Best things from your remodel or renovation
April 22, 2021 10:27 PM   Subscribe

I am about to embark on the journey of a bathroom, kitchen, laundry, and bedroom remodel. Tell me what worked and did not work when you did yours.

Though my money has not done bad things to me, I seem to do my damndest to drive it away thus, remodeling a house. It has been a while since I suffered this pain. What things, items, or designs were worth it? Did those toe-kick drawers a good idea? Regrets on the kitchen sink on the island? Tell me your pleasures and your pain because I want to share in one and avoid the other. Your wisdom is appreciated and links, too.
posted by jadepearl to Home & Garden (48 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Obviously a lot depends on layout, size, and how much you hate your money, but one thing we did because we had 3 young children two of whom thought getting dirty and muddy was their job, was to put in two washers and two dryers in our laundry room. Also, we made the toilet area private. Didn't have a separate door, but was a short wall that gave some privacy when the shower was in use.

A small peeve of mine, and YMMV, is a pot filler by the stove. Waste of money moving pipes, etc. You can fill a big pasta pot with water without having to carry it, but you still have to carry a heavy and potentially hot pot to the sink after use.

We put true commercial appliances in and I was very happy for the huge double door refrigerator, but the style is not for everyone.
posted by AugustWest at 10:57 PM on April 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

1. We had our lower cabinets made of drawers. Drawers everywhere. Absolutely no kneeling on the floor and digging in the back of a cabinet.
2. I thought that an under-cabinet mixer lift-stand was ridiculous until I had one. Now I love it. Put a shallow drawer under it for rolling pins, cooling racks, and long bamboo skewers.
3. A+++ for cookie sheet inserts over the fridge and a breadboard cupboard next to the sink, under the little drawer for sink/cleaning thingies.
4. How did I ever live without a broom closet next to the fridge?
5. We have two trash/ recycling pullouts. One has the trash and the mixed recycling, between the sink and the stove where everyone can reach it easily. The other holds the glass recycling and the refundable cans and bottles and is located more out of the way.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:19 PM on April 22, 2021 [13 favorites]

The best thing I ever did was put the laundry in the walk in closet. Hang clothes right out of the washer and dryer.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:27 PM on April 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

SLC Mom, are we the same person?
Probably not, but we have the same stuff. I'd like to add that I was surprised at how little extra it cost to move our gas stove to the opposite side of the kitchen for much better functionality. I would have loved to move the sink a bit too, for more equal counter space on both sides, but there was a structural problem that couldn't technically be solved.

Because I'm insane, I renovated two homes at the same time. In one I did the kitchen but not the bathroom and in the other I did the bathroom not the kitchen.

What I really like about the new bathroom is that it is very, very plain and easy to keep clean. Just square white tiles on the floor and walls. On one wall, there is a huge mirror from side to side, over the sink. It's useful, but also makes the space feel larger and brighter. There's a tub with a shower-head over it, which might not work when I get older and less mobile, but then I'll change it into a shower.
All the other stuff one often has in bathrooms has been moved into a separate scullery/wetroom, where there are all the laundry functions plus three large cupboards for stuff like towels, linen, tablecloths etc. If you can find the space for such a room, I strongly recommend. Cupboards are the secret of style.

What I really like about the new kitchen is that it is very big with lots of counter space, the whole family can cook and eat together or even make separate lunches, which has been priceless during lockdown. The stove has five burners, and the middle one can be converted from a wok burner to a griddle, I love that. The sink is very large and the faucet has a hose-thing, which is absolutely necessary with a large oven.
I was able to lift the ceiling a few inches, and that is lovely too.

I also made a door directly into the garden from my bedroom. I don't use it much as a door, but I enjoy lying in bed, looking at the deer eat my flowers right next to the door.

A tip you probably won't need but just in case: our farm is an old building with very small rooms, and there was no space to open closet doors if the beds were to have modern sizes. So I made floor-to-ceiling curtains instead of doors. Obviously, I could have used folding or sliding doors, but the white curtains are really decorative and modulate the light in the rooms.
posted by mumimor at 12:48 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

A 900mm wide Fisher & Paykel dishdrawer dishwasher. It fits everything and so ergonomic at waist height. Another major bonus is that no cookware builds up on the counters when you are cooking, nor is the fold down door of most dishwashers in the way of people in the kitchen when you are trying to load it. Every time I use it, I think ‘fuck yeah, you are such an awesome machine, dishdrawer.’
And ! there was room underneath for a slim drawer to put teatowels, mats etc.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:50 AM on April 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

My bathroom remodel regrets:

Think about whether your fixtures will be annoying to clean. I bought some super modern, squared-off, cross-shaped bathroom taps and then cursed myself every time I almost sliced my hand open on their sharp corners while I was cleaning (I moved and now those stupid taps are someone else's problem, but they really did look nice).

