Kitchen Reno Diary 3 {Before and After}

May 17, 2016

After more than 3 months of having takeout dinners, and cooking breakfast in a little corner of our basement, I'm proud to announce that we finished our kitchen renovation! No words can describe how happy we are! We no longer need to live in a dusty environment and limit our activities on the 2nd floor! Truth be told, our house is over 2000 sq ft. So, even though our ground floor was unusable, we still have plenty of living space.

Let me remind you how our old kitchen looks like and our renovation progress.  For our inspiration board and how it all started, check here.

Now, are you ready for our new kitchen reveal??? *drum rolls*....

{Our New Kitchen Reveal}

Ta-da! Our kitchen is now so bright and inviting! I absolutely adore the quartz counter top. It bounces the natural light and under cabinet lighting in every angle. We removed the fluorescent troffers in the kitchen ceiling and the track lights in the family room, and replaced with dimmable pot lights. They make such a big difference to the space. More modern and the space looks so much bigger too! It was a brilliant idea to make the pot lights in the family room dimmable, we could adjust the brightness according to the time of day and even to create a certain mood.

{The bar}

Remember that giant fake wall cabinetry between the two rooms? We took it down completely and replace it with an "open bar" that overlooks the family room from the kitchen. And we now have REAL cabinets that we could actually store things in! But, we found out that there's a structural beam after we demolish the fake wall. And since it would be too costly and complicated to take down the beam, we had to change our original idea of having an open concept layout with an island. After going back and forth to the drawing board and thinking it through, we realized an island might just not work in the existing floor plan after all. Since, that means we are losing the space for the fridge. In the end, we decided to turn the wall into a bar.

At first, we thought about adding upper cabinets to the bar since my mom is always so worried about losing storage space (we didn't have any in that spot to begin with anyway!). But then, we changed our minds during the process. Having upper cabinets at the bar defeats the purpose of making an open concept space. We won't be able to look over to the family room from the kitchen. The only open space would be the gap between the upper cabinets and the counter of the bar. And that means, we would have to bend down in order to look over the room. So, we scrapped that idea and just left it completely open. I'm glad we did. It was the best design decision we made to compensate for keeping the structural beam. But then, we lose the space for our microwave which used to be part of the wall. We didn't want to put it on the counter because it would take up too much counter space. We couldn't find a place in the kitchen for it, except adding it to the range hood. But that isn't actually ideal too because a dual purpose microwave that also acts as a range hood is generally not as powerful for Asian cuisine. We tend to stir-fry a lot and it gets steamy. So, we thought why don't we just make the bar taller than the other counter on the other side? That way, we can make room to fit our microwave in the cabinet and it wouldn't be taking up our counter space. The result works better than we imagined. We used to spill soups because the microwave was at a higher level. Now that it is lower, we could actually see our dishes and be careful when bringing them out.

{Our original plan was to have upper cabinets at the bar}


We also put some thoughts in picking our knobs and handles and decided on ones with straight clean lines. These helped create a modern and sleek kitchen that we dreamed of.

When deciding on our cabinetry, I planned ahead and counted the amount of pots and pans we'd need to store away. So we could decide how many drawers and cabinets we'd need for our kitchen. It is also crucial at this stage to plan thoroughly on how you can optimize every inch for storage, making it work for your everyday. Like, we asked to make double pullout drawers in the cabinets underneath the bar so we can access to all the cookware. We also added a pullout spice rack to store away all the sauces, spices and cutting boards we have. We included a pullout trash bin and recycling bin inside the cabinet. Because nobody wants to see that in a beautiful kitchen. We also have a bin for organics mounted behind the cabinet door. The lid will swing open as you open the cabinet door. Another notable design feature that I asked to include in our cabinetry is adding storage to the sink. It always seemed a wasted space underneath the kitchen sink. So why not utilize that space to store away ugly things like sponges and gloves?

To make the cabinetry more open and inviting, we upgraded the doors of one cabinet to frosted glass. We now have soft closing hinges for our cabinets and they make such an impact to our family. My mom is a morning person, she'd slam doors and make a scene in the kitchen while everybody was still sleeping. With the soft closing feature, our family could finally sleep in peacefully on the weekends.


