Reluctant Renovator: Planning a New Kitchen - Chicago Style

Reluctant Renovator: Planning a New Kitchen - Chicago Style

A kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where we feed our families and nourish our souls. And with the modern open-concept look, a kitchen is also a showpiece.

Designing one from scratch is exciting, but if you’re like me, it’s also intimidating because there are so very many decisions to be made. Gutting our 1950s/1970s hybrid kitchen meant building back up from the studs. We had to select flooring, paint colors, cabinets, lighting and everything right down to the kitchen sink.

Our goal was to modernize the kitchen (hello dishwasher!) and open up the space by knocking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, adding a two-tier peninsula/breakfast bar in its place.

Months before signing with a contractor, we started brainstorming our vision. I bought magazines, read library books and obsessively watched HGTV. We knew we’d spend a huge chunk of our budget on the kitchen, and we wanted to make every dollar count. Making decisions ahead of time helped the complex renovation process go as smoothly as possible.

We started our hands-on research at Abt. I’m always looking for an excuse to eat oven-fresh chocolate chip cookies, which they serve on weekends, so we stopped there early and often. Rather than take notes, I snapped photos on my phone or tablet for later reference. If there had been a Pinterest app for Android last year, I would have archived my top picks there.

We also schlepped to Schaumburg for the obligatory Ikea visit and stopped into a few local kitchen design outfits. I ventured to Chicago to ogle the high-end kitchens on display in LuxeHome at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, maintaining a white knuckle-grip on my wallet the entire time. 

Yeah, I’m budget-conscious. I also love finding a diamond in the rough, so I checked out the inventory at the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse, Chicago’s newest salvage spot.

In the end we went with all-new everything, but mid-range rather than high end. We concluded that even though our kitchen would be something of a showpiece, we still wanted a welcoming casual tone and above all, we wanted to feel comfortable cooking in the new space.

We chose ginger-toned maple cabinets and white appliances, making the room warm and inviting. We settled on cabinets and installation from a big-box store and purchased counter tops at a competing store that had a great sale on Corian. Our color, Savannah, is speckled with light tans.

We selected solid surface counter tops because they are durable, stain resistant and easy to maintain. That said, friends advised me to avoid solid surface sinks because they don’t wear well over time.

Knowing that we wanted the sleek look of an undermount sink, were in a bit of a quandary about the material until we learned about Silgranit, a granite composite that is durable and scratch resistant - just the thing to stand up to my metal baking sheets and cast iron pan. We chose a satin nickel faucet and similarly toned hardware on the doors and drawers.

As far as the flooring, we went with a basic neutral beige-y porcelain, scrimping on the kitchen and saving for pricier tile in our master bathroom.

Sound like we’ve got a lot of neutral going on? Admittedly, I was afraid to commit to something too bold because I don’t imagine another major kitchen overhaul taking place for many years. That said, we do have an eye-catching feature wall at one end of the peninsula with coordinating pendants hanging overhead to liven up the space.

In a few years, we can update the kitchen on the cheap by painting the feature wall a new color, swapping out the pendants and tiling the backsplash. We can also enhance the look now by adding window treatments because, you know, those temporary paper blinds only last so long. At the moment, though, I’m happy to let the sun shine in and hold off on any more decisions for a few more weeks.

Tell us, what are your favorite spots and sources for design inspiration?

Kim Moldofsky knows how to rock a tool belt, but her favorite technique for fixing things in her home is calling up tradesmen she finds on Angie’s List. That said, she’s learning a few things as she works to turn her “new-to-us” 1950s Cape Cod into a modern home in Chicago’s suburbs. She documents her home improvement projects at Reluctant

The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.



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