Don't do a glass half wall for the shower, you will wind up with water everywhere if you have decent water pressure no matter what the architect/contractor say.

Penny tile floors look nice but it's a lot of grout to keep clean, so beware.

On the positive side:

Definitely add a shower niche for holding shampoo and such.

Subway tile: cheap, looks great, easy to keep looking nice.
posted by snaw at 3:38 AM on April 23, 2021 [9 favorites]

My friends renovated their kitchen & installed full sheets of plywood behind the drywall. Now they can hang anything anywhere & they love it.

Seconding all drawers in base cabinets, this has been life changing.

Give great thought to where/how your recycling & compost will be managed. I wish I would have incorporated a built in mini-fridge just for compost.

If budget allowed we would have use 30" depth counter tops in our kitchen. (a tip I read years ago on Ask). My laundry room countertop is 30" and the extra space is pure luxury.

Our kitchen window was placed lower, with the bottom sill about 6" from the countertop. It gives such a lovely, open vista. Also, it's a crank-out.

We widened and heightened the room openings to our kitchen/dining and livingroom. It had a grand effect and made the 8.5' ceilings look higher.

I never thought I'd feel nostalgic about my reno we are!
posted by i_mean_come_on_now at 4:24 AM on April 23, 2021 [8 favorites]

For our two bathroom renovations, one of the best choices were floor tiles with varied pattern. One is marble hex with a good amount of veining, and the other is porcelain with a variegated pattern. Mid-range colors too, so you don't see dirt or cat fur as easily. We also have white cabinets, sinks, and toilets so we can change the look with towels, and in one case, the shower curtain.
posted by XtineHutch at 4:46 AM on April 23, 2021

We like our toe kick drawers. We may have gone overboard with them, because there are only so many things you can store in there, and because you have to bend down so much I don't personally like using them for stuff that I'm accessing multiple times a day (like cutting boards). But we use them for sheet pans, placemats, and some other random long and flat stuff that we don't get into very much. I think it's worth having at least a couple.

I will add another vote for all drawers on the bottom. Also, we put a very shallow cabinet on the end of our island near the cooktop, that we use for spices. I tried to find a picture of something similar online, but I couldn't. Just imagine cabinet doors on the end of the island that open up, and inside are shelves maybe 2-3" deep for holding spices and such.
posted by primethyme at 5:28 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

We have an outlet inside our bathroom vanity so that the hair dryer can stay plugged in all the time. You just open the drawer and use it.
posted by Horselover Fat at 5:43 AM on April 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Our laundry is right next to the kitchen and now I will never live another way.

What not to do:

Rip out all of your upper cabinets in your kitchen and then never get around to replacing them with anything 5 years later.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 5:43 AM on April 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

- drawers for all lower kitchen cabinets. Radically better.
- power outlets inside your bathroom vanity and/or medicine cabinets. It's great to have your electric toothbrush plugged in but out of sight.

Additional recommendations:
- hooks in the bathroom near the shower/tub (I've harped on this before)
- think about natural light in your bedroom. Not just keeping sunlight out when you want to sleep, but about taking advantage of it in your dressing area, or as an aid in waking you to start your day. For years I slept in a room that had a closet (and mirror) next to an east-facing window and dressing there in the mornings was just ... easy. Nice, even.
posted by minervous at 6:02 AM on April 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

if you don't have a real stove vent that dumps the kitchen air outside, PROPERLY VENT YOUR STOVE. So much better without the cooking smells, and it's important for controlling indoor humidity, too.

More outlets.

More lights: you are only getting older, and your vision will get worse every single day.

If you have a pantry, make one of the overhead lights shine into it (instead of straight down) for better visibility.

Have a sink near your laundry. (Our washer & dryer are behind bi-fold doors in the ground floor half-bath. It's only the hand-washing sink, not a big utility tub -- but it's way better than nothing!)

A toe-kick heater in the kitchen, right by the sink, is so nice on New England winter mornings.

