DAY 15 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Clean Annoying Things

This one is not going to take much time today, hopefully. Sorry, it’s an annoying one, though.

Update: ok I just made the list below and realized this could take some time. Sorry again.

Your Mission:

The ceiling fan blades.

The blinds.

The top of the refrigerator. Behind your Fridge

The tops of your cabinets.

The crumb catcher in your toaster.

The Crockpot base.

Behind your range if you can pull it out. I grab from the door handle but be careful not to pull the door off :)

The range hood……….

I mean I could go on and on but that list looks good for now.

Good luck to you.

Wear gloves.


DAY 7 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Kitchen Cabinets

My apologies on the rage that builds throughout this post. Kitchens fire me up.

The biggest complaint I get during consults is about the kitchen cabinets. No shock there. But, do we really need to go ripping them all out? Maybe sometimes. If you just want to and have the funds, great. But, if you don’t, today’s challenge is for you.

There are several ways we’ll tackle the kitchen cabinets today. The first one we will address is the biggest complaint about cabinets.

There Isn’t Enough Storage

To that I say BULL SHIT. I have yet to meet a kitchen that can’t be worked. Even the smallest kitchen I have ever seen I was able to figure out where to put everything. The trick is being realistic about your stuff. I’m not going to beat this to death because we have purged a bunch already and I will have a rage stroke if I go too deep on this. But a few tips here:

  • Small Appliances: Purge any small appliances that are redundant to your big ones. For instance a toaster oven is ridiculous to own if you have no room and you have a perfectly good ACTUAL OVEN that can….you know… toast things. And you can really go balls to the wall and just pitch the toaster while you’re at it because again…you have a giant full size toaster oven called an ACTUAL OVEN. Now move on to the others. The blender you never use. The panini press. The popcorn maker. If you MUST have these but don’t want them in the way, consider moving them to a place that is less in the way like a shelf in the garage, basement, pantry or laundry room.

  • Pots & Pans: What do you actually need and actually use to cook? Do you need 18 skillets? I think not. You can likely get by with a large soup pot or dutch oven, a larger skillet, a smaller skillet and a sauce pan. Maybe even less than that depending on how desperate you are for space.

  • Utensils: Look at your utensil. Purge the idiot ones. Replace any that are too far gone like that carrot peeler that the handle broke off of 2 years ago, yet you keep trying to get by like freaking a hero. Splurge today on a carrot peeler. You deserve it.

  • Dishes/Glassware/Mugs/ETC: How many sets of dishes do you have? How many sets of glassware? What about all those random plastic cups you got at baseball games or at Harkins Theaters 18 years ago. Tell those mofos to get a life and peace out. Try to keep a set if you can. It just feels better. Allow yourself to keep random mismatched if it feels like a collection to you. Like maybe your mugs. Otherwise, those random mismatched plates can take a hike.

  • Storage Containers: If you have an explosion of storage containers, then go through them and purge the ones that have no matching lid or container. If they suck, get new ones. Grab a little bin and throw all of the lids in there and stack the bottoms together.

  • Spices: That stuff goes bad. How old is yours? What is never getting used…EVER?

Be harsh. Your sanity depends on your ability to win out over the guilt of getting rid of that one mug and saucer your mom got you because it {insert fake high pitched mom voice here} “would be so cute for soup!” but doesn’t stack well and is taking up serious real estate only because it is “so cute”. Ok moving on to the actual cabinets.

Organize In A Way That Makes Sense

Now we put things back in a way that makes sense to how we use the kitchen. Put cups, plates, silverware and bowls near the dishwasher to put away more easily. Pots and pans can go near the oven or even in the oven drawer. I feel like this is obvious but I have been in homes where the cookware was nowhere near the cooktop. And actually, just last month I bought myself a little mug tree and put it by the blender, which may make no sense to you, but to me is genius because that is where I blend my bulletproof coffee (coffee + butter). Life has become so much better being able to pick up a mug right there and pour my coffee in.

If you have everything put back and you still don’t have the space you need, then you maybe weren’t as ruthless as you needed to be. Try again.

