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How We Designed the Tree House Kitchen + Mudroom

This post is a paid partnership with Lowe’s.

Last week, we shared where we’re headed with the overall aesthetic of the kitchen and mudroom in our Tree House – a neutral palette, warm woods and painted finishes. We’ve decided to tackle these rooms together, not only because they’re adjoined, but also because both spaces will receive cabinetry, and we wanted them to flow seamlessly together. Over the next handful of months, we’ll be sharing the process – from start to finish! – of designing the kitchen and mudroom with the team at Lowe’s. Some of you may have seen our first meeting with a Design Specialist on our Stories, and we’re eager to share how a project of this size will unfold, especially because we’re new to this kind of process, too! Our overall goal – in addition to two pretty and functional spaces, of course! – is to alleviate some of the worries that any of us may have (me? worry?) when it comes to tackling a whole room renovation.

Working with a Lowe’s Design Specialist

Although we’ve designed a handful of rooms with cabinetry in the past, we were especially thrilled to work with a Lowe’s Design Specialist, if only because it felt like such a treat to share our ideas with a professional and, for once, allow them to piece it all together! These design services are free, which is a huge perk for anyone who may feel intimidated by a large project. We met with Kat at our local Wicker Park Lowe’s, and she was incredibly patient, knowledgeable and, most importantly, seemed to ‘get’ us. (She also didn’t mind my indecisiveness, our differing opinions or Lucy’s lunch break at the two-hour mark.) By the end of our meeting, she was literally finishing my sentences, and we were practically skipping out of the store with excitement!

But I digress.

We walked into the meeting with items that would help us along with the decision making process – a sample of our hardwood floors, leather from our sofa and the tile we were considering for the backsplash. For the first thirty minutes, we shared photos of the kitchen and mudroom and any images that were inspiring us. We also came prepared with sketches and measurements of both spaces, including where the windows, doors, plumbing and gas lines were located. After Kat made copies of my rough drawings, we went through our must-haves and would-be-nice-to-haves, and we talked a lot about how we wanted the space to feel.

Although Kat said that she usually recommends starting with cabinet selection, we asked if we could switch gears and first consider our countertop options. Going into the meeting, we were very unclear with where we wanted to land with the cabinet finish, and we knew that by choosing a light versus a dark countertop, we could nix a lot of cabinet colors right off the bat. (For example, if we landed on black quartz, we would steer clear of black cabinetry.)

Immediately, Scott and I both lunged towards a sample of Silestone Eternal Statuario, a quartz that looks so similar to marble, you could have fooled us. The main color is a soft, creamy white, and the veining leans towards a warm gray. But what really got us was the option for a Suede finish, which reads as somewhere between matte and satin; it reminded us of a honed marble. It looked beautiful against our tile sample, and we quickly decided on an eased edge, which is the most simple and squared-off option available. Note: The Lowe’s price for countertops also includes the cost of installation. After the cabinets are in place, a Silestone representative will measure our kitchen, order the product and return for the install. We’ll absolutely share more on how that unfolds once we’ve reached that milestone! 

Next up was the daunting, slightly overwhelming and yet, still somehow fun task of choosing our cabinets! For weeks, I was so sure that we would land on black countertops and white cabinets. Or white countertops and black cabinets. Or maybe we would choose a deep, dark navy? Or green? Or… well, you get the point. We were all over the place, and we were equally as excited to try all the options.

Lowe’s has a handful of custom cabinetry lines, each with their own distinct features, finishes, and styles. While we started by looking at everything Diamond has to offer (above), we found ourselves drawn to the clean lines and wood finishes that KraftMaid delivers (below).

We first debated colors, and my goodness, did we try everything. We held our tile and countertop samples against every shade of blue, green, gray and black, and in the end, nothing felt right. (See? It’s all about the feels!) I began to feel overwhelmed, and so we took a step back. Once again, I pulled up the photos that had been inspiring us all along, and we really looked at them. They were light, bright and white, and it was then that I realized what we were doing; we were purposely trying to stray from the look of our home’s kitchen, and in doing so, we were forcing ourselves to choose something that wasn’t very ‘Kim + Scott.’

