Kitchen Cabinet Plan

So we’re planning on taking the big kitchen cabinet leap soon. Soon-ish. Maybe this year sometime. Or, you know, I might just set up some sawhorses and plywood in there and call it a day.

Lowe’s is running their “$1500 off your cabinets” deal until the end of the month, so we are trying to figure out if we should pull the trigger now or wait until we get our geothermal tax credit in a few months. We’re tentatively hoping for a March move-in date, so…

So as usual, we have some decisions to make.

As a small refresher, I’ve come crying to the internet a couple of times for opinions about our kitchen in the last several months. First, when I was debating between black or white cabinets. (Black won.) And then when I was breaking out into cold sweats over the island lighting situation. (Still somewhat unresolved, but I have this gorgeous double pendant stashed in a box somewhere right now.)

I’ve also met a couple of times with a couple of different kitchen designers in the last eight months, and I fully expect to finalize my plans on Friday. For a slightly terrifying look at what that entails, this is the kitchen plan I’ve been working off of, plus a little red wine soaked into it for good measure.

This really is an accurate representation of what it’s like inside my head; Fuzzy pictures, random notes, and drenched in alcohol.

We’ll visit each of the areas of the kitchen in turn here shortly because believe me when I say, it gets worst than this.

Ironically the kitchen in real life is in a much cleaner and more organized state than the kitchen in my head.

Well… kind of.


The shot above is facing the stove/sink wall pictured at the top of the plan. This next view is facing the closets at the opposite end of the room.


It’s not a huge room, but it’s got an open layout and it’s a fair sight better than what it started out as…

memorial house 003

Which was basically a hallway with a strip of cabinets. Just looking at this picture brings back the smell of 15 pounds of mouse poop we found under those babies when we ripped them out. Gak.

I need to cleanse my mental palette now by showing you a couple of the inspiration photos I’m working with:

I really just love the wood ceiling in this kitchen from Elle Decor (Elle Decor, really? I was shocked), but we also toyed with the idea of ditching the wall cabinets around the stove/range hood, and we liked the way this full-tile wall looked.

This house from Country Living also resonated, since I think we’re going with the distressed-black cabinet/ wood island combo.

Up Close and Personal

Here are some individual style elements I’m considering, though I’ve made my mind up on exactly none of them.

Starting with the sink, I’ve got my heart set on one of these convertible numbers, like the Kohler Stages, or the Blanco I just learned about in an article from Joseph @ CFT411.

There is nothing I would like more than a draining pan, built in colander, and a cutting board right on top of the sink.

To the right of the sink is the trouble area in the kitchen…

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this wall, including: getting rid of the upper cabinets entirely and tiling (or putting stone) on that wall, getting rid of the range hood entirely and putting just a wall of cabinets up there, or making both wall cabinets open shelves for cookbooks and the like.

The image on the far right is my old kitchen (blue tile and stove, how I miss thee). I loved having the open shelves and with black cabinets in the new kitchen I want to make sure it doesn’t look like a cave. A library of cookbooks might be just the thing to brighten it up, don’t you think?

I’m hoping for a big industrial looking range hood to fit my rustic/industrial theme, but I’m trying to figure out how that would mesh with a tile backsplash. Right now I’m in love with the mini subway tile like the DIYNewlyweds used in their kitchen.  I think the brown/cream colors will work great with the black cabinets, but I’m not sure about how that would work with the silver/black hood.

I also plan to have pots/pans drawers flanking the stove. In the old house I was all about hanging everything out in the open, but I find that requires more cleaning in the end. (What good is it to have a pot within arms reach if it’s full of dust and cat hair?)

Moving clockwise around the kitchen we come to the fridge…

The fridge space is built in to the wall. I considered for a while Jenn-Air’s line of bronze appliances, but when I saw this wood door fridge I knew I needed to go another direction. There was also an example in a (currently MIA) magazine of a couple who made their fridge look like a swinging barn door, and that is exactly what I’d like in the new kitchen.

So far this Jenn-Air fridge is the only one I’ve found that accepts a full custom panel and handle (not those ones that have the metal frame around the outside and take a cabinet insert.) It also costs the equivalent of two kidneys and a firstborn child. We could be fridge-less for a while.

