Category Archives: kitchens


planning + designing a kitchen

13th January 2015

So, the kitchen. The heart of the home, right? Just to jog your memory, this was our sweet little diner-style kitchen we had pre-reno.

home tour 9

We had made it work by painting out the oak strip cabinetry, adding new hardware, and laying those fabulous budget-friendly black and white vinyl tiles. We lived with our kitchen like this for a number of years, which gave us lots of time to think about what our dream kitchen would look like.

One thing that was on the must-do list was to expand the kitchen. You can see in these pics that I snapped just as we were moving out, that our kitchen was on the right side of the supporting wall…


And the living room on the left side..IMG_20140609_111313

Well, one of our main re-design elements was to bring that wall down (a beam put up in place to support the house). Once our renovation was underway in the summer, things were looking pretty horrific.


When you do any kind of large reno, you just always have to remember that it gets worse before it gets better. Otherwise you would just want to hide under your pillow and wonder why on earth you ruined a perfectly functional space…


As the house was getting framed, we turned our attention to planning the kitchen. We kept the kitchen in the same general spot as it was before to save on costs related to moving plumbing, but we moved our front door over to the other side of the house so that we could expand the kitchen right up to the exterior wall. Where the door used to be, would now make way for a big picture window.

Before I go on, I just want to make it clear that we are newbie DIY kitchen designers and did these mock ups on our own. Once we got to our more final version, however, we consulted with an IKEA kitchen rep, which was definitely super useful. If you’re able to, I would always recommend chatting with a professional kitchen designer as there are lots of things that they can help guide you with, and point out things that you might not have considered.

On our first crack at using IKEA’s kitchen designer tool, we came up with this. We got the basic layout down, with the “work triangle” people talk about (you want a triangle between your sink, stove, and fridge for efficiency and ease of use). You can’t see the sink in this snapshot, but it goes under the window. The whole thing wasn’t bad, but the island was looking really dinky. We needed to leave a certain amount of space around the island for walking in and out of the kitchen, so this short island was basically as big as it was going to get. In the picture it looks decent, but when we measured it out and imagined it, I just didn’t love it. Plus, we ended up deciding to do a wall to help define the entryway/front door area, so that wall was going to come up and block the left hand space around the island. Plan #1 nixed.

possible layout3

In our second attempt, we switched from an island to a peninsula. Made way more sense space-wise, and this way we could build out the wall by the front door. I didn’t like the symmetry with the microwave built-in by the hood vent though (and it wouldn’t have been functional anyway, I have now found out!), and wanted to incorporate some glass fronted uppers.Kitchen Snip #2

Version 3 was the winner. I liked the symmetry of that far wall, the peninsula gave a nice big stretch of countertop while leaving enough walking room between it and the fridge (over 3 feet), and we could still have our wall to help define the entryway. See where there is a box on the floor of the peninsula that doesn’t appear to have a cabinet on it? That’s where the wall would come to from the far left side of the picture, leaving enough space to tuck two stools in to the peninsula. kitchen layout

Here it is with the new door, window, and wall framed up. See what I mean about wanting to define the entryway? If we hadn’t of put that wall in, you just would have walked basically straight into the kitchen. Not terrible, but not ideal either. I like having the bit of wall, and it gave an opportunity for a few more upper cabinets and a spot to run a bunch of electrical.


I had done up a moodboard a few months before on a bit of a whim, and I ended up sticking quite close to the design.


Flooring >> We decided to carry our hardwood through to the kitchen, both for continuity on the main floor and also because I just love hardwood in a kitchen up next to painted cabinetry. I like the warmth that it brings to the space. So our medium tone gray-brown hardwood (more details on that in another post) was what we started with.

Cabinetry >> We knew we would go with IKEA – great prices (most important factor for us), nice contemporary styles, and good reviews from friends and fellow bloggers. I went back and forth about going with all-white cabinetry, but in the end I fell in love with the grey of the Lindigo cabinets.

ikea kitchen gray lindigo cabinets

via IKEA

I like the look of a two-tone kitchen, so we went with the grey for bottoms to help ground the whole space, and white uppers. If I had a huge kitchen I would have loved to do some open shelving, but the reality is that our new kitchen, although bigger than it used to be, is still not massive. I knew we would benefit from having as much storage as possible.

As I type this, the kitchen cabinetry is actually in, but we are still waiting on countertops, and figuring out hardware, backsplash, etc. More pics and posts to come soon!