For our kitchen floor, we got rid of the damaged hardwood and replaced with porcelain tiles that we purchased from Home Depot. Porcelain tiles are more durable and practical to wear and tear than hardwood in high traffic areas, like the kitchen. We thought of using marble floors because we like the way they look without the grout lines. Then I did a lot of research and found out that although marble floors look luxurious but they are not as durable as porcelain. So we opted for the polished porcelain tiles and grouted in 1/8" widths so we could still achieve a similar posh look.

{Back splash}

Believe it or not, deciding on the back splash took us the longest time. We asked our cabinetry vendor to lend us a sample piece of our quartz counter top so we can bring it around to find a matching back splash. But since the piece isn't that big, it's hard to imagine how it would look like altogether when it's done. But in the end, we were able to find something that we like for a good price. That is the Travertine tumb light brick mosaic back splash. It gives a better contrast to the light cabinetry and counter top. We also purchased a special seal to apply over the stone tiles so that they will be easy to clean.

{Our family room}

With the new kitchen design, it impacted the layout of our family room that sits adjacent to the kitchen. We had to rearrange the furniture to accommodate the "open bar". And because our family room is a bit narrow, we don't have much choice except to place the long sofa behind the bar and the shorter sofa perpendicularly on the side near the windows. Our family don't entertain much anyway so putting a sofa behind a bar instead of stools work. We originally wanted to mount the TV on the wall opposite to the sofa but then we realized the distance might be a bit too close after all (we have a 55" TV). So, then we decided that the farthest corner is the best spot. That way, we can watch the TV at the right distance on either sofas.

We also replaced the hardwood floors in the family room. In fact, we ended up replacing almost the entire ground floor! If you don't recall how our floor used to look like, check it out here. The lobby and the hallway are both in pink checkered tiles. They look fine and are in good condition but they just make the entire floor choppy. We'd end up having carpet in the living room (we aren't touching that this time), hardwood floors in the family room and dining room, porcelain tiles in the kitchen and then checkered tiles in the hallway and lobby. Way too many flooring styles on ONE floor. That's a big fat no for me. So suddenly, our kitchen renovation project became a huge home renovation and that's why it took so much longer to finish. But, if your budget allows, it's better to do them all at once because it saves you from having to pack, move and arrange things again.

That's it! Our kitchen home renovation from start to finish. I learned sooooo much during this whole process. I learned all the terminologies, materials, design and construction considerations and discovered a new interest. It’s not easy to tackle a home renovation. You might feel a little stressed out and overwhelmed by the many decisions you have to make throughout. So, my advice is to do your research and seek guidance from professionals before taking on a renovation. It is also important to be mentally prepared for things that don't go as planned. You'd have to improvise and think of a solution on the spot. But for me, I took it as a fun design challenge and it certainly opened up to another interest area.

As for cost, we managed to keep it just slightly under $40k, which isn't bad at all considering how big of a renovation it ended up being. We removed the tiles and carpet on the main floor (dining room, hallway, lobby, family room) and installed new oak hardwood floors and baseboards. 

Here's a list of the materials we used:

Hardwood Floors (material and labour for lobby, hallway, dining room, breakfast area and family room)
Red bin rental
Crown Range Hood
Billa Alliances: (Built-in dishwasher, slide in electric range, french door refrigerator)
Samwood cabinetry with accessories and crown moulding
K-Stone Counter Top
Home Depot Porcelian floor tiles
Sink and Faucet: gift
Olympiatile- 28 pcs of Travertine tumb light brick mosaic 2x4

Other tasks we did with this reno:

  • Installation of power switch, dimmer, receptacle and TV cable, appliances, water system, plumbing system, faucet
  • Repairing exhaust fan, shutter door, water leak
  • Restructuring cabinet lighting
  • Installing pot lights in kitchen and family room
  • Demolition of kitchen cabinets, ceiling lighting
  • Removing existing hardwood floor in kitchen, breakfast area, and family room 
  • Removing and installing all baseboards, carpet removal in dining room
  • Painting in kitchen, family room, breakfast area
  • Stucco ceiling repair in dining room and breakfast area
  • Drywall restructure with support and repair (kitchen)

What do you think of our kitchen? It's a very dramatic difference I must say and I have no idea how we could live with that ugly old kitchen for so many years. We certainly do not miss it at all.

{Kitchen Reno Diary} 

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About Me

About [span]me[/span]
Hello, my name is Lorita. This is a journal of my personal style, travel adventures, food excursions, recipe experiments, DIY tutorials and every little thing in life.