Finding what makes you "happy"

apinksweaterJuly 10, 2013

When you need to buy a dress, You go to the store, you pick out what you like, and you try it on. You go home with the dress that makes you happy. The one that highlights things you love about your body, and/or minimizes the things your not 100% confident about. Its a dress that results in your shoulders back, head held high, and you.. well, glow. Happiness.

Why cant it be that way about Kitchen Design/remodeling?

I have been racking my brain for MONTHS about how to best utilize my space, and how to be practical- to do what should be done to make the kitchen the most functional and make it some place that I like to be in! (I am a mom of 4, and a home gardener/canner- so I spend a LOT of time in there) I want something in the home thats reflective of what I like.

I know that sounds some what silly- but I can not imagine that I am the only person who has experienced this. Ive stopped moving forward because Ive been discouraged, and now unsure of what I actually like, and what I actually want. And the super practical mom in me is always nagging about "how to do it cost effectively".

SO, how do you come back from the standstill of uncertainty? Is it better to be practical, and comprise on what you want? How do you narrow down what you actually wanted?

In case someone is curious- here are the links of kitchens I like and the mixed bag of designs:

and of course, white uppers, with espresso lowers.

Any idea if a happy medium can be found?

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You're starting at the wrong end of the process, IMO.

Do what's suggested in the READ ME FIRST thread.

Take the Sweeby Test.

Stop thinking about how you want the space to look (cab style, features, colors, etc.), think about how you want it to work, and in what way. (This is kitchen equivalent of figuring out whether you're in the market for a pair of jeans or a prom gown.).

Then make a floor plan drawing on graph paper of your space and the preliminary ideas you have for lay out. Post it here to get comments. Enagage in the process and comments.

Draw and redraw until you've got the best layout you can.

Than sketch up elevations, if you need to.

And then go shopping for the "dress" that maximizes the way you want your kitch to look.

Going clothes shopping before you know what events you need to buy for, is always a mistake. Same deal here, only the prices are much higher and you can't return the items if you change your mind.



    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 9:55AM
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You are correct. But Im just doing a minor "refresh". The gutting will be done in 10 years or so. So my layout is pretty much staying the way it is.

(Although, I am trying to figure out how in the light I am going to get rid of the 4 lazy susans...)

Thanks for the sweeby test- I didn't see it. I've read through that blog post and it definitely put some things into perspective.

Kudos for going along with the dress analogy! :) I thought it was fun

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:11AM
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I don't really have an answer, but I'll play with your dress analogy a bit:

I teach high school, and one thing I see constantly is that many of the girls haven't yet grasped that "a pretty dress" isn't necessarily a dress that suits my body style. Lately, for example, the high-low skirts (short in the front, long in the back) have been popular. These look great on tall, willowy girls . . . not so great on short girls or those whose legs are a bit, um, stumpy.

Take-away for kitchens: You may absolutely adore a particular feature, but it may not fit into your overall kitchen design. For example, I want white cabinets, but I know they don't fit into my overall house. I need to quit fighting what just isn't going to work and say, "White cabinets are perfect on the hanger, but they aren't for me."

You have no problem finding dresses -- in part -- because you're very experienced at choosing clothes. I won't ask how many years you've been picking dresses, but I'm sure you've spent more time choosing dresses than you've spent choosing faucets! Of course you’re going to feel more confident in choosing yet another dress and less confident about choosing your first-ever faucet.

Take-away for kitchens: Give yourself a break. You're a novice. Look at more, more, more examples, and engage the services of a professional if you fear you aren't getting it right. Don't we sometimes do this with clothes? A professional helped me choose /alter my wedding dress, and I know that women who must dress in a very professional manner sometimes use personal shoppers.

When you choose a dress, the stakes are low. You don't like it? Well, it's $30-50 wasted, but you give it to Goodwill and move on. The investment was low, and although you might kick yourself a bit for being wasteful, you're not devastated.

Take-away for kitchens: In contrast, the investment in your kitchen is quite high. If you put $1000+ into backsplash tile and decide you don't like it, or if you put the refrigerator in the wrong spot . . . you're probably going to be forced to live with it anyway; so the economic pressure to "get it right" is high.

When you choose a dress, you do have to coordinate multiple items: Dress, shoes, jewelry and other accessories . . . but you can try them on together and judge whether you like them. You get to "try before you buy", and if you make a mistake, you take the dress back to the store . . . or you make a change by switching out the shoes or adding a scarf.