Have you guys designed a kitchen before? Ever gone with IKEA? Got any tips or secrets to share?


going retro with Big Chill

18th December 2014

So I have a direction for our new kitchen which includes grey and white shaker style cabinetry, gold hardware, marble-like countertops (quartz probably…), wood floors, and stainless steel appliances. I’m pretty damn excited about it (I promise pictures of it tomorrow!). But despite this being a totally dreamy design for me, there are many directions that we could have gone in. I’m not an only-white cabinetry kind of gal (don’t get me wrong, I *love* white, but not exclusively). In a different house with a different style, I could have happily gone with walnut wood or black cabinetry, a kitchen with concrete counters, one with vibrant morroccan style tile, or something retro.

Big Chill is a company that designs appliances. They have a ‘Pro’ line which are beautiful looking modern appliances in a variety of colours, but what gets me is their ‘Retro’ line. Yes, I’m talking about those rounded fridges in pastel colours.


How can you not love this mint beauty? It’s got that classic, stamped metal body but with all of the conveniences of a modern appliance.


The pale pink? Dying.


I would happily use these mid-century appliances in a kitchen. In fact, I have always dreamed that maybe one day when we make over the kitchen in our family cottage (waaay down the line – the current kitchen is great) that we could use coloured retro appliances like this. I just think they are so fun, plus they come with all the conveniences of modern appliances. It’s not like they are old school in the functionality.

I went to Big Chill’s celebrity page, and it’s pretty fun to get a peak inside some of their kitchens. Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Miranda Lambert, etc.


Would you ever use colourful appliances in a kitchen? What about just a punchy microwave or something? What does your dream kitchen look like?

*Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Big Chill, but all opinions are my own, as always. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog! 

photo 2

gillian’s kitchen – stripes floors take 2

21st January 2014

So you know how we used peel ‘n stick black and white tiles to spruce up our “needs to be renovated eventually” kitchen (see that post from way back when here)? Well Gillian (who you can check out at did the same thing – stripes and all! – and sent me in a few pics.

Here is the before:

photo 1

And here is the after!

photo 2

Such a simple and budget-friendly solution that totally makes the space feel fresh and fun. Don’t you think the cabinetry looks a lot more white and the counters pop more in the ‘after’ photos? Thanks for sending those in, Gillian. I love to see it when someone tries out one of my projects!

Have you guys been doing any decorating or DIY’s in your kitchen lately? After doing our tiles, cabinet painting, and hardware-adding, we have pretty much left our kitchen untouched. I am dreaming of an all new kitchen. New cabinetry, stone or quartz countertops, hardwood floors, backsplash tiles…. oooooh the fun. Let’s hope this whole renovation/addition thing becomes a reality!


some organization and granny smith green

12th March 2012

There has always been this somewhat secret spot in our kitchen that I tried to avoid getting in any photos. Not because it’s an ugly space, but because I had never taken the time to organize it. It housed our cookbooks, loose recipes, our drill (?), and our too-small recycling bin. And, there would often be a recycling-overflow situation going on in the bottom two shelves. See what I mean?

Well, after doing our mini kitchen makeover (see that here), I thought it was high time to do something about this small space. I emptied it, took out all the shelves, taped out the sides…

…and gave it a couple coats of the fun lime green paint left over from our office makeover.

To make better use of the space, I took some of our baking goods out of our pantry (which was also overflowing), grabbed these jars from the dollar store, labelled them (like I did for this project) and filled them up. Now these items are easily at hand, look kinda cute, and freed up a bunch of space elsewhere in our small kitchen.

I still have all of my cookbooks and recipe cards in this space, but I switched out the level of the shelves so that they could all fit in one nook.

And the basket? It’s one from IKEA that we’ve had for years. It doesn’t look like much but it is stuffed to the brim with random house improvement stuff that we like to keep at hand (most of our tools and similar stuff live in our garage). Sneaky, sneaky.

And that too-small recycling bin? Replaced by two white bins (also from the dollar store). Now our recycling is automatically separated into paper vs. glass/plastic and starts to overflow way less often. It’s still not ideal to have our recycling out in the open (I would so much rather have it tucked away in a cupboard), but when you don’t have a lot of space, you have to get creative.

I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. Sure, they aren’t magazine-worthy styled shelves, but they are practical and SO much better than we had before. Plus the pop of granny smith green just makes me happy. Not bad for a half-day project and less than $10 (paint already owned).

On a different note, a huuuge thank you to Barbara from hodge:podge who featured me in her ‘So Canadian, Eh’ series this past weekend. You can check out the feature here. And, if you haven’t been there before, be sure to browse through Barbara’s blog for a bunch of inspiration and eye candy!

