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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    A peek at the mood board for my future grown up living room. That sofa from @westelm is my dream. Beautiful art from @minted and vintage rug from @chairishco to name a few sources. Eventually I'll get to this point. Until then, I'll tease myself by stalking furniture on the internet. Finally, after months and months of debating, I pulled the trigger and bought a rug. This one from @westelm has been a favorite of mine and I'm excited to add it to our house. On sale for under $300! Sorting white marble tile by color. So far I have four distinct colors. Yes, I'm only a few steps away from being committed. #ohakitchenreno

Pantry Party

Before remodeling the kitchen, the cabinet arrangement had a lot of wasted space.


Either too specific for a use, like a full bay of vertical dividers.


Or the polar opposite with a big, blank cabinet.


At any rate, we knew lower drawers would help most problems.  But corners are especially awkward and usually wasted.  Knowing we wanted to remove the wall between the kitchen and dining room, we’d need to move the pantry.  Living with every non-perishable item on the opposite side of the cook/prep area got old very quickly.


With that in mind, keeping the pantry on the business side of the kitchen was a must.  Hence the corner pantry.  At 52 inches wide by 8 feet tall, we should have plenty of space to store dry goods.  As listed in the original floor plan, we opted for a sliding door to eliminate an awkward door swing.  After talking to several people, we decided not to use a pocket door kit.  If the door comes off the track or needs to be replaced, it’s impossible.  Instead, we went a similar, more user-friendly route with a bypass sliding door kit.


Often used in closets, the track has two sides and roller wheels.  Ben built a standard header, secured the track and covered the front with an MDF panel.  Above, as seen from inside, without the door.  Below, from the outside.


In our case, the door opening is wider than the oven cabinet leaving the last few inches of door visible when completely open.  I worried the 24 inch opening would be too small, but it allows easy access to everyday items.


Shelves are 18 inches deep, extending into the corner.  We plan to keep extra supplies here, to grab when we need to refill.


Also, we’ve decided to keep the microwave in the pantry.  This allows easier access and a shorter distance of carrying hot items.


Which also frees up space in the smaller cabinet, allowing a full drawer set.  I still plan to keep coffee supplies and extra serving platters over here.


Now that everything has been cut and fits, we can take everything back out to paint.  I’m oddly liking the wood door though.  I’m undecided if I should paint or seal it.  Thoughts?






Once I’ve painted the inside of the pantry, we’ll set the shelves again and add trim to the fronts to cover the braces.


It’ll also give us a lip to hide under cabinet light behind to help illuminate the shelves.

Update:  Due to a few emails and comments, here’s a shot of the far end of the pantry:


The overall depth of the pantry is 25.5 inches from the back wall to the inside of the door.  With 18 inch deep shelves, that leaves 7.5 inches between the shelf front and the inside of the door.  By making the shelves narrower than the full depth, we won’t have to worry about things getting in the way of the door slide.  It’ll also make reaching in the back area easier.  We’ll probably keep a broom in here too.

While I’m updating, I thought I’d include a shot of the closed door against the fridge.  


After settling on a sliding door, we agreed we didn’t want the header flush with the front of the fridge cabinet.  Mostly to add some interest to the wall, but also because the door itself would sit 3/4 of an inch back from the front. 

Once that’s done, we can start organizing.  We shop at Costco, which means we have produce for days.  Getting bowls off the counter would be really nice.

I love the function of roll out wire baskets, which can allow ventilation and easy access.  I’ve yet to pin down exactly which ones, but here are a few I’m considering.


This one is actually a hamper, but the depth would maximize space.  Perfect for storing bags of cereal and chips.

Putting the corner to use and not having to walk around the island for everything is a game changer.  Time for me to start painting so we can load it up!

Double Down

As of this weekend, we have every appliance in and working.  Double ovens and dishwasher included.  Before we could install either, we had to add face trim to our cabinet boxes, fill, sand, prime, and paint.  Each cabinet box is made from double-sided melamine, leaving the inner particle board exposed along the fronts.


After talking to custom cabinet makers, we chose melamine for a few reasons.  Unlike plywood, it doesn’t warp as it dries.  Melamine sides also protect the inside from water, without having to paint the inside of every box.  For sleek, finished fronts without seams at every cabinet joint, we prefer to face our cabinets after install.  Below you can see the 3/4 inch painted poplar front added to the melamine box.


