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After living in our house for 10 years with a career change halfway through that requires me to be in the kitchen all day long, we finally bit the bullet and decided to renovate. The dark cherry cabinets that closed the space in from the rooms on either side of the kitchen had to go. To get the open feel and additional light that was number one on my priority list, a major structural wall had to come down. It was a major undertaking (and if I never see another microwave meal again, it will be too soon), but many months later the space is exactly as I envisioned it: bright, light and airy. It’s the perfect balance between function and aesthetic.
The kitchen is located in the center of the house. The only window above the sink faces east. The dark cherry cabinets and the wall separating it from the southern exposure of the formal dining room (to the right in this picture) was a very dark space. On a rainy day, it would almost be pitch black in the kitchen in mid-afternoon!
The “must-have” list was a long one. I figured if we were going to do this renovation and spend all this money, it was going to be exactly what I wanted. But in the end, there were really just four things that carried the most importance:
- Remove wall separating the dining room
- Upgrade to 36” dual fuel stove with vent hood
- White cabinets
- Fewer upper cabinets
Remove Wall Separating Dining Room
The removal of that wall was no easy feat. It was a major structural component of the house. It also involved not only support beams where it originally stood (hidden in a shiplap clad soffit), but also another support beam and structural pole in the basement below to properly distribute the load. That part required cutting through our concrete slab foundation, resulting in quite a mess!
Almost half of the renovation time was dedicated to this important task. While the demo only took one day, the progress seemed at a standstill for weeks as all the “boring” structural work took place.
The minute it was removed, with the beams in place and the temporary walls down, I knew it was worth every penny. The extensive southern light from the dining room now flooded into the kitchen space.
Upgrade to 36” Dual Fuel Range With Vent Hood
As a food blogger, recipe developer and freelance food photographer, I’m in the kitchen all day. A professional-grade range with a gas stove and electric oven was super important to me. Having never cooked with gas in my entire life, I’m finally able to do so with this renovation.
The old kitchen had a 30” range with the microwave above as most standard kitchens do. I knew I wanted a vent hood above the new stove. This posed a new question in the renovation and one I didn’t realize would turn into such a large component in the project. Where does the microwave go?
A Drawer Microwave
Drawer microwaves were a new concept to me. I had assumed in the initial planning of the renovation that we’d either just do a countertop microwave or “build-in” a small microwave into the bottom cabinets somehow. I had never really heard of drawer microwaves.
After a lot of research and back and forth on whether the investment was worth it for such a small appliance, we decided on a stainless steel microwave drawer. There are a few competitive models on the market. But I loved the sleek, unbranded look of this one and the Easy Wave feature for opening.
The control panel opens on a slant to make the buttons easy to read, and it can be pushed back flat with the unit when not in use for a nice, clean minimal appearance.
I had worries that the automatic open and close would annoy me, or that the 1.2 cu feet interior space might be too small. However, after using it for months now, neither have been a problem at all. In fact, the microwave has surprisingly turned into one of my favorite things about the renovation.
It blends so nicely with the completed space. It has a professional quality appearance while being out of the way and sort of forgotten about. Guests have even seen the new space and asked where the microwave was!
The newly found light from the dining room was exciting on its own, but the decision to go with white cabinetry really brightened the space even more.
We chose a full overlay quality cabinet brand working with a local business that patiently walked me through all the design iterations to really help visualize the final space.
Besides the brightening effect, I love how the white cabinetry matches all the trim work and accents in the house. Its contrast with the dark wood floors also makes me so happy we chose the simplicity of white.
Fewer Upper Cabinets
By default, removing the wall to the dining room forced the final design to have fewer upper cabinets. I also knew I wanted to incorporate some natural elements with wood shelving instead of just cabinetry alone.
Sourcing the reclaimed floating wood shelves from a local wood restoration business was such a fun experience. Everything was custom cut for the space. I absolutely love how they open up the area around the kitchen window. Knowing the old building where they came from and that they’re unique to only our space is also something special.
We chose not to replace/enlarge the kitchen window in the renovation. Utilizing shelving instead of cabinets on either side of it made a huge impact on how big the window feels.
We also decided on a glass front for one of the cabinets on the left side of the kitchen where there are more uppers. This is to help break up the flow and keep the airy feel.
The other part I love about choosing to not have cabinetry flank the window is how much more you’re able to see of the backsplash tile with the floating shelves.
I never thought choosing the backsplash tile would be such a hard decision, but it was honestly the one thing I struggled with the most in the entire renovation. Deciding on something that was “fun” but not “too fun” in that it could potentially look dated in a matter of years was exhausting!
Eventually, I settled on a concave hexagonal white glossy tile that I absolutely adore. The way the light bounces off the concave 3-dimensional aspect to it is the perfect amount of “fun” I was looking for while still being a timeless shape and color.
Our New Open Kitchen
The renovation was exhausting in many ways. Including the part where the wood floors in the entire first level of the house had to be refinished twice, which was a week-long process each time. The outcome, however, has been beyond worth it.
Working with The Home Depot in the process to purchase the microwave was a welcome reprieve in the crazy decision-making process of the 4-month project. I was able to go into my local store and get all my questions answered about the drawer microwave. I order online and have it delivered straight to my house. Its functionality has fit perfectly into the kitchen’s design and flow of the new space.
The kitchen is a space I work in all day long. It’s now truly someplace I love spending time in.