The fun part…design

Here’s how our new kitchen project came about. I designed our old kitchen 10ish years ago (pictured below – with yellow tile), a the time we had a newborn baby (and two giant dogs). This design came about because when we moved into this house it didn’t have any kitchen cabinets or counters.  When it was built, in 1886, a kitchen was a room with a giant stove,  a table and some furniture for storage and no running water! In our kitchen some plumbing was added in the 1930’s but still no counters.

In 2002 when we moved in we added some Ikea pieces and it worked well enough. Then suddenly we had a new baby  and we had a bedroom in the attic and one bedroom right off of the kitchen which was the only option for the nursery. We quickly realized that it didn’t work to have a new baby sleeping right next to the kitchen. So we built this wall (with the green picture on it), and I designed the kitchen with the yellow tile. The new wall formed a hallway, so the nursery was now off the hallway, but the kitchen became smaller. We had no budget at all when we built this kitchen so I needed to design something around Ikea cabinets, the natural birch flat panel design is what I choose. I installed the tile myself, we had a carpenter build the upper cabinet and soffit. It had a modern vibe that stemmed from the Ikea cabinets. It worked, and we loved the tile.

Over time it really bothered me that the style was so foreign from the rest of the house, and the main feature that I loved about the house, the height of the ceilings and nicely proportioned rooms were fighting with the horizontal cabinet design. So, when it came time to  re-work on the back of the house, and we no longer had the need for a nursery on the main floor (we now have two bedrooms in the old attic), it seemed it was time to take back the hallway and add it to the kitchen. All those reasons along with the fact that the Ikea cabinets were now discontinued lead us making a new kitchen part of this project, rather than extending the Ikea kitchen.

We were somewhat regretful (because we felt it wasteful and excessive to pull out a 10 year old kitchen). So, we saved the tile, took the good cabinets and the concrete sink and counter top and repurposed them in the mini-kitchen down stairs. So, most of the kitchen was recycled! And we were free to learn from our mistakes and design a kitchen that we hope will last 50 years.


I pulled these photos (below) when I was starting to think about the kitchen, the photo of the yellow tall shaker style cabinets were just the right proportion. Changing to a vertical design would better emphasize the tall ceilings, and the more traditional cabinets would work in better with the original style of our house. I like all the vintage appliances in the middle photo. I’m over fancy new ranges. I hated our Bosch oven, though it was a Craigslist find so it didn’t cost much the whole electric convection oven thing was annoying to me and didn’t work better than the vintage stove I had in my first SF apartment. I had spent a good amount on a Meile cooktop which also was unremarkable, burners were hard to start. The last photo I pulled because it had a nice balance of color, pattern and tile.

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Here’s a sketch I did of the initial idea, it revolved around tall simple shaker cabinets and a Copper Chambers Stove. The colors are cool, the light blue being a nod to mid-century aqua. Also important were the  vintage Danish pendants I saw last summer in Spain that I needed to track down. I found them here, and would have everything in this etsy shop if I had more rooms to furnish. I had ideas for the tile of course, but more on that later.

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Below, the design for the main kitchen wall firmed up, and was thought through by our architect (Barbara Brown). Not shown is the large island in-front of this cabinet wall which makes the whole kitchen function. Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 9.38.34 PM.png


Framing + Windows

This part is slow. First photo is mid August, by November the framing was done, windows are in and rough plumbing is in progress. Things like extra steel beams get requested by the structural engineer and take a couple weeks to fabricate. No one wants to talk about the schedule and though it’s fun to start seeing the rough shape of the rooms, and understand the changes in the volume of the space, it’s all just too slow to really be fun.

IMG_0081IMG_2943 (1).jpgOh, and we live here too, this is our kitchen (above). It’s winter and there’s no heat on the main floor. Here’s how it works (below) a zippered plastic doorway to the major construction site, some dust gets kept out, but it doesn’t keep it warm or quite. It works though, since our two bedrooms and main bath are upstairs (old attic level)  we have some place nice to get away from the noise, chaos, and people working on the house.IMG_2939.jpg

We need a Mini-kitchen

Alright, so we’re living in this construction zone and doing dishes in the bathroom is not working. We have a small niche off our family room on the bottom floor of our house that used to be a kids toy storage area, but now is looking like the perfect space for a mini-kitchen, later to be used as a beverage area.

The big bonus is that I can re-use the cabinetry and concrete counter/sink from our existing kitchen. I was fond of this concrete counter and sink even though it’s looking really worn out. It still works so let’s reframe “really worn out” as “a great patina”. The Cabinets I don’t love, but they will work and it’s a huge budget and time saver to just move this stuff and have a mini-kitchen.





I found these lights, from Denmark from a fantastic seller on Etsy.

They are 1970s magnetic BALL wall lamps – Originally designed by Benny Frandsen (Frandsen Lighting) for E.S. Horn Belysning/
The lamp is a beautiful Danish “democratic design”, and was originally produced in a variety of different colors. The genius of this light is the magnet which holds the lamp in place, and allows you to easily adjust and point the light where you need it – it’s an excellent reading light – over the bed or your favorite chair. The whole round part only held on with a magnet!


Floor plans

Here are are the floor plans. Only about 1/5th of the house is being touched, why is it taking so long?

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Lower Floor plan – All existing except the “guest bedroom”
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Main Level floor plan – everything left of the stairwell is re-configured
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Back and side of the the house, the back elevation is totally new and the everything left of the the start of the railing is new.

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August 2015

Lots happening in August, the project creeps on, concrete is poured, and we get a REAL copy of the book we wrote on tile. Which puts the pressure on our tile decisions, we want it to be good, and since we wrote a book on tile, it will be embarrassing if it is not.

lower level of the house, fully excavated and ready for concrete pour. 
concrete is poured, ready to frame!
Tile Makes the Room – due out Sept. 19 2015

Digging con’t

By August, the project was still in digging mode….

Very frustrating, bucket by bucket down the hill, and up again. The house is not accessible to any digging machines so bucket by bucket is the only way.

It was a big hole though.


The Big Dig – Summer 2015

We had a really thought through plan for the timing of this project. Permits were submitted on time in February of 2015, we were supposed to start in May, but the permit didn’t come through until June 15th. Digging started a day or so later and were were off on our summer vacation to Portugal and Spain!

Inspiration everywhere:IMG_1261IMG_1448IMG_1544

Since were were soon to launch our new book about tile we were heavily focused of searching out beautiful tile installations.