This is a story of project creep and rearranging existing kitchen cabinets. This is a huge before and after transformation but I only added some cabinets on the back of the island and one for the gas cook top I found at Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The renovation started out with an island renovation meant for function and grew to a complete renovation of my dream European cottage-inspired kitchen. It turned out better than I had ever hoped or envisioned and I am so thankful to God, my husband and our contractor. It was a LONG six months and I even had our fifth baby in the midst of all this but oh so worth it!
This is the reveal post but I will have follow up posts detailing the many parts that make up our new kitchen!
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Where We Started
The kitchen was designed by the prior owners for one cook and a family of four which included one college student and one high-schooler. The bar was not functional for my four children who love to sit and help me cook. The counter space was so limited considering the size of this island!
The small sink was located in the corner of the kitchen behind the island and it left the person using the kitchen sink “trapped” if the fridge or dishwasher was opened. We thought the oven was a double but it turned out to be an oven/microwave combo. I cook and bake constantly so a double oven was something I had loved from our previous home. The oven also opened right into the island leaving just a slim passage. I frequently found myself blocking running kids while I pulled something from the oven requiring both hands.
The cook-top was a small electric cook-top that didn’t work too well. It frequently went from hot to cold and it took 20 mins just to warm up!! All the appliances were original and were not working too well. One thing I did know about the kitchen cabinets was that they were SOLID wood construction from the door to the box and they were very good quality.
When we bought our home in July 2021, I knew SOMEDAY I would want to redo our one-person island. I said someday as in a few years. Haha-says my husband who knows I like to move fast. I LOVE to cook and bake. I cook three meals seven days a week pretty often. I am a stay-at-home mom of five (our wee little girl is five weeks old) who also home-schools and my husband works from home full-time. My four older kids also LOVE to cook and bake with me. I assign them meals and they take turns. They bake all the time too so our one person u-shaped island with a small twenty year old four-burner electric cook-top wasn’t functional especially since the burners were always going from hot to cold and hot again.
I knew the corner island with bar took up a lot of space and I thought a straight island would be a better use of space and more functional for the five cooks of the family! Our home was a completely custom post and beam construction home built 20 years ago. We bought it from the original owners and everything from the beams in our living room to the interior trim and solid wood cabinets were all stained and milled to be a consistent color in the entire home. This was definitely a home with wood done RIGHT. Solid 3/4″ cherry wood cabinets were in excellent condition and I didn’t want to replace them with inferior cabinets. I knew I would have to add some additional/different cabinets in the island (for which I had a plan) but I wanted to reuse as much as I could. I had no intention of redoing our entire kitchen but let’s just say things lined up right and as often happens in my projects-God’s grace abounds!
- Straight Island as large as I could get it
- stone countertops
- add additional storage to the island
- English inspired island that looked like furniture
- 36″ gas six burner range
I called and interviewed many contractors. Most said they could not reuse the kitchen cabinets and suggested I order new ones. This was in the middle of all the backlog and the cost of wood had gone through the roof. The custom shop who made our original cabinets no longer sold that option and the island design they came up with cost as much as a new kitchen from Home Depot and still didn’t look anything like I wanted.
I called many kitchen design companies and even DeVol Kitchens in London but no one wanted to do just an island because they were so busy. I even found a contractor who said he liked the kitchen and I should just leave it. We finally found a contractor who said he could re-use the cabinets and build what I wanted. In the end we halted the kitchen last Autumn (since I was just gathering info) and he built our custom library downstairs. I was THRILLED with his craftsmanship and he understood that details matter to me. He also understood design and knew the style I was going for. I could draw and send pics and he could build. I knew he was the one to help me get the island design I had in my head.
Now the reason you are here…the reveal.
European Cottage-Inspired Kitchen Renovation
I am beyond happy with how this turned out! Oh guys. I could cry. I sit at the dining table and think to myself-is this real! It is everything I hoped to achieve. The kitchen feels so homey. It feels warm and inviting. It looks like furniture. It was so important for me to have that look because I love it (duh) and because we have a very open floor plan.
This is the view standing in our living room. Since its basically one large open room-I can see why the prior owners had an angled island with a high bar. It essentially created a room away from the rest of the living room and dining. But it also made the space FEEL small even though it was large. By designing the massive island (5’x7′) to look like furniture, it blends in. I just love that the overall feeling is open but still feels warm and doesn’t feel like a cold large utilitarian space.
See how the beautiful legs of the island and panel wood trim on the side just feel like they were always a part of the living room and overall wood details. By painting the island, I was able to provide a warm neutral tone, a bit of contrast and also a way to blend the existing and new cabinets needed for the island. Our walls are a creamy warm white and the island is a light beige so it just reinforces that warm scheme/feel I was going for.
