About five years ago my husband and I bought an old, decrepit house, and renovated it top to bottom. (My whole renovation story is here, if you want to see!) Part of that renovation included adding on an open kitchen that we outfitted with a semi-custom IKEA kitchen.
I loved designing my kitchen from scratch, and we saved a ton of money by doing most of the design and work ourselves. But let me tell you — when you go the DIY route, you do run the risk of missing details that can make a big difference. Here's the biggest (yet surprising) mistake we made.
The centerpiece of my kitchen is a huge island with an equally huge sink in the center. As a recipe developer and cookbook author, dishes are just a central fact of life; and in such an open kitchen with no place to hide, I wanted a large sink for the mess. I could drop plates out of view and sweep pots and pans out of the way.
So I bought an enormous single-bowl sink that's nearly three feet by two (it's a Silgranit sink from Blanco). It's deep, wide, and surprisingly quiet. No clinking or clashing of dishes and pans against ceramic or stainless steel. And it cleans up beautifully.
The sink, in case you are wondering, was not the biggest mistake; I adore it! The surprising problem and giant mistake we made came next: the faucet.
I chose a sleek yet budget-friendly faucet that was modern and unobtrusive. But I got it all wrong: You guys, I bought a bar faucet, not a sink faucet with enough depth for my giant sink.
See, I bought a faucet I liked the look of, but I didn't consider the size. I have a deep sink, and the faucet's neck was fairly shallow, about 5 inches from front to back. This means that we had to lean quite far into the sink to get our hands under the water.
Okay, boo-hoo, you may be thinking — what a nit-picky problem. Come on. Small potatoes! But this is where you'd be wrong. We spend hours every week doing dishes and as my husband and I are both short, we had to lean in too much. I would find my back aching almost immediately and after a half-hour of doing dishes the bad juju (ergonomically speaking) was pronounced.
It was also something that I just didn't realize was even an option (a bar faucet? Oops?!) and wouldn't have thought to look at the neck depth of a faucet. Matching a sink to a faucet is just one of those small yet significant details that mount up in a kitchen renovation — but it's one that had surprisingly dramatic effects.
When to Consult a Kitchen Designer
I talked to Susan Serra, a kitchen designer whose work I have long admired for its aesthetics and livability, about this issue of teeny details in kitchen renovations. I was having some regret about not having my renovation looked over by someone with more knowledge and experience. "Here's the thing," Susan told me, "you do a kitchen once, maybe twice in your life. It has to be right." True!
She explained something I didn't realize when I was doing my own renovation, which is that a kitchen designer doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. Many designers are offering more personalized services, customized to budget. "Kitchen design pros today offer a wide range of services, from hourly consultations to e-design to traditional full service kitchen design. Even if you're spending $10,000 or less on your renovation, soup to nuts, why not hire a top kitchen specialist for an hour or two?"
Susan herself offers a very budget-friendly e-design consulting fee to look over plans and answer questions. I certainly wish I would have taken advantage of something like that to get the tiniest details right. As Susan said to me, "Spending a couple of hundred dollars, even just for a consultation, may equal 2% of your budget but the return can truly be life-enhancing."
A Happy Ending for My Kitchen Mistake
I lived with my kitchen mistake for far too long. Between my slow realization that it was even problematic and then feeling uncertain what kind of faucet to fix the problem (and having two kids somewhere there in between!) we lived with this bad faucet for five years!
But finally this spring, we invested in a new faucet with a spray feature and the proper depth of neck: this one is almost double the depth of the bar faucet at 9 inches front to back. (Here's the one we got — a sleek Grohe faucet at a very decent price.) It's so much better and I can stand at my sink and do dishes without getting a sore back.
So, I hope you learn from my lessons: Giant sinks are the best; DIY design is lovely, but get some advice from a pro if you can; and always, always, do a little research on your beautiful modern faucets before installing them.