And so, we started over. Kat put away all the colors that were cluttering the table and floor, and instead, we pulled a KraftMaid cabinet with a Dove White finish. Scott laid the floor, countertop and tile samples next to it. Then I pulled a cabinet in a Natural wood finish. We laid all these items in a row, and for the first time, it clicked.

Both the white and wood finishes could be applied to almost any door style. We knew we wanted to stick with a clean Shaker panel, but the extra detail in ‘Cayden’ had my heart. Scott pointed out that it might be more difficult to clean, and while he might be right, it’s a risk we decided to take. The Cayden is also a full overlay cabinet, meaning that it covers most of the frame, and in turn, we think it elevates the overall look, too.

And with that, step one of the design process was done! KraftMaid cabinets come with soft close hinges as a standard, and there are endless options for organization within the drawers. After our selections, we sat down for another thirty-or-so minutes, and we sketched out layout ideas for both rooms, and we talked through some of the KraftMaid offerings that would apply for our space. At this point, it was Kat’s turn to take over, and she promised us an email with renderings of Round One by the following week.

What to Expect After the Consultation

Here’s the thing about working with a Lowe’s Design Specialist. They’ll send you Round One, and you’ll come back with items to tweak, cabinets to take away and drawers to widen. Over the course of the next two weeks, Kat and I conversed via email and phone, and after a handful of revisions, we ultimately came up with a design plan that makes us super smiley! Every time we touched base, Kat sent us an updated itemized list with a full budget breakdown and renderings (in both black/white and color!). We asked questions like, What’s inside that drawer? Can we make the island a couple inches wider? Instead of two cabinet doors, can we change it to one?

There are limitations to the rendering program (i.e., the fridge and dishwasher will both have cabinet panels and the floating shelves will be slightly wider and that sconce is a placeholder, among a few other small items), but in a nutshell, here’s where we are. Click on the main image to scroll through the thumbnails.

The Kitchen Plan

The Mudroom Plan

We’ve over-discussed what each and every cabinet and drawer will conceal, and for a getaway home – a home where minimalism will be our favorite word – we are thrilled with the simplicity in the design. In the kitchen, you’ll notice that we opted for deep drawers for our kitchen base cabinets, a lack of upper cabinets and, fingers crossed, a larger window (for the win)! In the mudroom, we chose to keep the doors streamlined and minimal (there is so much hidden storage behind the tall pantry in there), and three cheers for a washer and dryer, too!

Okay, Let’s Talk About the Budget.

Of course, the budget was really important along the way. The first round of designs included every last thing on our wish list, but the price point was higher than we expected. With every change, we were mindful of how it might help or inflate the bottom dollar. We also realized that all of those wish list items might not have been as important as we thought, for example, seeing upper cabinets on the stove wall in Round One had us noticing that the room felt cramped and cluttered. Be gone, upper cabinets! Kat also kept us aware of any of the current Lowe’s promotions, like the fact that our KraftMaid cabinets are 25% off right now!

In the end, we splurged in some areas and saved in others. Durability and ‘the long haul’ are super important to us, so those quartz countertops were a non-negotiable, however, we chose a mid-range cabinet construction (that’s still super solid). Here’s a breakdown for both rooms together – because that’s what you really want to know!

Appliances, including installation necessities = $7k
Cabinets, including all internal organization, fillers, toe kicks, panels and touch up paint = $13k
Silestone quartz countertops = $3k
Everything else (tile, sink, faucet, lighting) = $3-4k

Total = $26k+ for a complete kitchen and mudroom overhaul

We’ve Designed the Rooms! Now What?

Although Lowe’s offers installation services, we’ll be taking on the install ourselves. As a result, Kat sent us detailed elevations with exact measurements, and we’ll be using those to layout the rooms. We were also provided with the itemized list of every last item needed – fillers, toe kicks and side panels, too! – so that we’re able to place the order. The cabinets could take up to six weeks to arrive, but we’ll hopefully begin coordinating the delivery of appliances and smaller items. Washer and dryer, you can’t come soon enough!

