Kitchen Confessional | Learn from my mistakes

Whether you are thinking of renovating your kitchen or knee deep in demolition dust - this is the post for you! With 10 years of living in this kitchen, I can now share the ultimate in kitchen renovation lessons learned. What I wish I had done differently and what I'm so glad we did right the first time. Hopefully this scoop is helpful for your own renovations. It certainly has helped me with other projects over the years. [Check out this post for the before photos and more on the renovation.]





Let's start with the planning. When I was pouring over inspiration back then, I was told multiple times that "white kitchens are on their way out" In fact, I've seen this statement every single year since then as well. Will white kitchens one day go out of style? Never say never but white is pretty classic. I don't see it going out of style anytime soon.



Lesson #1 | Don't listen to the naysayers.  Pick what you like.

Ten years ago, soapstone was a pretty infrequently seen countertop material.  We had to go to a special supplier.  Lots of people warned me against it saying it was soft and would be trouble.  He was right,  it was softer than granite - but I knew that already as I had done my research.  I still loved the look and thought the dings and scratches would work well in an old house that has plenty of patina already. Well 10 years in, it definitely has plenty of wear but I still think it looks lovely.  It requires no maintenance whatsoever. While soapstone isn't for everyone, it was the perfect choice for us.



Lesson #2 | Even good contractors can be wrong. Do your own research.



When we were doing the layout, I was pretty against using the over the stove microwave for purely aesthetic reasons. I just didn't think it looked that great. But for a multitude of reasons we ended it going with it anyway.  Little did I know that the placement of that microwave over a hot stove creates a perfect storm for microwaves going ker-plewy.  This is our third microwave in 10 years and I don't think one is long for this world.  So not only is it generally unattractive but it has created an added expense and aggravation that is super inconvenient and hard to fix (and they always break at the MOST inopportune time - how does it know?). This is my #1 biggest mistake by far and it still makes my blood boil.  Learn from my mistakes, do not do it.



Lesson #3 | No microwaves over the stove, eveerrr!









Next up is flooring.  This isn't so much as a mistake as a warning. We went with wood flooring because this kitchen is open to the dining room and I wanted it to flow.  We have old parquet floors that are thinner than modern hardwood floors so that added a bit of complexity as well.  Ten years in and the finish is definitely past its prime. In fairness we are not careful at all - we do not baby anything in our house except the actual babies - but still, wood floors don't like water and a kitchen has water everywhere.  Considering our limited options, I think we would still have put wood floors down because I think redoing them every decade or so is totally worth it but it's a cautionary word.  If you want something that won't require work, you might want to opt for a different flooring.



Lesson #4 | Decide what items are worth maintaining and what are not and make decisions accordingly.

If you look closely you will see there are 4 different kinds of lights in this kitchen - over the island, in the ceiling, under the cabinet and in the upper cabinets.  Quite a lot for such a small space.  I'm quite sure my contractor thought I was crazy for putting so many lights in but let me tell you that it's so worth it. Having good lighting in here is SO important - do not scrimp here.  Aside from just being safer to be able to see well in here (no sliced off fingertips yet!), having options is such a pleasure.



Lesson #5 | Do not scrimp on lighting!







I think that about covers all the bigger points and takeaways but there are a couple of smaller points about my kitchen in particular that I wanted to add as well.  First about the farmhouse sink - it's still lovely to look at but it's handmade nature means it doesn't have a perfectly sloped base which results in crumbs hanging around.  Not a huge deal but considering the price of that sink, I would have expected more.  If I did it again, I would get a cheaper factory made sink and not have this issue.  Second, there are a few cabinet accessories that I really love and would absolutely recommend - the pull out garbage with the recycling bin is worth it's weight in gold.  I also love having a skinny cabinet to store cutting boards and pull out shelves in the base and pantry cabinets. Other than that, we don't have much in the way of doo-dads in there.


So what's next?  As much as I love this space and it has served us well, I'm thinking I might make a couple of minor changes to the island lights and stool sometime this year. And of course the floors will need to be redone at some point but we are waiting a few years until the kids are older to do it. Other than that, I see many more years spent at this counter pondering life's mysteries (and picking up cheerios).