Make sure your bathroom vent fans work, and (in winter-prone areas) that the hose is properly insulated.

We just learned that you can put a small fan, inline in the bathroom vent hose, and constantly push out a little house air -- which brings in dry, fresh air from outside, helping to reduce indoor humidity. (They seem to be pretty much the same as the ones used for radon-control systems, if you have seen those.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:04 AM on April 23, 2021 [11 favorites]

Shower controls that separate temperature and volume. You can dial in the right temperature and just never fiddle with it again. It is glorious.

I also really like the shallow drawer that holds utensils, and measuring cups/spoons at the ready.
posted by lorimt at 6:30 AM on April 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

Agree with the drawers. I let our bathroom guy talk me into half drawers and half cabinets and I hate the cabinets.

More outlets.

Less grout.

Tall toilets, with a bidet, and kitchen height counters in the bathroom. I wish we had two sinks in the bathroom.

We put our laundry on the second floor and it has been life changing. I will always want a gas stove and double ovens. Our kitchen is large but is poorly set up for more that one person to cook in - I would make layout changes to avoid this, including use of an island instead of what amounts to a W shape.

If I were doing a SERIOUS remodel, I would make the bedrooms smaller and give us a fourth one.

We had a built in "cubby area" built by our back door because we don't have a mud room area. They are great; I should have had a third cubby built for the dog's crap.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:40 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

+ 1 to drawers, drawer dishwasher, excessive amounts of outlets and a heated vent near your feet. +1 to quartz if you can afford it; I love not caring about putting down hot pots or cooking trays willy nilly.

If you are above average height, and you plan on living in your space more than 5-10years, consider lifting your counters one inch. Its small enough most people won't notice, but your back will thank you when you are bending over to wash dishes etc. Also if you are tall, make sure the vent above the stove is high enough you don't bonk your head when cooking on the back burners.

If you can't do gas, do induction. It uses less electricity than electric stoves, and when i sear steaks on a cast iron on induction, it's like 95% of the way there to grilling them.

I personally don't care about a massive bathroom; so I took out the massive 2 person sink (in a one bed apt), and took a 2x2 space and made it into a closet. Bathroom flows better, and my storage situation has greatly improved. Ikea mirrors/vanities actually have held up just as well as my fancy kitchen cabinets, so if you have a small bathroom, seriously consider them. (I love the Storjorn, it's a ton of storage, looks modern and clean, the lighting is SUPER flattering and it still looks pretty damn new with daily/careless use 4 years later)
posted by larthegreat at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

We put in an oven with convection and have never used that feature -- but we sure have missed the two inches of space wasted on that stupid fan!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:07 AM on April 23, 2021

We remodeled the kitchen in our previous house, and here's what I miss in the new house:

-Double wall ovens. We had a gas cooktop and under it was more storage (drawers, nthing everyone else above that drawers are the way to go), and then double ovens in the wall. I liked the storage and liked having two ovens.

-My big, one compartment sink. I took cookie sheets with me when we were shopping for sinks and we picked the one that the sheets would lay flat in. One big sink. The sink in the new house is basically the same size but it has a divider in it and I HATE IT.

-The second small sink in the island. Oh, it was so nice to always, always have an empty sink.

-The five feet of uninterrupted island space, straight shot, to prep. Our island now is curved and the sink is in the middle. There's a section that's okay for prep but it's far from the stove. It just doesn't work the way the old kitchen did. It was also really nice for entertaining; turned into a fantastic buffet set up.

-30" depth counters.
posted by cooker girl at 7:17 AM on April 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'll n-th everyone singing the praises of all-lower-drawers instead of cabinets in the kitchen. We did this on the recommendation of our architect, I was skeptical (it felt like wasted space for storing pots/pans) but he was totally right, I'm very happy with it. In fact, I'm now annoyed that we have some deep cabinets in our bathroom from the same remodel that aren't drawers, and looking for ways to add drawer-like pull-out mechanisms because it's ridiculously difficult to access stuff in the back.

We have a modern aesthetic with a focus on clean lines and I love how that turned out throughout the house with two exceptions (which I share in case you also lean modern):

1. The fixtures that the architect ('s assistant) recommended all had really sharp edges. We caught that and changed the order for the most important things - the drawer and handle pulls for the one million cabinets/drawers in the kitchen and bathroom, and the handle for the shower - but did not change it for the towels rods and sink fixtures. I wish we had, I've never cut my hand or anything but they're physically unpleasant to interact with.

