Kitchen porn, or what I learned from redoing my kitchen


A room of one's own: My dream kitchen involved color, ample storage and counter space, a decent range, and a working dishwasher.

A room of one's own: My dream kitchen involved color, ample storage and counter space, a decent range, and a functioning dishwasher.

If you’ve ever lived through (survived?) a kitchen remodeling project, you know it’s messy, intrusive, and expensive. But if you love to cook, the kitchen is your favorite room in the house, so you’re always looking for design inspiration. Even if your kitchen is “done,” it’s never really done.

Case in point: No matter what state your kitchen is in, it’s hard to pass up a chance to thumb through the pages of Kitchen Trends, the big-format, lushly produced book-azine published by The print edition is $10.95, but the lavish kitchens featured within its pages are a great source of inspiration, even if you don’t have a big budget. Even better, the good folks at Trends Ideas have made the e-book version of the magazine available for free. I’m not usually a fan of digital versions of magazines–they tend to be clunky and slow to flip through–but this one loads quickly and smoothly. Bookmark or print out anything that catches your eye–it can be a great start to your own design idea book.

cimg1031I’ve moved across the country, but my heart still belongs to the kitchen I had remodeled my Alabama home. I couldn’t bring the kitchen with me, but I did pack up the spiral notebook of design ideas that inspired it.

The kitchen was not a selling point when I bought the 1930s bungalow. Counter space was virtually nonexistent, storage was minimal, the stove was ancient (but not in a cute, vintage way), and worst of all was the dishwasher. It was an outdated portable Kenmore that you rolled over the sink and hooked up to the faucet, which inevitably sprayed water everywhere but on the dishes in the dishwasher.

I lived with it for more than a year, to get a sense of what I wanted the space to become and to psyche myself up for the money-pit mess that is any kitchen remodel. But when mice started to invade through the rotting floorboards of the pantry, it was time to call my coworker’s contractor husband to start the project. (After calling the pest control company, of course.) Here’s what I learned from my project.

cimg10321Keep a design notebook. Design experts always suggest this, and it’s a great idea. Include anything that catches your eye–could be a color, a design element, a layout–noting what it is that you like. Themes will start to emerge. I quickly discovered a fondness for color and vintage-looking design that would suit my bungalow. I also found specific items that eventually ended up in my kitchen–Formica’s Citron Ice countertop and the Jenn-Air range.

Be flexible. I went the home improvement store all set to order white cabinetry. Then I spotted gorgeous natural hickory cabinets that I liked even better.

Gather samples. Home improvement stores have samples loan. Take them home and see how different materials work together. I spent a weekend looking at cabinet, countertop, backsplash, and flooring samples before I made up my mind.

Keep an eye out for special promotions. Home improvement stores often have special offers on materials, and it may be worth timing your purchase to take advantage. I put off ordering my countertops for three weeks in order to get a free integrated sink–and saved about $600 on a feature I wanted anyway.

Shop at different outlets. Although I purchased big items like the cabinets, floors, and countertop at Lowe’s, I gathered items from other sources. The appliances came from the manufacturer’s retail outlet. I bought a brand-new John Boos kitchen island on eBay, paying at least one-third less than I would have for a similar model at Williams-Sonoma; I also ordered the antique-bronze cabinet hardware through a dealer on eBay. The copper lights (made from converted antique Turkish bowls) were purchased on sale from the Sundance catalog. The result was a kitchen that looks personal, not like a catalog. More importantly, it wasa place where I loved spending time doing what I love best.