I hope my kitchen confessional has been useful to someone out there. If you have any questions, just ask.







46 comments:

  1. Thank you for your review after 10 years! Your kitchen has always been one of my favorites since... 2010? I always wonder about the time test on decisions bloggers make and don't but too much stock in "We've had it for six months and it's still going strong!" I read those and am left thinking, "I would hope so." I'm curious, do you have any pictures of the other side of the island? I've just been curious how it's laid out, I'm guessing it's impossible to photograph due to space constraints.

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    1. Thanks Caitlin! And thanks for following for so long.

      Here is a post where you can see the other side of the room - its my dining room. http://www.brooklynlimestone.com/2015/09/setting-table-to-entertain.html

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  2. I love this! We're planning a kitchen remodel right now, and it's incredibly stressful and mindboggingly expensive. We have a 1920's tudor-style house, but the kitchen was remodeled sometime in the 80's, white laminate countertop and all. I think the style decisions you made 10 year ago absolutely stand the test of time - we're planning on white cabinets, too. These are such helpful tips! One of my biggest fears is that we're going to spend so much money on this kitchen, and make some boneheaded mistake that will haunt us for years.

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    1. I totally understand where you are coming from. That was my fear too. It's hard to predict the future but for the most part, you will be safe going with tried and true color palettes and finish choices. When I think of the most awful kitchens, they are usually in clashing colors or some other super unusual setup. As long as you think your decisions through (which Im sure you are) I bet you'll be happy for a long while.

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  3. Ugh we have such a list of mistakes from our renovation three years ago. But we also got a LOT right, and our kitchen really is one of my happy places (white cabinets for the win!). Funny you mention the microwave placement - when we planned ours with a cabinet maker, he looked at us and asked us if we were living in an apartment in NYC (which clearly we were not). We just assumed that was where microwaves went if you didn't want them on the counter! He introduced us to the in-island microwave, which we love and would do again in a heartbeat. Especially as a short person - I never spill heated up soup anymore! Life changing. Three years later, everything is working fine, but I do fear for the day when that thing goes! HOW IS IT GOING TO BE REPLACED???? I try not to let myself worry about it too much but I do wonder...
    So the question for you - if you didn't have it above the stove, where else would you put the microwave? Do you foresee yourselves actually changing this anytime soon?

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    1. I worry about when I have to replace the other appliances as well. It's going to be a pain but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

      There is no way I can change it now - at least not without spending an absolute fortune. I would need to open the walls to add venting and I'm so not doing that. I'd also don't think there would be a way to match the paint that has been in place for 10 years - it would just be a mess. So we will live with it and just keep replacing this damn microwave!

      If I could go back in time, I would have gotten a small one and put it on a shelf inside a cabinet. Or perhaps to the right of the fridge inside the pantry. Either way, doing that now isn't realistic as I don't have outlets in my cabinets and I have no desire to start ripping up the kitchen to add them.

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    2. Ahhh - inside a cabinet - how did I miss that option! Well fingers crossed everything else lasts a very.long.time.!!!

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    3. You wouldn't need venting to replace the microwave. There are hoods for above the range that recirculate air the way your microwave probably does. You also might not need to put an outlet in the pantry for the relocated microwave: consider drilling a small hole in the side of the pantry cabinet that would give you access to the fridge cavity; there should be an open outlet back there that your fridge isn't using.

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    4. Thats a good point about using the electrical near the fridge. Sadly the cabinets I have now aren't designed with a microwave in mind (unless i found a really, really tiny one). I think the bigger issue is actually getting the range hood to match the cabinets at this point. I could go back to my cabinet manufacturer and order the same paint but that one would be new and these are old - I'm sure the color would be off. I'd also have a good bit of area without a backsplash and these tiles were original to the house so that's another thing I can't easily patch. I've resigned myself to just living with it although I was sort of hoping they would have developed the microwave/toaster/toaster oven combo by now but thus far, no luck.

