All photography by Vivian Johnson
Cottage Kitchen Interior Design We are so excited to share this beautiful kitchen renovation project with you! It is living proof that great design is attainable at any budget. If you are thinking about renovating your kitchen, bookmark or pin this post. We break down every element, and discuss why we chose what we did, along with costs and tips.
This project was designed as a collaboration between Lorla Studio and Michelle Prochnow. We acted as design consultants for this job, advising on things like the concept, layout and materials, while Michelle and her husband Jon, quite literally did most of the heavy lifting. In addition to sourcing everything, she and her husband did a lot of the labor themselves, which kept costs down. It was an easy consulting job thanks to Michelle’s great eye, hands-on approach and industry knowledge —she works as an interior stylist, staging and styling homes in the Bay Area. The Inspiration To start things off, we oohed and ahhhed over a shared Pinterest Board, deliberating over our favorite images in great detail, discussing what we liked and disliked about each one, and what specific elements we wanted to incorporate in Michelle’s kitchen. The result was a combination of a cottage kitchen and farmhouse aesthetic, with a mix of warm woods, plenty of white paint, and some industrial touches.
The existing footprint was workable, and we knew it had to stay the same because of the tight budget, but we wanted to change everything else! Despite the abundance of windows and great natural light, all of the existing wood was way too dark. We wanted to dramatically brighten the space without losing the rustic and warm vibe created by the existing wood. The solution was to paint the wood walls white, introduce new white cabinets and a light countertop, but keep the unpainted trim around the large double windows to maintain some of the original warmth. The wood walls are only covered in primer without paint, enabling the texture and warmth of the wood grain to peek through.
The Key Ingredients Shaker style cabinets in a soft, off-white color were selected for their timeless and traditional charm, which blends in seamlessly with the rest of the home. The countertops are a classic, grey-veined marble, which we selected for the timelessness and beauty that marble brings to a space.
A quick love letter to marble: we were so glad Michelle was not afraid to go with marble, and we find that too many homeowners pass it up because of its high maintenance reputation. Yes, marble requires more maintenance and will show more wear than a quartz or porcelain countertop, but it adds a depth and texture to any space that simply cannot be replicated. We find things like stains and etchings to be proof of a well-loved home, and isn’t that the essence of beauty and charm? This particular marble has crisp grey veins that provide a sense of movement, and because it is not bright white it will hide stains well. The key to any successful space is a mix of elements— dark and light, smooth and rough, for instance, with the contrast helping ensure a space does not feel dull, flat and uninteresting. In a well-designed kitchen, all of your material choices marry together in a perfect harmony of complimentary yet contrasting characteristics, which allows each material to shine to its fullest potential. In this kitchen, the polished marble finish is a nice contrast to the more rugged and rustic elements found throughout the rest of the space.
There was a lot of deliberation over the hardware. Pulls? Knobs? Bin pulls? Brass, or black to match the island and existing ceiling pendant lights (which were left untouched)? After looking at several different options, the winning look was a combination of latches, bin pulls and knobs, in an oil-rubbed bronze finish from Rejuvenation. We decided that all pulls leaned too modern, and that the mix of styles felt true to both the nature of the house, and the design, which is a collected and cohesive mix of styles. Plus, having latches provides a lot of functionality. Michelle and Jon have an adorable two-year old son, who would love access to everything in the kitchen cabinets— latches to the rescue! Michelle ordered samples of every hardware piece we considered, so that she could hold it up to the cabinets in the space, and feel the touch of each one in her hand. Ordering hardware samples is something we recommend to all of our clients , especially in the kitchen. Hardware is a major touch point that you are going to feel in your hand nearly everyday, multiple times a day. It should feel good! It’s these seemingly small details that add up, and all come together to create a cohesive finished space. It’s also a great spot to bring in luxury at an affordable price point. Never skimp on your hardware, as it gets so much use and is a major touch point.
In addition to the footprint, the flooring & lighting were left untouched to save on costs. Another cost saver? That beautiful artwork over the banquette is 100% DIY, done by Michelle herself.
The Budget Hold on to your hats folks, because you are not going to believe this: the all-in budget for this kitchen renovation was $19,000! This included labor, materials, furniture, lighting and accessories. How is this possible? We’ll share the line by line budget with you, along with some cost-saving tips to incorporate into your next home remodel project: Total Labor Costs: $10,500 Total Material & Appliance Costs (including, lighting, hardware, furniture, etc): $8,500 All in total: $19,000
Here’s a more specific breakdown: Electrical labor: $3,850 Plumbing labor: $3,000 Cut & install countertops (labor only, no material): $2,400 Primer (no paint used): $125 Cabinets: $1,650 Cabinet Hardware: $300 Shelves: $120 New Back Door: $220 Kitchen Island: $500 Sink & Faucet: $600 Garbage Disposal: $50 Dishwasher: $550 Refrigerator: $1,000 Oven: $2,000 Wall Sconces: $60
Cost Saving Ideas when Renovating The biggest cost savers in this kitchen renovation were working with the existing footprint (not moving plumbing, electrical or gas) and all of the labor that Michelle and Jon handled themselves. Michelle and Jon painted, assembled and installed everything that they were comfortable handling themselves, which covered everything except for the installation of the countertops, cabinet and some electrical upgrades, such as installing a few new outlets, and grounding the existing electrical. As you can see from the budget breakdown listed above, despite all of the work the homeowners did themselves, labor was still more than 50% of the overall budget. This is standard, and especially true in expensive metro areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. Clients are always floored to learn how much labor costs— it will always be the most expensive part of your renovation, and again, not an area to cut corners. You need skilled professionals who know what they are doing— you get what you pay for! I have heard too many horror stories of projects derailed by a poor contractor, which costs a lot more time, money and stress to the homeowner in the long run.
