DAY 20 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Refrigerator

How many of you have already jumped the gun and cleaned out your fridge early on in this challenge!? I told you to take it easy! There is a lot to get done. Well, I guess if you were one of the few that didn’t take the purge challenges to drastic measures and attack your entire house, then get to clearing out your fridge.

Wipe it down.

Make it feel like its new.

Paint the outside if it’s really bad.

Shit, throw some washi tape on it if it is SUPER bad.

If it’s REALLY REALLY BAD and you have been waiting for me to say, “Time to buy a new fridge.”, wellllll, ok fine I give you permission. Blame it on me if you need a scape goat. I mean honestly, replacing appliances is one of the easiest and best things to do in your house. You don’t have to move walls or take out cabinets (usually) and your quality of life will improve. Maybe that’s a little excessive but sometimes it’s the truth

Ready? Go.

DAY 13 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Clear Your Counters

As I mentioned before, a high priority for my clients is to get more storage and counter space in their kitchens. Sometimes I make the uncomfortable suggestion that they could just learn to use their kitchen a little differently. Yep. Sometimes I tell people not to renovate their kitchen.

Before you freak out, if they sincerely want to, then we move forward with the consultation! I don’t just say NO. LOL.

The challenge for you today is to clear everything EVERYTHING off of your counters and see what naked counters feel like. Wipe them down. Feel them in all their gloriousness. Read on for things to consider and things you may have NEVER considered.

Update, don't renovate challenge DAY 13.png

The one and only huge problem with counters are all of the things that people put on them. Toaster ovens. Toasters. Blenders. Knick knacks. Coffee Pots. Microwaves. Utensils. Etc. Consider the possibility that you have too many things, or at least too many things laying out, and that is why you have zero counter space. OR if you’re like me you have a different kind of counter space problem. For me it’s more of a more-things-than-my-eyes-car-to-process problem. Hopefully you’ve done the kitchen cabinet challenge already and so you have some space in those cabinets now. That will make things easier.

Look at what you have out. Are you using it? Is it a duplicate of something you already have? People are willing to rip out perfectly good kitchens and drop tens of thousands of dollars for more space. That to me says it’s pretty important that counter space. First I would suggest trying small lifestyle changes before dropping all that moola. For instance, I once did a consultation for a client that, “had no counter space” and was going to rip out their kitchen. The kitchen they had looked great to me. Certainly not worth spending thousands to replace it. Next to their oven sat a large toaster oven that took up at least 2 feet of space. I’m sure the toaster oven is very convenient, but there is already a large, very expensive appliance that heats things up in every one of our houses already. THE OVEN. They do the same job! Add to that a toaster. Yes toasters are convenient, but an oven toasts bread as well. It’s not rocket science. Get rid of these two small appliances if space is that much of a concern for you.

Microwaves. Some of us have them on the counter. Do you actually need a microwave? Do you have a pantry it can go in instead? Get rid of it. It’s bad for you anyway. I rarely put a microwave in my remodels nowadays. If all you are doing is reheating pizza, you’ve got an oven for that. Be critical of your usage of any appliance on the counter. If you have other things that you use pretty regularly and they are on your counter, consider finding a space in a cabinet nearby. You can pull it in and out as you need them. This may be inconvenient to you at first, but do you want counter space or not!?

I can get behind convenience when it isn’t getting in the way of peace of mind. To me, a clearer counter = clearer mind. My house, not remodeled by me, has a huge 8’ x 3’ island. We had our lovely fish Popcorn sitting in the middle of the island. Honestly, I wanted Popcorn to live there so I wouldn’t forget about him. I would do that. After two years, Popcorn was getting up in age and seemed a little sick. We learned that he would prefer a warmer climate and bought him a new tank that required being plugged in. So, he moved off of the island and to my SHOCK, it was a huge eye ball relief. Popcorn was literally cutting off half of the island even though he was just in a little 12” diameter bowl in the middle of the space. The way we used the island when he was there was junk/drop zone on one side of Popcorn and prep work on the other side. Only 4’ of work space. Nothing to shake a stick at but certainly not the 8’ of space that as actually there. This was a HUGE lesson. Becoming aware of this faux blockade was eye opening.

Your Mission

Clear your blockades. Put some stuff away in a cabinet, pantry, whatever. Remove decor. Fish. What have you. For a day or so use your kitchen and see what feels better. Or worse even. Be aware of anything that might just feel like an annoying new phone or new car. Awkward at first but you can get into the swing of things once you get used to it and where things are located. Show me your photos of your naked counters. #nakedcounterphotoFTW + #updatedontrenovatechallenge obviously.

