January 16, 2014

Beginnings – The Great Kitchen Remodel

Six months ago I borrowed a stack of library books on designing and building your own kitchen cabinets. This was the start of The Great Kitchen Remodel project. Even as I took notes on cabinet building technique, it was quickly becoming obvious that making the cabinets myself and having a new kitchen within the next ten years was not going to happen.

When we bought our house three years ago, the kitchen was not a selling point. After being a student rental for ten years, the kitchen was tired, not to mention dirty and straight out of the fifties. I just kept telling myself it could be worse, and was still way better than our Madison apartment kitchen. Still, after having a nice, new kitchen, in Atlanta, dealing with old, run-down Madison kitchens has felt like a step back.

After returning the optimistic, do-it-yourself, cabinet books, I moved on to Ikea! The design it yourself, flat pack, approach was just one step up from spending hours in the wood shop. Plus, the Ikea prices and styles all seemed very reasonable.

On the Ikea website, they offer free kitchen design software. I downloaded the program and got to work laying out different arrangements. Our kitchen is in a 7’x12′ room, which doesn’t provide much space for all the appliances and desires of a modern kitchen. I created four designs and then narrowed it down to one winner, basically an L shape with an extra cooking arm.

I was feeling really good about this Ikea plan until we went to Ikea to examine the cabinets with a critical eye. In the showroom it became obvious that the small details, like doors and corners aligning and the modular nature of the cabinets, would forever be bothersome. They just were not nice enough.

It was time to bring in the professionals and pull out the check book for real. Armed with my Ikea design, I started interviewing local kitchen companies. After working with three designers, the right person seemed obvious, combining a long history in the business with a very nice line of products.

We’ve been working through all the design decisions, while saving-up extra money for this much more expensive kitchen plan. Demolition is scheduled to start at the end of February!

The photo above is the kitchen as it was before we bought the house, taken from the southwest corner of the room. The photo below is one of our recent design renderings, from the perspective of the southeast corner of the room. So the window on the left in the photo is the same window on the right of the drawing.


  1. Your kitchen is going to be fantastic. Is the stove out of the picture? Cooktop plus ovens or all in one? I think it is a good choice to go higher end than IKEA because I don’t think they will hold up over time. We have been considering a remodel here as well. I get overwhelmed with all the choices and do nothing. I guess if I got a designer in, I could see all the options. This is also the same problem with finding the perfect sofa.

    So.glad you returned to the blog. Great to hear your ponderings.

    Comment by Kathleen King — January 16, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

  2. It’s interesting to hear your process of tackling this project… from homemade to IKEA to designer! You definitely considered all your options. Did you incorporate a pantry / food storage area? I love that you put in lots of big drawers. They are the best for pots and pans. What about the microwave?

    The rendering looks awesome and I can’t wait to see how it turns out! I want weekly updates starting with the demo (w/photos!). :-)

    Comment by Arielle — January 16, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

  3. K – We are going with a range rather than a separate oven/cooktop. I will post a couple follow-ups about the choices we made and how we came to them. You are right there are a lot of choices!

    A – Just this week we found a microwave that will fit. Whew!

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Comment by Marijka — January 17, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

  4. Look really nice! I’m glad you went to Ikea to check the quality – it does look really nice in photos but kitchen cabs are one of those “buy once” purchases so make it the best you can afford and love it! Good luck!

    Comment by rosemarie — January 19, 2014 @ 8:19 am

  5. Thanks Rosemarie! I hope this will be the only kitchen cabinets we have to buy, at least for this house.

    Comment by Marijka — January 27, 2014 @ 9:16 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

  • Eating salted avocados with a spoon in Madison.
  • Blogging since 2003.