When a Cultivate reader from Pennsylvania sent us "before and after" photos of her kitchen's remodel, we couldn't believe our eyes. The transformation from standard construction kitchen to trendy, functional custom kitchen was astounding, especially because the reader, Laviza Shariff, accomplished it all without even enlisting an interior designer. Every Tuesday in April, starting today, Laviza will share her renovation story on our blog. Be sure to follow along—and whatever you do, don't miss the final result.
"There are dysfunctional families, and then there are dysfunctional kitchens. This is a story of the latter.
"Our four-bedroom house in the Philadelphia suburbs is a fairly standard development home. We've made many upgrades, and most of the house is tastefully decorated and well-maintained. The kitchen, which we hadn't touched since we moved in, is the notable exception. Not only is it totally dated—think 1990s pink pickled maple cabinets and a white builder-grade double oven—but it was literally falling apart: The pickled varnish on the cabinets was chipping off, and a couple cabinets just kept falling off their hinges. We'd upgraded some of the appliances (swapping in a Wolf cooktop and an Asko dishwasher), but even these high-end appliances were dying on me.
Laviza's builder-grade (read: bargain-grade) ovens
"The floor plan also got on my nerves—in order to gain more counter space, we moved the fridge to our mudroom area and the microwave to an alcove behind the kitchen, but that just meant more scurrying around and more space for junk to collect in the kitchen.
The family's fridge, hiding out in the mudroom [above and below]
The distance from fridge to counter and cooktop made cooking extremely cumbersome.
The all-important microwave, also away from the action
"The only thing I liked about the kitchen was the off-white Italian porcelain tile—it was indestructible, but the grout was a not-so-lovely shade of gray. My husband and I entertain quite a bit, and everyone always seems to gather in the kitchen. In addition, I have an ethnic foodie blog and a gourmet catering business with a cult following in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. So, my work space should be conducive to good energy and great food, right? We decided (well, I decided) that we needed a kitchen overhaul.
"My husband wasn't entirely convinced that it was a good idea to invest even more money into our home. He was concerned that we wouldn't get a full return on our investment when we sold the house. But the fact is, we still have to live here for a few more years while the kids are in high school—and no matter how cliche it sounds, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and I'm certain that a great kitchen is what sells a home.
"While hubby was mulling (stalling) over this whole kitchen renovation idea, I started to do my homework. First: Should I hire a kitchen designer? I knew that some cabinetmakers include design in their package, so I decided to go it alone. (You'll find out later whether that was a good idea or not.) I went to the Philadelphia Home Show with a couple of friends who were also planning kitchen renovations (there must be some sort of bug going around—kitchenitis, perhaps?). We met several cabinetmakers, five of whom came out to our homes to assess our respective spaces and give us ideas, plans and rough estimates.
Pink, pickled maple cabinets look like a time warp in 2013.
"My friends and I all agreed that we liked one particular cabinetmaker: Village Handcrafted Cabinetry, a family-owned and -operated business based in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. The owner, Joe Trave, invited us to see his factory and showed us pictures of various clients' kitchens on a big-screen TV in his conference room. He was very organized and enthusiastic, and he had interesting ideas as well as a keen attention to detail. I gave him a deposit to get started on my design, took a deep breath, and dove into the kitchen renovation world.
"Next Tuesday, I'll share how I finally—after many late nights perusing Pinterest and Cultivate—settled on a design!"
Laviza in her soon-to-be-gutted Pennsylvania kitchen