It’s Happening: The Big I Design, You Decide Mountain Fixer Kitchen Plan Reveal
Today is the REVEAL (!!!) of the two final kitchen design plans for our “modern rustic Scandinavian mountain” kitchen. I just spoke to your employer and they agreed that while it’s not a formal national holiday, you should skip work and spend the day reading this, instead. It’s the biggest I Design, You Decide to date, and a lot of the design of the house hinges on today’s poll. No pressure (actually, it’s A TON OF PRESSURE, DON’T FAIL ME). You’ll need a while to read it (it took me a while to write it), but if you are a renovation junky, are renovating your kitchen soon or are in design school, don’t miss a word because I learned so much and there are a lot of valuable nuggets that aren’t just about colors and textures woven in. As an uncertified decorator, I have a new found respect for all the kitchen designers who have been renovating these hardworking rooms for years. Designing this kitchen to be functional, stylish, fashion-forward but not too trendy, mountain-appropriate yet with a super modern feel has been tricky, (though a very fun challenge).
To create two design plans and like them both (almost) equally was perhaps maddening, honestly. I’m so happy to say that we have finalized the two kitchen options for you to choose between, and we love them both. (And thanks to my amazing design and blog team for helping to pull this together…everyone weighed in SEVERAL times as things flipped and flopped to get to where we landed for these final plans).
Let’s revisit the “before” which was a pretty great time capsule of 1992.
In case you think I’m being a snob against this style, know that I realize wholeheartedly that the reddish-yellow-brown shiny maple cabinets of 1992 are the white, gold and blush bathrooms of 2018. We are no better than our predecessors when it comes to avoiding trends because the zeitgeist is a typhoon you can’t avoid if you are near. Hilariously, all-wood/maple cabinets are back, it’s just done differently. Perhaps a whole post on that is due (you tell me what you think).
But it is dated, and it was the darkest room in the house and yet the one we hung out in the most.
We renovated this entire kitchen to give it the modern mountain treatment that it deserved. As a reminder, here is where we are with the layout, and thanks to your comments all that is in red are new changes (see this post to see the full functional layout, and cabinetry and appliance plan).
The biggest change is that we switched the fridge and the dry bar cabinet so that the swing of the fridge door doesn’t affect the person sitting on the island (as per your comments and suggestions—THANK YOU). We spent a FULL DAY trying to add the dry bar on the end of where the fridge is planned to be now, facing the living room, opening in that direction, but the ceiling lines aren’t consistent over there and it was looking so messy and architecturally silly so we stopped trying to make it work (because it wasn’t working). We also clarified some overhangs for counter seating and dove deeper into the cabinetry storage.
The intent of the design is to create a kitchen that feels both rustic and refined, with elements and finishes of both styles that work well together and don’t compete. I want there to be some more forward, edgy elements as well as something that references that we’re in the mountains. We didn’t want it to go too cold and contemporary but I also didn’t want to be as traditional as my current house. So where we landed was not quite in the middle: we included strong design elements and finishes reminiscent of both, with clean lines and finishes that were at the same time warm and refined.
KITCHEN DESIGN #1
Option #1 is more dramatic and edgy, but with some classic details. Here are some inspiration photos, but obviously there isn’t anything that is an exact match because this kitchen hasn’t been designed or seen before.
Please note that black stained wood above…we LOVE that. In fact, we haven’t been able to stop talking about the finish for weeks (it’s on everyone’s minds constantly).
Without further ado, I’d like to present to you our first kitchen design option:
OPTION #1 MATERIALS & PRODUCT: EDGY
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There is so much to talk about that I am going to reference throughout, but I wanted to show you the materials before we dove into the renderings. To ensure that everything actually worked together (which we tweaked one million times), my design team (Julie, Velinda and Grace—THANK YOU) used their magic and skills to do 3D renderings of both kitchens for you (and us).
Here is how all those materials will actually look in the space. Remember that this is a rendering so what you can’t see are the natural light, texture and general soul.
This option is more dramatic, modern and forward with its black and off-white color palette, light blue-gray honed marble (that we might leather) and hits of gold. You already know the layout, so it’s time to talk more about the finishes. (The dining table and chairs are just to help you understand the space but are not part of the design plans yet.)