The closet end of the kitchen is the wall causing me the least worry…

Because I don’t need to do anything with it right at the moment. The space was made for built-in cabinets, but I think we’re going to end up building a bulkier version of this Pottery Barn buffet/bar instead. I’d like to modify it so the shelves in the back will have glass doors and the depth of the piece is a full 24″ so it will make a nice buffet.

Completing the circuit of the outer wall of the kitchen is the dishwasher area…

There will be two double “trash bin” cabinets on the lower left for a total of 4 bins. We’re in the country where there is no trash pickup, which means everything gets separated into garbage, compost, burnables, and recyclables, and if you don’t have the proper space for this mess it will take over your kitchen. Those two cabinets are the most important feature in the house.

I’m considering a couple of different options for the upper cabinets. Again, I’m trying to avoid a wall of solid black, so I may add some glass into the doors… I love the way fabric was used in the picture to hide the clutter but keep the open feel.

And all of that brings us right here to the middle of the kitchen…

The island is going to be another DIY job. With an attached “table” and seating on one side of the work space, we’ll actually be able to fit more people than if we put my old dining room table in there. Well one more person, at least.

Under the island, I’m hoping to create a built-in space for the microwave and then I’m debating about something like the pull-out mixer stand, or just a really big storage area with sliding shelves for all of those miscellaneous appliances.

The chairs are a bit of a conundrum. For everyday use we’ll probably only have 4 at various spots around the island. Aesthetically I’d prefer bar stools like the CB2 Contact Stool (which is just the right look but unfortunately doesn’t come in counter-height), but for a nice sit-down meal, it seems like you’d want a back on your chair. The Anthropologie Redsmith chairs are appealing, but they also are not counter-height and I really think the high backs would clutter up the kitchen.

Since this is a long way off, I’m keeping my eyes open for the perfect thing.

And that concludes the tour around my brain hypothetical kitchen. With a pantry, two closets, and twice as many cabinets as I’ve ever had in a kitchen before, I feel pretty confident about our storage space, but I have a couple of large unresolved materials issues, including:

  • Countertops. Originally I wanted butcher block on the outside and granite for the island. After researching the butcher-block further, I’m hesitant to put it around the sink and over the dishwasher. Other options include the reverse: Granite on the outside and wood over the island. Or some sort of granite/wood/tile combo… tile on the outside, wood on the inside, or granite on the outside, tile on the inside. This is like one of those math problems where you can carry the remainder on for infinity, so I’m just going to stop myself now.
  • Cabinet style. I know I want distressed black, but I’m waffling between a traditional door style and a bead-board door style.

  • Cabinet supplier. I’ve gotten quotes from a couple of different brick-and-mortar stores and Lowe’s has the best price, added to the fact that I bought Kraftmaid through them for my last house and it was an incredibly easy/smooth process. I’d like to find a half-off internet deal, but I’ll be honest… I’m leery. If any of you have had cabinet success on the internet, I’d love to hear about it.

I will say that even though it’s absolute insanity, I do feel like I’ve got a better handle on the kitchen than on any other room in the house at this point. What do you guys think? I’d love your opinion on anything I’m missing or haven’t thought of yet.

34 Responses

  1. I LOVE the fridge door (it has me in gleeful squeals and twitches, I’m telling you!) and my parent’s last house had an island-dining table solution like your drawing and it ROCKS!
    Now I’m back to thinking about moving the $$#@$^& electric panel in the kitchen and bumping out that wall again … bad influence, you ;o)

  2. Thanks for the plug, you’re very kind.

    As for the cabinets themselves, I personally would stay away from Lowes and Kraftmaid and the like. They tend to be rather cheap, and rather badly built. With the skills you already have, you could probably build your own without too much trouble. You have a table saw; it’s winter, so not much else is going to get done; what the hell, right? Failing that, though, I would look into better made cabinetry. The likelihood of your redoing this kitchen is not particularly large, so I would say go for the gusto.

    If budget is an issue, one of the things you might consider is Formica countertops. They come in all kinds of colors and textures these days. Paul Anater, who is a kitchen designer working out of Florida recently posted a discussion on this very subject. Here is a permanent link to that blog:

    You can have Formica for a few thousand dollars and spend the money saved on better kitchen cabinets. Just as a thought.

