Mini Kitchen Upgrades


we’ve been focusing on the bad and the ugly- our kitchen is definitely one of the good parts of our house!  The previous owners did some serious upgrades to the 1958 original kitchen and although it’s still not my dream kitchen, it’s pretty darn nice:

Among it’s best features are:

  • Lots of counter space- There are 3-4 solid “work stations” around the kitchen which is very luxurious
  • Granite Counters- they’re great work surfaces and hide dirt/crumbs amazingly well (probably too well)
  • Lots of Drawers- our last house had one kitchen drawer and I think this one has 10… we actually had to get creative in finding things to put in drawers (we have a tupperware drawer, a paper/plastic-ware drawer, TWO utensil drawers…)
  • Nice and Sturdy cabinets that are not white (I HATE white cabinets- they are impossible to keep clean for people who use their kitchen and don’t have house keepers!)
  • Big enough for 2 people to cook in at once (if those 2 people get along well enough to cook together… Andy and I are working on that!)
  • Under-mount sink with one large/deep basin and one small/deep basin.  I love that we can fit our biggest pots and cutting boards completely in the sink and Andy loves that it’s easy to clean around the sink.
  • Work space next to the stove.  Our last house didn’t have that and I really missed being able to set things down next to the stove/oven as well as having a utensil container, salt and pepper within arms reach.
  • The step-up bar.  Provides extra dining space (it’s where we have breakfasts) and also a good place for someone to sit (like Andy in the picture above) while someone else is cooking.  While I like the step-up feature because it keeps the non-cooker(s) from eating the food being prepared on the counter belowAndy thinks it would be nicer to have a single level for more continuous workspace.

While the kitchen was probably the nicest part of the house on move in day (almost 4 months ago now!), we have made a few tweaks since then:

First off, the house didn’t come with a refrigerator (or washer and dryer).  We contemplated living out of our three chest freezers in the garage (frozen food, beer and the lager fridge/mug freezer)- but we quickly decided that we’d like to have the luxury of a refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen… plus there was only a single outlet in the garage so that option probably wasn’t all too feasible.  We ended up purchasing a stainless steel Samsung side-by side from Sears.  It was delivered on move-in-day without a hitch.  Because of itsposition next to the peninsula, there isn’t enough clearance for a swing-door or french door style fridge- hence our choice of a side-by-side.  We also like that the magnetic sides are exposed so we didn’t lose the “central hub” of our house (not shown so as to maintain the image that we are neat-freaks).  The positioning of the fridge creates a bit of a “nook” between the left side of the fridge and the back wall of the kitchen:

It’s perfect for storing our pots (whose bottoms aren’t exactly all that shiny and clean… so it’s nice that they’re only seen if you’re IN the kitchen) and ikea step stool.  This side of the fridge also has a magnetic rack which holds aprons and lunch bags.

Working our way counter-clock-wise around the kitchen, we get to probably the easiest improvement we’ve done:

The $10 Ikea wine rack above the microwave!  It holds 4 bottles hich is perfect for the 2 of us (I won’t mention how often we have to refill it).

Next up, the biggest change we made in the kitchen so far.  We went from this:

To This:

We were a little uneasy about the wiring job seen in the first photo, but it turned out that the kitchen was wired for two fixtures (whereas they were previously using one giant one and had spackled over the other wires coming out of the ceiling).  Coincidentally we purchased two track light fixtures (from Lowes, $50 each) that worked out perfectly!  After Andy’s pro installation, I just had to prime and paint where the old fixture was and we were all set.  We also installed a dimmer but find ourselves using full power when we’re working in the kitchen- it’s still nice to have options though. I love the lights now- because they can be angled we don’t have to worry about the beam blocking the light.  They also cast a nice glow on the cabinets.

The last upgrade we made was turning half of the closet into a pantry:

All it took was a $35 adjustable Costco metal shelf.  Our kitchen doesn’t have as much storage as I’d like (I am to kitchen equipment what Andy is to Beer equipment)- so adding shelving for pantry items and cleaning products, along with the pot racks, has really helped.  In a perfect world I would love to have a walk-in pantry- or even a slide-out pantry- but that’s not very realistic.  This setup actually works out quite nicely!

Thus ends the upgrades we’ve made so far.  Since a complete kitchen re-model isn’t exactly in the budget (nor needed) we’ve narrowed down our to-dol ist to a few things that would make our kitchen even more functional:

  • A gas range.  Not only do I prefer gas to electric, the electric range doesn’t have enough electricity to run the oven plus a burner on high at the same time- which makes for lots of frustration and many trips to the electrical panel to reset the tripped breakers.  Our goal is to get this done by Thanksgiving so I can cook Thanksgiving dinner with the new range- we’ll see if that happens or if we have a microwaved feast!
  • A new faucet.  Ours actually LOOKS pretty neat and we really like the CONCEPT of it (pull out sprayer, single handle, goose neck)

but the problem is, most of the time it looks like this:

The mechanism that holds the head in place is broken.  Also, there’s no logic to what handle position gets the hottest water and what position gets the coldest water (hint: NOT all the way to the left/right or even right/left).

  • A new dishwasher.  Our house actually came with a brand new hot point dishwasher (bottom of the line), but its major draw backs are that dishes don’t come out clean and the racks are in terrible positions.  I wish we could have paid $300 more for the house to get a dishwasher that worked.  Oh Well.
  • A range hood.  We currently have a ceiling exhaust fan (like you’d find in a 50-year-old bathroom-as  seen above next to the track lighting) that is a couple feet away from the stove (separated by a 12″ beam) which does not cut it.  If bacon is made for breakfast you can still smell it at dinner time.  I’m not sure if this should trump a new dishwasher or not… both are pretty annoying- but not as annoying as the range.
  • Back to the step-up bar area… the construction is a bit wonky so people with long legs (a.k.a. Andy) tend to bang their knees on sharp corners.  I personally don’t know what they are talking about.

  • Lowest on our wish list (because it’s only aesthetic and not functional) is re-facing the cabinet doors.  HGTV tells us it’s “MUCH CHEAPER” to get new doors than totally new cabinets- and our cabinets are great- we just don’t fully appreciate the door style.  The “style” (or “Theme” as Andy would say) doesn’t match the house nor our vision for it.  It’s more “Italian Villa” than “Mid-Century Modern”)

All in all, it’s probably the nicest kitchen I’ve ever had- which makes cooking more fun (unless you plan to use the oven and stove).