Drawing and Dreaming Our Dream Kitchen

One of the biggest parts of planning our major DIY kitchen remodel was step 3 in the How To Process – to start dreaming and drawing to figure out what we wanted to accomplish in our renovation.  Since the whole process took us months to accomplish, we want to lay out what we came up with before we start buying anything or any construction.  Then when it’s all done we’ll be able to see how close we end up to that dream ideal.

Ugly tile, inefficient and old cabinetry, very little seating, and low, low kitchen ceilings

Ugly tile, inefficient and old cabinetry, very little seating, and low, low kitchen ceilings

Where Did We Start?

We already knew the big things we didn’t like about our kitchen:

  • the ugly, worn, poorly installed tile,
  • the aging cabinetry and countertops in a poor layout, and
  • the fact that the lowered ceilings made it feel like an especially small space.

With those in mind, we started talking about what we liked in other peoples’ homes, not hindered by much.  We both like spanish tile and polished concrete flooring, but neither seemed to fit with the feel of our little Florida home.  So we did what our elementary and middle school teachers diligently trained us to do and headed to the local library.

There we found books on historical architecture in our area and realized that what we really wanted was to make our little 1980’s hodgepodge home more true to the styles that parts of the design had been taken from, namely the 19th century Florida Cracker dwellings, and the mid-twentieth century Florida beach cottages that are now historic in our area.

Our house has many of these elements in the design – simple (without being stark), with lots of natural light and letting the natural surroundings shine through – but too much was lost in the cheap 1980s finishing work done when the house was built.  Seriously, drop ceilings with fluorescent light felt natural?  I don’t believe it.

After learning more about these homes, we knew what we wanted to aim for.  Luckily, Cracker dwellings and traditional Florida beach cottages have a lot in common, decor-wise, so we started there.  Here’s where the styles overlap in the kitchens:

  • wood floors (dominant for Cracker style and very common in beach cottages)
  • white or colored cabinetry, with open shelving up top (common to both)
  • high ceilings (Cracker style mostly)
  • lots of windows (mostly beach cottage)
  • long/thin tables for dining (Cracker)
  • built in bench seating under windows (beach cottage)
  • butcher block counters (Cracker and common to cottage too)

Where Did We End Up?

We like most of these elements and then threw in a few more that we think will go well, too.  But we did need to make some compromises for what makes sense when it comes to maintenance and upkeep.  Here’s a run down of what we’re aiming for:

  • Wood-look tile instead of wood floors.  Wood-look tile has come a long way and for us feels like a good compromise between the authenticity of wood plank flooring while avoiding the PITA that maintenance of such floors can be.
  • White or off-white cabinetry, though open shelving is out thanks to Kitty PoP who really likes to test gravity.   But having glass fronts on a few cabinets as a substitute to the traditional open shelving is still under debate.  (Mr PoP votes no, Mrs votes yes.  Who will win???)
  • Butcher block countertops, though rather than strictly adhering to the traditional unfinished butcher block (ie cutting board) style in cracker dwellings, we’re going to finish and seal them so they are watertight.
  • Higher ceiling.  We are raising the ceiling from its current 7′ dropped location and want it to go up as high as the 12′ peak in the adjacent living room.  As part of this, we’re also moving a wall by 3.5′ and incorporating the location of the current laundry closet in the garage as interior square footage*.  It’ll increase our interior square footage by ~30sqft (or about 3%!).  With these two changes combined, it should be a pretty dramatic change in terms of space.
  • More windows.  We’ll be increasing the size of the windows in the dining area by doubling the width of them and then adding…
  • Built in seating below the new windows.  Built out of cabinetry, we expect this to provide storage and compact seating for the…
  • Long and thin table that we will custom build to match the space and sit in front of the bench seating.  We want it to seat 6 comfortably.


Here’s part of our dreaming process where we sketched out some of the structural changes.  (Admire my MS paint skillz!)

View into kitchen/dining area with thick blue lines indicating change to ceiling line and where wall will move opening up the space.

View into kitchen/dining area with thick blue lines indicating change to ceiling line and where wall will move opening up the space.

What the dining nook looks like now - what doubling the window will be like - and imagine bench seating under those windows.

What the dining nook looks like now – what doubling the window will be like – and imagine bench seating under those windows.

Going through this dreaming process for a few months (and it really did take months) certainly expanded the scope of our project.  At first, we were only thinking of raising the ceiling drop to get a standard 8′ ceiling in the kitchen.  This would have been a relatively easy way to get a little more height in the room.  But the idea to change the ceiling line to match the living room peak (and the idea to shift the wall that followed pretty naturally from that idea) really only happened because we gave ourselves enough time to pick the brains of others and dream big.

