GE Cafe Series Refrigerator, Range, Dishwasher, Microwave c/o / Kohler Antique Three-Hole FaucetWhitehaven Farmhouse Sink, Whitehaven Bottom Sink Rack c/o / Rejuvenation Summerville Cabinet KnobMission Bin Pull / Ginger jars found at Homegoods,  Amazon, and Williams Sonoma / Gingham towels and Gingham oven mitts /  Cuisinart Coffee Machine / Wooden Whalesimplehuman Mounted Paper Towel Holder

Mitch here!

Our home search was quick. Kelly found the listing, and we put an offer in the next day. We were in love! Despite being built in the late 1800s, our little (half of a) townhouse was “move-in ready.” Sure, the very yellow kitchen needed an update, but that was five or 10 years down the road. Our immediate plans? Settle in, get our feet under ourselves, and simply enjoy our new home.

Fast forward two and a half years, and we’ve renovated nearly every square foot of the place. After the garden level flooded and we got pregnant, we decided it was “now or never,” since projects would likely be much more difficult with a kid running around. We did the master bedroom and master bathroom, of course… and then we did the guest room, dining roomnursery, trim and living room. I guess you could say we were bitten by the home renovation bug. But yes: we’re legit crazy.

Despite undertaking so many projects, renovating the very yellow kitchen–which started to fall into disrepair–seemed far too daunting. It featured the following:

  • A fridge that didn’t have an interior light.
  • A garbage disposal that rusted, and then leaked onto and buckled the wooden floor.
  • A dishwasher that somehow made dishes dirtier.
  • No backsplash and thus very dirty walls.
  • A hole in the wall where an idiot plumber cut the wrong pipe and flooded the basement.
  • A stove that set off the fire alarm anytime it went above 350 degrees.
  • Yellow cabinets and countertops that somehow became darker and yellower.
  • A wall with an interesting cutout in it. You can’t see it in the above photo, but it’s right next to the microwave, and there was a hook at the top of the cutout, making us think that someone created it to hang a plant in?
  • A microwave, that, oh: Kelly may have blown up.

To be honest, toward the end, we didn’t even use the kitchen. I mean, we did, but we didn’t use it as much as we should have. It was so much easier to go out or order in or whatever. Didn’t you miss Cookin’ with Mitch while things were broken?! I missed Cookin’ with Mitch.

Anyway, we were frazzled from two years of constant projects, and Emma’s (beautiful!) presence in our lives left us with little time to even consider another one… let alone something as scary as a kitchen renovation. We needed guidance and help!

Appliances (& a giveaway!)

As a first-time homeowner, I’d never considered that people actually shopped for appliances. All my prior rental units had always just come with ’em. I guess I figured that ovens and refrigerators were sort of handed out in the 70s, and just sat there, doing their thing for good?

I’m not joking when I say that a dozen friends recommended a trip to Abt to fix our appliance problems. Abt is an Chicago-based, family-owned store, and after being in business for 82 years and growing into the largest “single store retailer” in the country, I think they’ve earned the status of being the best.

Anyway, I was so excited to load up the family and take a quick trip to the suburbs to pick out our new refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher. I was super nervous, though, as I didn’t have very much knowledge about appliances.

Thank goodness for Abt, though. First of all, the place is like an amusement park. It’s easily the largest store I’ve ever seen! It was so huge that Kelly and I thought we were in the wrong place at first. Abt has everything I like: speakers, giant TVs, kitchen gadgets, a freakin’ Apple Store AND plenty of other stuff like–Dylan’s Candy Bar and a photography section–to keep the family entertained.

Second, the staff is amazing. I typically get a little off put by pushy salespeople when I’m shopping, but when Bob walked up, I wanted to give him a hug. When I met Bob, I was a microwave-less loser, and Post Bob, I had a brand new, stunningly gorgeous and fully functional kitchen. It was really that easy. (Seriously, though: When you visit Abt, ask for him. On the way home, Kelly and I were actually sad because we were like, “What if we never see Bob again?”)