Without fronts, the drawers are recessed about 1/4 inch to allow a tight closure against the cabinet.


Rather than using plywood for end panels, we used paintable melamine panels.  Having never used these before, I worried the smooth surface wouldn’t take paint well.


Turns out, one primer + three paint coats covers flawlessly.  I tried scratching the paint off with my nail and nothing happened, so I’m very hopeful.  The guys at Sherwin Williams highly recommended their ProClassic paint for cabinets because it levels and hardens for a durable finish.  Using an angled brush and small foam roller, I applied satin finish Snowbound.  This paint dries quickly, with a super smooth finish.  Brush strokes faded away.


Framing the fridge, ovens, and dishwasher just adds to the custom feel and really finished it all off.  While I got my paint on, Ben set the two office drawer stacks.


Once the paint dried, we couldn’t get the new ovens in soon enough.  Removing the doors made hoisting it easier.


Thanks to Ben’s measuring and remeasuring the cabinet and ovens fit perfectly.  Almost as if they were made for each other.  Oh wait, they were.  It slid right in place, with only a minor tweak of the upper panel.


Ta-da!  LG suggests leaving at least 12 inches from the floor, so we added a drawer below.  This drawer is the same size as the other bottom ones, which also brought the height even with the top of the refrigerator.


After install, we pulled off the packing materials, which left some marks on the doors.


We’ve tried various cleaners over the years, but nothing worked well on our LG fridge.  At the end of my rope, I asked my friend Jamie what miracle cure she used.  She sent me a picture of the spray can: Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish.  I couldn’t find the spray, but I did find the wipes.


Let me tell you, these are almost as magical as the Magic Eraser.  Seriously, how do those things work on almost everything?!  Anyway, I wiped with the steel grain, then followed up with a dry rag.


Look at the difference between the cleaned top and untouched bottom.


After seeing how well the wipes worked on the ovens, I literally polished every other stainless surface in the house.  The bathroom counters and shower pan have never looked better.  No, this is not sponsored.  Just thought this life changing cleaner was worth mentioning.  Unless I’m the last person to know about these.  In that case, carry on.

Soap Stone

We’ve splurged on many elements in the kitchen: slate tile floors, a gas cooktop, custom stainless sink, and double wall ovens mainly.  Wanting to get it right the first time, regret free, we can justify these expenses.  To balance out the large ticket items, we’ve saved money by tackling everything ourselves and finding deals where we can.  By leaps, the best score for list price to our deal ratio has been soap stone remnants for the counters.

We’ve been in a local granite and marble supplier to be somewhat friendly with the place.  A few weeks ago, on a reconnaissance trip, we started chatting with the owner about matte finish stones.  For whatever reason, I really wanted a lower sheen for the counters.  He suggested either leathered granite, priced between $80-$90 per square foot, and soap stone.  Honed granites aren’t as highly polished as a standard granite, creating a matte finish.  But if something slides across, it basically acts as a sand paper, leaving scuff marks.  Unlike honed granite, leathered granite is finished with brushes, creating a smooth, but low sheen finish.  Leathered granite isn’t very common here yet, so there were only a few options, but I really liked the look.  Then he showed us a gorgeous soap stone slab.  Love at first sight, people.

Realizing we really liked it, he walked us over to a stack of remnants, where he had 6 pieces of a similar soap stone.  We asked about a million questions, he patiently answered each one and told us the pros and cons.  Pro: it’s easy to cut and work with, perfect for a DIYer.  Con: soap stone is soft and can scratch and chip easier than granite.  List price is $82 per square foot.  The six-foot by 2 foot section to the left of the sink alone would cost $984.  Now add in the $328 for the 4 feet over the dishwasher and another $656 for the small cabinet across from the table.  That’s $1968, just for three sections of stone countertops.

Then he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.  One hundred bucks for all six chunks; enough for the kitchen plus a few extra odd sections.  Sold, to the couple in the front row.  I quickly drove home to get the pick up to haul everything home.  I have no idea what particular variety this is, but it has a lot of mottled veining.  Here’s an uncut, unpolished piece.


Soap stone is a very DIY friendly natural counter because it’s dense, but soft.  Ben has cut granite and marble before, but this was a lot easier.  He used a standard circular saw to cut the edges and our orbital sander to finish the edges.