The island is clad in a stained black reclaimed wood. After weighing and sampling so many different options, we landed on black stained old wood, instead of either unpainted rustic wood or painted flat wood because we really wanted some texture here. In person, it’s so pretty and subtle but brings in the cabin-y feel. It’s the focal point of this design and everybody who sees this wood is responding strongly to it.
The lowers and the floor-to-ceiling cabinets are an off-white (Egret White by Sherwin-Williams) to keep it light, but we didn’t want a stark black and white option (I realize it looks white but it is indeed an off-white). This white is warm and lovely.
We did change some of the drawers up there function-wise because we realized that we didn’t have a “junk drawer” and that top one on the left is when you first walk in through the side entrance so it’s the perfect place to throw everyday stuff. Plus, we are putting an electrical outlet in one side with a divider to make that the charging station for tablets, phones and computers. The vertical cabinets pull out and will have custom built-ins for a spice rack, knife block and utensil holders. The two big drawers in the center are for pots and pans, as well as the two cupboards on each side. We’re still deciding whether we want those cupboards to have a pull-out bottom shelf or not. That’s TBD.
The stone countertop (called from Bedrosians) is so beautiful but quiet. It’s a super lovely blue-gray marble that is honed and has a lot of movement in a soft way. I know marble as a surface is controversial (since it’s so high-maintenance) and a “lifestyle choice”, but it’s my choice and I like a house that ages. Yes, I’ve questioned this one million times and we even threw in a quartzite that was stunning but we were worried it looked like granite. I originally was going to use quartz for durability and stain resistance, but when Brian forced this house into a more rustic direction, the rustic island needed an organic stone. This is the one choice that I might change should this option get chosen. We took it up the window wall so you could see it more, and chose to make it thicker—2 inches—so it has more of a presence (which means that we had to adjust the cabinet height…did I thank the design team yet? Yes, but they deserve another shout out because each change took HOURS to render out).
We went with a classic farm sink to keep with the cabin vibe. I love a single basin versus a double (and I’ve heard others agree). We chose the Purist in Vibrant Polished Brass to modernize the space and keep it warm and in the EHD brand. 🙂 The shape of the Purist is amazing and so simple that it can work with so many different styles. We ordered all the plumbing months ago and I recently was like “should I have ordered it in black?” but I’m so glad I didn’t let myself change my mind. I think this kitchen needs that brass and it helped inform all the metals in the lighting.
The cabinets are inset so the fronts are flush with the stiles (hot tip: a stile is the vertical framing between the cabinet or drawer fronts; I JUST learned that). The wood we went with is alder that has 1-inch grooves and a 1 1/2-inch panel around the outside.
We wanted texture and detail but in a modern way that still felt simple. We tried 1-inch grooves with no border, but it felt too contemporary for Brian (he was right) so the panel around the outside helped keep it more classic. When renovating an older home, it’s my personal opinion that you should avoid looking “new build” as much as possible because even if the “new build” is super cool and trendy, it has the chance of looking more dated in the nearer future. I look at my beadboard in my bathrooms in LA and I’m like “why didn’t I do something more modern here??!!!” But then I remind myself that the house is 100 years old and wainscot is so classic.
I’m going to break down the whole process of how we chose the style, finish and profile of the cabinets in an upcoming post, so stay tuned if you’re interested.
We went round and round on these cabinets, at first going floor-to-ceiling as single panels, but it just looked like closets to us (we’ll show you that process in that upcoming post I mentioned above). It works in some houses, but it was feeling too cold for us. Besides, it couldn’t be seamless because of the (which were already on site). So by breaking them up, it really felt more interesting, custom, inviting and, frankly, functional.
I decided on glass fronts for the dry bar and appliance pantry because I wanted to add texture. Turns out I’m TRULY not a minimalist (shocking, I know) and I just couldn’t do a wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinets without adding more interest. I love how those two glass cabinets break it up, it’s two fewer cabinets that guests will have to guess their function.
We will likely use a thick almost “blurry” glass that I’ve seen around lately (go for a visual reference). I will need to do more research on it, and I’ll show you what it is when we do the posts about how we are designing the inside of those two cabinets (why not make them special, right?). It might be cost-prohibitive, but I like the idea of slightly obscuring the contents inside.