What We Learned: On Selecting Cabinets for Our Lifestyle

Working with Kat with a learning experience for us, as we’re accustomed to laying out room designs ourselves. Were we nervous at times? Absolutely! Letting go of control is not my specialty, but we couldn’t have asked for a more talented, helpful and, maybe most importantly, patient designer. And with every kitchen design under our belt, we continue to learn new things along the way. Here are a few tips to make the design process work for your lifestyle:

  • Create a list of what you’ll be putting in your cabinets. Include pots, pans, baking dishes and every last cup, tumbler and wine glass. As you’re considering the design of the room, print a hard copy of the layout and write on each cabinet what they’ll be storing.
  • Consider who is using your kitchen. Do you have kids? A lot of pets? Do you live alone or with a significant other? This can help you determine what grade of cabinet to purchase. Every cabinet line has different offerings, so ask a lot of questions as you shop the varying styles.
  • Painted finishes will crack over (a long) time, so having touch up paint on hand is a must. However, just as there are varying degrees of cabinet grade, the same is said for paint finishes. We opted for a ‘Suede’ finish paint, which is a step down in sheen from semi-gloss (hubba hubba!), but still easily wipeable. KraftMaid also offers a ‘Foil,’ which is more of a thick paint wrap and can withstand a lot of abuse – but whereas paint may crack, a foil can peel. Again, you can never ask too many questions!
  • When it comes to layout, only you can determine what works best for your routine. When in doubt, use painter’s tape in your room to hone in on the best size for an island or peninsula! Think about where you like to make your morning coffee and whether you prefer to have a dishwasher to your left or your right. A designer can guide you in the right direction, but in the end, don’t ignore your gut.

We hope our experience was helpful for you, and we’re happy to continue the conversation (or any questions) in the comments! And now for the hard part – waiting for those cabinets to arrive! In the meantime, we’re digging up ideas for lighting, hardware and counter stools, and we’re making a date with our contractor to tidy up some electrical, add a junction box (or two) and – the best part? – install that taller window.

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  • gigi2.28.18 - 9:40 AM

    why aren’t the kitchen shelves extending to the window frame? It looks gorgeous, but just wondering if there was a reason.ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.28.18 - 9:58 AM

      Hi Gigi! I briefly mentioned it above, but it was a limitation of the rendering program. The shelves will actually be much wider and in proportion to that wall. :)ReplyCancel

  • L. Maddox2.28.18 - 9:58 AM

    Given that you have used several different cabinet companies for different projects (ikea, cabinets.com etc), are you using Lowe’s because the others have been poorer quality? We are considering Ikea for kitchen and it always makes me nervous to see someone LOVE a product and then switch to a different company for the same product. I understand working with different companies from a sponsored standpoint, but do you still love and recommend the other companies that you have used?ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.28.18 - 10:08 AM

      This is such a good question and a topic I was just talking with a friend about (in helping her decide between brands). In short, YES, we would 100% recommend the other types of cabinets we have used.

      The long answer: Our laundry cabinets look as good as the day they were installed (love them so much), and after completing the garden apartment kitchen, we were super impressed with the quality of IKEA – especially all the organizational options they provide! In this case, we’re excited to be able to work from design to finish another company, especially as a way to be able to share and compare the process with all of you. There’s a big jump in difference between the other two companies and Lowe’s, because in this case, we were able to customize the height, width and depth of cabinetry quite a bit more. If I remember correctly, IKEA has three height options for cabinets, whereas we scrapped a few designs from the mudroom before finding JUST the right height of cabinet above the bench – to the inch. With Lowe’s, there’s also a larger selection of door styles and colors, as well as customization options inside the drawers, too. All the design processes have felt different, and each one has their own advantages – whether it’s options, price or quality. That’s why we’re going to be as transparent as possible throughout this kitchen and mudroom remodel.ReplyCancel

  • Stacy G.2.28.18 - 12:08 PM

    We used Lowe’s design services, start-to-finish, in our kitchen (with a few DIY additions from us), and we are pleased. We also have Kraftmaid cabinets and Silestone, coincidentally with the same edge. I was satisfied with the design process, but I particularly appreciated that our coordinator made the project fit our budget. We took advantage of special offers and sales, swooped in during that time, and came in $3,000 under budget. There’s plenty of wiggle room with Lowe’s.

