Lessons Learned: Kitchen Renovation

After doing a total recap post on my kitchen renovation back in January, I started thinking a lot about the renovation process in general.  There are some things that I would definitely do differently next time, but there are also a lot of things that I'm incredibly happy with, so I thought it would be helpful to share with you a short list of the things I learned during my kitchen renovation last year.

Lesson #1: Do Your Homework 

This was by far the most beneficial part of the renovation process, at least for me.  I scoured online forums for recommendations, read through countless kitchen magazines, and printed or cut out every inspiration photo I could find along the way.  I even checked out a hundred or more blogs that were going through the same thing, and listened to their tales of triumph or words of warning.  It may seem like information overload to you, but it was the only way that I could boil down exactly what I wanted out of my future kitchen.  It is the same way that I approach any big decision....see all possible options before I make my decision.  Granted, it takes a lot longer, but in the end, I know that I have done my due diligence and feel confident in my choices. 

The second part of the homework piece was to contact different contractors or vendors that I would potentially be working with (even though we did a lot of the work ourselves, we left some of the harder things to professions, like re-wiring and installing recessed lights).  It not only helped me to become acquainted with the cost of certain projects, but also helped broaden my perspective of what could be done in the space.  For instance, we were under the impression that we would have to keep some of the original baseboard heaters to maintain a decent temperature in the winter, which would mean that we couldn't put in a sliding glass door for access to a deck.  After meeting with a few different contractors, though, we learned that they could re-route the plumbing to some new kick-space heaters under the tall built-in cabinets in our mudroom area.  Brilliant!!!  It is worth all the effort just to know what all of your options are before you start to jump into the project.

And finally, although we ended up repurposing our old cabinets, I HIGHLY recommend meeting with 3-4 different kitchen design specialists (we went to two local places, as well as Lowe's and Home Depot for quotes) to see what your options are.  Our gut instinct was to rip out the old cabinets and start fresh, but the further along we got in the process, the more we realized that we could save a lot of money if we just had our original ones refinished since they were well-kept solid pine.  Although we may have wasted our time and the kitchen design specialists time by doing this, we wouldn't have known how much money we could save unless we did this.  I felt a little guilty not going with any of the new cabinets, but ultimately we did what was best for our budget.  So, bottom line, do as much research as possible before diving into a big renovation like this!

Lesson #2: To Save or to Splurge....that is the question?

Another important lesson I learned along the way was to categorize things into "must-haves" and "could-do-withouts".  I did this for my wedding and it really helped me prioritize what we wanted to spend money on and where we could afford to save a little.  For example, we aren't big cake people (I know, crazy right? We are more ice cream people) so we decided to forego a big fancy one and went with something simple (which is my motto anyway) and tasty.  Instead of paying $800 for the cake (which is what we were quoted on one of the fancy fondant decorated ones, we paid $250 or so and everyone was happy with it.  Since we saved a little money there, we decided to spend what we had originally budgeted on the centerpieces, which were important to me at the time (although now that I look back, they just died the next day anyway).....but long story short, we saved a little to spend a little. 

So when it came to our kitchen renovation, we applied the same concept.  Since we were able to save a lot of money on the cabinets.....we're talking $9,000 - $12,000 (depending on the brand and since we only spent about $1,800 on painting the old ones), we were able to go with the appliances we wanted (read more about that choice here).  Same situation goes for the kitchen island.  Since B was able to build it on his own (and we didn't have to pay the contractors $1,500 or more to do it) we went with the granite that we wanted (read more about that choice here).  It goes on and on like that, but at the end of the day, we stayed within our budget and still got all of the things that we really wanted out of our new kitchcen.

Lesson #3: Form over Function??