When it comes right down to it, we only want to do this project once.  The last thing we wanted was to get everything else done and regret that we hadn’t opened the space up even more while we still had the chance.

So we’re glad we took the time (months, really) to dream and explore, and stretch our minds as to what this space can become.  Here’s hoping execution is half as good as we’ve dreamed it can be.


* In hindsight, it would have been great to have realized we were going to do with before we went to all the trouble to renovate this area during last year’s garage renovation.

31 comments to Drawing and Dreaming Our Dream Kitchen

  • How exciting! Looking forward to seeing the finished product :) I wish we could re-do our kitchen, but I had to settle for just a re-paint for now.
    Nicola recently posted..The Trap Of More.My Profile

  • I think those are great ideas. Especially that window… it really looks like a half of a window. Also with the rest of the house having the slanted ceiling it seems like that will fit in better as well.
    Kipp recently posted..Why you should NOT Delay ParenthoodMy Profile

    • I never really thought of it as half a window, but you’re right. It does kindof seem that way. I think doubling it will make the room seem much more open and balanced.

  • Nice! I didn’t realize that you were changing up the floor plan too.

    I really like wood-looking tiles. My in-laws have wood looking cork tiles and they are seriously amazing. So soft and so quiet.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..What to Do if You Are Morally Opposed to Tipping ServersMy Profile

    • The floorplan change is one of the big reasons that it makes the most sense to do this all at once. Trying to do it in stages over several years would create a lot more work in the long run.

      How are the cork tiles holding up? I’ve heard that they aren’t the most resilient material and that’s one of the reasons they weren’t on our list to consider. Very eco-friendly, though.

  • that sounds awesome! I’m not good a visualizing, or with ideas, but it sound like it will look nice. I definitely see what you mean about the ceiling height making it feel cramped!
    Retired by 40 recently posted..Spent: Looking For Change – a Critical Look at US Banking SystemMy Profile

    • I’ll definitely be posting more pictures as we go along and I had originally intended to post some links to some Houzz photos that I marked as inspiration, but then I discovered Houzz makes it public when you mark something as a favorite! So posting those links would have included my username, which is, unfortunately, really close to my real name. =( Darn social media trying to kill anonymity!

  • This sounds incredible! Love your MS paint skillz. I’ve got to go with Mr. PoP on the glass front cabinetry. I agree with you that it looks lovely, but, then you have to keep those cabinets perfectly organized AND you’d have to clean the glass. But, maybe if you had it on just a few cabinets? Looking forward to reading the updates (and seeing the photos) on this project!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..Behind the Scenes of a Happy Frugal MarriageMy Profile

    • That’s exactly the debate we’re having on the glass front. And part of the issue is that Mr PoP puts away the dishes (though really never as neatly as I would really like them to be). But I don’t want to put the dishes away, so I have to live with the mess behind the cabinet doors (and the occasional tumble of tupperware lids falling down onto my head.
      So, if we did any, I might try and push for a couple small ones up high where we could keep our “fancy” items – like wine glasses/wine or my small stack of cookbooks or a couple vintage casserole dishes that are nice and colorful. Places where Mr PoP doesn’t have to worry much about organization and we won’t feel the need to get fancy dishes if you can see them on display all the time.

  • We are doing some remodeling on our house as well. Namely we are painting the inside and outside and it is utterly amazing how much different it looks now. We managed to keep it cheap as well-under a couple of hundred for everything.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..A Note on DepressionMy Profile

    • It’s amazing what a half dozen cans of paint can accomplish! It definitely made a big difference when we did that step in our house when we first moved in.

  • Sounds like you have some work ahead of you but by the sounds of it the project will really brighten the space and open it up for you. I’m renovating the ensuite right now and my estimate even though I estimated high.. should have been higher lol.
    canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Tryvertising a new way to get free groceries: The Grocery Game Challenge #4 Aug 18-24, 2014My Profile

    • What’s an ensuite? Estimates are tough… we have a buffer built into our estimate to account for the inevitable overage, but who knows if it will be enough. It’s certainly a worthwhile goal, though. =)

  • Mama Pop

    Without looking it up, does anyone know what the term Florida Cracker means?

  • CincyCat

    Wow – sounds great! One thing I have heard from others is that putting in actual wood (or cork) instead of tile made a HUGE difference in back pain/discomfort. People typically stand up in kitchens (even if there is seating available), and having a softer surface underfoot is much more comfortable.

    When we updated our kitchen, we did it with a 12 month old and 3 year old in the house. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish between the hours of 9pm and midnight! LOL Also, we didn’t replace the old appliances right away, but waited for sales, etc. and replaced them one at a time. Fridge, dishwasher & stove were all scratch & dent, but you can’t see the flaws because they are hidden by walls/cabinets. We did go ahead & get the microwave/vent combo at the same time as the stove, and had the appliance place install it (those things are *HEAVY*). Know thy limits! :)

    • CincyCat

      We did re-route the electric & installed the outlet for the microwave. That was actually really easy.