    1. Thanks Joseph. Are there a couple of cabinet manufacturers that you recommend?

      What I’ve found is that it costs about as much in materials as it does for the cabinets, and about quadruples the time I’d have to put into it.(I do have to finish all that drywall and tile my showers yet.) I’d rather purchase the basic cabinets and focus my building energies on the buffet and island, I think.

      1. Complete agreement with Joseph. Having owned numerous homes with various cabinets, stay away from store bought and Kraftmaid. They all fall apart in under a decade.

        Have you considered having Amish cabinet makers build your cabinets? You cannot believe the difference in cost or quality as they are custom built using the hardwood you request. You pick or design your style, stain, etc. We used “English” cabinet making company in our last home, solid oak cabinets with counters cost us $20k in 1992. Had them give us quote for this home using hard maple–$35k. We had local Amish cabinet maker do this kitchen using hard maple stained an off white with true custom areas built (i.e. dog crate, china cupboard) cost $7000. We installed cabinets in both homes ourselves.

        Also agree on the counter tops. Go with formica. Its not the formica of old anymore. A local company made a really nice formica counter top using Wilsonart in a black that looks like and feels like granite. It is simply Wonderful! Having the option of changing up the counter top in a decade without feeling like we blew a gozillion dollars on granite was our main reason.

        You live close to IN where there are many Amish communities. Could probably get you name of cabinet maker from our Amish friends here, they all have relatives in IN. You also live close enough to me (NW PA) the drive to order and pick up your cabinets from Amish is worth the savings of thousands of dollars. That’s IMO. If you would like pics of my cabinets just shoot me an email. And Good Luck!

  3. Okay, you asked for opinions – here they come!

    I have a corner sink that I kind of hate, but in looking at your plan, I think you’ve solved all the issues I have with mine. I love looking out my window when I do dishes, but I only have one (on the left) and an upper cabinet (on the right). I think your double windows will open up the space nicely (whereas mine is claustrophobic). Also you have counters running on both sides – my counter and stovetop is on the left, that works well, but my wall oven is on the right, making for more crazy-making congestion. The last problem of mine that you’ve solved nicely is giving yourself a 21″ drawer cabinet to the left before your dishwasher. Mine is butted right in that left corner and it is a pain to stand there all hemmed in, let me tell you. So congratulations on solving those problems before you started!

    As far as traditional versus beadboard cabinets, I vote for traditional just because beadboard is very busy visually, and you are going to have a lot going on in a relatively small space. The plain cabinet fronts will give your eyes someplace to rest. You could incorporate some beadboard on your wood island (it’s less busy on a matt surface). Some open shelves and glass doors on the top will relieve the black cave potential as well, or you could choose a lighter color (charcoal gray, perhaps?) for the uppers. I would do something symmetrical around the stove (open stainless shelves over subway tile to tie a stainless hood to tie with stainless/galvanized stools?) just because I need my spaces to be symmetrical to make up for my asymmetrical brain.

    I love my pot/pan drawers – they are amazing. If I ever have the privilege of building a new kitchen (and your story makes me more desirous and confident of that eventuality!) I will have all drawers in the base cabinets because they are so much better than than a cavernous box for storage and retrieval.

    Fridge doors – amazing and worth waiting for!

    Sorry for the l-o-n-g comment (again!).

    1. Don’t apologize, I love the long comments. I’ll tell you I had some misgivings about the corner sink and one of the kitchen designers actually put the dishwasher right next to it and I was like… uh? How’s that going to work? lol.

      My other choice would have been to put it in the island, but since we decided to use the island as more of an eating space, I think the corner will be better. It does limit the size of sink you can have though, and none of those fancy farmhouse deals.

      Also, totally agree on on the drawers. All cabinets must be drawers or have slide out shelves.

  4. I love your ideas and envious of the blank slate you have to build the kitchen of your dreams. I have one opinion to offer and that is I would go with the traditional cabinet fronts. In my opinion the bead board look will go out of style in time and you don’t want to look at your kitchen in 10 years and think it feels dated. Also, your a Gemini like me (I think we share a BD)and I get tired of trends and change my mind constantly on what I like (husband hates that about me). When we gutted our house, I was on a rustic/simple country style kick, and now I hate it…Thankfully I went with the squared shaker style cabinets and it works with modern/rustic/country/what ever kind of bug I have up my a$$ style! 🙂
    Good Luck!!