After installing the pieces, I applied an oil to bring out the character.


This step is simply preference, but think of it as a clear coat on wood.  It helps protect, but also show off the natural beauty.


With white perimeter cabinets and a light backsplash planned, we wanted dark counters for contrast.  I think they’re perfect.


Of course, there are still to do’s, but let’s focus on what is finished.


For a seamless edge, we carried the stone to the inside edge of the sink.




Now that the counters are in, we were able to add cabinet trim and start painting.  Most importantly, with the painted face trim, we could install the double ovens.  More on that soon.

Having never had soap stone, do you have experience with it?

Now We’re Cookin’

Remodeling a kitchen can be tough.  I know, shocker.  Kitchens are the heart of the home, used many times each day.  Sometimes taken for granted.  You know how it feels when the electricity goes out: you go to do something completely ordinary, like turn on a light, and only after do you remember the power is out?  Yeah, that’s kind of how it is living without a kitchen.  With each new, functional piece, it feels like Christmas morning.  Well, Merry Christmas and happy new year to us because we’ve got a cooktop.


A functioning, 48 inch, 6 burner and griddle cook surface was exciting before the remodel, but downright thrilling now.  It fits perfectly in the island, completing the cook show stage.  Ha!  We decided to reuse the maple butcher block counter, too.  It was really nice to have a built-in, oversized cutting board.


We chose a GE Monogram after reading reviews on many other brands.


All burners are the exact same.  There’s an extra high setting that heats up in a hurry.


And an ultra low simmer that GE demos by melting chocolate chips on a paper plate.  I kind of want to give that a try.  I mean, that’s usually how I melt chocolate.


If you’re into wok cooking, each grate flips to hold a wok.  Note to self, must learn how to make delicious Asian food.


I knew I missed having a gas top, but it really is so different from electric.  Temperature changes are instantaneous.  It’s sleek, streamlined, and pretty.  Once the cabinets are faced out and drawer fronts are on, the sides won’t stick out as far.


There have been several questions about the sink, too.  We had it custom-made by Venus Fabrication in Texas.


Like the cooktop, it’s stunning.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t cheap, but it is the most used part of a kitchen and totally worth it.


To balance out the wide cooktop, we widened the sink from 30 to 36 inches.  Best decision ever.  Soaking pans and cookie sheets is easy.


Similar to our custom sink for our last house, this sink is the full counter depth.  Neither Ben or I are fans of the skinny strip of counter along the backs of sinks.  Instead, the counters will rest on top of the sides, leaving the back open.


As with the cooktop, (seriously, how many times have I said that already?!) the cabinet faces will make the reveal smaller.


Now we’re only missing the double oven.  Before we can install the ovens, we need to attach the face trim to the cabinet boxes, prime, and paint.  From there, everything left to do is mostly for looks.

Work Zones

Before tearing the kitchen apart, I used Photoshop to build a to scale floor plan to make sure the changes worked on paper.


We’ve already made a lot of progress on the main kitchen area, but still not fully functional.  Gas and electric still need to be run for the cooktop and the dishwasher has to get hooked up.  To get the wall ovens in, we’ll have to frame and paint the cabinets.  Clearly things are very much a work in progress.


Less necessary areas, ahem the office, have taken a back seat for now.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t plans.  Oh no, the office is seeing a slightly different layout.


Instead of the L shape, we’re keeping the cabinets to the long wall only.


This will allow us to install a wider sliding door out to the pool house.  Currently, the pool house is a hot mess, but eventually, when it is pretty, we’ll appreciate the connection.


Working around the wider door leaves a 9 1/2 foot long stretch to work with.


Two 36 inch wide base drawers will sit on either end, leaving a chair gap centered below the window.


It looks as though we’re losing a lot of cabinet space, which we are, if you go by linear measurements.  Similar to the kitchen cabinets, there was a lot of wasted space.  Having all drawers for the lowers offers more usable storage.  Another untouched area is along this small stretch of wall along the dining room.


A four-foot wide base cabinet will work as an appliance garage of sorts.  Storage for the microwave behind closed doors as well as the coffee maker.  Just a small area to set up without being in the main traffic side.


Eventually, Ben wants to hang a TV over it.


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