So that’s it for today. How about you guys? Do anything fun over the weekend? Any home improvement projects? Do tell.

black and white striped vinyl floor tile

transforming our kitchen with vinyl black and white floor tile

23rd January 2012

To cap off our kitchen mini-makeover (check out how we painted the cabinets and added hardware here and here), we knew we had to do something about the floor. Enter: vinyl black and white floor tile.

black and white striped vinyl floor tile

Here is the before…

Remember that ultra-boring beige vinyl tile? It was clean and in fine condition, but it was just so dated and dull. Since we are saving up our pennies for a major kitchen rehaul (probably won’t happen for at least another year or so), we knew we wanted something super cheap and easy to install. Enter peel n’ stick vinyl tile. Okay, it’s obviously not the most glamorous of flooring options, but it can add a fun pop of colour or pattern to any room. We searched around the different options — we saw tons that were earthy/gray/beige colours that were relatively nice, but I just didn’t like the idea of using something that was *trying* to look like ceramic tile and so clearly wasn’t. That stuff doesn’t fool anybody. So when I saw the crisp white and black options at our local Rona (Canadian version of Home Depot), I was sold. They were fun and the best part? The 79 cents/tile price tag.

So we grabbed about 50 tiles (25 white and 25 black) and got to peelin’ and stickin’. You can use a primer on your floors to ensure that they are really stuck on there, but since this is a temporary solution for us, we weren’t too worried. We gave our floor a good scrub and then got to work.

First step was to figure out the layout we wanted. Originally I had been thinking of the tried and true checkered pattern, but when I put it down it felt a bit too much like a diner. If these had been high end marble tiles then it probably would look great, but they are vinyl and glossy, just adding to the diner-vibe.

So I tried laying them out in a striped pattern and was quickly won over. The stripes are something a little different and definitely make the narrow room feel wider. Sold.

These tiles are so, so easy to install. Seriously, even if you’ve never done anything handy before, you won’t have any trouble with these.

You may have to do a little cutting to fit particular spots (like around the perimeter of the room), but with a good quality utility knife, it is pretty cinchy. We cut a few that were a bit off, so we just put them aside and used them for the small bits we needed at the end.

As you can tell from my over-enthusiastic smile in the third pic, it’s actually pretty satisfying sticking these tiles down.

And here they are in all their glossy glory…

You can see the edges between tiles a bit, especially in the white ones, but it’s not crazy noticeable.

Doesn’t it look so much better?

The whole price tag for the floor was a mere $45. Crazy cheap, right?

And here is the whole before + after of the kitchen. Three little projects with a ton of impact, don’t you think?

vinyl floor

I am so much happier in this improved space. It’s brighter, and just more fun.

This whole “mini makeover” was super reasonable:

  • Painting the cabinet: $0 (already owned paint and supplies)
  • Adding hardware: $150 (but remember, we’ll be using that hardware in our future kitchen reno)
  • Re-tiling floor: $45

Grand Total: $195. Under $200! Amazing.

budget kitchen makeover

What about you guys? Any kitchen overhauls recently? Or maybe you’ve used the peel n’ stick tile somewhere? Do tell. 

kitchen makeover step 2: handy hardware

20th January 2012

So, we started our mini kitchen makeover the other day by painting out the dark wood trim of our cabinets (see that here). The cabinets didn’t have any hardware – you pulled them open at the bottom (the area we just painted). Since we didn’t want to get fingerprints all over the new white paint and since we wanted to make these cabinets somewhat more attractive (they’re never going to be beauties, but they can get a bit of a facelift),  we decided to go get some snazzy new hardware. We figured that we should get the hardware that we will ultimately want to use when we reno this kitchen properly (probably in another year or so), instead of spending slightly less money for something we’re just going to replace. So we checked out some different options online and in various stores, and settled on the long slim handles. We liked the clean lines, that they match nicely with stainless steel appliances (which we’ll buy during our reno), and that they would go nicely with both a more traditional or modern style cabinet.

We liked the Vinna ones from IKEA (about $6.50 a pop)…

…but when we saw really similar hardware at our local Lee Valley (a Canadian store, for any non-Canadians out there) that was slightly cheaper and had a nice brushed finish, we were sold.

Since we were drilling new holes on all of our cabinets, I was seriously stressed about getting the measurements right. Before we did anything, I got Dan to hold up a handle on a cabinet and move it around until I liked exactly where it was placed (yes, this was probably kinda annoying for the hubs since I wanted to get it juuuust right). Then once we had the first one in place, I grabbed the ruler and measured all the dimensions (how far away from the bottom and side of the cabinet). A couple of trials-and-error holes weren’t going to look pretty, so I measured the hardware, measured on the cabinets, marked the spots, held up the hardware to make sure it looked right…

…and then re-measured again, just to be sure…

Below you can see all of my pencil marks on the drawers.