Take-away for kitchens: When you're designing a kitchen, you have many more "moving parts". The appliances, the tile, the cabinets, the window treatments . . . oh, and the adjacent rooms matter! You cannot have a view of the whole thing before you commit, and once an item is installed, it can't be switched out easily. No scarf can cover up a badly-chosen appliance. I think most of us have no problem picking one perfect item -- it's putting them all together that gives us pause.

Helpful? Probably not, but I understand where you’re coming from.
From one practical, cost-conscious, cooking and canning mom, I’d suggest that you start by making lists of things you like in those pictures. For starters, I saw lots of white in those links. Pick out the details to which you gravitate (for example, I know that in a kitchen the #1 thing I pick out over and over is the quality of the light " it’s not such an obvious thing, but I know it’s super-important for me; other things that matter to me are easy-to-clean, efficient work pattern, and ample storage). Because you aren't one of my high school girls, you've already done this with clothes: You automatically grab dresses with a certain neckline that you know work for you, and you automatically avoid patterns that are too busy or colors that "aren't you". Now you need to figure out what details "work for you" in a kitchen.

Then work on how to incorporate them into your house. And don’t hurry. Right is more important than fast.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Sophie Wheeler

The #1 thing I'd suggest is that you find someone to help you with all of this. It can be overwhelming. Especially since there are so many more choices than there used to be. It can paralyze you when it comes to making any decision.

Go to several kitchen shops and talk to designers with your measured drawing, some photos of the space, and some pics of things you like. Find one that you click with, and pay them to help you sort through things. It's money well worth spending, no matter what your budget might be.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Great post, MrsPete!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:44AM
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Agree with starting with introspection and self education. Forget the shopping, and even the drawing, for now. You need to zero in on what you really like by figuring out WHY you like it. That'll greatly simplify matters.

As it is, you have way too many choices still open. In a world where most of us had a typical 3 counter choices, and the same for other surfaces, you would be moving happily along toward your new kitchen right now. That's the way we're made. It's been proven in studies that having too many choices makes us less happy, and boy do we these days. So the first thing is to start narrowing yours down. Drastically.

But, hoping to find kitchen counterparts for a wonderful dress? Ouch! Clothing can be discarded the moment...well, the moment one feels like it. IMO, wanting to match a transient, excited pleasure would be an unfortunate standard to set for something one might have to live with for a very long time and could lead to unfortunate choices.

Also, we've had this discussion here many times. It's the kitchen as a WHOLE that needs to cause the happy dance. Go ahead and rhapsodize over something at a tile shop, but then try to analyze how it would contribute to or detract from your whole picture with the cool, clever eye of a good designer. It's the synergy, the whole being greater than its parts, you're after.

Before all that, though, I'd suggest prioritizing the beginning of the design process, not the end. Keep in mind that not all elements can be purchased new during a delightful shopping spree; identify options you have available, assets to make the very most of, problems to be corrected before the shopping for finishes empties the budget. Sunshine at just the time of day one enjoys it most do far more for most people than what's on the counter, even if it doesn't seem like it at the stone yard. A work counter in the wrong place will be continually dissatisfying in a way that no backsplash could ever fix.

How about this? Take the Sweeby test. Then, while you're thinking, try to imagine yourself working in the kitchen you're about to create 30 years from now and figure out what you would still be glad you did and what you wish you had done. That right there'll should help put focus on what's important. (Moving that stupid doorway.) BTW, this'd probably make working within the budget you set a happier project too. It's usually expenditures on unnecessary frivolities, today's earnest but transient just-must-haves, that run the costs up.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:45AM
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I understand. Good suggestions from above on figuring out function first. I am also struggling. I hate to shop, period. I manage through grocery shopping but clothes, cabinets, counters, siding... it's about to push me over the edge and say to the DH "you pick".


    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Apink.....can you describe in more detail what you will be changing and what you wont? When you say "refresh" I think painting the cabs, maybe some or all new appliances, maybe replacing the floor---same footprint.---just updating. Gut job to me means all new finishes and possibly moving sinks, appliances, knocking down walls, etc...Holly is right---get a little professional help. Wish I had worked with a KD to at least explore possibilities. We left the footprint the same in the end and I'll always wonder if we could have made the layout/functionality better.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:50AM
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I like the clothing shopping analogy. m

And white marble is the white satin of the kitchen world. You cringe when you see a jelly-smeared toddler headed for it.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 2:07PM
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@ Joanie- I had originally planned on painting the cabinets (or restaining) and purchasing new appliances. I also had wanted to put granite countertops. But some GW'ers pointed out that my footprint isnt really that great, so granite should wait.