    1. You have articulated JUST what I’m afraid of. I’m not ADD about interior design really… I’m pretty consistent about what I like, but MysteryMan is all, you know you’re going to want to change this in 5 years anyway, right?

      I’m hoping to use the feel of the house as an anchor point – It’s kind of like a dressed up cabin. And then choose things that aren’t necessarily classic or neutral, but will always ground the look to the feel of the house.

      To your point, the squared cabinets can always be painted and never really go out of style.

  5. OK here it goes…

    Sink – Love the sink choice. What kind of faucet are you going with? It think a tall arching one is in order with that layout.

    Stove area – I think you should do the whole wall of tile or stone with open shelves. It will make the space feel nice and open while still giving you some storage. It doesn’t have to all be cookbooks either. Many people put large servingware or pitchers on shelves too (for your space white, glass, or copper would look good). At first I thought stone would look best there but I’m not sure how to transition it to a backsplash around the rest of the kitchen. Looking at your Elle Decor inspiration pic (hmm looks familiar btw) I think maybe a white subway tile would look good. That would help balance the dark colors. The shelves could be nice chunky wood shelves to play off the island and buffet. For the range hood I think silver would work…but I think copper would be better!

    Fridge – Love! Well worth the wait to get such a statement piece.

    Buffet – Perfect.

    Upper cabinets – OK I’m not a big fan of black upper cabinets because I think they really dictate how small the space feels. Check out my inspiration pictures below. Many of them have black lower cabinets and white upper. In your case wood upper cabinets might work better. If you do go with black I’d for sure go with a glass front but skip the fabric it reminds me of a granny’s house. Go with frosted or textured glass to help hide the stuff inside.

    Island – Have you seen the microwave drawers? So much easier to use when they are down in the lower cabinets like that. We plan to get one someday. The mixer pullouts are cool but they take up so much space when they are out make sure you have plenty of room for someone to get behind you. Or you can be like me and just leave it on the counter with the toaster. They are pretty enough that it works. Not digging the chairs you have pictured. They look cheap. LOL which may be the point but still I think you can do better. Some simple leather/faux leather parson chairs would work. Easy to clean, comfy, and thin enough that you’ll look right past them.

    Cabinet doors – Stick with the plain fronts. Beadboard looks best when it’s white.

    Countertops – I love the look of butcher block too but we’re not going to use it. Instead you can have a butcher block insert if you know you’ll be doing a lot of cutting in one area. I’d stick with granite or quartz throughout. I’d stay with a light brown or even a cream to white color. Looking through my inspiration pictures I’ve come to find that the contrast between countertops and cabinets is appealing (like black countertops on white cabinets). There are some nice quartz colors out there with cream backgrounds and specks of brown that would work well. Check out my inspiration pictures below.

    Hope that helps!

    Black cabinets


    Silver and browns together

    Frosted glass upper cabinets

    Other chair option

    Chunky wood shelves

    Copper hoods!


    Black hood could play off the black cabinets but might be too much

    1. Love your pics! You sent me that Elle Decor pic didn’t you? I found it again when I searched for rustic kitchens and I knew it looked familiar!

      So that chair option you posted I think is the perfect mix of stool and back-rest. I didn’t think of a leather-ish option but I really like the idea of it. Wonder if I could make something?

      I don’t disagree on your assessment of the copper hoods (I like that first one!) but I’m planning to use some of the more gray wrought iron in other places around the house – stair balusters in the mudroom, and the grill on the fireplace. I thought it might be a nice tie-in to keep it all similar.

      I really love the subway tile and hood in this last pic. What color is that tile? Grayish brown? Love the way it works with the hood and those rustic wood cabs. Also the chairs in that pic aren’t bad either.

      As always, thanks for the pics (and for taking your lunch hour to give me some advice!)

      1. I’ve always loved those chairs but I have no idea how comfortable they are.

        I see your point but you can successfully mix metal finishes. It’s very common in the design world. Look at that first copper hood pic. It has silver handles, faucets, and light fixtures but it all works. Just saying.

        I don’t know it’s some kind of a tan glaze. Maybe a gray/tan glaze. I got it from this post which gives the tile source:

        See my anal file names paid off! Oh and there was another recent post that has the same tile from the same blog (see the shower):

        That might be a little lighter beige color though.

