Produced by Arren Williams
Written by Megan McChesney
It started with a small thing, as massive reno projects often do. “I wanted better access to the rest of the house from the kitchen,” says CF‘s editor-in-chief Jen Reynolds. “I always felt like I was stuck in the kitchen when I was entertaining, so it was all about this wall between the kitchen and the dining room that I wanted to take down.” And if the wall came down, Reynolds and her husband, school principal Neil Boland, realized the whole space would require reconfiguration. So they just went for it.
“When we moved in five years ago the kitchen was exceptionally hideous,” says Reynolds. “We used melamine paint on the countertops, oil paint on the cupboards, replaced the pulls and bought new appliances. That was a good short-term solution, but it was time for an update.” Though perhaps the term “update” is an understatement: the reno involved new cabinets, a new sink, new appliances, uncovering a hidden window, replacing a sliding glass door with a window and single door, removing walls and replacing the flooring on the whole ground floor of the house. (Never mind that they also did their bathroom at the same time.)
What Reynolds did first was measure out her space and draw it out on graph paper. She identified all of the things that couldn’t be moved without significant expense — plumbing, vents, ducts — and then started playing with layouts. “The eureka moment was when I realized I could buy undercounter fridges. I was trying all kinds of different designs, and the big fridge we had just wasn’t working, but then I found the GE Monogram undercounter fridges, figured out the size and availability, and then everything revolved around that.”
That’s not to say that Reynolds did everything herself. “I was lucky enough to work with City TV’s CityLine decor guru and trend reporter, Arren Williams and draw on his expertise.” A trip to Home Depot was next, to make use of their free design service and to order everything. “Our kitchen looks like it was custom-built, but we saved a lot of money working with the expert staff who know all of the sizes and pieces to order to make it work perfectly,” explains Reynolds. Almost everything for the new kitchen, including the appliances and the cabinetry, were ordered through Home Depot. The knowledgable designers were able to ensure that everything she picked was in keeping with her desired aesthetic: traditional with contemporary elements. “I probably would have gone overboard with all of the details if I didn’t have the help of people I could bounce ideas off of,” says Reynolds, who is no stranger to the world of design. “When it came to things like counter edges and door pulls, I was glad to have the help.”
But the kitchen really became their own when they unrolled the Persian rug that Boland had brought back from a trip to Iran years ago. “Because everything is clean and white, that rug looks like a piece of art now.”
This fantastic new kitchen didn’t come without a few sacrifices — losing a wall in an already small kitchen meant losing cabinet space, and to preserve precious counter space, they now live a microwave-free existence. And because she was “dying for a farmhouse sink,” Reynolds was happy to give up room for a pull-out under-sink garbage bin. “We don’t make that much garbage anyway,” she notes.
For this family, the kitchen has actually meant a change in lifestyle. Because the fridges aren’t so huge, and because they don’t have a pantry to store things nor a microwave to quickly defrost frozen foods, they eat more fresh foods, planning week to week. And the additional counter space now provides room for their four-year-old, James, to help with meal prep. “He loves to get involved,” says Reynolds.
And though the whole family lived with Reynolds’ parents for three months while the work was being done, they don’t consider this a sacrifice. Reynolds concedes that if she had known it would take as long as it did, she would have rented a house in the neighbourhood, just to keep her son’s routine in check.
Reynolds’ favourite item in her new kitchen is those undercounter drawer fridges (they do have three sets, after all). “They’re still the most fabulous thing about the kitchen,” she says, adding, “Well, actually, everything in the kitchen is fabulous.”
They say that a kitchen is the heart of any home, and upgrading your kitchen is a smart-heart investment. The average kitchen reno can start at around $30,000, and you will likely recoup 75 to 100 percent of that cost at resale time.
Pull together images from books and magazines that you respond to. Even if you don’t think they all match, there may be elements in each picture that you love, and that you can incorporate into your reno.
Make a template
Just like Reynolds and Boland, measure your kitchen and start drawing out different layouts. You can also use a free online design tool such as the one found at seemydesign.com.
Phone a friend
If you have a friend with great decor taste or lots of experience with renovating, invite her over and share your ideas. She may think of things that hadn’t occurred to you.
Talk to the pros
Visit a home improvement store, or speak to a contractor, about your plans for your kitchen (you may be limited by the location of plumbing, electrical, vents, etc.). Their knowledge of building and materials will be helpful during the planning stages.
It’s an oldie, but a goodie: always leave a buffer of 10 percent in your budget, because renos inevitably cost more than you thought. This also gives you some room to take care of unexpected expenses that may pop up.
Do your research
Take your time looking at all of the different options to make sure you’re well educated on what is available in your price range. You may be anxious to rush ahead and get things done, but spending more time at this stage will prevent disappointment down the line.
Keep reading for more of Jen Reynolds’ kitchen reno with great new finds that helped make her new kitchen simply fabulous.