Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The New House: Kitchen Research & Planning


So yesterday you got to see my lovely new kitchen. Just in case you want to know more, here is a little post about the process we went through to plan, research, design and build our kitchen:

When we bought the house, we knew the current kitchen cabinets and layout wouldn't work for us. The original cabinets had bulkheads, were starting to wear in a few places and there weren't enough of them. The layout was a small "L" shape with the entryway to the laundry room right next to the fridge, and there was basically zero counter space.

We decided to tear down some walls, but also reconfigure an outdoor shed and the laundry room to create a pantry area and a new space, which gave us the opportunity to close off the entryway to the laundry and turn our kitchen into a u-shape with an island that would help anchor the room with the rest of the dining and living spaces. We mapped out the space, measured every corner and estimated a budget for new cabinets, tile floors, countertops, appliances and light fixtures.

I did a ton of research on cabinets and spent hours on Pinterest gathering photos of other kitchens that featured the same layout as ours. I also read a lot of cabinet reviews - which brands were best, which were overpriced, or not able to stand the test of time. After a lot of research, we decided to go with Ikea for our cabinets, farmhouse sink and stove hood, but purchased everything else from either Lowe's, a tile shop, or other appliance stores. 

I know a lot of people are adverse to Ikea (who hasn't had one of their particle board cabinets fall apart on you?) but we heard a lot of good things about their cabinets. I bookmarked a lot of blogs and devoured posts like this and this  and this that gave advice and tips and how-to's.  I also read the forums on Ikea Fans - this is a great website if you want details on any Ikea item. 

After reading literally every thing I could, we came to the conclusion that: 
  • The quality of Ikea cabinets was the same as big cabinet manufactures that you can purchase at Lowe’s and Home Depot. Unless you choose custom made, most cabinets are made of MDF not real wood. Ikea’s cabinets are made of MDF, as are the affordable options from Lowe’s and Home Depot.
  • Price – Based on the fact that had a lot of other remodel expenses, we had a set budget for our kitchen including floor tile, backsplash, appliances, countertops and cabinets. Ikea was going to cost about half of what we would have ordered from a home improvement store.
  • Lastly, we were pleased with the options for both cabinet size and door/drawer style. We wanted cabinets that would look high end and modern, but also fit the space. We fell in love with the Adel style door (a modern shaker style) in white. 

So once we decided to buy Ikea, we did a lot of prep work. Ikea can come out and measure for you (for a cost), but they won't plan your kitchen - it's self help all the way. We took exact measurements of our kitchen - wall length and height, doorways, windows and the size of our appliances (which we had already purchased), then put it all in the Ikea kitchen planner tool which is an amazing and frustrating piece of software that lets you plan your kitchen in both 2 and 3-D views. 


Also, semi annually, IKEA has a kitchen sale (20% off total price) and we were lucky enough to purchase our kitchen right in the middle of it. We blocked off a Saturday morning, got a babysitter and spent about 2 hours with an Ikea kitchen expert. She checked all of our measurements, asked us a bunch of clarifying questions, we made some small adjustments and then she ordered each and every piece for us. 

The ordering part takes a while, but it was well worth it! We had the cabinets delivered to our new home the weekend after we closed. It was hundreds of boxes, plus the hanging rails for the upper cabinets, the farmhouse sink and the stove hood. 

I took a week off of work and assembled each and every cabinet, save our huge 88 inch tall pantry. It was a pain in the booty (I had so many bruises and scratches), but it well worth all the money we saved!

Once we were done with building the cabinets, Matt laid the new tile floor, installed the cabinets, and then the appliances. Our appliances were a Craigslist score and we were lucky to have had some reclaimed wood from a 100 year old barn given to us for the countertops. Matt built the countertops himself - he shaved off the worn side of the wood so the counters around the sink and appliances had a more smooth top, but left the island rough. I love the contrast!

We moved in before we had the backsplash or stove hood installed, but after a month we finally got those done, installed the crown molding, and shelves and voila!


I feel so incredibly lucky to have this space to cook and gather in. It really is my dream kitchen!

(If you have any specific questions about products or process, leave me a comment! Thanks!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The New House: The Kitchen Reveal

So we are finally done with the kitchen and it turned out exactly how we wanted. I won't belabor you with a bunch of words - I know you just want to see the before and after!

Demo progress - there was a bank of cabinets on that yellow wall but I forgot to take a before photo. They were ugly - that's all you need to know ;)
Demo progress
It makes me want to dance it's so pretty!
Look at that subway tile! Swoon!

An island of all deep drawers and a "hidden" microwave!

And now some of the details that make this place so special to me:
Ever since I saw this concept in a magazine I have wanted a few open shelves. I love this feature!
My favorite sink - the farmhouse from Ikea (same as our last house but this one I didn't find in the "As Is" section!)
I mean, come on!!!! Look at that gorgeous old wood. I love how rough it is, especially down the legs of the island. 
And the grain of this wood?!?! It's so beautiful.

And cause this is my blog and I'll post too many pictures if I want to (wink, wink) here are some more:
Took these with my fisheye lens. My house doesn't bend like that! 

Maybe I’m biased but I think I have one of the prettiest kitchens I’ve ever seen. I'm in love!

