Kitchen Facelift: The Plan

August 5, 2012 | Alex

Ryan's kitchen facelift is nearly upon us!  (I can't bring myself to call it a full-fledged renovation-- no new appliances, no cabinets being torn out-- so I've settled on facelift.) Work starts tomorrow am. Here's what we're planning:

1. Replacing the countertop

The countertop started it all. The existing limestone countertop is, quite simply, the worst. It stains from water, wine, oil-- 3 mainstays of my diet. It's also extremely cracked. A huge chunk of it is not even secured to the counter anymore. It's just resting on top of the base cabinet.

Ryan knew when he bought the apt that replacing the counter was priority number uno. What we didn't know was that it would evolve into a full-blown "facelift"...your typical renovation scope creep.

After doing extensive research, we decided on Barocca soapstone from M. Teixeira  for best value (app. $65 sq ft uninstalled) and durability. I love the look too! Especially the highly veined slabs. The Shelter Island kitchen of one of my all-time favorite designers, Suzanne Shaker, inspired us. For more inspiration see my pinterest board.

We're planning to oil our soapstone so it achieves the black glossy look, rather than the natural grey stone look.

2. Swapping out Ikea cabinet doors & drawer fronts

Previous owner installed Ikea cabinets. It looks like the door/drawer fronts were a discontinued model because I haven't been able to find an exact match. Lidingo is the closest match currently available.

The cabinets are in excellent shape. The doors and drawer fronts are a bit dinged up, but the major issue is that a previous owner hand painted them. The color is a cream that's yellowed over time-- yup, as appealing as it sounds. If it was just the color, I think we'd suck it up and live with it. But my real beef is that there are visible brush strokes and that orange peel texture you get from a paint roller. Not to mention lots of divets where the paint has been knicked over the past 8-10 years.

Our initial idea was to replace the doors with Ikea Abstrakt. Until we calculated the cost. Much as I love the high gloss doors in theory, (A) they are awfully pricey; and (B) I'm not sure the gloss look jives with the circa-1900 original detail of the parlor floor and Ryan's more traditional furniture pieces. It's entirely likely that B is just a rationalization for the real reason, A. Regardless, we settled on the matte Applad door. It's not as brilliant white as Abstrakt and it's more of a semigloss finish. (Ikea forums identify Benjamin Moore Simply White in semigloss as the closest color match.) Applad is Ikea's second least expensive line of doors, but the quality increase from the cheapest, called Harlig, is significant. Applad is a painted fiberboard vs the Harlig's melamine-coated particleboard. The beauty of the painted fiberboard is that dings can be touched up.

I hate the idea of sending our perfectly good ikea doors to the landfill (or wherever our contractor plans to take them). We wanted to have them professionally spray lacquered a true white. Well, turns out it's not that easy. To get access to a spray shop, you really need to have industry connections. Our contractor quoted us a price from his spray guy that was about the same cost of having custom doors made. It drives me nuts when industry pricing incentivizes the dispose-and-replace culture. Sigh. Idealism just isn't in the budget right now. I'll fight the good fight next time around.

3. New hardware

*** Updated 8/9/12*** We ended up going with a third option on the cabinet pulls-- Sugatsune SN-70 (x30) and Sugatstune SN-180 (x2) in Mirror (M) Finish.* Top Knob Tab pull didn't have enough of a "tab" to functionally grip (photo is misleading). We nixed Bravo when Ryan and I realized these are the same pulls in our kitchenette at work. Very utilitarian in an awesome way, but we don't necessary want to be reminded of the office at home.

We're going with a japanese-inspired minimalist look. Chrome tab pulls. I ordered two different styles, both set to arrive Monday or Tuesday. 


4. Backsplash

What kind? Who knows! Not me. Not yet. We're going to retile, because the current tile is almost definitely going to be damaged on the bottom when the countertop is ripped out. The current tiles aren't bad, but they look a bit dated. I had my heart set on white scored tile (see photo below), but I'm having a hard time finding anything I like. Same story at every tile store-- no scored tile, no samples, crazy lead time for ordering anything that's not hideous. (Seriously-- it's appalling what kind of tile is even in production. My friend Meghan and I played the "pick out the ugliest tile" game while waiting 45 minutes for the customer service staff to stop chatting amongst themselves and acknowledge our existence.)

One idea I'm nursing is ordering Heath Ceramics'  2x8 field tile or maybe even the 2x6 modern basic. I do love their glazes. Of course, you have to order the $1 ea samples online and pay CA to NY shipping costs that exceed the cost of the sample tile. Don't know if I can get over that. I'll try. Our contractor is leaving for a month-long trip to Europe August 22, so we have some time to select our tile. We're going to do everything but the backsplash before he leaves.

The scored tile of my dreams:

via Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture

via Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture

5. Kitchen Island!

This is the big ticket item. While our 13" ceilings (with double height wall cabinets) give us plenty of theoretical storage space, we needed more drawers and additional cabinets that we could actually reach without getting the ladder out of the basement. Ryan also likes to work standing up-- something a bar counter is ideal for. So we're turning a narrow pantry cabinet into a 42" high (standard bar height) island.

Thanks to amazing free video tutorials, I learned how to use sketch up during my lunch breaks at work in order to put this together for our contractor (we're flying solo on this-- no architect):


It's tough to tell from this view, but there's a 6" return on the left, then the counter and floating shelves come out at a 45" angle. This is because the passage into our kitchen is very narrow. We wanted to open up the pass-through a bit, or at the least, create an illusion of more space. The driver was functionality, but it also adds a bit of visual interest.

Since the design elements are stripped down, save for some mild veining in the soapstone, and the color palette limited to black and white, we're doing the floating shelves in a Neapolitan bamboo plywood. It definitely adds warmth and character. To be honest, if price was no object, I'd have gone with an amber plywood. Or if price was really no object, straight up walnut. Our contractor had the neapolitan plyboo leftover from another job, so we got a very good deal on it. Ryan also digs the zebrawood-like pattern. And I must try to remember that it is, after all, his place. Here's a shot our contractor sent us from the job that yielded the surplus plyboo:


I'll post the before shots momentarily, in a separate post.