design or figuring out how many stupid GFI outlets we'd need, or how to seam the countertops so it wouldn't show, etc. This is why you hire professionals for big ticket jobs like this.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

ooh imjustsaying reminded me: we also replaced our incredibly crappy lighting (basically a huge dim ceiling fixture with CFLs coupled with a weak stovetop incandescent) with a combination of LED undermount strips on all the cabinets for surface lighting, and half a dozen dimmable LED cans, plus some decorative pendant lights which are incandescent still but also dimmable. It makes the fact that we effectively turned our kitchen into part of our living / "great" room work, because we can control the lighting such that we can vary the mood and illumination accordingly. Also the undermount LED surface lighting is focused and bright enough that I can work on stuff in the kitchen while my husband is gaming on the TV in the livingroom without it bothering him (no screen glare from the lights).
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:00 AM on February 24, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all the ideas!

Good to see that many agree with getting a hood. I'd been wondering if that was just too decorative to be worth it.

Kerning, thanks for the penny tile recommendation, that is a fun look

I see a couple of you love your big windows--I think I would too. This might have to depend on how much budget we have left, though…

Procrastination, that is terrific information about soapstone and slate options!!

Thanks again everyone!
posted by msbubbaclees at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2013

Response by poster: I marked a couple of best answers, since those were the ones that helped me most in my specific situation (the gardenweb site is a terrific resource, and procrastination's advice about slate and soapstone was perfect for me). But, tons of great ideas here for anyone else considering a kitchen remodel.
posted by msbubbaclees at 8:13 AM on March 9, 2013

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