And for those interested in all the details, I have a post just for you tomorrow!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Just because

...even when she's serious she is so stinking cute!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brighton's "Win"

My daughter has a special relationship with my dad, who she affectionally calls "Win". (His middle name is Winfield). She greets him with a wide hug and a sloppy kiss, will run to him when he calls for her in the house and likes it best when she can sit in his lap and have a snack. When we talk about him she calls him, "My Win". 

There is something so sweet about watching my own father, who did such a great job raising me, love on my girl. He thinks she is the best thing ever. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On My Heart: The Unexamined Life

There was a season of my life where I felt a constant and burning emotional and mental exhaustion. I was in my early twenties, in graduate school and writing all the time to keep up with my thesis, in a long distance relationship, living in an apartment that frightened me (roach problem, creepy neighbors, weird sounds at night) and going to work at job that I couldn't stand. I was also tied at the hip to a group of other young, single women in the same scenario as me - busy, trying to find a career, or at the very least a job that paid the rent, wanting to do it all and trying to figure out who we were.

I had a weekly bible study with these young women and each week someone was going through a quarter life crisis - we all needed better jobs, different boyfriends, more positive attitudes, a deeper well of faith that it would all work out. We were always analyzing the root of the issue at hand - was it us? Was it God telling us to wait? And if it was us, what was wrong that we needed to fix.

Between the constant push of my religion to become less of myself and more like Christ, this bible study cum self-help group, and the own people pleasing critic in my head, I felt like I was over-analyzing myself constantly. My mind was a constant ticker tape of questions and what if's: What in me needed to change? What was I doing to offend people, or making them feel less than they should? Was I a good friend? A good child? A good employee? Should I do (insert goal) and if I do, what will happen? What if nothing happens? Would people stop loving me? Would I lose? Am I marriage material? Am I a good writer? Does God want me to do all of this or something different? What in me was keeping me from my definition of success? How was my heart?

Obviously I was trying to figure out too much at once. I would map out all the scenarios in my head then worry about the outcomes. I would struggle with the time it would take to get from point A to B emotionally or spiritually or whatever it was in me that was "wrong" and needed to be fixed or changed.

It was tiring and self absorbed season of life. Thankfully, all seasons end. I finished my thesis, broke it off with the long-distance boyfriend, found another job, another apartment, another boyfriend (who eventually became my husband) and slowly started to shed that constant stream of questions and anxiety that plagued me. I stopped analyzing every little decision and thing and situation that happened to me and just started living more. Part of it was the exhaustion of that season (because who can keep that up for long?) but most of it was that I felt happier than I had in a long, long time. I stopped thinking and writing about my life and just started living it.

Fast forward to now and I find myself feeling, well numb and out of touch. I cannot remember the last time I took stock of my heart and my spirit (outside of our struggle with infertility and our adoption journey, which is just one small facet of who I am).  What was going on in the emotional, mental and spiritual parts of me and what did I need to focus on to become a better version of myself?

I could blame social media for taking away my ability to focus. I could blame the job I had over the last year which gave me little room for imagination and dreaming and instead forced a sort of repetitious style into my every day. I could blame all the years of our infertility struggle which redirected all my energy towards one single dream. I could blame my child who brought me into the world of baby gear, sleep patterns and the incessant talk of labor, nursing, the color of my child's poo and the like.

I could blame a thousand things that had led me to a life of distraction and emotional apathy towards my own heart, but I know I am to blame. I had chosen the easier route for the last few years - go through the motions, pay the mortgage, go on the annual vacation, buy the holiday gifts, pick paint colors, choose the movie for Friday's night date, have the same conversations about celebrities and hair color and the weather over and over. It is my fault I am so detached from that part of me that wants to be something more.

I used to have this green notebook that I journaled in. I used it for a year, while I was a junior in college. I was a 21 year old Christian who was trying to figure out her own version of what faith looked like and a girl who didn't know who she wanted to be just yet. I wrote in that journal almost daily, pasted photos and letters in it, carried it with me to and from classes. Reading back over it now makes me cringe, but not for the reasons you'd suspect. I am not embarrassed of what I wrote then, or who I was, I am embarrassed at how this adult version of myself, 15 years distanced from that bright, hopeful young woman, is so out of touch. That journal contains the kind of emotional and spiritual analyzation of a psychologist. It was self-absorbed writing of course, almost a map of "finding myself" in a year, but it was also innocent, searching and open to finding the truth. I wanted to know the world and my place in it. I wanted to find love, but not lose myself in it. I wanted to thrive and change things for the better. I was fully committed to finding the meaning in everything, the small moments and the drama and the tedious everyday tasks of literature essays and listening to my roommates fight and folding clothes in the local coin laundromat.

I still wish I was that young woman sometimes. She was not afraid to ask hard, thoughtful, soul stirring questions of herself. She was not afraid to admit where she was good and where she lacked. She knew she was loved and felt a freedom in that love to have a teachable and humble spirit - to say, "I want more of myself and I'm willing to work hard to figure out how to get there."

I am trying to become something like that again - not the self-absorbed, worrisome version - but the one who is wiling to ask hard questions about her heart, her dreams and her decisions. There is a balance somewhere in-between the constant self-psychology and living an unexamined life. I'm just trying to find it.