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To squeeze. That’s the sound the tile floor in my kitchen made under my feet when I stepped on it one day this summer. As water started to pool around the grout I thought (naively) that it was because we had just had a puppy and he was dripping water onto our floor. But when the muddy water situation worsened the next day, my husband and I knew we had to call the insurance company. After they came out to assess the damage, they told us the words no homeowner wants to hear: you have a leak and it got under your floor.
A few years ago we bought our first home – a 1970’s ranch home in Birmingham, Alabama that needed some work. Since then, we’ve painted every interior wall of the house (and scraped off any outdated textures), renovated two bathrooms, added a new roof, created a small back patio, and more. While we’re no strangers to managing home projects, we certainly didn’t expect an old copper pipe to accidentally burst behind our sink and leak water (not so slowly) from under our kitchen floor. Regardless, we knew we had to rip up that floor and start sanitizing as soon as possible (warm Alabama weather + humidity = not good).
Mold is gross and nobody wants it in their house, but as someone who is highly allergic to mold I really didn’t want it in my house. So my husband and I were faced with a unique situation: We only had a few days to let the industrial fans dry everything, settle the insurance, find a contractor and start designing our dream kitchen. I had my husband process the insurance claim while I set about designing a room on a mock budget. We didn’t know if we were going to get a single penny from insurance or if we had settled our claim how much money we would actually get for the project. This made choosing things like flooring a huge challenge—for example, should I go for the $5-per-square-foot budget version we could afford with our emergency savings, or upgrade to a luxuriously patterned kitchen tile, if we would work with a more generous budget?
The story goes on
Flooring aside, our kitchen dates from the 1970’s and all cabinetry was custom built on site. Since the insurance company determined they couldn’t be adjusted or salvaged, they all had to be ripped out and replaced (something I wasn’t upset about at all as they were pretty hideous). While the insurance paid for the full damage since it was an unusual incident – and I’m really grateful for that – the settlement amount wasn’t… great. It would just barely cover a bare bones Reno (if I look at you, $5 square foot flooring). As an editor at VERANDA, I was excited about the design challenge but concerned about the budget and timeline of everything – realistically, we only had days to develop our design, as cabinets can take weeks or even months to ship (and I wanted my kitchen back in one piece as soon as possible).
Here’s the thing: when you’re renovating your home, it’s stressful. It can be excruciating choosing a kitchen design when there are so many beautiful spaces to draw inspiration from, and as VERANDA editor, it’s brutal to design my own home as I take photos of the most beautiful homes in the world every day (read: Figuring out your own design aesthetic is difficult when you’re surrounded by everyone else’s beautiful spaces). While it was nerve-wracking working on such a tight design deadline, I’m grateful I had such a short window because it forced me to be super determined. My process was simple: I thought about our family’s routines and how we used the space; then I tried to make it equally beautiful and useful.
I love to cook and we spend a lot of time chatting in our kitchen, so I knew the space had to be functional with plenty of storage space for my appliances and cookware. As much as I adore the look of floating shelves (and they’re one of the biggest kitchen trends right now), I’ve opted for upper and lower cabinets to maximize our small space. I also knew I didn’t want an all-white kitchen. I’m a messy cook, and the idea of spaghetti sauce on a beautiful white cabinet freaked me out. Also, our home is pretty neutral, so I wanted to add a big splash of color with the cabinet color.
After a quick dive down a Pinterest rabbit hole and checking out some paint on our existing cabinets, I settled on the perfect color: Pewter Green by Sherwin Williams. As it’s a bold and moody colour, I wanted to carry it throughout the room (we ended up sweeping it onto our top cabinets, base cabinets, range hood and coffee bar for maximum visual impact). This dramatic decision helped many of the other design elements find their place.
I wanted to keep the rest of our kitchen design light and neutral to let the cabinets take center stage, so I added a linen-colored ceramic tile floor and white quartz countertops with subtle gold veining. I also added some “jewelry” with a shimmery white zellige backsplash, champagne bronze hardware, and funky brass fixtures. For the showpiece, I chose an oversized, flush-mount white farmhouse sink with a large faucet to match. Since our sink is under a window in the center of our kitchen, I wanted it to be eye-catching when people enter the space. I added a beautiful satin brass faucet from DXV to add a little pizzazz to the sink (and I personally think the large scale of the faucet adds welcome drama).
Overall, I love my quick kitchen design, and I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to redesign the space (even if it did take a pipe that burst behind the sink and leaked under my floor). Although home renovations are always a bit stressful and sometimes you want to pull your hair out, it’s possible to nail down your design quickly while staying true to your aesthetic.
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