Plus, keep in mind that by working with the existing footprint, there were no architectural or permitting fees— this also allowed the process to move much faster than if we had to wait months for construction permits. There were also no design fees charged to Michelle, given our relatively limited role in consulting on the project, and the significant role Michelle and Jon took in executing the design. Design services for a kitchen remodel such as this one typically start at $25K. We estimate that all of the above factors saved Michelle and Jon somewhere between $30-40K— though the sweat equity is REAL. At one point Michelle described feeling like a slave to her own home, because of the long hours both she and Jon were putting in on evenings and weekends.
Other cost savers included keeping the existing floors, installing plug-in wall sconces over the banquette (rather than hardwired), DIY artwork and a lot of creativity, patience and flexibility in sourcing the furniture and materials. They also purchased open box appliances, which saved thousands of dollars on a key ingredient. This means the appliances they purchased may have been returns, and although they are still new they had some subtle imperfections, such as a ding or two in the fridge. Big ticket items like the marble countertops and cabinets were sourced from a local building-supply store, which had great prices, but limited options. As Michelle put it, besides having limited choices at a store like this, “The showroom is horrible, so you’ve got to look past that and envision the products in your own home,” which is no easy task for most people. There was an issue with the countertop that Michelle originally selected, so she had to make do with her second choice, which turned out great. She also relied heavily on second-hand sources, scoring some great finds, such as the kitchen island from Craigslist. This takes a lot of time, patience, and creativity— a demand that Michelle readily accepted. Key Design Takeaways for a Kitchen Renovation
When designing a kitchen, think of it as a cooking recipe: each element of the recipe is important, but the ingredients also need to balance one another. You can think about the space in three tiers: Tier one is your standout element(s), which could be your countertop, backsplash or cabinetry. This is a high-impact element, which influences the entire feel of the space. Tier two is the meat of the design. In this kitchen, tier two is all of the white elements, like the walls, cabinets, and shelves that work in harmony together. Tier three is the fun accents, like the lighting, hardware and artwork (yes, we love hanging art in a kitchen!). You want all of the tiers to relate to each other, but you need some contrast, as seen here with the polished marble countertops and the rough wood walls, which keep things interesting. Which leads me to the next point…
Take some risks! Is buying a kitchen island off of Craigslist a risk? Absolutely, but taking risks and looking for unique pieces that really speak to your style and aesthetic helps you avoid ending up with a kitchen that looks mass manufactured, aka, basic and boring.
We love mixing hardware, such as latches and bin pulls, for a super functional design.
It’s more than okay to mix metals, as long as it’s done intentionally. If you are purchasing hardware from different manufacturers, which typically happens in a kitchen, it’s impossible to get the same finish (i.e. one vendor’s satin brass is not going to be the same as another’s). Take a step back and look at the space as a whole, and a mix of metals even in the same family can lend a sense of depth. Try to keep items in the same families (faucets, cabinet hardware, lighting) in the same finish. For example, if you have a brass sink faucet, stick with a brass pot-filler, but if your appliances are stainless, it’s okay to use another metal on the cabinet hardware. Lighting is also an area to take some risks, and bring in a different metal. And finally, pay attention to where the metal mixing is happening. You probably don’t want a polished nickel finish from one vendor right next to the same style finish from another vendor, because they won’t perfectly match and it will look like a mistake or oversight. But, if you have polished nickel cabinet hardware mixed with the same finish in pendant lights from another vendor, it will likely work just fine.
Select your countertop slabs in-person whenever possible. Every slab is different, and the only way to really get a good sense of this major element in any kitchen is to see it with your own eyes.
Always order samples of the hardware you are considering before committing.
Shopping for vintage items and second-hand sources takes some patience, but you can find some really unique pieces. Some of our favorite options include Etsy, Chairish, Facebook Marketplace, 1st Dibs, and local estate sales and fleas, like the Alameda Flea here in the Bay area.
Work with your existing footprint to save big on costs!
If you are not moving any doors or walls, you typically do not need to get an architect involved, which adds significant costs, and time (i.e. permits)
We hope this post gives you some tips, tricks and maybe even the motivation that you need to tackle whatever home project is on the top of your list. A big thank-you to Michelle and her husband Jon for letting us work with you on the design of your kitchen. We had a blast and love the finished space!
Questions? Comments? Drop a line in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!