DAY 2 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: The Dishes Are Done Dude

The appliance that started this whole challenge….my dishwasher. When we bought our house it came with what seemed like a great dishwasher. It’s a GE Profile with stainless steel tub. In my experience, those are nicer, more expensive, quieter machines. So, imagine my surprise when I opened it up and it was pretty dirty inside. I mean for F’s SAKE! Shouldn’t that appliance be able to clean itself? That’s its job! To clean!

I was kinda grossed out by someone else’s dirt and yet decided just to ignore it. We needed to use the dishwasher so I just started using it thinking hmm maybe it just needs to go through a cycle or two. Then I thought that running some magic concoction of baking soda and vinegar through it would clean it right up. NOPE. I gave up. I know. I’m disgusting.

Two years go by and aside from scooping out some random bits of food on the bottom, I don’t do much to this annoyingly unclean cleaning machine. There was some visible goopiness that made me just want to throw the stupid thing away. I told a guy at an appliance store this and he looked at me like, “Well have you cleaned it?” I knew he was thinking it. I beat him to the punch, “No I haven’t cleaned it bc its disgusting and i don’t want to touch that shit. It should clean it’s own damn self!” As I was saying it I thought it might sound funny, but really it was just childish and embarrassing. I knew I had to stop being an idiot.

A few days later I noticed a glass had broken in the dishwasher so i grabbed out the broken piece. It was next to a gunky seal strip so I pulled that out and OH MY GOD how freaking FOUL AF. I gagged. I stopped and asked my husband to bring home gloves. I could not move forward. I mean I’m no delicate flower but this was gag-riffic.

An hour later I had my gloves on and got to business. First I pulled the racks out and put them outside to hose them down. Next, I pulled the tracks out, making sure to chase down every ball bearing that bounced away. The gliding tracks were caked on with what could only be the devil’s sludge.

At the bottom of the dishwasher I dug around a little bit in the back to see what other little gems were hiding out there. EVEN MORE DISGUSTING SLUDGE STRAIGHT FROM SATAN. I pulled the spinny thing out and GAG. I pulled out some basket and shit I don’t even know what these things do but I just kept fishing out anything that was removable and collecting sludge. Even the seals on the side of the dishwasher that keeps water from spewing out were sludge-y. Don’t worry I’ll spare you and only show one photo of a light gunking.

Outfitted with this magical steel scrubber, a handled scrub brush, a flat head screw driver, soap and water, I went to town on every piece. YOU GUYS > THIS WHOLE PROCESS TOOK ME THREE FRICKIN FRACKIN HOURS, hence the reason I had all the time in the world to think of this challenge.

Long story short, I got to as much as I could, closed it up with whatever parts it needed to operate and turned on a rinse cycle. Then again with vinegar. Then again bc it was leaking out of the right corner. Then again. And again. Finally, I got it to stop leaking, put the tracks and racks back and that is the story of how my shitty AF dishwasher became like brand new without spending more than $3 for gloves (I’m guessing. I wasn’t there for that part.)

Hallelujah for like brand new appliances!

Now, I asked my mom and my two sisters if theirs were gross thinking of course they were, THEY HAD NO IDEA! But no they were not. Just mine. I looked at my mother-in-law’s that night, it was not gross. Maybe I’m just a filthy human being. Either way, if this tale of dishwasher satan sludge can help you, then I am glad to be of service.

If not, then here are some other options:

  1. Been using your dishwasher as a drying rack? Then GYST and call a repair person to finally come out and fix that stupid thing. If you are unsure you want to spend the money on fixing an old one, then….

  2. Commit. Go get a new one.

  3. If new is too expensive, get a refurbished one from a reseller. They’ll still deliver and install and warranty for a short period of time. You can have a new to you dishwasher today!

  4. Get a scratch & dent model.

Is Your Dishwasher Fine Because You are Not Disgusting (Or You Don’t Have A Dishwasher)?

Ok I still want you to feel like you got to participate. This is for you….get yourself one or some of the following:

  1. New dish sponges.

  2. New scrub brush with a handle. This one is my favorite. I also like this one and have it at my new Airbnb. It has held up for quite a while and doesn’t look gross after much MUCH use. The bamboo handle feels good in your hand compared to the plastic nonsense. When possible, I try to opt for non-plastic.

  3. A drying pad for your counter. I got mine on Amazon as one does.

  4. A new drying rack or clean your drying rack and make it like new! I have this one at The Shack and I love it because it collapses and you can put it away. Anything you can get out of your face for a bit is best in my book. I have a drying pad below it.