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Coming up with two lighting plans that worked together and still told the story of the house was hard. Plus, loving them both equally was quite the challenge.
For each plan, we have the following components: something streamlined and modern, and something lantern-like that feels more cabin-y. We will do a whole post about how to pick coordinating lighting and we’ll show you all the rejected combos (well not all 124 of them, but enough that you understand the process). Because we have hidden track lighting in the beams for function, the island light could be less about the light and more about the form; here, we picked this stunning sculpture by . And yes, that is caramel leather in the middle. So gorgeous. The black and brass sconces flanking the window are from The Urban Electric Company. I’ve loved them for so long.
Above the bar, we have three (I think I just coined that term) to help light that area, but not detract from the view into the kitchen from the living room. These are modern but so simple that they can work with the rustic wood. That Katy Skelton pendant is the hero so we wanted to really see it from the living room. We mixed up the shapes and the numbers of fixtures but made sure that the style of the hardware/rods and the finishes worked well together. For instance, we wouldn’t have done that pendant over the island with sconces that had a lot of decorative detail. But doing sconces that were really modern might have taken this kitchen down a colder path. So finding really modern streamlined “lanterns” helped it make sense and give us the modern cabin feel that we wanted.
The pendants over the dining table (more on those next) also reference the lantern sconces, but by being rounded instead of rectangular or square, it plays off the lines of the island pendant and doesn’t mimic too much the boxy shape of the sconces too much. We have a mix of round and square, refined and rustic, but all in the same three finishes – black, brass and glass. That seems easy but trust me it’s not. I’ll show you all the rejected combos soon. It took FOREVER, but was such a great learning process.
Also from The Urban Electric Company, the over the dining area are a little more modern, again in mixed metals. The frame is black, but the disc is brass. They have a large presence in such a quiet way. And I literally think that they will forever be in style. Finding “modern classic” is so hard, but I think these do it (all of UECo.’s lighting does, actually…and by the way, it looks like their product is to the trade but you can order anything over the phone). Urban Electric is a wonderful company; skilled artisans make all their product at their South Carolina headquarters by hand, and their entire staff has amazing work/life balance and they even offer paternity leave. Their lighting fixtures are high-end and thus expensive, but they should be and are worth it. If you love beautiful handmade lighting and can afford a design company that supports/creates US jobs and treats their employees so well, please do :).
**While the design of the dining room has not been started we wanted to plan the other lighting with those lights in mind as it’s a shared space. So don’t think about the table and chairs as they are just placeholders (although I’m OBSESSED with these, from ).
Here you can see how all the lighting interacts, which was tricky and maybe something that not everyone thinks about. But as a stylist, it’s really important for me to combine shapes and scales to ensure that certain things don’t block others and that there is a variety without it looking mismatched. I wouldn’t do two sconces, two island pendants, two dining room pendants and two bar semi-flush mounts. I worked so hard to make them different, but cohesive.
I think seeing this entire thing overhead is also VERY fun so you can better understand how the whole space functions together. There’s great clearance around the island, and it’s easy to see how the view from the living room can go all the way to the dining room, thus the need for keeping the lighting minimal and quiet. We haven’t plugged in seating yet but there will be three stools at the island and at least two at the bar. And remember that most of the floor-to-ceiling cabinetry will retract and can stay open without the cabinets in the middle of the room (see this post for reference).
Phew, okay…that was a lot. Here’s a reminder of the materials below so you can stare at them while deciding.
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But obviously, a full tour rendering of the space will help you feel as immersed as possible. I LOVE seeing this. Again a HUGE thanks to my design team for pulling these together for all of us to reference. It helped immensely.
KITCHEN DESIGN #2
Before we dive into all the exact materials and plan, let’s take a peek at some inspirations for this second kitchen design.
It’s impossible to find something similar, but the surrounding cabinets and lowers will be in a darker tone, while the island will be a lighter focal point.
Choosing an alternative color palette that I haven’t done before but fits a mountain house was hard. My current kitchen is dark green and a stone color, the Portland kitchen is a super dark green, but I have done a ton of blue kitchens so I didn’t want to repeat that. At the same time, a gray kitchen can feel a bit cold to me. I love all of these, so I found a color in the middle.
