This summer, I embarked on a soup-to-nuts kitchen renovation..for the first time in my life. I hand-drew a floor plan to scale, ripped out tile and hacked down cupboards, and product sourced everything from our custom cabinet makers (a friend of a friend) to our backsplash tile (a Wayfair score!). Am I obsessed with my tiny jewel of an apartment kitchen? Heck, yes. Did I make a boatload of beginner mistakes along the way? You betcha. I’m sharing them here so you can avoid them.
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Since the kitchen is all white and we chose durable, man-made quartz for the countertops, I wanted to bring in some more luxurious, natural texture via the backsplash. I found a gorgeous, long Calacatta marble subway tile which I thought would be the next best thing to a pricey, single-slab backsplash. The problem? Both the sample tile online and the first tile in the box were a pale, white marble with the subtle veining I’d been coveting. But the rest of the box was considerably darker with black veining. Lesson learned: Check the rest of the box—and read reviews more thoroughly (it had been flagged by an earlier purchaser).
Before we actually started purchasing appliances, I didn’t expect them to be too costly. For starters, everything was apartment-sized (24-inch fridge, 18-inch dishwasher, etc.)—and I had sifted through the internet for the best deals available. After sending my choices to my contractor—wouldn’t ya know?—he informed me that I needed special appliances. For example, since I wanted a fridge that was flush with my custom cabinetry, I had to buy a “built-in” fridge, which has different venting capabilities. It cost me literally nine (!) times as much as a regular one. Also, the over-the-range microwave I wanted actually wasn’t a possibility because we would have had to add ductwork through the walls to vent to the outdoors. If I had talked to him before I began the appliance search, I would have saved time and likely money too.
Early on in the reno, we noticed that the kitchen’s blonde parquet floors were a little bit wonky: In addition to the wear and tear, they looked ever-so-slightly uneven. Because a) I appreciate their charming, retro look and b) I didn’t want to sacrifice budget, I decided to leave them alone, despite warnings from my contractor that they could be problematic down the road. Spoiler: He was right and they proved to be a pain in the butt right away during construction. The floor was more warped than it looked—so cabinet construction became a bigger expense and headache with all of the leveling, securing and recutting pieces to size.
Rookie mistake: I assumed that all standard cabinet hardware was roughly the same scale. I ordered some classic satin pulls and set them out for my contractor. When I came home and saw them on the drawers, I realized they were definitely too big for the narrow width of the cabinets. I should have gone down to a smaller size, or chosen a slimmer bar style for our tiny space. Next time, I’ll definitely be getting samples to inspect in person before committing to an order.
Don’t get me wrong: Visually, I’m in love with my bright, white countertops, which look so crisp and bounce light around the kitchen, making it feel fresh and airy. But keeping them clean is a bigger headache than I anticipated. Every little speck looks like an absolute crumb apocalypse. Every time I pick up a cup, it needs immediate wiping. Cooking dinner? It looks like Armageddon. On the plus side, it’s probably forcing me to be cleaner!
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Amerock Knob ($2)
Lamps Plus Ceiling Light ($50)
dCOR Design Faucet ($215)
MSI Tile ($9/foot)
Fine Fixtures Sink ($670)
Amerock Pull ($3)