2. SQUARE SINK BASINS ARE THE WORST. This is another design that got recommended and I didn't think too hard about and is the single most annoying thing in our house - we have a deep stainless steel square sink basin in the kitchen and square sink basins in the bathrooms. Do you know what happens with a square sink? Water hits whatever you are washing (dishes, muddy hands, etc) and immediately takes the gunk and shoots it into the corners, where it remains. It's a popular but incredibly non-functional design, make sure all your sink basins have rounded edges and tilts to take dirt/food/whatever and actually get it down the drain. I spend so much of my life cleaning sinks now, it's a persistent annoyance in a house that we otherwise designed for easy functionality. Bah.
posted by iminurmefi at 7:22 AM on April 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

A thing we should have done in our bathroom: an outlet near the toilet for a heated toilet seat washlet. I also want dimmable lights in there or a second low light for night time bathroom breaks for our kid.
posted by wsquared at 7:33 AM on April 23, 2021 [7 favorites]

don't do frosted glass in the kitchen (in a backsplash or wall). it's pretty, but very, very hard to clean.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:41 AM on April 23, 2021

cosign iminurmefi's dislike of square sinks - we put a square undermount in our bathroom vanity, and it gets a ton of hard water deposits on it because it doesn't drain normally and is hard to clean.

we put our shower plumbing up through the ceiling so the shower head faces directly downwards - which works well because we have no shower door so it doesn't splash out too much, but it's a "rainfall" type shower head and I miss having a harder pressure sometimes. a lot of them come with a removable wand arm which we opted not to have, but sometimes I wish we had.

If you put a light right in your shower, put it on a separate switch so you don't have to have it on when the other lights are on. I asked for this and our contractor talked me out of it, and I regret it CONSTANTLY.

things I DO like:
-shiny white subway tile with a soft grey grout - easy to clean and doesn't look dirty.
-matte grey tile and matching grout on the floor - not slippery which is nice.
-no towel racks, just hooks. looks a bit messier than nice folded matching towels, but if your towels look messy usually anyways, then it looks neater than disarrayed towel bar.
-fan on a timer, great.
-really neutral vinyl flooring - our bathroom is in the basement and the floor is very cold down there, and the bathroom is the least cold. I'm not a lover of vinyl tile, but these ones are fine!

we spent like, more than I thought was reasonable on plumbing fixtures from an actual lights-and-faucets store, and they're really nice quality.

We stacked our laundry machines and got a tall tower of baskets to sort laundry into that goes beside them, and I love it. I'm short so I can't see all the options on the dryer, but I still like it, unless you are going to build a counter over them or something, which would be even better. I'd love to fold laundry IN the laundry room.
posted by euphoria066 at 7:43 AM on April 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Shower controls that separate temperature and volume.

ie. - Moentrol, not Positemp.

If you're tiling you shower, try to avoid having any outside corners. Modern commercial corner beading is universally ugly and even a solid, through colour porcelain will look clunky unless it's at last partly beveled or relieved on the edge showing...which means extra time and money.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:59 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I did an Ikea kitchen, they had an annual sale and I saved a fair bit. It has held up quite well. I used lots of inserts. Under cupboard lights are really good task lights. I added a fair bit of lighting, all of it needed and used. My cupboards go up to the not very high ceiling, and I like that a lot.; more storage, no stupid empty area. No natural gas where I live, so I got a propane gas stove; huge pain and would not recommend. I swapped stove and fridge so the stove could vent outside - having a properly vented stove is really, really good.

I got actual pressed 'tin' - steel for the backsplash and walls in the kitchen area. Looks good, easy to clean, and magnetic, which is obvious but I hadn't thought about it, and that's kind of fun.

I have a basement bathroom and used a door with a window in it (ReStore) to give a sense of light, and painted the ceiling sky blue with clouds, and it doesn't feel like a basement bathroom. Due to the way pipes were placed on the wall, we built a shallow shelf into the tub/shower wall, really nice for shampoo and stuff. Used leftover foam carpet underlayment to insulate the tub, so baths can be longer and warmer. Insulated bathtubs should be standard, it makes a really big difference. It's a daylight basement, and the bathroom, furnace room, and a big closet use up 1/3 of the space, so the daylight area is maximized for living area.

