If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you likely know that last fall, we sold our home in the suburbs (the one my husband Ben grew up in!) and moved to downtown Milwaukee.
And if you follow along on Instagram, you likely know that we spent a good chunk of June redoing our kitchen
WELL, I’m excited to share that the before/after photos of our kitchen have arrived!
When we moved in, our kitchen walls were a color of deep velvet red I associate with The Library in the board game Clue, the appliances on their last legs, and the sink was tiny and not meant for any form of serious dishwashing.
The counters were a hard-to-clean black granite, and the island? It was little more than a make-shift wooden table that showed every watermark.
We have a single basin, ginormous sink made to handle my largest sheet pans and deepest stock pots, a stunning backsplash and fresh paint job, a real-deal, functional kitchen island with outlets and the most stunning Cambria quartz countertops!
When we decided to redo the kitchen, I spent months researching appliances, finishes, and most of all, what kind of island/countertop I wanted.
I can’t overstate how happy I am with our choices. Not only is our kitchen exactly what I envisioned aesthetically, it is PRACTICAL.
Everything about the space is easy to use, easy to clean, and makes me feel all the more joyful when I cook. Equally important in our decision is what we didn’t change.
While our kitchen remodel was a major investment, we weren’t willing to completely drain our savings. We recognized that the existing kitchen had a number of good qualities, prioritized what had to change, and left what we could live with happily and fit into our new design.
WHAT WE CHANGED – The Priorities!
A Real, Functional Kitchen Island
Having a workspace that offered storage, seating, and most importantly of all a legitimate work surface was Priority #1.
The island was also the main remodel catalyst. Our thought process went something like…
BEN: OK, we can install an island.
ERIN: Well, if we build a new island, I know I’m going to want a different countertop than the ones we have now…and the island countertop should match the other counters, so we’ll have to change those…and well, if we’re lifting off the counter anyway, we should probably do a new sink too and…
I think you see where this is going.
The island decision involved two parts: the countertops, which we also installed around the perimeter of the kitchen and the island base.
After researching quartz vs. granite vs. marble, I came to the clear conclusion that quartz was the countertop material for me.
Quartz is a manufactured stone, meaning it is created for a purpose. And a few of those key purposes: being easy to clean, durable, nonporous (it won’t soak up moisture, odors, and other yucky things), and beautiful.
Unlike granite (which looks a certain way when it comes out of the ground), quartz can be designed to a variety of patterns. Unlike marble, it’s a breeze to clean and doesn’t have to be continually resealed and polished.
Within the quartz realm, however, I had more options than I knew existed.
Eventually, my research led me to Cambria. Their quartz has a lifetime warranty, the company’s practices are environmentally friendly, and the quality control Cambria maintains over its products is bar none.
Another reason I fell for Cambria is the aesthetics. Because quartz is manufactured, some producers are better at creating and replicating a pattern than others. I wanted a real marble look…without having to maintain real marble. Cambria has a wide array of beautiful, natural-looking marbles. Eventually, I settled on a design called Swanbridge.
I like that Swanbridge has some interest, pattern, and veining, but it isn’t so bold that it overtakes our smaller kitchen.
COUNTERTOPS BEFORE: Dark. Impossible to Clean. Easily Stained.
COUNTERTOPS AFTER: A Breeze to Clean. Ridiculously Durable. STUNNING.
The Island Base
We created bar seating (let’s be honest—everyone wants to hang in the kitchen!), storage drawers and cabinets, and a pull-out trash can (LOVE).
We also ditched the regular microwave (which had occupied a doorless cabinet and was both small and an eyesore) in favor of an in-island drawer microwave. It’s fantastic having the microwave out of the way.
For the color of the island, I chose a timeless admiral navy. It pops against the gold hardware, looks classic, and adds a dimension of color to our otherwise neutral space.
ISLAND BEFORE: Limited Storage. No Seating. No Outlets. The Microwave is in a Weird, Doorless Cabinet to the Left of the Sink.
ISLAND AFTER: Seating for Four. Loads of Storage. Microwave Hidden. Outlets Galore.
The Wall Color
Before we even moved in, we painted the red walls a calm gray. We used the same color throughout most of our main floor, and if we ever move, I’d paint my whole interior with it again.
WALL COLOR BEFORE: Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers Red.
WALL COLOR AFTER: Same Girl, New Scene.
We ditched the divided, shallow stainless steel sink in favor of a single basin white ceramic.
All I can say is, once you own a touch faucet, you don’t go back.
Our faucet is also TALL, and because its neck is completely flexible, you can maneuver it super duper easily. This model is a favorite among professional chefs, and after using it, I can see why.
We also added an instant hot/instant cold water faucet (that’s the smaller black spigot you’ll see in the below photo to the right of the regular faucet). The hot water comes out PIPING hot, and the cold is refreshing and filtered.
SINK + FAUCET BEFORE: Shallow. Divided. Short Faucet. Zero Flexibility.
SINK + FAUCET AFTER: I (Almost) Like Washing Dishes Now.
White tile + gray grout.♥
We also added a wall niche above the range. To make it a focal point, we broke up the subway tile pattern elsewhere in the kitchen with a chevron inlay. I adore chevron, and this was a really fun, manageable way to tie it in.
BACKSPLASH BEFORE: *Crickets*.
WE DIDN’T HAVE ONE (!)
BACKSPLASH AFTER: Dreamy Subway Tile + Chevron Niche.
We made a serious upgrade to our range and hood, replaced a dishwasher that was breathing its last, and swapped out the small, narrow refrigerator for one that is standard width.
FRIDGE + RANGE BEFORE: Narrow, Single Door Refrigerator and Old-School Range.
FRIDGE + RANGE AFTER: Sleek, Streamlined, and Built for Serious Cooking.
^^Side note: the refrigerator turned out to be the biggest stressor of the entire project, because of the wall that juts out to the refrigerator’s left. The wall was too deep to allow a standard width French door refrigerator door to open wide enough to allow access to the interior drawers.
I will spare you the drama, but I was eventually able to find the one refrigerator on the market with doors/drawers that are workable. The new refrigerator didn’t fit the opening fully, so we added a few pieces of wooden trim around its top and sides to create a built-in look at a more manageable price point.
We replaced the round nickel nobs with brushed gold handles. I love the way the gold warms up the space.
What We Didn’t Change
- The Big-Picture Layout. We didn’t touch the walls or move the positions or openings for any of the appliances.
- The Appliance Openings. Not touching the size of the openings for or positions of the appliances made it hard to find appliances at times (like that fridge!), but it certainly kept the project more streamlined.
- The Cabinets. If you’ve looked into redoing a kitchen before, you know that cabinets are among one of the most expensive components. Had the cabinets been a deeper color, I would have looked into painting them, but we were happy enough with the existing color. New hardware was the perfect facelift!
Cooking in our new kitchen has been so energizing and exciting. I am incredibly grateful for this beautiful space. I can’t wait to use it to create even more recipes for you!
Thanks for following along with our kitchen remodel! We paid for the remodel ourselves. Cambria gave us a credit towards one quartz slab. I stand by all of the opinions in this post, which are my own. You can find a full list of our selections here.