This is similar, for sure, but the color palette, counters and lighting are all different. The function and layout stay the same mostly to keep my sanity and get the cabinets started. This one is a bit more predictable ‘EHD’ because it’s a medium toned gray/green with white, brass and hits of black but it’s also very appropriate for this mountain house. The same elements are mixed, just differently. It’s not a different style, but the elements that are applied are of a different finish thus giving it a different look.
OPTION #2 MATERIALS & PRODUCT: FRIENDLY
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Option #2 does skew a bit more traditional mostly because of the lighting and the white island.
Instead of the black stain for the island, this will be a bright white PAINT of the same reclaimed wood, so that the tone of the wood doesn’t come through, but the texture does. We tested it with high gloss and it looks great and definitely reads as wood, but we are playing with matte white, still. The high gloss will likely be easier to wipe off, but we’ll seal the stain or flat paint so I’m not too concerned (but please weigh in if you have first-hand knowledge). The reason that we are only doing this on the island is that our contractor and cabinet maker don’t want to use it on the floor-to-ceiling unit because they have basically promised us that it will warp and the cabinetry will not fit straight and close properly, especially since our cabinets are inset. They said we can use a veneer on MDF and achieve a similar look that will be more structurally sound, but we think the additional texture of the reclaimed wood, even painted, is so beautiful.
Also, we opted to enclose the island seating which means less seating as you can’t have stools on the sides, but since we have the bar/peninsula so close and the dining area right there, we think this will be enough.
Three people can sit at the island and that’s plenty since we’ll likely eat at the dining table. An overhang of the marble just looked and felt perilous with little kids running around so having it enclosed lets us see the wood more as well as kept it a bit safer for the kids as their depth perception can see a big island more than a cantilevered stone (they can only really see what is right in front of them when running around like rabid rough housers—true story with ours).
You can see in this view that the dishwasher is on the right of the sink, and the garbage and recycling is on the left. Over the weekend while on Pinterest, I saw how many people have added a pull-out cutting board above the garbage that then allows food waste to fall into a hole into the bin, so I will likely add that as it seems smart (it can be within the same pullout for the garbage so it won’t add a drawer line).
THE LOWERS & STONE
The cabinet profile is the same as Option #1 but in a different color. Listen, I can’t do a warm-toned cabinet unless it’s wood, so the options for anything painted are light blue, medium blue, dark blue, light green, medium green, dark green, white, light gray medium gray dark gray, black. You get it. I also didn’t want anything too BRIGHT because we are going really neutral in this house and I didn’t want a jewel tone come out of nowhere. What we have chosen is a medium green/gray that is kind of hard to define. It doesn’t immediately look “green” (and it also doesn’t really look slate-y blue in person, either) but it has so much more warmth and more tones than your average gray (). It’s not “bright” per se, but it’s still happy. We love it.
The stone is lighter, with a lot of cream and taupe movement. It’s called and it’s honed marble (though we might leather, as well). It’s BEAUTIFUL, but it’s so light that it’s a little scary with stains. I will say that our current LA leathered white marble is holding up GREAT. Sure, there is some color variation where we use it the most but I think that the leather and honed finishes really do better with wine, citrus and acids. We’ve only been here for a year so we’ll see how it holds up but for an older home, it still looks beautiful. We also chose to not do a waterfall counter because it felt too contemporary for the house (despite your Instagram story poll—you guys voted to waterfall…sorry).
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Lighting for this round is feeling slightly more traditional I think because of the shades on the island pendant, but it has a good mix of simple and streamlined to work with the rest of the house. As a reminder, we have white modern track lighting (not shown because we haven’t sourced it yet) for task lighting as I know that the other pendant in option #1 does give off less light. But I love the lines of this one as well and it’s still modern, albeit slightly more traditional (the shades can come in a metal finish). The peninsula/bar from Allied Maker are glass with a thin brass plate (they look a little dark in the above image, I know), thus referencing the lanterns and still keeping the sight line clear. The sconces for around the window are from and add that streamlined modern touch that takes the over the island in an edgier direction.
