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.

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.