3 Things I Learned From My Kitchen Reno

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A few weeks ago I highlighted my San Francisco home on Lonny. Our family home which underwent a two-year renovation in the bathroom and kitchen after we moved in, was definitely a labor of love. Everyone talks about how home renovations aren’t for the faint of heart — and during the two-year process we really learned a lot about ourselves, the house, and everything in-between. But, when it came to transforming the kitchen from a forgotten, closed-off room to a Pinterest-worthy dining area, that’s definitely where the rubber hit the road.

3 Things I Learned From My Kitchen Reno
Photographed by Erin Kunkel.

For starters, we did most of the designing, demo, and installation ourselves. The kitchen and dining room, like most built in the early 1900s in San Francisco, were separated by a wall and small doorway— so there was no open-floor concept happening there.

It was boxy and left little room to shuffle from the kitchen to the dining room quickly. So, the first thing we envisioned and did was create a more fluid floor plan by knocking down the wall between them and creating structured support within it to create a space that was open and welcoming.

After we demolished the current cabinets — which honestly, were pretty dismal looking — we started looking around for what would be good fit for us. We ended up turning to IKEA, which allows you to design and customize from its collection of cabinetry for your own projects. After my husband laid it all out in a CAD program (which he taught himself for this project), we selected and ordered the IKEA cabinetry and we were one step closer to renovation bliss.

However, we weren’t exactly keen on the cabinet fronts that we had to choose from from the retailer. That’s where Semihandmade came in and literally saved the day with its stylish options that work with so well with IKEA cabinetry and can be customized to any color that fits within your design plan.

To be honest here, I had been a fan of Semihandmade after seeing the impeccable kitchen of Sarah Sherman Samuel a few years ago and was shocked upon learning that most of what she did was done herself — with help from Semihandmade doors. As someone who was undergoing such a large project, I found it so inspiring. That was all I needed to see. I was convinced that between my husband and I, our DIY chops were pretty good, and if we could achieve a fraction of that look, I was good to go.

We placed the blank cabinets on to get a sense of the space. We couldn't help it — we were too excited. We soon after removed and painted a minty green.
We placed the blank cabinets on to get a sense of the space. We couldn't help it — we were too excited. We soon after removed and painted a minty green.
Photographed by Angela Tafoya.

We selected the DIY shaker doors (which are pictured above) and it was game on.  They arrived (along with the cabinets from IKEA) as a blank slate, and it was time to organize and be strategic about how to install and paint them. We were actually so excited after receiving them we wanted to place some on and see how they looked — which obviously created more work because then we had to take down and paint but we didn't care. We were over the moon to finally have cabinet fronts. We purchased a professional spray machine from Amazon and selected Farrow & Ball’s Cromarty to achieve a gray-blue mint color on the cabinets and fronts.

Once everything was installed, painted, and basically ready to roll we were ready to add the flooring. We had painted the sub-floor (we were going for that Scandi-cool look) but after some deliberation decided to go for a more tied-together vibe and opted for ceramic, hand-painted tile. We selected a full-on patterned ceramic tile motif called Palmera (with the help of the amazing Kali of Fireclay Tile who fully embraced my pattern-loving tendencies) that had tones that the Semihandmade doors would work well with. Getting the tile delivered was a very exciting day! After Jai installed it, and a few more projects (sink installation, hardware etc.) we were in business. 

All in all, we ended up with a creative, open dining room and kitchen space that feels like a true reflection of our style and personality. If you’re currently undergoing a reno or at the very least thinking about it — here are some of my major takeaways I learned along the way.

3 Things I Learned From My Kitchen Reno
Photographed by Erin Kunkel.

Set Expectations

Honestly, everyone says that you're bound to stumble upon unexpected expenses, timelines, and whatever other drama a home reno can bring — and I'd say that's not far from the truth. For instance, from when we started on it to when we put the very last finishing touches, it was about two years. And, because we did a lot of it ourselves we did some things out of order and maybe created more work in the end. And, we did all of this with a toddler in tow, which was definitely not an easy feat. I think being realistic and setting these expectations ahead of time will only help you handle anything that comes your way with stride. 

DIY What You Can

If you are attempting a renovation and budget is an element you are concerned about, I highly recommend DIYing what you can. For instance, we didn't know the CAD program before the kitchen reno, but husband (tg for him!) learned it and we designed the layout together. Also, going the IKEA cabinet route with fronts by Semihandmade that elevated them definitely is a good option for budget-conscious folks. And, ideal for people looking to customize. Again, as we mentioned, we painted ourselves and bought our paint machine on Amazon versus hiring someone to do it. So really just think about the little ways you can chip away at costs.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks

We had a lot of people who advised us to keep it neutral for the sake of resell value. Their advice teetered from don't paint the kitchen cabinets a bold color to don't install patterned flooring. Well, we did BOTH (together) and we couldn't be happier. Ultimately, we wanted a space that felt really unique and the methods we used really helped us get there.

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