This post is in partnership with IKEA.
For the last several weeks, we’ve been living, breathing and sleeping all things Garden Apartment, and to say we’re tired would be an understatement. It’s all-consuming for the entirety of our weekends and most weeknights, but don’t let our heavy eyes fool you – we cannot wait to cross that finish line and see this unit live up to it’s full potential! The most obvious benefit to this renovation will be our ability to ask for more rent than we have in the past, but we’d be lying if we said that was all that matters. This is our home; well, it’s a part of our home, and whoever lives here will walk through our front gate every day, the same front gate we walk through, too. They’ll share the same walls, they’ll use the same water lines and forced air and they’ll be a part of our house’s history (I mean, if I want to get really sappy, which I do!). To us, we want them to love the place they call home as much as we do.
I say all of this, because I feel like we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes the garden. We’ve been working so furiously, that it’s been difficult to keep up with documenting our progress! When we’re not sifting through paint buckets and drills, I’m taking photos and sorting files and lining things up in a way that makes the most sense. (Because quite honestly, we’re a bit all over the place.) But today – today! – we are so excited to dive into all things kitchen with you! We’ve teamed up with the team at IKEA to create a functional, beautiful and, fingers crossed, well executed kitchen, and while this room has been our biggest challenge, it’s easily the one we’re most eager to complete.
First, let’s talk about where we started. The kitchen is a decent size, albeit with a less than ideal floor plan. It’s at the back of the apartment, and the back door demands its own space while making it difficult to accommodate cabinets. When this apartment was first thrown together by the previous owner, it seems as though appliances and storage were thrown into place with little rhyme or reason, or in other words, in a way that was the least expensive. It did the job, sure, but there were too many obstacles to create a nice workflow. Here’s how it looked before we sold off the cabinets, countertops, sink and appliances:
If you’ve been following along on our mudroom’s progress, you’ll know that it’s looking a little different nowadays! The mudroom was a necessity to allow us to access the whole house utility room without ever needing to step foot into the garden unit. As a result of adding this tiny nook, the kitchen gained a much needed wall:
You’ve been seeing the same view over and over again, so let’s peek around the rest of the space. If you’re standing at the back of the kitchen and looking towards the hallway (that leads to the living/dining/bedrooms), you used to see more cabinetry. We’ll be nixing those cabinets completely in the new plans:
Below, you can see how the base cabinet blocked access to the furnace closet. Not only was it difficult to maintain the furnace on an as-needed basis, but the louvered bi-fold door trapped kitchen grease, and that corner always felt unnecessarily grimy. The bi-folds were replaced with a solid single panel door, and we’re installing a small vent at the bottom, per our contractor’s recommendation:
Like our kitchen, there was nowhere else for the furnace to live, so that big box of a closet had to stay. We’re doing our best to work with what we’ve been dealt by creating a drywalled opening for a soon-to-be pantry!
A less visible but very necessary change was the addition of recessed lighting! In the first few photos, you can see that there were cans to begin with, but they were oddly small and required the use of special bulbs. They were replaced with appropriately sized LED lighting and re-positioned to make sense with our new layout. Two extra lights were added closest to the furnace closet (bringing our total to six fresh cans in the kitchen!), which we think is still a viable space to place a 2-seater table:
Somehow, the new layout feels much more spacious than where we started, although it shrank in size. Maybe it’s because it’s more contained? The addition of that third wall gave the kitchen a shape? You’ll notice that we did lose a window, but it’s going to be so worth it, hang with us here:
Okay, now that you see where we are now, let’s talk about how we got from A to B to C to Z! With the non-negotiable mudroom on the table, our initial plan was to create a cozy U-shaped kitchen. We gathered inspiration images, and we were feeling really good about the path we were headed down. Using the IKEA Kitchen Planner tool, we began by inputting the room’s dimensions, creating a ‘wall obstacle’ where our furnace closet lives.
I spent the next few hours creating different U-shaped layouts, saving each design separately so that I could share them with Scott for fine tuning. Finally, we landed on a design that felt… fine. (We guess.) Here’s our third or fourth draft, a draft that didn’t quite sit right with us, despite trying endless (and I mean endless!) combinations of cabinetry and appliance placement:
What Went Wrong
- Both windows were eliminated, although we attempted multiple arrangements to salvage at least one.
- We were dead set on including a dishwasher, but by doing so, we lost precious lower cabinet drawers. You can see it above, closest to the mudroom door, although the cover panel is missing from this design.
- Counter space was minimal.