Then my trusty hubby came and drilled where X marked the spot(s).

Then came the best part – installing the hardware. I was seriously giddy at this point.

And here they are all finished. Doesn’t it look so much better? A bit white-washed right now, so we’re trying to figure out if we want to paint the backsplash, but sooo much better than where we started. It wasn’t a super cheap project — since we needed about 20 pulls, we ended up spending around $150 (with taxes and everything). But like I said, these puppies are here to stay (unlike everything else in our kitchen which we dream about replacing).

Now to do something about the hideous floor. Stay tuned!

kitchen makeover step 1: de-ugly

18th January 2012

So after finishing our office/guest bedroom mini-makeover (check that out here), I was all gun-ho to get going on another room in our house. Our kitchen has been screaming for attention since we bought the house, but we kept putting it off because it just seemed *too* big. This room needs a major gut-and-reno job (and therefore some serious dough). However, as I stood in the middle of our kitchen looking around, I realized that there were a few things we could do to spruce it up without breaking the bank.

First up was to do something about our ’80’s special cabinetry. You know, the crappy white cabinets with a grainy wood border? Man, so u.g.l.y.

I loathe that wood grain border. Ick. I figured I could paint out the surround in white and it would probably make the whole place look a lot brighter and more modern. I knew the whites probably wouldn’t match exactly, but just kinda decided to go for it anyway. So I grabbed a can of semi-gloss white paint that I had sitting around and got to work.

First thing was to give a very light sanding of the wood. Because this is a temporary solution until we can properly reno our kitchen, I wasn’t overly careful about sanding it perfectly – just rough enough so that the paint would stick. Then I tapped everything off with good old frog tape (ie. best painting tape ever).

Then I got to slapping up the paint. The wood was pretty dark, so the grain definitely showed through at first…

But about 3 coats later, things were looking SO much better.

Here’s where things took a little turn for the worse. I decided that it would probably be a good idea to put some varathane as a top coat, you know, for extra durability. So I grabbed the varathane I had used for this project (among others), and had heard that it was pretty good for not yellowing over time. However, after putting a coat on all the white, it took only a few days for it to dry and start looking super yellow and gunky. I neglected to take a picture of this cause I was pretty bummed, but here is how crazytown things were looking while the cabinets were drying:

In retrospect, I don’t actually think it was the kind of varathane we used, but instead the fact that it was pretty hard to get a thin coat since there are lots of nooks and crannies. So after trying to just live with it for a few days, I gave in and did another coat of white paint on top of everything. Phew. Back to nice crispy white.

So here’s where things stand. Please don’t judge me on how messy the kitchen is. I’m just keepin’ it real, folks.

Yes, the whites between the painted part and the rest of the cabinet don’t match exactly, and yes it’s just a temporary solution until we can get better cabinets, but it’s SO much better than it was. The whole room just instantly feels brighter. And the total cost was $0 dolla dolla bills since we already owned the paint. Gotta love that.

Next up? We’re going to add some snazzy hardware so we don’t get fingerprints all over the new paint. Stay tuned!


gettin’ spicy

16th January 2012

Last week I posted about a little message centre we put together for our previously cluttered kitchen (check that out here). You may have noticed we also added a little wall-mounted spice rack at the same time, so here’s the scoop.

Firstly, let me back up and show you our pathetic spice “rack” (ie. various spice shakers shoved in a corner of a cabinet):

Not pretty. It also made all of our travel mugs taste slightly spicy. Ick.

So, when I spotted the magnetic ‘Grundtal‘ tins at IKEA, I figured that they would be the perfect solution. I grabbed a couple packages of them ($9.99/3 pack) and the white magnetic board IKEA sells (called the ‘Spontan‘ for $14.99).

I wanted to label the tins, so I got out a roll of adhesive blackboard that I had sitting in our closet (originally purchased for a buck at the dollar store).

I cut the blackboard adhesive into small labels, and wrote the names of each spice with a white gel pen. Then it was just a matter of filling up the jars and sticking them onto the magnetic board. Easy, peasy.

Not only has it freed up some space in our cabinet, but we’ve also been finding that it’s good to have the spices out on display because we use them more that way.