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    5. Here's a crazy idea: don't replace the (about to be) broken microwave, and add a new one inside a cupboard. Then you have a functioning microwave, and you don't have to worry about anything else until you're good and ready to repaint, etc. Maybe never! Use that old microwave as storage, too.

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  4. I designed and re-modeled our 1960s style kitchen in our tudor home in 1987. We sold the house last year and the kitchen still looked good. I'd put a lot of thought into the layout and utility and designed it with the microwave OVER the stove ... this was before they were made for that and ours slid into a special cabinet. It worked fine for us with no problems, but if you hate it there, pull it out and replace it with a range hood and put the micro into a shelf in your island. Make yourself happy!

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    1. Older shelf microwaves seem to work differently. I had a microwave on a shelf near a stove for a decade before I lived here. Never had a problem. But these microwaves with the vent built in seem to be a different animal. If you google this problem you'll see I'm not the only one.

      I wish I could change it but it's not that easy. I'd have to rip open walls, get new custom cabinetry, etc. It's not THAT big of a problem to be worth all that. I just wish I had done it differently.

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    2. Your microwave issue is so interesting to me as I've had a microwave over my stove in three different homes over the past 25 years and have never had a problem. I must be incredibly lucky!

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  5. My kitchen is my biggest headache. I have 12-foot ceilings and two massive windows that go nearly to the floor, on two main walls, which makes placement difficult. Plus, the previous owners put the sink and stove at angles on opposite walls. Because the windows break up the space so much, I don't have much actual free counter space, and I feel like I'm dreaming about layout!

    We're almost finished with a half-bath install, so of course my brain is working on this issue. I painted the yellow oak cabinets white about five years ago, not thinking that the white tile floors and white backsplash would be too much. It is. Changing the tile right now isn't really an option, so I'm thinking of going gray but taking down some uppers.

    Yes...I need help. :)

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    1. You can always email me off line if you want some suggestions.

      But having high ceilings and windows is a good thing!

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  6. So useful! I can't believe your kitchen is 10 years old. It really does look timeless - I still love the cabinets, counter tops and finishes.

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  7. Rebecca M11:45 AM

    Love all of your tips/lessons learned. I am wondering though if you have an electrical issue going on with your microwave. Maybe you need it surge protected? We've had our microwave over our stove for 20 years now without a problem. Though I'm not fond of it there for aesthetic reasons - it has served us well.

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    1. I would tend to believe it was something unique about my house as well until I started googling the issue and found many many other people have the same issue. Something about the heat impacting the digital panel on the face of the microwave after a while. All of our wiring was redone during the reno and we don't have any other things breaking on us so I don't think it's our issue. At least that's my guess.

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  8. Anonymous12:10 PM

    Great post. I always appreciate reading and learning from other's lessons. My kitchen is almost 15 years old and my integrated trash can is also one of my favorite features. We are house hunting now and I am so disappointed when I see a new-build or a newly renovated kitchen without it. The absence of it tells me the kitchen was poorly planned/designed.

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    1. So true! I'd have a hard time living with out it now. It wasn't so bad pre-recycling days but with multiple garbage cans its a must.

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  9. This is SO helpful as we start planning our kitchen remodel. Our past two kitchens have come with the microwave vent over the stove and they are my most hated kitchen feature: the grease that gets all over the ceiling and on the cabinet above the microwave is awful (clearly since the vent hardly does it's job). We fight over who has to get out the stepstool to wash the ceiling ha. The first thing we're changing when we redo the kitchen is adding a proper stove vent. Loved all your other learnings - we've been contemplating soapstone too and love how it's worked out for you :)

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    1. So glad it was helpful! We haven't had the grease issue but we don't really fry food so that helps. But sauce splatter - thats a whole other thing!

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  10. I've always admired your kitchen and still do all these years later. Didn't realize it's been 10 years, wow.

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    1. Thank you Naz. And thanks for being such a long time reader. I have always appreciated your kind words over the years.