Because of Bob’s impressive knowledge (and his charm) as well as the multitude of available finishes, we decided on the GE Cafe Series. We came close to choosing the matte black slate, but our personal favorite was the glossy stainless. Here are the fridge, range, dishwasher, and microwave, by the way! The appliances are out of this world, and I can’t wait to publish a full review in a couple of weeks. Guys, the stove uses a function called “Chef Connect” to automatically set the clock or turn on the light and fan whenever you cook. Too cool!

Abt has a company-wide policy in which they “say yes to any reasonable request,” and they absolutely abide by this. The fridge I wanted was two inches too tall, so Abt, being Abt, offered to take the cabinet off the wall and reattach it two inches further up. Like, what?! Without a doubt, I’ll be a lifelong Abt customer.

Okay. On to a fun giveaway! Abt and Kelly in the City are teaming up to give away a GE Cafe Series range! This range is top of the line, with six burners, a built in cast iron griddle and wifi so it can text you when the oven is preheated. Click here to enter. Good luck! :)

Our thanks to Abt for providing the appliances in exchange for this post!

Kira David Design

I’m not the kind of guy who would ever hire a designer, but Kira is so much more than just a designer. Think of her as a tornado of efficiency. She gets stuff done. So when she said, “Let’s just do this kitchen renovation now,” I jumped at the opportunity.

Kira’s sense of style and taste is amazing, but what’s even more amazing is that she somehow knows what I want even though I don’t know what I want. She’s also buddies with the best contractors, glass guys, electricians, plumbers and painters in Chicago. She simply wields her rolodex to get honest quotes that beat anything you’d find if you called a contractor yourself.

Working with Kira is like this:

Mitch: I’ve always wanted under cabinet lighting.
Kira: Great. I think it will improve the space. I’ve already called my lighting guy and he’ll be here in 15 minutes to install.
Mitch: What? How is that possible?
Kira: —
Mitch: —

When taking on this kitchen renovation, there were a few big decisions to make. I’ll spell out my (meaning Kira’s) decisions below:

Cabinets: Kira suggested keeping the cabinets, since we liked their design and layout, and new cabinets usually cost a pretty penny. Of course, we hated their color, though. They seriously made the kitchen look like it belonged in Big Bird’s house. Solution: Kira chose Benjamin Moore’s Super White and called and scheduled her cabinet painter guy.

Hardware: Like there was any doubt. I think Kelly undertook this whole project just so she could get gold hardware. But there are thousands of knob and pull variations out there, and Kelly was almost immediately overwhelmed. So Kira narrowed it down and shared her three favorites, which made the decision-making process so much easier. We pounced on Rejuvenation’s Summerville Cabinet Knob and Mission Bin Pull in aged brass.

Side note: Kira offered to order the pulls and knobs, but I told her I could handle it. It was the least I could do! I screwed it up three times. On my third try, I was told they were sold out and that I’d need to wait SIX MONTHS to receive the last two pulls. Luckily, Kira put the pressure on the company, and we got the stuff in no time.

Countertops: The big conflict here was that 1) We love marble and 2) Marble stains if not immaculately taken care of, and we’re hot messes. Honestly, our love and fear of marble countertops was one of the main reasons we delayed starting the kitchen project for so long. We needed something that wasn’t marble yet looked just like it, and this was a big stressor. Kira, of course, had multiple “countertop guys” in the city and she knew about a new quartz countertop that looked identical to marble. She suggested Carrara Honed but encouraged us to visit the warehouse to get a feel for the stuff in real life.

Our first inclination was to simply trust Kira but I took her advice and visited the warehouse anyway because I didn’t want to be that lazy client. Visiting a countertop warehouse was yet another lesson in why we needed a designer in the first place. I freaked out and convinced myself that Carrera Honed wasn’t white enough in person and left thinking another style was the one. In the intervening weeks, Kelly and I oscillated between Carrara Honed and Pinpoinl about a dozen times. We went back to the warehouse, did Instagram Story surveys, cried, had nightmares, hugged, and eventually decided on Carrara Honed.