So there is it. What about you guys? Done any kitchen organizing lately? DIYed a spice rack? Speaking of spices, any amazing recipes you’ve tried recently? Do tell. 


basement reno update #10: smitten with the kitchen

12th November 2010

The kitchen. So this was really one of the biggest changes to the layout of the basement. We decided to turn what had been a grotty laundry room/storage area into a kitchen, and move the laundry out into a shared area at the bottom of the basement stairs. This made the most sense as it left the large bedroom and living room area, put the laundry into a shared space, and turned dead space into usable space. Here’s what we were starting with:

You’ve already seen how we demo’d, insulated, framed, dry-walled, and laid the flooring, so I won’t get into any of those details again. We get to go straight into the fun designing stuff!

The area wasn’t going to be huge, so we had to be very practical and efficient when designing the new layout. We used the handy-dandy IKEA kitchen planner tool which you can use in-store or at home. You plug in the dimensions of your kitchen, get your room layout, and then drag and drop various IKEA pieces into your virtual room. We went through several different designs before settling on one. Because it is a small and narrow space, we needed to make sure there would be enough room to walk through comfortably, but also maximize every square inch. Luckily, we had been given the appliances (fridge and stove) and the double sink from some family members who had recently moved house. Hello, happy day! When choosing cabinetry, we found out that the shelf-style is far cheaper than drawer-style. We decided to put in one snazzy drawer unit and then did shelving in the rest. We also chose the most basic of the IKEA cabinet finishes. Sure it’s not fancy, but it’s white, clean-lined, and easy to maintain. If you’re on a budget, IKEA is really the place to go for a kitchen reno. Even the hardware for the cabinets was ridiculously cheap (a pack of 6 handles for less than $10).

Since we didn’t have any wiggle-room in the budget, we really couldn’t afford a backsplash of any kind. On one of my Benjamin Moore visits, I was browsing the returned paint section (where the cans were not quite properly mixed for the desired colour and are at least 50% off the original price) and found a great lime green colour. Since the plan was to do a pop of a bright colour in the kitchen to give it a bit of life, I immediately jumped on this great green deal. Even though saving $15-$20 on paint doesn’t seem huge, we were watching every single penny.. so this felt like quite a victory! We painted a few select walls in the kitchen as well as our DIY hood range (made out of MDF).

For the countertop, we looked at various laminate options (no granite or marble here, we were on a budget!). However, I just couldn’t find any laminate in the lower end price range that didn’t scream “I’m ugly!”. Okay, maybe I was being a bit picky, but I couldn’t help it.  Then on one of our dozen trips back to IKEA, I came across their wood countertops (the “Lagan” style, specifically) which even gave the cheap-o laminate we were looking at a run for its money. It was so inexpensive and I was totally digging it. When Dan said he really liked it too, we were sold.

Oh, and see that snazzy brass faucet? We snagged that at IKEA for a mere $30 (from over $150!!!). Sure it doesn’t really match the silver sink, but I couldn’t have cared less — what a deal!

To keep it looking airy and also to save on cost, we decided to go with just lower cabinets and put some open shelving instead of upper cabinets.

In the area where the electrical panel lives, it made sense to close it off and use the space as a pantry. We knew it wouldn’t be a particularly pretty area (even if we put a box over the panel), and we also figured that it is always nice to have some out of sight storage in the kitchen for things like brooms, buckets, and dry goods. A few pieces of pre-cut shelving from the Home Depot (super cheap!) and voila – a pantry!

We went from this:

…to this…

…to this (don’t worry – we got those wires out of the way afterwards)!

You can see here how the doors close the pantry off from the rest of the kitchen:

Oh, and want to know about the budget for the cabinets, countertops, faucet, paint, lighting, cabinet hardware and the rest of the little details?  Since we put it all together ourselves (except for some minor plumbing work), the total cost was a mere $1190. Pretty great, huh? A small cost for a huge transformation.

And now for all the official “after” pictures. We couldn’t have been happier the way this kitchen turned out. Looking at it now, I almost can’t believe what we started with. A part of me wanted to move down to the basement of the house once it was done!

DIY project: funky fridge

24th August 2010

Today, on my daily blog/web perusing, I saw the coolest DIY project. If you have an old, grubby fridge or just a a fridge that you want to add a little pizazz to, keep reading. Apartment Therapy featured a project where the reader used contact paper (yes, the stuff that you can line drawers with that costs a couple bucks a roll!) to make one stylish fridge. She cut out pieces of the paper that fit together to make a really intricate geometric pattern. Then it was just a matter of sticking them all on, carefully I imagine. This project is definitely going into my files for a project to tackle at some point. I don’t think I would do my whole fridge, but perhaps one side or another piece of furniture. Check it out below:

via apartment therapy

via apartment therapy

via apartment therapy

via apartment therapy

via apartment therapy

via apartment therapy

Check out the whole post here: