More Kitchen Design Progress

Our kitchen design progress continued to move along. After we got the rough layout figured out, we started refining our picks for finishes and colors.

Kitchen Cabinets

Obviously, one of the biggest pieces of the kitchen design process is choosing kitchen cabinets. We knew from the outset that we wanted to avoid custom cabinets since they can get so expensive (see our design goals here, and how our build is matching up with those goals here).

A lot of our house is going to be white – most of the walls, anyway. So we decided that the kitchen cabinets would be a good place to use some color. Basic shaker cabinets don’t really go out of style (or at least they haven’t), and so updating the kitchen down the road could be as simple as another coat of paint. We started leaning towards some deep blues. For more, see our big ‘ol pinterest board.

Unfortunately, we had our eyes on Ikea cabinets, but their color options are really limited. Places like Semi Handmade can get you either additional color options or unpainted doors for Ikea carcasses (cabinet frames). But when we priced out those options they quickly exceeded our $12,000 budget.

We ordered some samples from Lily Ann Cabinets and Cabinets Bay, and we found some colors that we liked. They were also quite affordable. The jury is still out on durability though. Ultimately, we’re feeding our builder the options we like and letting him coordinate final choices and installation, but we generally liked the look of a royal blue shaker cabinet.


The next big stop was countertops. We generally liked the marble look, but after talking to Shaun about red wine stains on real marble countertops in multi-million dollar NYC condos, we decided that marble was likely too high-maintenance for our tastes. We have two small kids, and we’ve never been particularly easy on our surfaces. So true marble was out.

The next, most obvious choice was quartz that mimics marble. This has the potential to “date” our kitchen, since veined quartz is largely tHe NEw HoTNess on sites like Pinterest and Houzz. But with that said, nobody is so sensitive to kitchen trends as the people who lurk on the Houzz forums. And sure, something like speckled granite suggests your kitchen was probably built or redone in the early 2000s, but I’ve had plenty of wonderful dinners made in granite kitchens or other looks that are no longer trendy and haven’t thought twice about it.

Some of the marble-like quartz can look sort of plastic-like, and the white backgrounds can run from bright white to grey to warmer yellowish tones. So we started getting samples. Some we ordered online, others we got from the likes of Lowe’s and Home Depot. Finding the little drawers where they kept the quartz samples at Home Depot was key. Most came from the usual suspects: Cambria, Cesarstone, MSI, and some others. The Cesarstone samples were particularly helpful because they came with poster-sized prints of what the larger slabs looked like, so you can get a better sense of what the veining looks like in real life. That’s a hard thing to tell by a 3″ square sample.

For the most part, it looked like our $5,000 kitchen countertop budget would be enough. Particularly since we were looking at installing butcher block countertops on the short counters near our cooktop. Butcher block is relatively cheap. The last thing we needed to decide was whether we wanted a 12′ island, or whether we wanted to slim things down to about 10.5′, which would let us use a single quartz slab for the whole counter. We decided to mock things up in the kitchen once the framers were out of the way with some boxes and tape to see what felt right.


We had a fairly good idea of what we wanted for main-floor living/kitchen/dining area flooring from the start: some sort of light engineered hardwood (with in-floor heat, solid hardwood was out – we needed the dimensional stability of engineered hardwood). After pulling lots of samples from Lowe’s and Home Depot and ordering a lot of them from the internet (a lot of flooring places will send you free samples), things hadn’t changed much. We largely zeroed in on maple, hickory, and some of the lighter applewood looks. As with the cabinets, we weren’t focused on choosing a specific product. Instead, we wanted to zero in on the look we wanted, and then allow our builder to suggest a final product.

Kitchen Color Palette

Ultimately, these were the sets of samples we chose to demonstrate the look we were going for:

Kitchen Design Colors
Our Preferred Colors

And these were the rejects. For the most part, they included cabinet colors that were too grey, flooring that was too grey or two brown, and countertop colors that were too yellow:

rejected kitchen colors
The Rejects

With that, we were able to send Shaun (our builder) and Ellen (our interior designer) the palette and the specific products we liked so that Shaun could go shopping and Ellen could use them as a basis to coordinate other design bits in the house, like the backsplash behind our stove.

Book Reviews

A few more mini book reviews:

The New Cottage: Though this book focuses on “cottages,” loosely defined, I thought it was a great little resource for architectural ideas generally. Some of it probably has something to do with the format, which isn’t too unlike this blog: case studies involving a discussion of why the owners made the specific design choices they made. I also just have a soft spot for cabins and cottages. But the whole “modern twist on a classic form” is right up my alley.

Country and Modern: Contemporary Interiors for Rural Settings: Though the title suggested this book was totally up my alley, most of it felt pretty scattered. Some decent inspiration if you like sparse, somewhat rustic interiors, but little in the way of actionable advice or a thesis. 
Styling with Salvage: Designing and Decorating with Reclaimed Materials: Most of this feels like it was written by someone who just really likes shopping at antique malls. Not really our style.