- Those corner cabinets became our largest struggle. They take up so. much. space! Plus, who enjoys fishing around in the depths of an endless corner cabinet?
- The room felt cramped, dark and heavy.
How We Tried to Fix It
- We toyed with the idea of all open upper shelving, but we know it’s a look that’s not for everyone. Not to mention, hidden storage was already lacking!
- We moved the stove and the fridge and the sink, rotating them around until we could rotate no more. The corner cabinets were the bossiest of all, insisting on All the Room! and forcing us to keep the stove on the far wall.
- Before we landed on the idea of building a pantry into the furnace closet, we added a floor to ceiling pantry where you see that four-drawer lower cabinet. Not only did this eliminate the drawers (very bad), it took away the counter space that was once there (very, very bad).
We shared our plans with a handful of our friends who rent. We asked them if they felt it was functional, and while some loved it, others offered suggestions that weren’t physically possible because of those flipping corner cabinets! Are you sensing a theme? Those corner cabinets had to go, so I hopped on a Skype call and shared my screen with my very smart, very talented friend Daniel Kanter (aka my hero).
He agreed that the layout was okay, but his reservations were all the same as ours. What if, he suggested, you tried a galley kitchen? Peace out corner cabinets! Hello, window! I couldn’t wrap my exhausted brain around his idea, so he texted me a 10 second sketch that not only illustrated a sweet little galley, but it officially introduced the idea of the half wall to extend the cabinetry!
Immediately, I freaked out. It was good. This could work. I felt jittery and anxious, and I told him to give me 30 minutes while I re-arranged everything again.
I stuck closely to his plan, except I tucked the dishwasher against the wall completely and I moved the fridge closest to the furnace closet, allowing for more breathing room along the window wall. The half wall allowed me to include a set of 36″ wide base cabinets to the right and left of the stove, and after measuring (and re-measuring) my dimensions in the IKEA Planner, I was able to confirm that we were still left with a good 4′ of aisle space!
I instantly felt relieved, and for the first time since planning the kitchen, I felt inspired and eager to dive in. The second Scott came home, I shared with him the plans, and he agreed, this is it! The final plan includes everything from plenty of base cabinet drawers and storage, upper storage, a dishwasher(!), a window, and more counter space than this kitchen has ever seen. All the plans you see here are made with SEKTION cabinets and BODBYN gray doors.
These renderings were taken directly from the IKEA Kitchen Planner tool, and although some of the things appear slightly skewed (the too-low range hood and the super skinny door), rest assured that our real-life measurements match up to the Planner perfectly.
Not pictured: The pantry we added to the furnace closet isn’t represented in these renderings. We had to re-route the furnace intake, which used to run through the entirety of the closet and face the sink cabinet! The intake is now located underneath the pantry, and everything is still accessible through the new furnace door.
- We purchased all the cabinets, fillers, side panels, refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, faucet, range hood and stove from IKEA during their kitchen sale this past April, saving us 20% off the top. Our grand total for cabinetry and all appliances came to $4,800!
- We picked up these brass drawer pulls and fingers pulls on crazy clearance – and they’re still on sale! Not only did we get enough for the kitchen cabinets, but we took into account the laundry cabinet-to-be and entryway hooks, and we invested a total of $200. Side note: We debated less expensive options, but it was more important to us that we choose something that would only get better with age.
- After a lot of discussion we’ve decided on butcher block countertops, which will add another $280 for two 25″ x 96″ panels. Butcher block will afford us the ability to refinish any areas that may get rough over the years, and it will add a warmth to the kitchen that should play nicely with the brass hardware.
- We’re keeping it affordable – around $100! – with classic, pretty white subway tile and (we think) a white grout backsplash.
- We’ll be mounting a $120 porcelain sconce on the cabinet above the sink, similar to our kitchen.
- This makes our entire kitchen $5,500, which includes all new everything – although, not the cost of initial construction. (It’s tough to estimate the cost of construction, as it was lumped into the rest of the apartment’s renovation. This will, of course, be different for everyone based on their needs and location.)
We’ve said it before, but we can’t say it enough – we couldn’t be more excited! One of the garden bedrooms is completely filled to the brim with IKEA boxes, and our plan is to dive into cabinet making by July 1. This will be our first IKEA kitchen, and we’re looking forward to sharing our experience with you! Stay tuned, friends.
IKEA® is a registered trademark of Inter IKEA Systems B.V. The views, ideas and opinions expressed here are my own. As always, thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Yellow Brick Home!