But how did the renovation grow?
Well, it started with the cook-top. We knew that we wanted a new cook-top. The prior owners had foresight and had plumbed the kitchen for gas just in case they wanted to switch to a gas cook-top. How amazing is that?! I have never heard of that before and it was the first big blessing from God because I had wanted a gas cook-top for so many years and often short of major demo-adding a gas line can’t be done. My husband-ever the optimizer, asked me why I wasn’t looking at larger than four burner gas cook-tops? We are doing the island and lets do it right he said and asked me what size I wanted. 36″ six burner and he didn’t have to tell me twice! So our 36″ kitchenaid was chosen. I have loved cooking with gas and now I can whip up breakfast quickly. I can use all my large pots and cook the sausage, hashbrowns, and eggs at once. The prior cook-top had only one large burner and I could not fit even two larger pans at once.
Three weeks before the renovation was to start, the microwave broke. Then the oven wouldn’t turn on or off a few times that month prior so we decided it was time to replace those. This is where TWO other big graces came: First, I found that the measurement for the double ovens were the same as our microwave/oven combo. What’s even more amazing is that one day the kids and I were walking through Lowes getting something or other and I spotted the KitchenAid double oven I had just ordered on clearance since it was the display. It wasn’t only discounted but MEGA discounted. Thank you Jesus!! I canceled my order at the other store and snagged this one quick.
The second grace is my husband’s curiosity. I am the person who assumes a lot with construction. I assumed electrical was permanent and had no intention of moving the ovens. But my husband asked why I wouldn’t move the ovens since I hated their location? My answer was because electrical can’t be moved. He said just ask. So I did ask our contractor and he said yea it can be done and the oven cabinet could be moved too. This was interesting but where COULD I move the ovens to? And what about the upper cabinets-they can’t just float there.
Then I thought I could switch the oven cabinet to the end of the wall. There was plenty of space to have our dining table and it would make it more of an eat in kitchen vibe-which I liked. But if I moved the ovens to the corner, then I couldn’t just have it off by itself. I came up with the idea of using the uppers for a buffet to make one long kitchen wall (and continue that eat-in look). I have never liked upper cabinets, nor is my husband fond of them. It became a win-win situation!
The open shelving is functional and oh so beautiful. It’s one of things that turned out better because what I originally wanted (floating wood shelves that could hold a TON of weight) didn’t happen. Our contractor was going to custom make the floating shelves and attach them to the studs. But after trying for weeks to source cherry that was 2″ thick by 120″ and a very busy summer, our contractor said he didn’t have time to make them. I found a few options that ran into the thousands and the brackets still could not hold what I wanted them too. In fact, I found most open shelves on Pinterest or from companies just weren’t rated to hold a ton of dishes. These shelves for me, had to be fully functional and beautiful. I was unable to find reasonably priced pre-made cherry shelves so I started reconsidering the design. If I used 3/4″ alder then I could glue them together and use edge banding to make them look thick. It was an easy DIY. But I still needed brackets! I searched high and low before I found these brackets. They could hold a lot of weight but were too short. My husband was able to cut off the tip so they were flat and now my 12″ deep shelves fit!
I love how I can display my beautiful goblets and glasses. I love how I can have frequently used items on the lower shelves and less frequently used items on the uppers. The number one question I get is what about dust? Well yes I have to dust the shelves but no I don’t have to dust my dishes. I USE all the dishes there because I set the table differently everyday. By the time they would need to be dusted, we have already used and washed them.
Plumbing CAN be Moved
So once we had decided to remove the uppers and make a buffet (creep), then add floating shelves (creep), my husband asked why I kept the sink in the corner. After all, I HATED its location and I wanted a larger one then the 28″ they had. My response was: plumbing can’t be moved. His response was: just ask. I asked our contractor and yes plumbing can be moved and what’s more our plumbing was in the wall not the floor so it was super easy. I asked if we could rearrange the cabinets to a) move the sink and b) have a much larger sink. Yes and Yes but that means new counter-tops since it won’t line up with the new layout and they’d likely break them anyhow in demo. CREEEEEP. So…now we were in full on kitchen renovation territory.
I went with a stainless steel sink option since I cook constantly. I researched white apron sinks originally and read that cast iron is stain resistant but can chip and ceramic can stain but not chip. I was looking for something that can stand up to my homemade marinara, red chile and heavy cast iron Dutch ovens. The new sink location allowed me to get this Kraus sink and this Kohler faucet. Together these made for such a functional kitchen. I loved the Kohler pull down faucet from our prior home in Ohio and its been the best. It makes clean up a breeze and the sink is large enough to wash all of my largest platters and pans. It has been an absolute dream to work in!
