Renovation Diaries

Faith’s Kitchen Renovation: How We Planned Out the Kitchen

updated May 2, 2019
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A kitchen, in spray paint.

At some point, when planning a kitchen renovation, you need to lift your head out of the daze of scrolling Pinterest, and the stacks of ELLE Decor UK and Dwell and actually, you know, plan your kitchen. I’ve told you all about buying a house, plunging into renovations, and tearing down plaster by the bucketful. Now, back to the kitchen itself — how in the world does one go about planning a kitchen renovation? How do you actually make decisions? What to put where, how many drawers and cabinets, where to install the sink? Well, I don’t know how other people make these sorts of rather scary decisions — I can only tell you how we did.

Looking towards the back of the house during demolition, and before the addition was put up.

It’s very simple really. We went to the playground and sketched it all out in chalk. Presto — kitchen planned.

OK, OK maybe we should start a little farther back.

Our Kitchen Planning Process

So, everyone comes to the process of planning a kitchen differently. Lots of people remodel in a fairly constrained space. My parents, for instance, were remodeling a kitchen at the same time as us, and they didn’t want to move the sink or refrigerator. They kept their floorplan fairly similar to save money and for practicality. Other people keep their cabinets and just reface and refinish with new countertops and appliances.

But we were creating a whole new space — a brand new, wide open kitchen. Where do you even start when in this (very lucky, very exciting) situation?

A brand-new space — something actually feels like it’s happening now!

Quite frankly, I had a fairly clear idea in my head of what I wanted. Years of editing kitchen tours and trawling the internet for smart kitchens had to pay off sometime (finally).

I shared some of my style inspiration already, but I should also add that I loved the open galley format, with cabinets lining one wall, and a huge island between the main cook’s space and the dining area. I like the functionality of the galley layout, with the fridge, oven, and stove in a line, and the sink in the island. We wanted the kitchen to be open to the dining area, and I also wanted to be able to stand at the stove and look outside into the (as yet imaginary) garden.

I wanted the kitchen to feel open, spacious, and filled with light. I also wanted the stove on the wall, and the sink behind me, with plenty of space for my husband to do dishes while I cooked.

So this is what we planned out, first sketching the basic shape in the big square box we were adding on to the house, then filling it in piece by piece in IKEA’s addictive, torturous little piece of kitchen software. I moved cabinets around, nudged the sink, bumped the stove, measured aisle space, until I finally found a layout that seemed to work.

Lots of space — what to do with it?

The Kitchen Designer?

But wait — what about a kitchen designer? What if we accidentally laid out something wrong? What if we made a huge mistake? Well, we didn’t have the budget to hire a kitchen designer. We had an architect on our project who drew up the plans and helped us finesse and visualize the materials in the kitchen. He also confirmed our measurements, helping us feel more confident about the dimensions and space. I also have to give a shoutout to Susan Serra who gave me a bit of free advice over email and was so encouraging about our design.

The takeaway: In the end, you live with your kitchen. You need to find a layout that you love and that you know will work for you. But it is also really invaluable to have feedback from people who are used to thinking about the corner radius of your island and the minimum walkthrough space (a kitchen aisle should be at least 42 inches wide).

Sketching out the plans at the playground.

Pacing Out the Kitchen

And then, after all that, yes, we took our plans and our tape measure to the playground and paced it out in chalk. This was so helpful — really walking through the kitchen, drawn out in chalk on the playground.

Later, after our addition was built, we spray-painted the outline of the cabinets on the subfloor again, to walk through it one more time and make sure all the measurements lined up.

Taking the design of the kitchen off the page and into the real world was really important for us in feeling confident about our decisions and moving into the next phase of buying cabinets, and putting it all together.

(Images: Faith Durand)