    Also, I identified with your dilemma of designing a kitchen that “didn’t look like Kim and Scott.” I did the same thing. I created a kitchen that I thought the house should have because it was built in the 1880s. I wasn’t excited about any of it. I remember thinking that the entire project was so expensive, and I didn’t even really like any of my choices. Once I embraced what I wanted, the whole plan came together quickly, and I have never regretted spending the money.

    I like your plan!ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.28.18 - 12:33 PM

      Thank you for your thoughtful response and experience! We’re so happy to hear. Isn’t it funny how the old adage always stands true: go with your gut? You know what’s best for you! Why try to stray with what you think you SHOULD be doing, especially when you know it’s not right?ReplyCancel

  • Shay2.28.18 - 1:05 PM

    Oh I had been really excited to see the light grey cabinets you guys had shown in lots of your inspiration pics, with the light walls in the tree house I thought it would have been such a lovely subtle add of warmth and dimension than just everything being pale and white.ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.28.18 - 1:20 PM

      We loved the look of the pale greige cabinets, but it was too one-note with the counters and tile. The white provided juuust enough contrast.ReplyCancel

  • beth2.28.18 - 3:46 PM

    We are in the midst of a kitchen reno and I have been amazed at how difficult it can be to make all of the decisions. I am typically an opinionated person but with so many details to make decisions on it has been challenging. I think in part because of the $ outlay. These decisions are not easily reversible considering the large amount of money spent! Hoping the cabinet install starts next week and shortly we should see if our decisions all play well together. :)

    BethReplyCancel

  • Paige Flamm2.28.18 - 4:39 PM

    We’re building a new house next year, and the kitchen and mudroom design are the parts I’m 100% the most excited about!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.comReplyCancel

  • Michelle3.1.18 - 7:49 AM

    After reading your laundry room post and the Garden apartment, as well as some other blogs, I was super excited to work with RTA to design my kitchen remodel. I started working with them in January, knowing we had time to plan, and finalized the design and ordered last week. I couldn’t be happier to have a cabinet price come in at less than $3,500 especially since we chose a higher quality cabinet and it matched (or betters) the brands at the box stores. I really can’t wait to get them and even to assemble them ourselves – I think the savings is totally worth it for us!

    All that said, your reviews and transparency on the process is so helpful, so looking forward to hearing how you like this experience as well! Beautiful cabinet choices!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.1.18 - 2:40 PM

      Wow, that’s awesome! So excited for you, and thank you for the feedback. You’re going to love them, I’m sure of it!ReplyCancel

  • Marilee Sulewski3.1.18 - 8:33 AM

    Something to keep in mind is that your experience with Lowe’s (or any supplier) will vary depending on the designer that you work with. We used Lowe’s cabinets for our kitchen reno 5 years ago and while I love the end result, the process was not nearly as positive as you have expressed. It was downright frustrating. In that case, the designer was not listening to our needs, and made changes to the design and the dimensions we provided at the last minute. This ended up costing us several weeks delay while new cabinets had to be ordered (at our cost). It all comes down to the person you work with and it sounds like you had one of the good ones!ReplyCancel

    • Kim3.1.18 - 9:53 AM

      We can learn from your feedback, thank you for chiming in, Marilee! This is a great point, if you’re not working well with a designer, it’s worth asking if there’s someone else you could talk with. I’m sorry you had a frustrating experience, and I wonder what would cause your designer to change designs at the last minute? In any case, we ARE glad to hear that you’re happy with the end results!ReplyCancel

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