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A Modern Dream Kitchen that Didn't Break the Bank

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

People spend inordinate amounts of money on kitchens. I mean CRAZY amounts of money. After all of the permits, consultants, and upticks in contractors' fees endured for the modern coastal canyon project, we just could NOT spend a ton of money on our kitchen. I guess both limited time and limited funds were the primary drivers behind our kitchen, and frankly, most design choices for our project.


That said, how does one create the Poggehpohl-esqe, sleek modern kitchen of one's Dwell magazine dreams on a shoestring budget? If we managed to do it--somewhat--so can you :)


First, by the time our project was actually out of the ground, we were already over budget, due to caissons, tree removal, and steel costs (have I already thanked our president?). As mentioned in a previous post, the way we stayed somewhat on budget was cutting on interior and exterior finishes. Including my dream kitchen!!!


In fact, at one point I was absolutely certain that I would be resorting to an Ikea kitchen, in lieu of the capable custom cabinet builder twith whom our builder, DM Building, contracts. But alas, I did not need to go the way of Ikea cabinetry So how did we do it?


Fortunately, we scored some tremendous discounts (see blog post "November's Fantastic Discounts") through our architect and builder. These included "Group Zero" Silestone, a class of pricing that no showrooms ever show you, as it is specifically reserved for "Commercial trade accounts." There are about six swatches in this price category--so one cannot be picky. But honestly, I loved the white to go with our simple white high-gloss cabinets, so it worked for me. All said and done, with material large enough for both our laundry niche AND our 10 x 6' kitchen island and install, we paid about $4,000 for both the laundry niche and kitchen Silestone material installed. And had some extra left over!


We also thought that we would be limited to Arizona Tile or Home-Depot grade backsplashes. Instead, for the same amount of money, our architects at JLC Architecture opened a trade account at Porcelanosa, the illustrious Spanish designer tile company, and Boom! we were in our price ball park again, at 40% off retail. Our architects also generously passed on their 40% trade discount with the wonderful Suzi Mullins at Euro Kitchen and Bath in Solana Beach, CA--again, enabling me to exercise my designer-market taste level on a Home Depot budget.


One of my most enjoyable and perhaps proudest moments of our project was designing our kitchen cabinetry with Randy, the owner of Ideal Cabinets, in Vista, CA. I am going to write this once, and will not repeat it again: Do not hire a kitchen designer! If you are working with a professional cabinet maker, already have the dimensions of your kitchen's space, and have a rough idea of what you are looking for your cabinet maker can design it all there while you wait. Seriously!


Here is my rough sketch that we worked from:



You can see when I say "Rough", I mean it!


Randy used a CAD program called "Cabintmaker Pro", that enabled him to put in suggested measurements for cabinets in the space, and then play with the dimensions and types of cabinets and drawers. Before my two hour working session with Randy, I only knew that 1) I wanted a "one wall" open kitchen; 2) I wanted a tall storage cabinet; 3) I wanted a large island with a sink in it; and 4) I wanted some built-in storage for my cookbooks. Seriously, that is all I knew going into the appointment, and I came out with these two hours later:



These are the dimensions for the island that Randy made during our initial meeting in Cabinetmaker Pro. We never made a single change to the island configuration. The "Extra" space you see on the left is my cookbook storage :)

And here are the dimensions for the back wall. We went back and forth a few times--but only to establish the correct length and placement of the floating shelves and to deepen the drawers in our tall cabinet.

Pretty Crazy, eh? He also gave me some 3-D model sketches, too.


I went back to Randy's workshop two more times. The first, was to look at the high gloss cabinet fronts samples that he ordered, and the second was to look at various stain samples for our shelving. Everything else we did either over the phone or via email. And speaking of open shelving vs. wall cabinets--this is quite a trend right now. The great news is that this trend is not only timeless, but it will bode well for your pocketbook, too! Floating shelves are beautiful, showcase special dinnerware and artifacts well, and are much less expensive than building out uppers. In fact, I am happy to share withyou that my entire custom cabinetry build-out was about $15,000, including the shelving and all interior components, such as pull-out shelving, swiss hinges, and bakeware slotted storage (that I actually use for placemats).


I did try to go "Handleless", like the beautiful European modern cabinets that inspired me, but Randy said that I would lose some of the "Auto close" spring hinge function by doing so. So, we found some minimal pulls at Ikea. I had used Ikea pulls in another kitchen I updated years ago, and found them to be great quality for the price.


Appliances and plumbing fixtures, are where people often splurge in kitchen design. Here, sadly, we could not. Instead I spent my time on Consumer Reports--paying for a one month subscription--researching the highest-reviewed appliances in my price range. I ended up with a stellar Samsung counter depth refrigerator, a Verona dual fuel 36" range, a Faber hood, a Bosch dishwasher, a Kohler sink, a Hans Grohe Faucet, and a Sharp Microwave drawer. An aside on the Sharp micro-drawer: A kind rep at the high-end Architects and Designer's New York mart told me that Sharp manufactures ALL microwave drawers, so why pay more? :) What I learned? You don't have to buy all the same brand appliances or plumbing fixtures for the kitchen to look appealing! What I spent? Just under $10,000 in total--and I love them all.


The end result? See for yourself. It's a large, open space, with a nice walk-in pantry--another way to save $$ on cabinets. It has the clean lines and openness that we desired. It's super spacious, and by creating our own cabinet design, it suits our storage needs perfectly.


Total price tag with lighting, stools and installed tile included? Under $35,000.


Now that's #Happy #Modern .

This photo was taken right before we moved in, on cleaning day. The pendants are the Seguro Monopoint from Lightology. The tile shown for the backsplash and island front is Porcelanosa.

After move-in, from the other side of the kitchen.

And I forgot to mention the best part! Here's the view from our kitchen!



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