In order to achieve an apron-like sink, I went with and undermount sink and we reused the corner upper kitchen cabinet (which happened to be exact dimensions of the sink-another Grace from God!) with a base my contractor built. To cover the front of the sink we had a stone front cut out and my contractor glued it in place. The right side has a drain board cut into it by the countertop store.
I knew that I wanted unlacquered brass hardware and went with these bin pulls from Rejuvenation. Unlacquered brass arrives polished looking but overtime it ages and patinas to a beautiful antique looking finish. For the lower cabinets and buffet I went with these knobs from Rejuvenation. They reminded me of old English knobs from vintage pieces of furniture. I also used a larger unlacquered brass appliance pull from Rejuvenation. The towel bar on the side is also brass and found at Amber Interiors.
I struggled with the space above the sink which typically has a window. The other side of this wall is our master bedroom so adding a window wasn’t an option. I still felt like it needed a focal point though so I landed on two 72″ shelves on either side of the sink. The blank space above the sink became the perfect spot for seasonal wreaths.
The wreath above is from Pottery Barn and was the perfect fall piece. I love that it has warm deep colors and looks so real. I have an autumn garland from Pottery Barn that I have had for 10 years and it still looks amazing. I love that this space above the sink
I created a coffee bar on the right side of the buffet with an antique brass shelf I found at my local favorite antique store. It allowed me to fill the space to the right of the 72″ shelf. My goal was to add as much storage as possible but still keep the overall look varied and as if it had been accumulated over time. The buffet left a small opening when we rearranged the cabinets but by extending the buffet counter to the main countertop, I created the perfect storage for my charcuterie boards! It had always been a challenge storing them and now they had a place of their own.
I now had a large corner now where the sink once was and I knew it would be the perfect spot for my cookbooks. I must have searched for months for a shelf from glass to marble and nothing felt right. I was once again walking through my favorite antique shop and found this bookshelf. I knew right away that if I turned it upside down it would be a bookshelf and have a cubby underneath for my measuring cups! I wanted to add a brass bar on the back wall somewhere but didn’t want to add the same brass bars I see in so many kitchens. I didn’t want a bar to just hang pretty but not used copper pans or decor items. I wanted form and function. I mounted another towel bar from Amber Interiors for my measuring spoons. I bought brass S-hooks from Rejuvenation to hang the baking items.
The lighting adds so much drama to the kitchen space! I needed something with a statement to help define the island and anchor the 10ft ceilings. But I also needed something that would go with the dining light from Ballard Designs we already put up last fall. The island lights are a big statement but the transparency still allow you to see through them. I bought them on clearance from Ballard Designs so unfortunately they are no longer available. Here are some pendants from Ballard though that look great.
Let’s talk about that gorgeous backsplash! I went all over the board with this decision. Initially I wanted to do the hand made zellige tile that has become so popular. I even ordered a sample and loved it! But as time went on and more was added to the kitchen-I began to think the zellige wasn’t right. Sure enough when we went to Floor and Decor for the tile, I laid out quite a few options from zellige to marble and even subway tile. I could not find anything that looked right until I saw this stone. It was exactly what I had envisioned when I was looking for inspiration. I wanted an old European cottage look but I didn’t think I was going to be able to find any. The stone was old cottage, the perfect color and could stand up to our massive post and beams in the living room. I called our contractor and he said he could do a stone backsplash. In yet another grace, it turns out the store had that stone in stock randomly. The emplyee said they NEVER get it in stock but just had one pallet sent to them. It was enough for my project! Yay, thank you Jesus!!
Our contractor installed it and I over-grouted it myself. This was the first time I had done any sort of grouting but I had a very specific look I wanted. It took me three days but I absolutely love the way it turned out. It has the old world, always been there look that I wanted.
Our kitchen has come a long way and there is still SO much to cover. In the next few posts I will show the construction process because I know you want to see how things were laid out. The island is definitely a story of recycle, thrift finds and off the rack cabinets. It deserves a post all its own! I show just how we re-arranged the cabinets, how another grace from God helped us patch the floor in an unexpected hole and how the kitchen looked during these six months of in progress! Lets not forget our beautiful dining area. I will also do a review of our appliances because they have truly made this transformation even more functional. Thanks so much for stopping by and following this process through the many months on instagram. You guys cheered me on and it was fun sharing this entire process. One more look at where we started…