The are my FAVORITE LANTERNS IN THE WORLD. The lines are so clean and crisp; they are black and brass, and the glass is clear (not green like in the rendering above). It says “modern cabin” in such a sophisticated, high-end way. If this option doesn’t get chosen, I will try so hard to put these in the house somewhere else because my soul is responding really hard to them.
For both the floor-to-ceiling and the lower cabinets, the handles are a mix of tiny micro knobs, ledge pulls, and large squared off handles for the heavier drawers and appliances. Yes, you can mix up your hardware and should, especially if you stick to two to three styles in the same finish with a similar profile. Our picks are thin, black and modern. We toyed with SO MANY, including not having any at all (which I’ll go into in that upcoming post I keep mentioning). I love to mix a knob with a handle at the very the least, but if you have the opportunity to add in another hardware (or even a non-hardware…more on that later), then it will look even more custom.
We wanted the stiles on the cabinet doors/drawers to be really small, but the smaller they are the harder it gets to find hardware that fits them. We definitely considered doing some options without hardware, but ultimately loved the detail and jewelry effect that the hardware brought. Big handles are great for appliance pulls and heavy drawers, but normal cabinets can just use a finger ledge, while uppers are perfect for a knob.
Where it got tricky was the far left food pantry: two double pull outs that might be kinda heavy. We may still play with the knob versus ledge there. We made the surrounding cabinet panel on this side of the room 2 inches versus the 1 1/2 inches that is on the lowers so we can fit the fridge pulls. And the reason that we didn’t make the stiles bigger on the lower cabinet side is that if the panel got bigger, the drawers would start to look silly (although we could just make them a flat panel). We think that you won’t notice the difference and it keeps the function working on both sides for the best. And if you are wondering how we are working that microwave drawer, we are likely going to do a vertical hinge up and then the door would open out. More on that later. We were going to put it above, but once we shifted to glass, I realized we didn’t want to see it through the glass but at the same time we need easy access to it because we microwave a shameful amount.
Now, if I could go back in time this is what I would do: Put the sink, dishwasher AND the cooktop on the window wall. A few of you mentioned that you loved having a clear island and I agree – I have one now and love it. We played with both being on the other side and they are super awkward with the current size of the huge window. They would have to be pretty far apart in order to put the dishwasher in between and where they would land would basically be right in front of the window frame. The plumbing and gas lines are already in and that massive window from Marvin is arriving next week. To move all the plumbing/gas, reframe and reorder a bigger window (or divide into two) would probably be $6 – $8k. I also don’t know if a window THAT big would look good or just massive. Plus, we’d have to redesign all the cabinetry underneath and on the island. At a certain point, you just have to call it. We will survive having a sink on the island. But if you are early in your stages of remodeling, I agree with those commenters who sang the benefits of a totally clean island for a food buffet and prep.
Enough with the regrets because MAN I LOVE THIS KITCHEN. Who doesn’t want to have a full tour to help with their decision making?
So which one do I want? I think I’m leaning a little harder into the black island. I think it’s more of a departure for me and I love that Katy Skelton pendant SO MUCH. We thought about even giving you four options: each cabinetry design with each lighting design because they can definitely be intermixed, but at a certain point, we have to control the options and really just give the two that we think are the most successful.
I think either of these will be beautiful and do what we need in the house.
But you’ll decide. So dear god, please be a CLEAR decision. If its 49% to 51%, I’ll be wondering for the rest of my life if just a few of you didn’t weigh in and the kitchen should have gone in a different direction. You don’t have to enter your email to vote if that’s a deterrent. If you do enter your email, though, we can track you for the vacay giveaway (it enters you to win a week here for $1k toward travel…it’s going to sleep like 12 by the way, so bring your friends…hell, have your friends vote so you have more chances to win; and when you share it on social or email, you get entered every. single. time. It’s an IT nightmare, but we have a source that is doing it so don’t worry, we’re keeping track).
OKAY, IT’S TIME TO VOTE. Option #1 – Dramatic, high contrast, black and white OR Option #2 – happy, friendly a little more glam but still ‘mountain’. We’re all anxiously waiting to hear what you all think and where this vote goes
I Design, You Decide
Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂
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