Washer & dryer are in the downstairs bathroom and someday I'll mount the curtain in front of them. It's next to the furnace room, and I dry 95% of my laundry there. The dryer is mostly for fluffing and de-wrinkling stuff, and I could easily do without it. Mount a hanging rod in the laundry area if you can, so much stuff can be air-dried, saving fossil fuel and making clothes last much longer.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on April 23, 2021

I love my large square kitchen sink. I'd really love an 80/20 double sink, but they don't seem to make those. Instead of a sink on our island, we put our cooktop there. So easy to clean with no greasy mess on a wall, you can watch tv or talk to others while watching a pot.

We have double oven, but I only use the bottom one very once in a while, so I don't think they are worth the cost.

The sink in a window is great - nice to look out the window while washing dishes. It's classic, and no reason to change that.

The shower niche is a great invention - make sure you put one in. Our shower/tub has no place for soap or shampoos - I have no idea what they were thinking in the old days.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:35 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Here's one thing that didn't work great: three-way switches everywhere. If you know what the traffic patterns are in your house, you can decide whether they'll make sense. I was insistent about adding them when renovating a house before moving in, and in some rooms, they just create confusion.

Re: drawers instead of doors in kitchen. We've got some huge drawers, and maybe one of them was installed poorly, or we've overloaded it, but it always kind of gets hung up sliding in and out. I would agree it makes the contents more accessible. On the kitchen island, we've got neither drawers nor doors: just big open shelves (got this idea from Julia Child, who took the doors off all her cabinets).

Also, our kitchen island has a giant maple butcher-block top. I really like having a 5' long cutting board. Obviously you need to be comfortable with your kitchen not looking perfect. We also had it built to a custom height because my wife is short.

Our bedroom is pretty small, and we have no furniture at all except a bed with a built-in side table. We have a 12' wall covered with closets (it would be more accurate to call them giant cabinets, since they're not framed in, they're big plywood boxes with face frames and doors), filled with Elfa. I recommend this general approach.
posted by adamrice at 8:36 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

One more thing I'll add, since we did a remodel very recently. If you're not already aware, the pandemic has slowed down everything. Probably everything you need (cabinets, appliances, flooring, plumbing fixtures, wall tile, hardware, lighting fixtures) will take longer to arrive than you expect. Order it as soon as you have settled on what you need, and allow plenty of buffer time for it to arrive. Don't do any demolition until everything you need to rebuild has arrived, or you might accidentally get stuck with a very long delay with no usable kitchen or bathroom.
posted by primethyme at 8:40 AM on April 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

Oh, I have some STORIES from my renovation, but let me tell you about the stuff I love and the stuff I wish I had done.

Echoing one big sink in the kitchen. I absolutely love this giant thing. My gas stove has big burner covers that easily fit in the sink for soaking/cleaning. I also hand-wash delicates (which includes masks now) and I have a big tub for soaking that fits into the huge sink. I am SO glad I didn't get a sink with a divider.

A properly vented range hood is fantastic.

I put a hidden hamper in my closet and when it is closed it just looks like part of the cabinetry. Not seeing dirty laundry is fantastic.

I converted the main bathroom from a tub/shower to just one big tiled shower with a regular shower head and a handheld and it is GLORIOUS. I didn't go the subway tile route, but rather mixed-texture marbled tiles in a herringbone pattern with a light grey grout. Super easy to keep clean and it looks very pretty and luxurious.

Under-floor electric heating in the bathroom. I did this when I renovated my dad's house in upstate NY, where the winters are absolutely frigid. Because it's a small area of flooring, the cost is relatively low. Mine has a programmable thermostat so I can just set it to be nice and toasty warm for me in the morning.

What I wish I had done:

No square sinks - I have one in the half bath and it's annoying to clean, but at least it's small.

A nook in the shower for shampoo etc. Instead, I have a little teak seat in the corner that has a storage shelf, but it would have looked more sleek if it was just in a nook in the wall.

Heated washlet or bidet situation in the main bathroom. Now that I mention it, I'm going to see if I can add this now.
posted by bedhead at 8:49 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Re under kitchen counter drawers. What I have is regular double cabinet door front which opens up for two wide pull out shelves. They have a 4” tall coated wire “fence” around the perimeters to keep stuff contained. What I like is that there is a lot of height for my crockpot, blender, stock pot, and rice cooker. I can even store baking sheets vertically along one side. The shelves roll out very smoothly. Another lower cabinet is an amorphous space but it also has a narrow, two level slide-out rack on one side which is perfect for long wax paper/tin foil/plastic wrap boxes/new sponges and a roll of trash bags. Both of these options are brilliantly useful.

