Part of me doesn’t want to reveal the kitchen design yet, but I also want to share our home building experience in chronological order. So, the kitchen has to come first because it’s where we started designing the house.
Make sure to read all the way to the end because I included a 3D video tour of our kitchen design.
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, on purchases made after following an affiliate link. See my full disclosure here.
In our very first design appointment (when we chose our exterior colors), I asked the designer how the process works for the interior finishes. She says it always starts in the kitchen with the flooring, counters, and cabinetry. Those choices set the stage for the rest of the home. That was definitely the case for us.
Before that first design appointment, I had already started my kitchen inspiration board. Before our second design appointment (to start choosing interior finishes), I already had everything picked out for the kitchen. Are you surprised?
At our first meeting, the designer gave us an overview of what was available for kitchen finishes. I made a followup appointment to visit the design center on my own without assistance, so I could take a closer look at the samples. I made sure to take pictures and notes, particularly of the brand names they carried. That way I could do more research and look up samples online at home before our next design appointment.
One of the main tile brands they offered was Daltile. Before our second design appointment, I went to visit a Daltile showroom. That was both the most dangerous and most helpful thing I did while designing our kitchen. Dangerous because they offer tile options that are not available through our builder. Helpful because I found a dreamy backsplash tile that I wouldn’t have known to ask the builder about otherwise (more on that below).
What the Builder Includes Standard
Before I get into our finish selections and the upgrades we made to the kitchen, let me share what our builder, Cambridge Homes, included as standard with our home. (Pro tip: These items might be upgrades with other builders. When looking at different builders, always ask for a list of standard features so you know what is included and what you’ll have to upgrade.)
Our builder includes a lot of nice features in their standard kitchen package, so we didn’t have to do a lot of upgrades other than choosing our preferred finishes. I’ll cover the upgrades we did make below.
Standard Features for Cambridge Homes Traditional Series:
- 42” upper cabiners with crown molding
- Stained site-finished cabinets
- Case opening for the refrigerator with cabinet above
- Roll out trash bin
- Custom wood range hood
- Granite counters
- Ceramic tile backsplash
- Delta stainless steel pull out spray faucet
- Stainless steel undermount sink
- Recessed can lighting
- Undercabinet lighting
- Stainless steel appliance package (built-in wall oven, built-in microwave, 36” gas cooktop, range hood, dishwasher, garbage disposal)
Our Finish Selections and Upgrades
While we were going through the design process, I created a simple mockup of the kitchen in Keynote for Mac (it’s like Powerpoint). It was a quick and easy way for me to see how our choices would look together and to show my husband what I was thinking.
This was the final mockup of our kitchen by our last design appointment:
White Kitchen Cabinets
The very first thing we decided on for our new kitchen was painted white cabinetry. It’s always been my dream to have a white kitchen, again. We had white kitchens in our first two homes, but in our last home, I couldn’t bring myself to paint the new wood cabinets. I prefer white cabinets.
I also felt white cabinetry was a must for the kitchen in this house, because the room has no windows, only skylights. I want the kitchen to be light and bright.
Our builder offered a handful of different white colors for the cabinetry. We chose SW7005 Pure White, which is the same white the builder uses standard on the interior doors, baseboards, and trim throughout the house.
We also had to choose a cabinet profile. We opted for a simple shaker style cabinet door. (Note: the cabinet sample shown in the images below is for color reference only, the door style is not shaker.)
The other thing I’ve always wanted in a kitchen is lighter countertops. In our last house, we had dark granite. Most of our builder’s standard granite options were dark.
Instead of granite, I was interested in quartz countertops because they are lower maintenance. Quartz counters are non-porous, so they don’t require sealing like granite. Knowing I wanted a light color, I preferred quartz because it won’t stain.
We had to upgrade the counters to Level 3 or above to get any quartz options. Thankfully, my top two choices, Playa White and Coquina, were in Level 3. We ultimately chose Playa White because I like the larger speckles. (I guess the technical term for speckles is “composites.”) It looks a little bit like Terrazzo, which is perfect for the mid-century modern vibe.
I love the beachy feel of this quartz. Along with the white cabinetry, our kitchen will definitely be light and bright.
Custom Kitchen Island Color
With the big decisions made, it was time to have some fun with the design. We opted to have the kitchen island cabinetry painted a custom color.