        No problem just glad I can help out one of my favorite bloggers!

  6. see that little bit of wine that spilled on your kitchen plans? now imagine that spilled onto your new beadboard front cabinet doors…now imagine yourself cleaning wine out of the grooves slowly one by one…definitely go with the plain ones.

    I really like everything and how it’s starting to come together. It’s going to be stunning! Can’t wait to see how you figure out which countertop materials to use. I love tile and butcherblock, but have never lived with either personally and am interested to see how you can incorporate them.

    1. You have illustrated the beauty of BLACK cabinets… I don’t think red wine will show up on them. Hahaha.

      But even for dusting purposes, I think you have a point!

  7. This is all gorgeous and exciting and a little dizzying from all the options. Love the shape of the island!

    All I can add is:
    1. I have counter chairs where the back comes up only half way, and find them to be EXTREMELY uncomfortable. I never want to sit in them. Try them out in a store, and you’ll see that you can’t really lean back in them any more than if they were backless. If you plan on using that area for long dinners, I’d go with full-backed chairs, or you’ll notice some major fidgeting.
    2. I’d opt for closed cabinets (either glass or solid wood) near the stove, because even with a hood, I find that cooking grease from the air tends to settle right around that area. Your cookbooks might develop a grimy film over time.
    3. I lived in an apartment that had a big DEEP sink like that and I loved it. I felt like I had room to put in dirty dishes as I was cooking AND wash produce, hands, etc, without feeling cramped. It really spoiled me for the small sink I have now. Now I have to stack stuff in and around the sink as I work — annoying and messy.
    4. I’d also be leery of ordering cabinets from the internet, sight unseen. Here’s a fellow blogger’s cabinet mishap:

    In any case, I can see why you feel fuzzy about all this. It’s a lot! But it will gel day by day as you make each decision.

  8. I’m also in the midst of a kitchen remodel, and considered a sink w/ built in drainboard like the one you pictured. But I couldn’t find one with a big enough sink, so I decided to use the Kohler Vault SS sink with a Drainmate next to it. Go to to see it. It might not work with the corner sink, but you might want to check it out anyway.

  9. Whoa, my mind is all fuzzy after reading all this. I have a few opinions:
    Black cabinets would look best with a plain door. Skip the beadboard. I would also definitely do glass doors on some of the uppers, to keep it feeling more open.
    I would do granite around the perimeter and butcherblock on the island. I know that you really liked your old tiled counters, but keeping those grout lines clean just doesn’t sound fun to me. Although it might be a striking feature for the island, it just depends on what kind of tile you’re looking at.
    Fridge – I don’t know, I guess I just don’t get into the fridge panels because, uh, I don’t want to ‘hide’ it, I guess? Plus, fridges can get a bit dirty so keeping the enclosure as sleek and clean as possible is what I like. But there is no doubt, it would look pretty awesome in your plan.
    I don’t know how brown and cream backsplash would look with black cabinets. I don’t usually mix brown and black….but then again, I am not seeing it – so I can’t visualize. my stupid employer blocks most pictures on blogs – the nerve!

    ps – my bedroom color is Behr Aqua Smoke, and I love it so much I actually painted my room in an apartment, knowing I would either get charged for it or have to paint it back to white! LOVE

  10. Have you considered cabinets through Costco? They have a vendor ( with some pretty high quality cabinets, albeit with a semi-limited selection. I don’t recall if they offered black or not, though. It saved us a bunch.
    You can steal a peak at them in my kitchen here:

    Here’s a shot from their site of the ones we have:

    We joined Costco just to buy them. Costco members get 2% cash-back on their purchases, so at the end of the year, I got a check for 260 bucks in the mail.

    Love reading your updates, by the way.

    1. Kevin – great tip, I checked them out. Yours look great by the way… I didn’t see the color/finish I was looking for but I’m going to keep searching!

  11. Just wanted to tell you how much fun that was to read! Makes me want to design my own kitchen, yet NOT want to design my own kitchen!

    1. Yeah, it pretty much is like that all the time. I WANT to do this and also would like to NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. lol.

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  13. I really like everything and how it’s starting to come together. It’s going to be stunning! Can’t wait to see how you figure out which countertop materials to use. I love tile and butcherblock, but have never lived with either personally and am interested to see how you can incorporate them.

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