One of the best recommendations I received during my research on kitchens was to stow the microwave in the island.  At first, a lot of people thought I was CRAZY to put a microwave below eye level requiring you to bend down for access.  Honestly though, after almost 9 months of utilizing this, I have never once regretted it.  Even now that I'm pregnant and my back aches all the time, it doesn't bother me to lean over a little for a second and pop something in there.  Plus, for the number of times that we use a microwave in a weeks time, it is so nice to not have it taking up counterspace in my kitchen.  Some people may still disagree with me, and perhaps it is personal preference, but I can say without any reservations that it is the best thing since sliced bread!!  Hehe.

Another feature that we included in our island, which has been a TOTAL lifesaver is the pull-out double-barrel trash can!!  One of the kitchen design specialists recommended this to us, and B was able to make it happen on his own (by the way, I still need to get him to write a post about building the island and the farm sink supports, etc, etc.)  Having the trash hidden away is the second best thing since sliced bread.  We pull it out if we need to toss something, and its out of sight when we don't.  LOVE IT!  I think you will too!  So, if you are considering installing an island in your new kitchen, please consider this in your plans.  I can't remember how much it cost when we were thinking about buying the cabinets new, but it wasn't a lot different than the price of a regular door cabinet or a cabinet with a few drawers in it.  Highly, highly recommend this! 

Lesson #4: Farm Sinks

Even before we started planning the kitchen remodel, I knew that I wanted a farm sink.  I had seen this photo years ago and kept it on my computer until I was able to incorporate it in to my new home.....

It still makes me smile when I see it.  Weird, right?  But never the less, I knew I had to have it and we found a way to incorporate it into our design (even though B was cursing me as he spent hours trying to retrofit our current cabinet base to accommodate the 300 lb. monster).  Thanks, honey!!  I just love the look of it and the old rustic charm of it.  You can see it from every angle in the kitchen and it makes me happy every day when I see it.  Now that is money well spent, if I do say so myself!

But nothing that wonderful comes without a few setbacks.  First of all, it is not indestructible.  When my mom and I were cooking thanksgiving dinner together at my house this past year, we slid a pot over the edge of it and the silver came off on the porcelain.  EEK!!!  It is not the end of the world.  It's just a small scratch and I've read that you can remove it with toothpaste or some other product that is on the market.  Not a tragedy, but I wanted to be honest about the pros and cons.  I haven't seen any scratches on the inside of it even after piling pots and dishes and knives in there every day.  So, on the whole, it is very durable, just be careful with stainless steel pots and pans on the edges.....

Another thing about the farm sinks is that you will ABSOLUTELY need to get a faucet with a pull-down sprayer.  We chose the Delta Leland Faucet for this purpose and it was one of the best decisions we made.  Since the drain is typically on the left or right side of the sink, gunk may (although not always) gather in the opposite corner (and honestly it tends to happen more when I have a lot of dishes in the sink).  In that case, you want to be able to use the sprayer to clean the sides and the corners to get rid of the gunk.  This faucet has been a lifesaver.  And it has an aweseome magnetic feature in the head that ensures the pull-down sprayer will always go back up where it belongs....and most importantly....STAY THERE!!  You can check it out here.

Lesson #5: Flooring

We had a lot of conversations about what to do for floowing in the kitchen.....and I mean A LOT!  We also got a lot of opinions on the matter, interestingly enough.  Everyone seemed to want to give their two cents.....so after a while, we stopped telling people what we were thinking about or planning to do since it was ultimately our decision anyway!  I'm pretty sure that is why people keep their baby names secret until the child is born.....but I'm just guessing. 

So when it came to flooring, our first instinct was to do slate.  I had seen it in a number of photos with the white wood cabinets and thought it was a really nice contrast, especially since we were going to be using cool tones on the walls of the kitchen and dining room.  We picked out a nice dark grey-blue slate tile and fell in love.  But then we learned of the problems we might have in the future.  Our house was built in 1963-1964, so the flooring is not 100% even anymore.  With that being said, over time, the slate would eventually crack in those uneven areas and we would constantly be replacing tiles here and there.  Change of plans!!  We could have added support beams to the flooring through the basement (since its unfinished currently) but that would have been more money and more of a hassle.  No thank you!  So that also ruled out ceramic or porcelain tile.  Although it is a little less expensive than the slate, we would still have to keep replacing broken ones every once in a while....and that just didn't sound like a good idea.