Remember, our front door will be a turquoise color, SW6766 Mariner. We wanted to bring that color inside but in a different way. So we chose a related but bolder color—TEAL. Our kitchen island will be painted SW6776 Blue Nile.
The last piece of the puzzle was the backsplash. I was bored with all the options at the design showroom. They were mostly neutral choices.
I wanted a bit of color and an interesting pattern on the backsplash—preferably a geometric pattern as a nod to midcentury design. All my inspiration kitchens had colorful, geometric backsplashes.
When I visited the Daltile showroom (before our kitchen design appointment), I fell for these pretty sky blue hexagon tiles from the Retrospace collection. They were the perfect style for our mid-century inspired house.
The only problem is, I hadn’t seen them at the design center.
The Daltile showroom offers free samples, so I was able to get a sample of the tile I loved. It wasn’t the hexagon shape, but the subway tile from the same collection. I hoped by bringing the tile sample to our design appointment, they could help us find something similar, at least in color. They did one better.
Our designer immediately recognized the tile when I showed her the tile sample and the online picture of the hexagon tile. She had recently seen it at a presentation.
Turns out, they were going to start carrying it. They were able to order in samples of the hexagon tile in our color choice. At our next design appointment, we were able to see the tile along with all of our other selections. We will be doing white grout between the tiles.
We love the way it all looks together.
Get the Look:
Essa Stainless Faucet | Retrospace Sky Blue Tile | Maestro Quartz Playa White | SW6776 Blue Nile (for kitchen island) | GE Built-in Microwave | GE Built-In Oven | 36″ 5-Burner Gas Range | SW7005 Pure White (on shaker style cabinets) | GE Dishwasher
To recap, these are the finishes we chose for the kitchen. All of these finish options were Level 2-3 upgrades from the builder’s standard features.
- Painted cabinets in SW7005 Pure White
- Custom color (SW6776 Blue Nile) on the island cabinetry
- Quartz counters – Playa White
- Backsplash – Retrospace Sky Blue Hexagon
- Upgraded dishwasher – we upgraded to a dishwasher with hidden controls and a stainless steel interior
This is the 3D rendering of the kitchen design I created in my favorite 3D home design software: (Take the video tour below)
In addition to the finish upgrades, we made a few additional custom upgrades.
Extended Kitchen Island
When we initially signed our contract, we had to include all of our structural upgrade options. For the kitchen, we opted for the extended kitchen island that allows for seating at the island.
The island will be 82″ long with the dishwasher to one side of the sink and the pullout trash bin on the other side. The island will be about 48″ deep.
During the electrical design, we added several junction boxes for additional lighting in the kitchen. The builder includes recessed lighting and under cabinet lighting.
- We added two junction boxes over the island for future pendant lights.
- We also added to junction boxes for sconces in the desk area (more on that customization below).
- At the last minute, I remembered to ask if they could change the fluorescent under cabinet lighting to LED and they made that change for no charge.
Custom Range Hood
Our builder offers a choice of three wood range hoods. None of them were what we envisioned for our modern kitchen. So, we showed our designer inspiration pictures of minimal range hoods and she made a custom request.
The cabinet maker will be customizing a minimal range hood for us! Many of our inspiration pictures showed completely built-in (drywalled) hoods. Our cabinet maker plans to build our hood with seams on the sides, so the front panel can be popped off to access the hood and vent if needed.
Kitchen Desk Area
We chose a house with a kitchen layout we already loved, so we wouldn’t have to do a lot of customizations. Before we finalized our design, I thought long and hard about how we’d use each space in the kitchen. The kitchen comes with a lot of additional storage (lower and upper cabinets) next to the wall oven. They’re out of the main work triangle and I knew we didn’t need all the extra storage.
At the same time, the only thing the house was missing was a workspace for me and our home computer. My husband will be using the office when he works from home.
So we turned the area next to the wall oven into a kitchen desk area. We removed the lower cabinets next to the wall oven and added a small bank of drawers to create a counter height desk. To make space for the computer, we had the upper cabinets customized so the bottoms of the cabinets lined up with the cabinet above the wall oven.
To make this part of the kitchen special and to set it apart from the rest of the kitchen, we removed the backsplash on the wall behind the desk. We also removed the under cabinet lighting, because we’re going to add a pair of wall sconces above the desk.
We added an additional outlet and CAT5E drop below the countertop. We paid a small fee to have a hole drilled in the back of the countertop with a cap for routing the computer cords.