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  11. The fact that your kitchen is 10 years old and still looks current shows the value of making "timeless" design choices. My question is about your faucet. I love the bridge style and it's absolutely beautiful. But for me I feel like a single lever would be helpful in the kitchen. One hand rather than two is often all I have available! (Just in case it matters there's a typo in "kitchen" in your post header).

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    1. Oh doh! I guess I'm taking the whole "mistake" concept to a new level with my typos in the post. Thank you for alerting me - it's fixed now.

      And thank you for the kind words.

      I have no issue with the bridge faucet. I have a single lever faucet at my shore kitchen and I don't even really notice it being any easier or harder. I guess I'm saying its an easy thing to get used to but I really love my bridge faucet.

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  12. Alicia8:10 PM

    These are great tips! We moved into a house a couple of years ago that had the kitchen redone for sale--not my taste at all but I have plans to tweak it and so many things I'm considering you mentioned (white cabs, wood floors). I definitely agree with you on the microwave not being over the stove. Ours gets very hot being over the stove and it acts up from time to time because of it. If I ever get around to renovating the kitchen the microwave is moving :)

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    1. Exactly - the heat seems to be a problem for the digital display and key pad.

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  13. I just love it. These are really great tips. This is such a useful post. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. I apologize if you’ve already answered this but how is the paint on your cabinets holding up? Have you had to touch them up at all?

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    1. No not at all. These cabinets are painted at the manufacturer so they have a professional finish. A little more durable than just your usual paint job.

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  15. One key reasons microwaves break is opening door before pushing stop. Literally the switch burns out. Always press off/strop then open door.

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  16. I hate the microwave over my range and I've promised myself I can move it when it dies, but it won't die! Our house was a beat-up foreclosure and the microwave was shot-up with a BB gun so it looks like it was in a bad hail storm and the heat from the stove has caused the metal foil to peel off the handle because it's right over the highest BTU burner, but it hasn't had a single non-cosmetic issue. Maybe a builder-grade Amana is the way to go? Mine's going on 15-years-old!

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    1. They don't make them that way anymore :)

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  17. Absolutely love your kitchen and its timeless look. I moved into a white kitchen with oak accents. I had them replaced with matching white crown molding and replaced the formica countertops with quartz. I was wanting soapstone, but the kitchen is somewhat large with two angles. My plan for the over-the-stovetop microwave is to have an outlet put into the pantry when it dies. I'll have a range hood installed and the backsplash extended up to the rangehood. Love this post.

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  18. We're about to start a total reno at our new townhouse. Our kitchen designer(who is also a very good friend) told me to never let an architect design a kitchen. Our architect is wonderful, but let's face it, he doesn't spend much time in a kitchen. He did the basic layout, and she is doing the overall kitchen plan. I can't wait to see what our designer comes up with.

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    1. I would say it depends on the architect but generally speaking, kitchen design is a niche skill.

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  19. Thanks for sharing these tips and reflections! Like someone else said, so good to get a longer-term perspective! And I agree, your kitchen is lovely! Well, we also have microwave issues. We did not put it over the stove, but it is in a special cut out in the bottom portion of a set of upper cabinets. And it is the only model that fits there. And we also need to replace it and get our third....in just 7 years. It's like we're captive and have to replace it with the same model....b/c nothing else fits! Best to you and thanks again for sharing these pointers!

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    1. Oh interesting that your microwave is having the same problems even when its not over the stove. I had a shelf microwave for a decade and it never faltered so I just assumed they are better built but I could be wrong. That makes me feel a little bit better.

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  20. Love your kitchen! Any chance you recall where you got the glass knobs?

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    1. Hi Jenny. Thanks so much. The knobs are from Restoration Hardware.

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  21. Anonymous2:06 PM

    This is all so helpful.
    When you say "white" what shade do you actually mean? Super white? Decorator white? Pale oatmeal?
    Thank you , you talented lady!

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    1. Glad its helpful.

      Sorry I don't understand the question. I think generally white kitchens will stay in style. I wasn't limiting it one kind of white. Is that what you mean?

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  22. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Love your cabinets! May I ask where they are from?

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    1. They are made by a company called Plain and Fancy.

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