Things That Help Make Life Better…

Hopefully everyone is a little happier with their dishwashing situation after today. After all, the sink and dishwasher can make or break happiness in the kitchen!

Shop The Room: Client Retro @Rnchhouse Kitchen

Wanna know where something in my Client Retro @Rnchhouse's brand new kitchen is from!? Look no further! Below the photos is a source list for many of the items in this kitchen including which paint colors we used, the appliances, fixture and hardware! Most of the decor items are vintage and from my client's personal collection, therefore cannot be linked. Sorry! You'll have to start scouring the thrift shops near you. :)

*This post contains affiliate links

White Shaker Kitchen with long subway tiles, black retro hood and gold brass pulls
Black and White Kitchen Retro with Floating Shelves and marble counters

Door: Dunn Edwards Barrier Reef

Walls + Ceiling + Trim: Behr Ultra Pure White

How To Design A Custom Range Hood

Let's talk about the super secret in custom kitchen details...custom range hoods. Seriously the biggest "joke" out there because it's seriously so easy. I love love love this trick if you can call it that. We all want custom details yet rarely look to the range hood for help. We throw up a stainless thing and assume we can't afford to trick this area out. Not true. The range, and therefore the hood, are typically a focal point in the kitchen. They are the center of attention. So, it makes sense that this would be a place to drop some dough. BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO DROP A TON. The big secret to custom hoods is....


Frame it. Cover it. Throw a hood insert inside. Done. I discovered this a few years ago and have been trying to do them ever since. No need to buy an expensive matching cabinet hood cover. Truthfully I don't even know what those are called because I refuse to pay for them. Instead I have my contractor build them for me. You could build one or hire a handyman or contractor. Totes easy and way cooler. 

The Hood Insert

The hood insert is something you can easily purchase. Here is one that I've used pretty often.

***It does not come with the venting kit and the hood liner ( the framed part around the actual appliance shown in the photo), so make sure you get those, too. Amazon shows them as "frequently purchased together" if you scroll down, so you can add them all to your cart at once. The total comes to just under $330. 

Please note: I'm not saying this will always be less expensive than just installing a regular all-in-one hood appliance. The chimney hood shown is also $330 but the price can go way up from there. Obviously, in this scenario this hood would be less than doing custom since the insert alone costs $330 before building out the custom part. Take a peek at the options between what chimney hood you would choose and what kind of custom hood you would like. You might find that the most acceptable all-in-one version for your kitchen is going to cost you the same as custom. Do math. Then decide.

Where To Put It

Now, let's get to some ideas. The following are four totally different styles I've done. The first one was my first custom hood.

Custom Modern Range Hood with Wood Trim

In the photo below you can see a gray bump out in the living room. I wanted to recreate that shape in the hood. I didn't want anything fancy or intricate. I wanted sleek and modern. So, my contractor framed out the area above the range all the way to the ceiling, drywalled it and trimmed out the bottom. He used the same wood to create floating wood shelves on either side.

Hood Insert for Custom Range Hood

That's it! Literally just a drywalled box! You can see in the photo above how the insert sits inside the new drywalled box.

Another style I did just recently was the same idea but bridged between two cabinets. The contractor framed guessed it.... another box and then we wrapped it with some salvaged cedar siding from another house. This could easily be painted shiplap if you'd prefer that look.

Custom Range Hood with Cedar Wood Shiplap
Custom Range Hood with Shiplap cedar

See more about this kitchen here.

A third custom hood I designed for a kitchen was this adobe looking specimen. It was supposed to be actual adobe but we had trouble getting the adobe people wrangled. So, we moved on from that idea and went with plaster. Looks like adobe and blended well with the walls.

Custom Adobe style hood made with plaster and cedar
Custom Plastered Range hood with Cedar wood trim

Now, the more detail you add to it the more it will cost. Adding trim details take time, so forgo those if possible. But still, even a little bit won't hurt. This hood I did had just enough trim to help it fit in with the cabinetry but not break the bank.

Shaker Kitchen with Custom Style hood with insert

So that's how it's done. Build a box. Wrap it. Boom, done. I'll say one of the keys to being successful at doing custom details like this is making sure you have a contractor or handy person who is game. Not just someone that says, "Sure I can do that.", but is actually interested and excited. As is with every job and project, if the major players aren't into it, then the finish product may not be as creative and frickin' awesome as it could be. Gauge their interest and your determination on whether to move forward with the custom hood, ditch it for an all-in-one hood or find someone else more suitable to implement your plan.

Ready? Go.