Five years after our kitchen remodel I thought it would be a good time to see if our decisions, clouded with the marketing hype of cool products and designs, withstood the test of time. Overall, I am happy to report that we seemed to have made the right choices with products, design and aesthetics.
Return to mid century modern
Built in 1968 our home was a copy of a layout from a local builder, Streng Brothers, of mid century modern homes in the Sacramento area. The kitchen layout was not a strong point of the home and a 1980’s remodel did little to improve upon it. The prospect of moving the sink area to the peninsula to increase functionality was considered but rejected because of the cost. The sink placement is not ideal but sometimes you just have to make trade offs. (Click on thumbnails of photos to enlarge)
Making the best of the floor plan
Consequently, we focused on increasing storage, counter space and accommodating modern appliances while creating a bamboo kitchen more fitting of the mid century genre. A real problem with the kitchen was that the original space for the refrigerator was too shallow for current models. A standard refrigerator stuck out 3″ to 4″ into the galley kitchen.
Reworking spaces for modern appliances
Opposite the awkward refrigerator was a built-in 20″ gas oven, think “Easy Bake Oven”, more suited for a mobile home. We moved the refrigerator to where the tiny oven was located and opted to install a built-in oven under the stove top. Even though it cost more, we liked the look of a separate oven and stove instead of one unit. This allowed us to keep gas cook tops with the electric oven.
Bar stools out, cupboards in
We expanded the width of the peninsula to accommodate the refrigerator which also gave us more under counter storage space on either side of the concrete counter top. The added base cupboard storage eliminated the bar stool counter dining situation that we never used. In addition, we added above and below cabinets to the north wall that had nothing attached to it. Because the added drawers and cupboards started to squeeze the kitchen space we opted for a retractable ventilation hood. This also kept the lines cleaner as we ultimately decided to infuse the design with horizontal elements.
Competent crafts people are the key to success
Part of the contemporary design was combining bamboo cabinets that included some brushed aluminum door trim and frosted glass. In hindsight, we were much more adventurous than our conservative nature would have indicated. All of our design and product choices could have really flopped into a nightmarish assemblage of mismatched pieces. Fortunately, we had a competent cabinet maker versed in contemporary kitchen design. He even worked with me to accommodate my desire to have a built-in mid century modern Howard Miller clock into one of the doors.
For the most part we have been very happy and satisfied with our appliances choices.
- Oven: Miele – great oven, lots of options. We had to run a new electrical line to handle the amperage but it was worth it. Even with switching from a gas oven to electric our electrical bill decreased because of the higher efficiency refrigerator, dishwasher and lights.
- Stove top: Miele – I’ll give this a good rating, not great. The front right burner has problems staying lit and the flame indicator printing around the knobs has washed off. I do like front left burner that was designed with two flames for wok cooking.
- Range hood: Miele – the retractable hood design is slick. The halogen bulbs give plenty of light and it ventilates very well without being obnoxiously loud.
- Dishwasher: Miele – another good investment. It is quiet and washes well. It does not have the heated drying phase (saving electricity) but wet dishes have never been a problem. The only issue is when it is done it continues to beep until you open the door…we never start it before bed.
- Sink Faucet: Moen – works great but we never really use the pull out handle like we thought we would.
- Stainless steel sink: Ferguson – Thumbs down. We should have opted for the more expensive model. All I want is for the sink to drain efficiently. The bottom has a slight lip on the outlet preventing the trimmings and waste from easily washing into the garbage disposal.
- Refrigerator: Kenmore – It’s not the deluxe version with in-door water and ice, but it works fine.
We were able to eliminate the fluorescent light box with compact LCD recessed can lights. Because of the construction of the roof with no attic space we couldn’t use the traditional 6″ recessed can. I have only replaced one of the lamps in the last 5 years. Because there are no direct windows around the counter area we installed under cabinet light fixtures that use T5 bulbs. They work great, are nice and compact but are a hassle to change the thin fluorescent bulbs. We have also had problems finding replacement tubes that have the bright white spectrum we want. The halogen pendants over the concrete counter top have worked well but get very hot.
It may have been a bit of the purist in me, but we opted not for bamboo facing but full bamboo plywood for the cabinet doors. I still
like looking at the grain when I open a drawer or cab door. Another splurge that was well worth the money was the Blum drawers, hinges and soft close mechanisms. We have become absolutely spoiled as the drawers easily slide open and close.
Great hardware makes life easier
The hidden soft close hinges have been great on the vertical and horizontal doors. The cabinet builder was also able to incorporate the same concepts in the trash/recycling drawer, side oven bottle rack and under counter corner appliance swivel. The lift-up doors on our cabinets are certainly not for everyone. They have their little draw backs but the design we were able to achieve was worth the cost.
To keep the horizontal tile back splash as linear as possible we had the contractor install an under the cabinet power strip. This gave us many more outlets, keeps the cords off the counter and reduced cuts in the glass tiles for duplex wall outlets.
The counter top under the cabinets and around the sink is Ceasarstone. It’s been a great product that is easy to clean. The concrete
counter top on the peninsula was the second iteration after the first top was too small. Both the kitchen designer and the concrete counter top contractor pointed fingers at one another as to who missed the calculations. I’m going to side with the contractor because the kitchen designer we hired kind of went missing-in-action near the end of the project…flaky.
Concrete counter top
The first concrete counter top incorporated different pieces of glass we have scavenged from beach hikes on the coast. If I had to do it again I would probably select a slightly lighter color. The black absorbs lots of light and little items get lost in the pattern of the concrete. Not that it is a big deal, but custom concrete tops are not perfectly smooth and flat like a granite or Ceasarstone product. I only notice the little variations when I am rolling out pizza dough, but for people who want a perfectly smooth top, concrete may not be the way to go.
You’ll notice in the pictures that the flooring in the kitchen area does not match the wood grain laminate outside the kitchen. We installed
the laminate when we first bought the house in 2003 and were able to reuse it after the remodel. Unfortunately, the contractor made a tiny puncture in a water line with a screw when they were installing the cabinets. Twelve months after the installation we noticed the floor in front of the sink was always damp. You can guess the rest of the story. The original laminate was no longer made so we chose the square tile laminate to replace the original water damaged pieces.
Linear light of stainless steel
One small detail, that most people won’t notice, is the stain steel toe kick under the base cabinets. For some reason I wanted a separating line between the floor and the bamboo. The contractor found the stainless steel and I had a local sheet metal company make the necessary bends to fit around the corners.
The kitchen remodel was the best investment we have made to our house. We are happy with the results. All of our research paid off in a design and functionality we still enjoy today. When there were issues or problems, we listened to all the experts, weighed their advice and made a decision that seemed right to us. Click on thumbnails to enlarge.