For a shower head, I like the ones that have a sliding button to cut off the flow temporarily so you can soap up/put on conditioner/whatever.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:14 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

having plenty of space around the sink/fridge/stove turned out to be a much bigger deal than anticipated. Because we could, we crammed them in the same area kind of close together - which was dumb - frequent log jams etc.

we included a small 'cutting board top' island - which is AWESOME for preparing... and lets people gather around etc.

don't have too many light switches - it's a pain/ confusing
posted by mrmarley at 9:32 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

My short answer is to hire a designer and a competent GC. It's not cheap but everything will come out better and around here I don't think I'd have saved very much anyway as materials and labour is expensive in California.

But to repeat one of the first comments:
1. We had our lower cabinets made of drawers. Drawers everywhere. Absolutely no kneeling on the floor and digging in the back of a cabinet.

Yes. All drawers.

3. A+++ for cookie sheet inserts over the fridge and a breadboard cupboard next to the sink, under the little drawer for sink/cleaning thingies.

Our sheet storage is over our oven/microwave combo, which is a wall unit. I like a wall over a lot more than a standard stove, but the kitchen had one before so it worked in our layout.

4. How did I ever live without a broom closet next to the fridge?

We've done a skinny cupboard next two our fridge in two kitchen renos for a broom and aprons and it's great. Wear an apron while cooking! It's easy and stylish.

Also get a lazy susan-type shelf in corner base cabinets. Such an improvement! We got this rev-a-shelf peanut thing and it's great.

Cooktops are a pretty personal choice but let me add a plug for an induction cooktop. Fast to heat up, easy to clean, no CO2 emissions. We have a cooktop which even has a shallow drawer right beneath it which is perfect for spatulas, etc. Then deep drawers below that so the pots and cooking implements are all right where the cooktop is.

Our sink has a corner drain which seems like a trivial thing, but it's so much better than a center drain for dealing with big pots. We only have space for a single basin so this works really well for us. An indirect bonus is that it means there's less piping underneath and the undersink cabinet has more storage space.

And the final touch we did was to add a dedicated dog feeding station. There's a little space at the end of the cabinets that's inset for dog bowls with a small cabinet above it for dog stuff. We have a very narrow kitchen so there's no great space to stick the dog stuff really. So building a dedicated spot for it has gotten the poor dsog out from under foot.

On and one final thing - a retractable range hood. I'm tall so most range hoods are right in my face, which is a pain. This lets us leave it out of the way for small things that don't need ventilation (making eggs for breakfast) but if we're boiling a lot of water then we can slide it out and it turns itself on. But we're not big into deepfrying or any type of cooking that needs huge airflow, so it's fine for us.
posted by GuyZero at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Many have already mentioned some of these, but here’s my two cents:
- Drawers in lower cabinets are a huge yes
- Cabinets to the ceiling, please. Use crown molding to bridge that final gap. Nothing says “builder grade” more than cabinets that stop a few inches from the ceiling.
- Under-cabinet LED lighting under all cabinets. This has solved the “working in the shadows” that so-called task lighting causes. Ours aren’t dimmable, but have two settings - bright and dim, and I truly love them so much!

Something I want when we remodel our bathroom is a no-threshold shower. I was recently temporarily disabled, and something like this would have made me so much safer. I’ll also be looking at fold-down shower bench (teak, maybe), and ensure the handheld shower reaches said bench.
posted by dbmcd at 9:46 AM on April 23, 2021 [5 favorites]

People need more light as they get older. When we remodeled our kitchen in 2011, I thought we were overdoing the lighting. But recently we had to add more lighting because we just couldn't see well enough anymore. When I say "older," I mean late forties....with vision getting dimmer every year.

Our shower surfaces are a Corian-type material. Never ever a hint of mold and it's very easy to clean. The corners and edges have a non-grout adhesive/filler, and they haven't needed repair or special cleaning in the past 15 years.

I wish I had installed a vent fan in the laundry room to get rid of heat and moisture.
posted by wryly at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

We redid our basement bath and replaced the giant bathroom sink cabinet (tons of drawers we never used) with a pedestal sink and hung a new wall cabinet above the toilet. The bathroom is really small, and having the extra floor space makes it feel a LOT bigger. Also gives us room between the toilet and sink for the litter box!