So we moved on to a more durable surface; wood.  We already have wood throughout the rest of our house, so why not continue it all the way through?  Right?  Well, I was worried about having wood in a space that sees a decent amount of water (sink area, entryway, etc.), plus I thought it would be boring to have the same floor EVERYWHERE.  But ultimately, it was our best option.  I read a lot of mixed reviews online (and received some in person as well) on wood flooring in the kitchen, but decided to go with it anyway and face the music down the road if we had a bad experience. 

In the end though, it is the best thing we could have done.  It is so easy to clean, just wipe up spills as you normally would and sweep and mop them once a week or so.  They have seen A LOT of foot traffic over the last 6-9 months and they look none the worse for wear.  So despite what you read about online or hear about from your neighbors or relatives, wood is a GREAT option for your kitchen.  Not only are they durable, but I absolutely love the contrast of the warm color in the room and the fluidity of the flooring throughout the house.  It doesn't look boring at all, in my opinion, in fact I think it provides a really nice flow throughout the first floor.  Who knew?  So bottom line, don't worry if your first choice isn't available or it won't work in your space, there are so many options out there for flooring, you just have to keep looking.  And if you are considering wood flooring in your kitchen, I 100% recommend it (for whatever that's worth).


So....I think that's it for lessons learned at the moment.  I guess the moral of the story is that you won't always come out of a project with everything done EXACTLY the way that you originally wanted it, but if you work with the right people and do your homework you will be able to find something that works just as well for your space.  Just try to be flexible and keep in mind that not EVERYTHING has to be top of the line.  Save a little on the things that don't matter much to you so that you can splurge on your "must-haves".  It is totally worth it! 

If I think of any more lessons though, I will definitely add on here or update you in a new post.  I am always thinking about ways to improve on what we have done in the past and to share with you any knowledge we have gleaned from it all.  And of course, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with wood floors in the kitchen. We've been planning to do the same and we get so many comments from people (oddly enough, most of the people commenting don't have wood floors in their home). I'm glad to hear from more people happy with the outcome.

  2. Thanks for sharing...your kitchen is amazing!

  3. hey heather, that is really helpful, thanks for all the tips! what were the names of the local kitchen design specialists?

  4. Hi Stephanie,

    We went to Cabinetry Kitchen Design Studio in Hingham MA and JB Kitchens and Baths in Weymouth MA. Hope this helps!!

  5. Great post, Heather! We think a lot alike in that we like to research everything. I will definitely keep this post and your blog in general in mind when it comes time to do our kitchen.
    I read your granite post, but didn't see it written and couldn't tell for sure if your granite was honed or not. Is it? I am looking for a similar granite for my laundry room.

    Hope you feeling well and that the pregnancy symptoms are easing some!

  6. Hi,

    Amazing! I love your designs. It is very durable and just be careful with stainless steel pots and pans on the edges. Thanks a lot for sharing these information here.

    Stainless Steel Kitchen Sinks

  7. There is no such thing as too much information when tackling a renovation of your own place. Also, you've got to have all your bases covered before thinking about starting. Consider factors like the overall budget, measurement, and how long would it take to finish.

  8. Very nice post, thanks for sharing the information. Keep up the good work.

    kitchen remodeler in essex

  9. You’ll definitely learn a lot of things when you conduct a renovation -- from planning the designs, to the actual renovation process, up to the time you finish it. It may really be nerve-racking on your part, but you’ll surely appreciate all your hardships after you see a great result. ;)

  10. I am very happy to read such a wonderful blog which gives the helpful information. thanks for sharing. 

  11. the two sets of sash windows. We've replaced 4 panes of glass, replaced the sash pulleys, given everything a good few coats of white satin and have added shiny brass hardware, they are so much brighter as a result! The main one didn't even open before! bathroom redo