Remove A Cabinet

And everyone loses their shit. “Why would I want to remove a cabinet!? I need storage!” Well, upper cabinets feel like giant heavy boxes hanging over our heads because that is exactly what they ARE. You can feel it. It’s like bad feng shui or some shit like that. Find one random one that is poking out. Hanging there. All willy nilly. I double dog dare you. All you need is a screw driver. There will be consequences though. Holes to fill. Paint to paint. Maybe a shelf or two to hang. Or if you don’t need storage because you have purged half your kitchen belongings, hang some art! Your heart will love it. There should be more art in the world.

Replace These

i almost don’t even want to say this next one because the minute I do you’ll tune out. Every other design website and show has said this is the way to update your kitchen and I don’t like to be like “them”. But, changing your YOU KNOW WHATS can be good if you do it right. Be creative. Don’t go with the obvious. Sometimes what you think is a decent handle will look terrible strewn all over your kitchen. Imagine looking into your kitchen and seeing black (brushed nickel, brass, whatever) bars dotting the landscape. Does that look good or annoying to you? What about handles that “match” your cabinets? They disappear! Could you like that more? I have done that in this kitchen because I didn’t want the hardware to ruin the color scheme. Finding white handles was near impossible so I spray painted some nickel ones.

There are loads of options here and I’d say that one size doesn’t fit all. Look up some kitchens similar that to yours on Pinterest and see what you might like. A good place to find hardware is Amazon because you can often find packs of 10-20. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve used over and over.

Remove These

Take that stuff down from above your cabinets.. Just try it. See how it feels for a few days. In most cases it doesn’t “work” in my opinion. More things looming overhead. Not good for the soul.

Add Storage

LAST RESORT. Now we get to it, but not until way after the purge. Why add storage to fuel the hoarding fire? That makes no sense. If after all of that you still need a bit more storage, or maybe just a more suitable type of storage, consider these options:

  • Try using some of your cookware as the “art” of the room. Hang pans somewhere, alleviating the need to take up a cabinet

  • Add shelves for glassware, dishes, mugs, etc Let’s hope you chose to keep a good looking set or collection

  • If you have an empty wall, bring in a buffet. It can double as storage and extra counter space.

Try your best to keep most things hidden. More things to look at usually result in a cluttered head. At least for me.

That’s It

That’s a lot to take in and for some of you a lot of work ahead so we’ll stop right there. Show us your work in progress and your after photos over on Instagram or tell us about it below!

Missed a challenge? See the last week here.



Before & After: Client Abstract Gets A New Kitchen

Gray Kitchen with Subway Herringbone Tile and Quartz counter tops

Client Abstract had been living with her blah oak laden kitchen for years. Not only were her oak cabinets a seriously depressing shade of....oak, the brown floors and the beige walls were just not helping matters. She tried everything she could to give it some life by infusing some decor and a bit of her own bold artwork. Wasn't working. Nothing could overcome the beige!

Beautifying it was only have the battle. You can see in the photos that the room is quite large, but the layout of the old kitchen was ridic. The sliding glass doors are placed right in the middle of the room separating the kitchen and dining area. Now the kitchen is all squished into one side making the center of the room useless. The appliances are all sitting on top of each other, meanwhile there is a dance floor size space going unused. Unless you're dancing of course.

Oak Cabinet Kitchen Beige with Dance Floor

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that this one was a tricky floor plan to overcome. It was a big room, but very long and not very wide if you're going to try to squeeze an island in. Also, the length of the room was becoming an issue because we needed to include a way to allow the dogs to get out to that section of the yard. The doggie access point was right in the middle of where we wanted the new kitchen.

Moving on to the other side of the space was the dining area. Client Abstract wanted to put in a new slider to the pool deck here. We'd need to move the one in the middle of the room to make way for the new kitchen, so this was a good plan. But, space was already an issue. It was getting pretty tight as it was.