Other thoughts but worth mentioning, don't know if they were mentioned already:
- I'm personally not a fan of pot fillers, unless you have a gigantic kitchen or do commercial levels of cooking it seems like an unnecessary expense (particularly if you're running new plumbing for it). I would just put in a kitchen faucet with a hose instead, the hose does make it significantly easier to fill pots.
- Small detail tile on shower floors looks nice, but it is a mildew magnet. A shower pan might be a cheaper alternative to consider that is far easier to clean.
- Speaking of showers, walk-in showers (the ones where they aren't completely enclosed) seem like another impractical addition. They look cool but not surprisingly water gets all over the place every time you use it.
posted by photo guy at 10:54 AM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Things I did that I would totally do again:

-All drawers on the bottom yesssss so many drawers!!
-Uppers to the ceiling
-Pullout shelves (like trays) inside the pantry
-Induction range, true convection oven
-Inadvertently created a little wine cellar by having floor-level cabinets under a bench along an exterior wall; it’s the perfect temperature all the time, so great!
-Tons of lighting but all on dimmers

-Heated tile floor, the best thing ever, no wait
-Bidet seat, THIS is the best thing ever
-Tons of light but all on dimmers

What I did that you should not:

-Was so hyper-efficient in my layout in both the kitchen and bathroom that there is no space for anything on the walls. Nowhere to hang a decorative whatever, hook, magnetic knife block, etc.
posted by HotToddy at 10:59 AM on April 23, 2021

One other I forgot - deep drawers and slide-out shelves in the kitchen is probably one of the most useful updates we have in our house. Massively helpful for storing pots and larger containers.
posted by photo guy at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2021

1. Beware of light fixtures with hard-to-change bulbs. Or expensive hard-to-find bubs. Ugh.
2. Big fat YES to Toto washlet toilet seat.
3. If your floor plan, budget, and climate allow, add an outdoor shower right outside your bathroom. Add a glass door from your bathroom and build a little privacy wall around it. Add a few plants. Such fun to shower there when it's warm.
posted by MelissaSimon at 11:39 AM on April 23, 2021

We had these two weird corner cabinets. When we put new ones in, we made it into 1 with a trifold door and a lazy susan inside.

What I wish we had done with the skinny little cabinet next to the stove is put in a pull out drawer instead of the shelf. It would be so much easier to get at the parchment/foil/etc.
posted by kathrynm at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really like our all in one sink countertop in the bathroom. They’re surprisingly hard to find. This is ours.
posted by vunder at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2021

I'll always regret that we didn't add wall switches for the undercabinet lights when we replaced our backsplash tiles.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:07 PM on April 23, 2021

My husband’s favorite in our new bathroom is the Toto washlet. I’m meh about that but I love the heated floors and the rain shower head. The hex marble floor tiles are lovely and such. A. Pain. In. The. Ass to clean. A ton of grout and marble is super fussy.

In the kitchen-oh, so much I love.

-Brazilian black soapstone counters. They are so gorgeous. Completely stain proof. Heat proof. Smooth and a little warm. Love.
-36” blue star gas range, colored may green. It makes me happy every day. It’s a beast, but basically no electronics.
-big island with nothing in the surface-just expanse of soapstone, no sink or rangetop. It’s the best for prepping while kids eat, or big cooking projects, or eating standing around with friends.

And yes, all drawers in bottoms, kidney bean corner shelves, kitchen aid lift. Single large Kohler sink.
posted by purenitrous at 8:42 PM on April 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Kitchen: spend time and effort on getting the layout right, all drawers in the bottom, magic corner solution, worksurface you can put pans directly on (eg granite or quartz), separate cooktop and eye level oven, either induction or gas hob but not a different kind of electric hob, under cabinet lighting. Most people who are kitchen fanatics prefer a large single sink. Other things are popular are pullout cabinet for trash and recycling (15"-24" wide), quiet but high CFM hood, Bosch or Miele dishwasher, cabinets to the ceiling, skinny broom cupboard.

Bathroom: thermostatic shower with separate volume and temperature controls, good water pressure in shower (if you don't have it, use a pump), heated floors if possible.