    • I’ve heard the same thing about minimizing tile use. My MIL put tile in her new kitchen, and now she has to wear shoes in her house all the time. I guess she bruised her heel and was having lots of foot pain. Maybe it depends on what you’re used to — your whole house is tiled, yes?

      We have wood floors in our apartment, and I absolutely love them. The day to day care is simple (sweep!), so I think it’s just long-term care that would factor in.
      Leah recently posted..Summer ReadingMy Profile

      • Yup, our whole house is tiled – we have a handful of throw rugs, but I really hate carpet and can only barely tolerate rugs. I just find them so gross especially with pets around.

        Wood freaks me out partly because of the moisture issue – with our wood floors at work if a puddle is made and left sitting there, the floors seem to warp in the blink of an eye and with Kitty PoP carrying sopping wet stuffed animals around the house when we’re not home that’s not something I want to have to worry about.

    • Interesting about the standing issues on tile. We had to get a rubber mat in the work kitchen because it was uncomfortable for some people and that’s bamboo flooring. At home if I’ve ever gotten tired feet from standing (I’m thinking when I’m standing ironing for a couple hours straight), I just grab a throw rug and put that under my feet and I’m fine.

      Most of the appliances will likely stay for now unless we find an amazing deal that’s impossible to pass up. The plan with those has always been to move them into the duplex as appliances in the duplex die and buy newer and nicer ones for our own home. =)

    • Boyoboy is that the truth! If I had it to do over again, I’d install wood or high-end fake wood flooring throughout.
      Funny about Money recently posted..$4333 an Hour??My Profile

  • On the glass front – have you considered frosted glass? The glass in the house I lived in growing up had frosted glass – you had that “glass” look, but you didn’t have to worry about keeping the interior of the cabinet clean. I hope you post pictures of your progress for the rest of us to see!
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..Decisions, Decisions, DecisionsMy Profile

    • Hadn’t considered frosted glass as I’ve never seen it used in anyone’s house. Have you had it and liked it?

      We’ll definitely post pictures as we make progress, but it’s going to be relatively slow – the bulk of the demolition work won’t start until January anyhow – so now is just making sure we’ve got as much planned as possible before then. =)

  • Wow$ers! This is going to be quite a project.

    Love the idea of the light cabinetry. That alone, even before raising the ceiling, will make a huge difference.

    Friends of ours raised the ceiling in an old house and the result was amazing.

    Really will be interested in the butcher-block project. I’ve actually thought about replacing the cracked tile in my kitchen with a gigantic butcher block. It would expensive — it’s a good-sized counter.

    Some years ago, we had a butcher-block counter that previous owners had put into the house during a major renovation. I loved it! It was beautiful and indestructible. Ours wasn’t sealed and waterproofed…it didn’t seem to make any difference. Occasionally I would clean it well and rub in some mineral oil — never had any problem with it.
    Funny about Money recently posted..$4333 an Hour??My Profile

  • I really don’t think you can ever spend enough time on a kitchen reno. The longer time you have to really think things out and plan, plan, plan the better off you’ll be!
    catherine recently posted..Why You Should Never Get Too Comfortable in a JobMy Profile

  • I borrowed some books from the library about kitchen design, since I don’t really have a clue on how to design a kitchen.

    For our kitchen, we’d like to add more counter space, close in a door that isn’t being used and break down the wall between the kitchen and the family room to make it more open. We haven’t started officially planning yet, but I’m looking forward to the demolition part of it. :)
    MakintheBacon recently posted..Fandemonium at FanExpo!My Profile

  • anon

    Have you considered matching your grout to your wood tile? I love the look of the new wood tiles, but only when the grout blends in and gives it more of a “real wood” look. You can also make the gap between tiles smaller to give it a more realistic look.

    Sounds like a great remodeling plan, good luck!

  • Sorry, just discovering this, but your kitchen plans are remarkably similar to our ideas. But you got it in writing first, so I guess we’ll have to think of something else 😉

    But we want white cabinets with open shelving and or/glass fronts. We also want to take out part of a wall to open up space. We want butcher block counters, wood-looking flooring and built in dining space.

    There won’t be any ceiling raising or window modifications, but eerily similar nonetheless.

    Good luck to you on your remodel. We’ll (the Mrs and I) be following along for sure.
    Mr. FI recently posted..September ExpensesMy Profile

    • If you guys finish yours first I want to see pictures! =) And I want to know if you regret the open shelving or glass fronts. I seem to be losing that battle with Mr PoP and could really use some support on my side as to how wonderful they are…