I am so incredibly glad we did. The countertops look EXACTLY like marble, provide definition, and are impervious to stains. I know because I’ve tried to stain them every day since they were installed.

Glass: Replacing the glass on the top cabinets was the easiest decision to make. Simple, clear, no frills glass would allow the new LED lights to illuminate ’em perfectly. Sourcing the 10 ginger jars was not as easy. (Kelly found them at Homegoods, on Amazon, and at Williams Sonoma.)

Backsplash: I originally wanted to smash as much marble into the kitchen as possible. A marble herringbone backsplash with white grout was my idea, and Kelly loves herringbone, so she agreed. But Kira (gently) guided us away from this idea, explaining that there’s no way to guarantee a match between a quartz countertop and marble tile; the zigzagged lines of the herringbone would likely be too much next to the vertical lines of the cabinets; and white grout gets dirty very easily.

We’d never considered this!

Kira suggested subway tile with 1/16″ platinum gray grout lines instead. We love the look of subway tile and the grout lines help to break up the white space. The backsplash has also proven valuable in defending against splashes, spills and explosions when I’m cooking dinner.

Faucet & sink

We’ve had a new kitchen for roughly a week now, and I really couldn’t tell you what our old faucet looked like. One handle? Two knobs? Maybe one of those spinning things? I have absolutely no clue.

I’m thinkin’ my faucet amnesia might stem from my obsession with our new faucet from Kohler. Just look at this thing! First of all, it’s huge and makes “an elegant statement,” as my wife says. I had no idea how large or elegant a faucet could be until this thing showed up in the mail. Secondly, it hits all the marks. Beautiful brass, both in-style and classic… and it has one of those little sprayer things, which so far has been used 100 percent of the time to spray Kelly when she isn’t looking.

😜

There are just so many decisions to make when taking on a project of this size, but like Kira and Abt, Kohler made everything easier. I knew the name and trusted it since we used the Kohler for our bathroom renovation (another Kira project!), and I was incredibly impressed–once again!–with the quality and design of our kitchen faucet and sink.

We also chose to replace our old, chipped farmhouse sink with (you guessed it!) a farmhouse sink. But the new sink is SUCH an improvement and it even came with this rack to protect our dishes and the sink from my reckless dish washing technique.

Big thanks to Kohler for providing these fixtures in exchange for this post!

The cutout wall

Last but not least, I’d like to thank Kira for encouraging us to knock down the weird cutout wall. I wish I had a good “before” photo of that, but if you look closely at the first photo in the post, you can see that the left wall has been opened up. Before, it was a big 1960s-style eyesore… and not in the cool Don Draper kind of way. Now, though, its absence has opened up the kitchen, and it’s made the space feel much bigger. We love it! (Oh, and Kira put a little slab of quarts on the ledge so it wouldn’t get beaten up. Genius.)

The end result

We’re in love, and it’s our new favorite room in the house. Emma and Noodle love playing in the new kitchen (as evidenced by the above pictures); Cookin’ with Mitch is back up and running; and every night after Emma goes to bed, Kelly and I just kind of sit and stare at it. We call this “Favorite Past-Timing.”

Turning the worst part of your house into the best part is such a satisfying feeling. We should know we’ve done it now six times. While the kitchen hasn’t (yet) made me a better cook, it at least makes the experience of being a bad cook a little nicer.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Mitch. Out!

Shop the post

GE Cafe Series Refrigerator, Range, Dishwasher, Microwave c/o / Kohler Antique Three-Hole FaucetWhitehaven Farmhouse Sink, Whitehaven Bottom Sink Rack c/o / Rejuvenation Summerville Cabinet KnobMission Bin Pull / Ginger jars found at Homegoods,  Amazon, and Williams Sonoma / Gingham towels and Gingham oven mitts /  Cuisinart Coffee Machine / Wooden Whalesimplehuman Mounted Paper Towel Holder