Dining Room Before with Red wall

I ask a ton of questions during design consultations. Through this questioning I want to know what people want, but I also try to discover what it is they REALLY want. Many of my clients hire me because they have so many ideas and need help making sense of and weeding through them all. It's my job to take those ideas, try to implement many of them but also make sure that the overall goal (what they REALLY want) is achieved. Client Abstract, for instance, wanted a bar area in the dining room. After some debate, we realized it was a fun idea, but in reality it would probably just collect dust and be in the way. Not only that, all of those bottles would really take away from the new uncluttered vibe we were going for which is what she REALLY wanted. So, instead of a bar we made sure there was a dedicated area in the kitchen cabinets for the booze, as well as a wine fridge to take care of the important stuff.

So, back in the kitchen I set to work trying to come up with a game plan for these cabinets. We originally thought a peninsula coming off the wall where the original sliding doors were was the best option since the room wasn't very wide. Only problem was that it eliminated the doggie door. There was just no way to fit the sink, the range, a peninsula and room for seating on the wall and still allow for the doggie door. We also didn't want to move the sink because we didn't want to move the plumbing or do new flooring. To move the plumbing, we would have had to jackhammer up the floor since houses here in Arizona are generally on a slab. No basement ceiling to run plumbing through. The flooring was in good shape and replacing the entire first floor would be a huge expense.* Long story short, a peninsula wouldn't work.

An island would work but could only be 2 feet deep to allow enough room to move around it. Also, we'd have to axe that arch that looked important but was just really in the way.  Client Abstract didn't mind losing the arch, but didn't like the idea of looking at the kitchen and seeing the side of an island. Hmmmm....then I discovered the answer. An angled island. It was weird, but good weird. AND it worked.

Long Skinny Island Floor Plan with Angle

In real life the island is not angled this much. We set the cabinets exactly where we wanted them to allow enough clearance all the way around. The red lines in the floor plan indicate countertop placement. We were able to angle the island because the counter on the range wall ends while the island continues. Normally you wouldn't have the island jut out longer than the cabinets on the opposite wall, but then again Client Abstract and I are not normal. The angle helps the longer island feel balanced in the room. We put 2' deep cabinets in the straight section of the island so it could house an trash bin cabinet and plenty of storage. The angled section we made 1' deep with an overhang to allow for seating. Here's the new and improved kitchen.

Angled long skinny island with gray cabinets
Gray Kitchen Cabinets with White Quartz Countertops, Sputnik chandelier and wire pendants

You may have noticed in the floor plan the area opposite the island that had a counter overhang. Also seen in the photo above where there is a counter but no cabinets below. Say hello to the doggie door!

Doggie door built into cabinetry

This is one of my favorite parts! I felt like a mad kitchen scientist when I came across this idea. Putting the doggie door "in" the cabinetry allowed the counter to extend under the new window replacing the slider. We wanted the width of the new window to match the existing window over the sink. The doggie door closes and locks if Client Abstract is away. If she or a new owner are no longer in need of a doggie door, they can frame in and drywall the area inside and slide a stool or a rolling cart under the counter. Shelves could even be made to fit the space.

On the other side of the room is where I put my client to work. Don't worry, she was game. We needed something on that far wall as an accent to break up all of the white paint and her husband wasn't feeling the whole wallpaper thing. I found in her Pinterest boards a piece of abstract art that looked like giant black brush strokes. I knew she could pull this off after seeing some of her work around the house. It would be perfect! Nice and bold, but yet would not detract from the monochromatic uncluttered feel of the room. She did a great job!

Abstract Black Brush Strokes Accent wall
Gray Kitchen with Abstract Art Accent Wall

My client was also gifted this great mirror that kept with the theme of uncluttered-ness, but also was useful in reflecting the light from the new patio sliding door, as well as a view of the pool. 

I'm very happy with how it turned out, not only in aesthetic but in how it worked for my client's needs.

Before and After: Oak to Gray Cabinet kitchen
Before and After: Dining room with abstract black and white accent wall
Gray Kitchen Cabinets, White Quartz, Herringbone Backsplash

Even though there are twice as many cabinets and added seating now, the new kitchen feels much more open and airy. I can only imagine the sort of buffet she could serve on that huge 12' island! She could even take the booze she was going to have in her bar and set up a mixing station with plenty of space left over. I see many parties in her future.

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*Side note: we did have to run electric in a small trench to the island but got lucky! The tiles popped up and we were able to replace them no problem.