Kitchen Remodel with A Couple Cooks: Part 1

A Couple Cooks Kitchen R

No kitchen is perfect. Until recently, we did all of our cooking from a 8-foot wide galley kitchen. It was tight, but it was ours and we loved it. That all changed when we unexpectedly came across the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to design a new space in a historic home with just enough room to grow.

For the past few months, we’ve been up to our ears in a major kitchen renovation, transforming a 1920’s three-story into a place we can call home. We’d love to invite you in on our journey: the ups and downs, lessons learned, and the big reveal.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen R

Phase 1: Planning it Out

It’s common wisdom: the planning phase is the most important part of a project, and that couldn’t apply more to a kitchen renovation! This is where you get it out on the table: your hopes, your must-haves, and your can’t-live-withouts. But it’s not all idealism: it takes major effort to hone your dreams into a realistic plan.

As a married couple who writes and photographs together, we’ve had lots of practice diving into creative projects, but this one has been one of the most involved and life-changing. There are lots of ways to tackle a kitchen reno; here’s what we did during the Planning Phase.

Choosing a Theme

Most of us instantly gravitate towards a well-designed space. What we don’t realize is the intentionality behind the design decisions. While it might not be outwardly apparent, most design concepts have a “theme”, a few guiding concepts that are used to create the design.

We had a lot of intentions for our new space during the brainstorming phase, but we finally settled on the following concepts for our theme:

-Light and airy, lots of natural light and open spaces

-Vintage touches, to reflect the character of the home

-Modern vibe, to match with our sensibilities and appliances

-Natural materials (like wood, steel, glass)


Tools for Planning

Once you have a concept in mind, it’s time to figure out how to get the job done. For us, we knew we wanted to be intimately involved in the design process. With Alex’s background in layout and architecture design, we laid out our entire kitchen using a free 3D design tool. It was a great way for us to start to play with different concepts for our design. Even if you don’t have the know-how to lay out the ultimate design, a design tool is a good way get your creative juices flowing.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen R

We decided to author the design ourselves and work with a contractor to flesh it out. However, if you’re at all wary we highly recommend using a professional designer. After the hours we spent pouring over this portion of the process, we know it would be money well spent if you have it.

A main source of inspiration for us? You guessed it: Pinterest (that is, internet-based images). Pinterest is one of the most easily-searchable repositories of design photographs on the web, and lets you save any image you encounter on the web to a board. Whether you use Pinterest or not, collecting images from the web or magazines is an essential way to hone your design.

Any internet-based image search can be overwhelming. We collected hundreds of images, and then sat down and started to pick out themes from the images: for example, butcher block countertops, white cabinets, pendant lights, and so forth. Click here to view our Pinterest board.

A Couple Cooks Kitchen R

Budget + Must Haves / Nice-to-Haves

After the brainstorming phase, it’s time to actually start making decisions. This is the hard part — and the part where budget starts to become important (and limiting, in many cases).

Write down the number of your ideal cost of the kitchen. A good rule of thumb is that it will cost at least one third or so more than you expect for the original quote (and then can easily overrun the quote). But don’t worry – budget is an important and necessary parameter for the job.

Once you’ve determined your budget, start to look at the features you’d like in your new space. Make a list of must haves and nice-to-haves. For example, here’s our list:

Must Haves

Large pantry-type cupboard

Two sinks (for easy prep)

Island with durable countertop

Airy feel (not too many upper cabinets)

Gas range

Quality dishwasher


Nice to Haves

Double oven

Marble countertops

Maximum storage

Walk-in pantry

Custom cabinets

Reclaimed wood floors


Then comes the compromising. For example, we’d love a full double oven, but the wall space two ovens occupy is significant, not to mention the price. So, we settled on the KitchenAid® Double Oven Range, a range with a full oven and a half oven; this way, we could maximize space but still have the two ovens we’d dreamed of.

Seeking Trusted Advice

The final piece in our planning phase was to seek advice from people we trust. We took our design decisions to a few friends and family. But the important part? Remember that these people are not you. While they might have wonderful advice for designing something they like, ultimately you are the one who will live with the final design.

For example, our friend Jeanine, a brilliant designer, recommended a concept with open shelving and a range hood to achieve the open feel we were looking for. Though several others advised against open shelving (to avoid frequent cleanings and “messy” looking shelves), we knew Jeanine understood the overall aesthetic we were trying to achieve and opted to give it a try in our design.

Making it Happen

It’s definitely a whirlwind, and at times the Planning Phase can become exhausting and draining. But remember – the work, thought and intentionality will be worth it in the end. Now, let’s grab the sledgehammer!

Floor Plan

*The Contributor of this post received free product in exchange for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*


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  • Shawn Poe

    Hi! Looking forward to seeing how this goes 🙂 Can you post the floor plan as it currently is and the floor plan for after? Thanks and happy Demo!

    • Hi Shawn,

      Alex and Sonja have kindly provided the before and after floor plan, which we have shared at the end of the post above. Enjoy! -Rachel

  • Catie Schwalb

    What was the free 3D design tool you used?

  • Tyler Burton

    Great posts, as always!

    – Tyler Burton

  • Mass Taylor

    Excellent post. I so like reading this. And looking very nice .



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