Now Im looking at painting the cabinets, maybe swapping out some cabinets (that have pull out drawers) with normal drawer stacks, and new hardware. Ill probably need to do something about the countertop. Im still exploring my options. I may convince the hubby to purchase/install a farm sink. I posted not to long ago, but here is the picture from my current kitchen setup. On the side of the door way is a "desk/pantry" set up and an eat in kitchen (Which isnt very functional for my family, and we will knock down the wall into the dining room eventually.......)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 2:47PM
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MrsPete- Love the way that you took the analogy and ran with it!

We aren't doing a gut either and when we started, I don't think I had a clue as to how many decisions I would still be making. It's a daunting task. So, I agree with others...research, research and research. Then, find a designer that works well with you.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 3:06PM
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Dollars invested now will take away from the dollars needed when you do the more intensive redo. Repeat.

A bit of "happy" now means dollars taken away from the eventual project. Understand delayed gratification and make it your friend.

With that in mind, my suggestions would be to DIY paint the cabinets. However, with the light counters and floors, painting them white would just wash everything out. Since this will be a short term solution, I'd be adventurous. Maybe a creamy yellow that could stand up to the counters. Maybe bolder. Do you have a favorite color?

Replace any appliances that die with the size and finish of the ones that you want to end up with.

Take the wallpaper down.

That's it.

Save your money and efforts for the more extensive remodel that is coming down the road. If you start down the "only" road of "only" replacing the counters, or "only" trying to put in a drawer stack, or any other "only", well, you're getting perilously close to spending your "eventually" money. Things are interlinked, and it snowballs. Stay away from it all going down hill and gathering momentum!

And maybe move forward the date of the gut to 5 years from now. And in between now and then, develop your DIY abilities to cut the cost of the remodel.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 3:11PM
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I agree with livewire--just do an inexpensive refresh of what's there. Although not ideal, you can buy inexpensive pullouts for your bottom cabs to make them more functional. I had Elfa pullout baskets from Container Store in my old kitchen for over ten years and they were fine. You could try gel staining your cabs darker, get new pulls or spray paint the ones you have, take down the paper, paint. You could even find inexpensive tile and do the BS. If you DIY, for just a few hundred dollars you could do a nice update.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 5:57PM
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Apink, I agree with live_wire, since the floor and counters are light, painting the cabinets light would wash everything out. Until you're ready for the major redo, I think painting the cabinets and walls would make a big difference. Here's an example of your kitchen with blue cabs, since you have some blue accessories, and beige or gray walls (one of the darker colors in the floor). Have fun and good luck! :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 5:57PM
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Apink, here's another example, with dark walls. :)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 7:07PM
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LWO is right. I would just paint.

Your layout isn't terrible. I'm keeping my footprint the same except for the wall ovens, I've been waiting 20 years to do mine, and have only painted and removed cabinets to open things up.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 7:59PM
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I took your analogy too!---buttttt---- the cops "busted" me for impersonating "Kelly Pippa". I guess it was my Electrolux hat, and the hair growing thru the nylons that "Clued them in", Ya thinks?


    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 8:06PM
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I shudda typed "Kelly Rippa"

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 8:08PM
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Well I can have a closet full of dresses, but only one kitchen at a time so no comparison, but I can definitely relate to the indecision. I'm even worse since discovering GW because I spend so much time scrolling and clicking around I burn myself out and need to step away from the computer. I'm convinced I'll never get past the inspiration phase!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Thank you everyone for the encouragement and the advice!

@Sue987 thank you so much for the images! I cant believe how a dramatic paint color can make it seem so.. sleek!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 8:45AM
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I will reiterate what liriodendron said about the sweeby test. Whether your refresh is minor or major, it is quite likely that what you want in the kitchen in terms of goals will not change now or later too much so you need a guiding principle - a true north so to speak. This may seem kind of hokey but take it seriously and do the sweeby test and it is an incredibly useful tool to help with decision criteria. It provides a frame of reference to distill and narrow down your choices. For example both soapstone and manufactured quartz countertops can be beautiful but based on your sweeby, one one will make sense for YOUR kitchen.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 10:40AM
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