Bedroom: enough outlets in the right places to charge phones, add a tv or whatever else you are likely to use, blackout curtains or blinds.
posted by plonkee at 12:14 AM on April 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh yes, why didn't I remember that: heated floors everywhere!
It's amazing for humans, and also for our dog.
posted by mumimor at 5:16 AM on April 24, 2021

We did a kitchen 35 years ago, and a bathroom 3 years ago. We had problems with communication on both projects. In the kitchen, the carpenters put in the cabinets without allowing for under-cabinet lighting, and when the electrician started there was no way to hide the wires. In the bathroom, we were asked by several people where we wanted the handholds in the shower. The last time, after the tile was installed, the guy didnt know where the backing blocks were. Also, the painter was never told the color scheme, and also used a can of paint from a different job.

Workmen are used do doing things in a standard way. If want something innovative, watch them like a hawk.

A microwave should be at counter level.

Chrome fixtures are adversely affect by cleaning products containing ammonia. We were told this at the end of the job.

The city required special procedures during the demo for lead paint. I think it was just because of the age of the house. Cost a couple Gs. We also edit up with asbestos decontamination at the cost of 4 Gs. This is why people don't get permits if they can get by without.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:39 AM on April 24, 2021

Lots of great info here. Things I loved - yes to drawers, a shallow cabinet for spices (this worked with our space), a Zephyr stove exhaust (if you have space for the motor in the above cabinet THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING), lazy sues in all the corner cupboards (apologies for the incredibly stupid name), lights that are dimmable (everywhere), a white cast iron sink.
posted by bluesky43 at 3:57 PM on April 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

We used The Cabinet Joint for our kitchen cabinets, they are an online-only reseller of ready to assemble wooden cabinets, so they ship flat packed and you or your contractor puts them together when they arrive. The salespeople walked me through the whole ordering process so I got the right stuff and it all fit together, they look amazing, and the whole thing was maybe half what I would have paid to get it done locally. Lots of options that can be hard to get without hiring a millworker, like inset doors and quarter-sawn wood fronts. There are other online RTA cabinets options too (Barker comes to mind). (Edited to add: you are not in North America I think? So your options will be different but search for "RTA custom cabinets")

The other one is ultra slim recessed LEDs. They look great and cost maybe a fifth of a traditional pot light, plus much easier to install, they can even go right under a joist so you have more placement options. The downside is you can't replace the bulbs, but the fixtures are supposed to last 10-20 years or more.

One note on finishes: tile can cost anywhere from $2 to $150 per square foot. Shop around! There are very good inexpensive options, again many of those are online only, if you find something you like make sure you can't find a similar thing for a tenth as much. We were looking at $30psf bathroom tiles bit ended up with $6psf tiles that we like better. Architects in particular can be snobs about this stuff who end up pressuring you to overpay, if you're worried they look or feel cheap, order a sample!
posted by goingonit at 7:34 PM on April 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

The most lux part of my bathroom remodel is the heated floors. Holy crap it's nice and I'm thankful for it every day.

I'm never happy with my own paint choices. I wanted it to be perfect this time and to that end I hired a professional color consultant who led me to color places I never would have guessed. I'm thrilled with how it turned out and just love how it tied everything together. It was something like $175 for an hour of consulting, but I saved that a few times over in labor and paint costs alone by not having to re-paint as usual because I ended up hating the color I chose.

Consider buying 2nd hand if you have the time in advance.

I found very unique and quality pieces for my Victorian bathroom remodel by searching the sales areas and free stuff (Craigslist,, offerup, etc, etc). I started searching for pieces many months in advance and designed around that.

I was so happy I did this because I found some stunning and unique pieces that I otherwise would never have been able to afford. I got high quality pieces I otherwise would never have been able to afford brand new AND

A stunning $2K bathroom sink for $500.
Just enough Super high end tile for 1/10 of the original price. It was leftover from a contractor who was selling it because the homeowner he was working for changed their mind. (craigslist)
Vintage Victorian bathtub for $100. That thing will outlast my great grandchildren.
A $1,000++ super fancy bathtub/shower faucet for $250. (Brand New)
A light figure with hand-blown glass florets which would normally cost around $800-$900 for just $200. (Used but in perfect condition).

You can really find some very interesting, quality stuff if you have the time to go through the ads in the months ahead.
posted by crayon at 5:49 PM on April 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

During a basement remodel, I was adding a few spigots around the outside of the house while the walls were still open. I was adding one in my driveway area to make bike cleaning and other such activities easier, and realized that a hot and cold outdoor tap would be really nice in cold weather. It's been great.
posted by kiblinger at 9:20 AM on January 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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