Kitchen Remodel: Completion! (w/ Photos!)

Hard to believe I was starting to put together my kitchen mood board about a year ago, and now here we are. I am not much like the DIY bloggers that I still follow closely… documentation is not the name of my game. Work has been extremely busy, which is awesome especially since the money for the kitchen reno had to come from somewhere.

Wait, how about a couple of before photos??

Vintage Dining Room Art
The Empty Kitchen

Last time, I wrote about my renovation priorities, and now on the other side of the process, I am pleased to say that I upheld most of them. Honestly I think that writing them down helped me prioritize them, even thought I did not refer back to them during the whole renovation, having thought it through at the beginning helped me align my vision and follow it.

When we began the product sourcing journey, I met with a woman at the Home Depot Design Center who wouldn’t even design with me when I told her my projected budget. She all but laughed me out of the building. While yes, I did spend more than my initial projection, I still came in under what she said the bare minimum kitchen renovation would cost, and I won’t forget the way she wrote me off. More on costs next week, though!

As for materials, most of the items I chose were on the moodboard in one form or another, however bringing home samples and laying them around the kitchen for weeks at a time really helped me hone in what I wanted. The major pivot was that the first moodboard looks a little more deep and earthy, but upon reflection, the dining room window doesn’t provide that much light to the kitchen half of the room. In particular, the green/blue tile from the first mood board were much darker in person than they were online. So, I chose a lighter pallet. As a result, the kitchen turned out brighter and fresher:

Cabinets: I decided to go with shiny white slab cabinets despite some feedback I got on facebook about the potential for scratches. The finish is excellent after 6 months; we shall see how it holds up to renters (spoiler alert, the condo is now rented).

Countertops: Honestly I have never been entranced by stone countertops, having grown up with ceramic tile in my parents’ house and some type of laminate in every rental I’ve ever had. This was an easy way to cut costs and get something that looks great and needs very little care. There is very convincing formica out there these days.

Glam it Up: The tile and the cabinet pulls were my glam moments. I picked a really pretty tile from Bedrosians made in Spain. The black grout was a style gamble that turned out really well, in my personal opinion. The gold cabinet pulls from CB2 are like jewelry on top of the whole look. I ended up not using the little black pulls from the moodboard but I think those would have also been a really cute option.

Reveal Time!

Sources: Cabinets to Go, Formica, CB2 (similar), LG, Kraus, Nucore LVP, Bedrosians


I have a budget breakdown ready to go next week so please come back to check that out! I am not promising a full-fledged return to blogging the way I used to during the blog heyday of 10 years ago, but this has been really fun to write and I’ve had a few questions from friends about the renovation so I hope this was likewise enjoyable for you to read.

Leave your questions and below and I will be happy to answer them!

Knife Info 101

When I began at Sur La Table I had no idea what made a knife nice, especially not what made a knife special enough to spend hundreds of dollars on a single piece. Now I know that there are so many different kinds of steel, and they all perform differently. A great knife is one of the most cost-effective ways to upgrade your cooking experience. Prep work will go faster and your cuts will be nicer, easier, more precise.

Shun Sora and Global

When I chatted about the new additions to my kitchen, I mentioned that the Japanese steel is sharper and will hold its edge longer. Simply put, Japanese knives can be sharpened to a much more acute angle than German knives, and will stay that way longer, however one must be more careful with them because the sharpness of the steel translates to hardness, and tendency to chip. German steel is softer, more malleable, which dulls more quickly but sharpens up nicely, and doesn’t chip (unless something really drastic happens). Many cooks have one or two of both kinds.

For this reason, someone who has made a real investment in their knives should get the proper honing steel, as well. A German honing steel, for example, isn’t a hard enough metal to clean up the edge on a Japanese knife. A Japanese steel is harder than a Japanese and German knife, however, and can be used for either of them. There are inexpensive ones out there. How do you know if it’s time to use a honing steel? Carefully draw your finger down from the spine of the knife and past the sharp edge of the blade. If you feel a little catch or hook at the edge, it’s time to hone. Never, ever check the sharpness of a knife by feeling the sharp edge with your finger–they can be sharper than you think!

Holding a Knife

If you don’t know already, here’s an awkward picture of how to hold a knife. Pinch the point where the blade meets the handle. Then wrap the rest of your fingers around the handle to form your grip. This puts the knife in line with your whole arm, and relieves the wrist of unnecessary work. If it feels weird, do your prep work while holding the knife this way for a couple of days, then try the “old” way. My guess is that the old way will now feel more awkward and unwieldy!

As far as choosing your new knife, the best thing to do is find an opportunity to try out several brands, shapes, and styles. My store lets customers test them, and I have seen other kitchen stores that also provide this option. If they don’t have any food for you to chop, at least take the opportunity to wrap your hand around the handle and fake it. The weight and handle should feel good. There’s not really one “best” knife for everyone, that’s why there are so many options out there!

And a quick & dirty review of my choices: I love the two I chose. They are both light yet well balanced.

  • Global is a favorite brand of those in the restaurant industry because they are durable and a cinch to keep clean (since they’re all one piece). Some people don’t like the handle because they’re so unique and seem a bit small, but I really like it, especially for a small knife life my nakiri. This is and will continue to be my go-to prep knife for small jobs.
  • The Shun Sora line just came out. They are not only less expensive than Shun Classic but the bright reflective steel should resist rust/patina more than the damascus pattern of the Classic. It cuts like a dream through everything. We made tacos the other night and cutting lettuce, tomatoes, and even cooked steak (medium and well done) was effortless. I look forward to many happy years together with this knife ;)

What kind of knives do you have? Are you in love with them or are you interested in upgrading?

The Small Print: I wasn’t paid or perked to write my knife posts, in fact I bought these knives with my own cold hard cash after lots of hemming and hawing about what to get. I did use an employee discount. Lots of bloggers get free stuff in order to write reviews; I am not one of them. 

Instagram Fridge

This was such a simple project, and I’m in love.

A few weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t ordered any prints of my instagram photos in over a year, so I took advantage of a fall sale and ordered 60+ prints through the Postal Pix app.

The stack sat in my kitchen and I flipped through the pictures many times, but wanted to display them somewhere! I have a little scrapbook I started with instagram pics in it but I didn’t feel like scrapbooking. I did feel like throwing away all the expired coupons, takeout menus, and storing away old thank-you notes from my fridge, though… so I took an idea that has been done in 1,000 blogs before mine, and ran with it.

It started with cleaning off the side of the fridge and then cleaning it thoroughly with windex. Kitchen surfaces can get so grimy, can’t they?

insta_fridge1

Then, I spread my prints out on the kitchen counter and started taping up photos in a grid. There’s about a centimeter (give or take) between each photo. I made sure to mix light, dark, and vibrant photos evenly so the eye isn’t drawn to any one area too strongly. One tip for a cohesive looking collage is to use one or two filters all the time, instead of always going with a different one, so the color wash is similar on them all.

insta_fridge2

This was such quick and relaxing project. I love looking at photos and reminiscing. I completed the whole thing before my mug full of tea even had time to get too cold. Now I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my kitchen gazing at my loved ones and remembering great times.

insta_fridge3

It also serves as an antidote to all the stark white, too!