This is my 3D rendering of the desk area:
You can see this part of the kitchen all the way from the front door. That’s why I want to make it special. It’s the focal point when you walk in the house.
Our Upgrade Budget
Our builder included a $30,000 design allowance with our home purchase. We used $5,000 of our design allowance to help cover the costs of structural upgrades. That left us with $25,000 for the design center.
We knew a big chunk of that would go towards upgrades in the kitchen and bathrooms.
We spent a total of $8,749 on the upgrades and customizations for our kitchen (detailed above). That does not include $2815 in structural upgrades to add two skylights and extend the kitchen island.
So, we spent about 35% of our design allowance in the kitchen. I was really happy about that. Without knowing the upgrade costs, I expected to spend closer to 50% of our budget in the kitchen. It really helped that many of the things we would have considered upgrading were already included by the builder.
Upgrades We Skipped
To keep our budget in check and to add our own style to the house, we skipped a lot of the upgrade options. Some things we didn’t feel were necessary and some we preferred to do later on our own.
These are the upgrades we did NOT do:
- Lighting – We added junction boxes for pendant lights and sconces, but we did not purchase the light fixtures through the builder. We will add our own light fixtures after we move in.
- Cabinet hardware – The design center had less than a dozen knob and drawer pull options to choose from. Plus, we were told if we chose a knob, they would put the same knob on all the doors and drawers. We couldn’t mix knobs and pulls. So we will be adding our own cabinetry hardware.
- Inset Cabinet Doors – We preferred the (included) standard overlay cabinets where the doors sit on top of the cabinet frames. Besides, if we chose inset doors, we would have been required to choose cabinet hardware because the doors can’t be opened without hardware.
- Staggered Cabinets – We want a simple, minimal kitchen, so we did not opt to stagger the depth or height of any of the cabinets.
- Additional cabinets above the upper cabinets – There was an option to add a row of short cabinets on top of our already 42” tall upper cabinets. We declined.
- Above cabinet lighting – Under cabinet lighting was included. They offered the option of above cabinet lighting. I think it looks pretty and adds ambiance to a kitchen, but we have a sloped ceiling above our kitchen cabinets and it’s not something I want to draw attention to.
- Glass-front cabinets – We did not opt to change any of the upper cabinets to glass front. I prefer an uncluttered look.
- Additional Drawers or Pullouts – Our kitchen came with a pullout trash bin in the island and pot and pan drawers under the range. We did not add any additional drawers or pullouts for the other cabinets. I know we can always add cabinet organizers later and I prefer to live in the kitchen before deciding what extra bells and whistles we need.
What’s Left to Decide
We have a few things left to choose for the kitchen. These are items we’ll be adding ourselves after closing.
- Lighting – I need to choose pendant lights for over the kitchen island and sconces for the desk area. We’re planning to replace all the builder fixtures throughout the house, so I’ll write another detailed post about our light plan soon.
- Cabinet Hardware – We will be adding our own drawer pulls and knobs in the kitchen. I’m looking for some mid-century inspired options.
- Wall Treatment for the Desk Area – Since we didn’t put a backsplash at the kitchen desk, I want to do a special wall treatment there. I just don’t know what yet, but it won’t be shiplap.
- Refrigerator – Our appliance package does not include a fridge and we sold our last fridge with our old house. We plan to buy the same LG French door Counter-depth fridge because we loved it.
- Mini Fridge – We added an extra outlet in the pantry and removed a few shelves so we could put a mini beverage fridge in the pantry. I’d love to find a retro looking mini fridge, but don’t want to splurge on a SMEG. Let me know if you’ve seen others…preferably in turquoise :)
- Flooring – No biggie, right?! You may have noticed we don’t have flooring chosen for the kitchen (or the rest of the living areas). We did, but unfortunately, the design center discontinued it right before our final design meeting. They discontinued the luxury vinyl plank we had chosen and the option they replaced it with was too rustic looking for our house. So, the plan right now is to hire someone to install a luxury vinyl plank of our choosing after closing.
3D Kitchen Tour
I want to finish off this post, with a tour of our kitchen design. Remember, Goldie? She’s the 3D model of our home. I’ve updated her kitchen with all of our finish selections.
Watch the video below for a tour of the kitchen.
Phew! This is my first time designing a kitchen from the ground up. What do you think? I tried to cover everything, but if you have questions, ask away in the comments below.