All the What’s, Why’s & How Much’s of the Portland Kitchen (+ Big Reveal)
I am very excited to reveal the Portland kitchen today. You know as a parent (of kids or pets) when you find yourself staring at your child unknowingly whispering ‘I just love you so much‘ while they eat Raisin Bran? That’s what I do to photos of this kitchen. The only thing that could make me happier is if were my own, and while it’s not wildly different, it’s just a bigger, better version.
If you ever plan on renovating or updating your kitchen, read every word or bookmark this post. I break down every element on why we chose what we did with costs and tips. I learned SO MUCH from designing this kitchen and you bet I’m not going to leave this blog post without filling your head with all my Portland kitchen renovation knowledge.
Renovating a kitchen from another state wasn’t easy (not sure if I’ve properly drilled that into your head). Sure, I could have easily phoned it in with a basic kitchen, but I wanted it to be this perfect mix of classic + modern, happy + sophisticated, contemporary + timeless with enough special moments that take it from standard to special.
I’ll be honest that there were some bumps along the way, major ones like the island was originally built too small (my fault for not realizing earlier we could go bigger), and the first set of windows—where the big one is now—was originally three tiny, VERY high ones (I didn’t choose them TBH). But we ponied up and paid to fix them because I wasn’t going to spend months designing this kitchen to have any regrets. I’m so glad we did because I’m so proud of this room. I want to jump into the computer when I see photos. I want to live here. Hang out with my kids here. Make soup after soup after soup here while my kids read to each other quietly between spoonfuls of vegetables (opposite). I designed this for my life, with my family, and I would be so very, very happy here.
I have many favorite things about this kitchen but I can’t possibly name them in the right order, so let’s arbitrarily start with…
We went with custom cabinetry (by Craig Cowing from Crestwood Inc.) as we usually do in higher end spaces. We chose a 2 1/4-inch inset shaker design with a slight step to add a bit of interest and depth. You can’t do smaller than 2 1/4-inch without using custom hinges/hardware but we like the narrower look versus a 3-inch panel. If you are choosing your cabinet design, go for inset or flush for a more updated yet simple look. Inset is where you see the stiles and rails (the 2-inch vertical and horizontal framing of the cabinet case) like pictured above. Flush is where the doors meet each other on top of the stiles and rails. Either way, what you get is a flat look versus where the cabinet doors are on top of the stiles and rails with gaps in between them. Inset costs about 20% more and your cabinet maker has to be very precise (it’s easier to cover inaccuracies when you place the cabinet door on top of the frame), but it’s worth it. These cabinets were all custom and cost about $25k (both for manufacturing and installation). I believe the lead time was 6-8 weeks with like 19 rounds of drawings.
Hot tip: The cabinets are often what hold up an entire house renovation. However, you can’t really get started manufacturing them until you are demoed out and your maker can take proper measurements. Therefore, you are sitting with an empty kitchen for often 6-8 weeks. This is why it’s crucial to get your cabinet plan done swiftly.
We went with lowers and uppers in the same color—Pewter Green by Sherwin-Williams—and we literally could not be happier with the shade. We thought about going white, but we really wanted to draw you in and make a quiet statement. I have done a lot of blue kitchens so I didn’t want to repeat that. We stayed away from gray in this entire house because we were properly warned that in Portland, where it’s gray a lot of the time, people don’t want gray inside, too. We tested out a million greens but ended up loving this super deep green with a lot of gray in it (versus being more teal or emerald). It’s not bright, but it’s deep and saturated. We thought about going white for the island or shaking up the uppers and lowers, but we liked how modern and simple (and dramatic) it felt to do the same color everywhere.
The Counter Cabinets
We didn’t want just basic cabinets, so we flanked the uppers with counter cabinets to add some interest. We thought about metal wall-hung shelves at first (the new floating shelves), but realized that many people are scared of open shelving. A row of closed upper cabinets, however, can make it feel smaller and just more basic. Glass cabinets are a great option, too, or we could have done the grids that we did at my LA house (which I LOVE, but I didn’t want to repeat the design element). At the same time that we were finalizing the cabinetry plans, we replaced the too small/high windows with this huge one which made the uppers on that end look slammed against the window. The window was ordered. The opening was cut. What were we going to do?
That’s when I started obsessing over counter hutches and it became our happy accident (I thought they added such character, and good design is meant to introduce any sort of personality into a room). All we had to do was set these back to 9 inches and treat them totally differently, thus giving them style and purpose (and freeing them from being smooshed up against the window frame).
If your first thought is that it takes up counter space, then know that it’s not a problem because they are just in the corner, which you don’t really use anyway. There is a butler’s pantry adjoining the kitchen that has a ton more storage and counter space, so we weren’t worried about that, either. By doing a single glass panel, it feels fresh and clean, and then that little adorable latch from Rejuvenation… ugh I love it so much. There is painted beadboard in the back, which is hard to see but in person, it adds a nice texture.
Having them flank the uppers like that with the hood in the middle really gives this kitchen a powerful but simple focal point.
I toyed with doing a bold statement tile to the ceiling but ultimately decided to go with something classic and timeless, yet handmade and special. We worked with Pratt & Larson on a lot of tile in the house including this one. We are doing a whole post about all the reasons we love them and you will, too, but in short, they are handmade in Portland by people who have worked there for 30 years because they love it so much, and they take so much care and create each tile with such artistry.
We chose this beautiful matte beveled subway tile that is classic, but not just a basic flat white tile (not that anything is wrong with that but I like to have some sort of unique bent on anything that might seem basic). This tile was $56 per square foot, but the install was pretty standard at $8 per square foot (which = affordable).
We staggered (also called running bond) for a classic look and by choosing matte, I think it looks a little more modern and fresh.
I love this stone so much. We worked with Bedrosians on the honed island and counter marble and while I know marble is a lifestyle choice, it’s one that I will make over and over. It has these stunning green veins and adds so much texture and depth in the room and since it’s not bright white, it’s going to hide any use (ours does at home). Designing a high-end kitchen is different than a budget one because you need some design elements to really sing. We thought long and hard about using a white quartz but chose a real stone because the cabinets were a flat paint and the subway tile which was already in production was a simple white tile. Something has to have movement and texture. Sometimes it’s your cabinets. Sometimes it’s your tile. In this case, it is that gorgeous stone. For less maintenance, go for honed or leathered, but also just relax because age adds soul to a house, full stop. A polished finish is what shows the most stains and etchings. By the way, if your kitchen already has polished marble and you want it to be honed, there are companies that will come in and do that for you even after install, or you can look up DIY versions because I’m pretty sure it’s all about some sort of acidic solution that takes off the shine (but don’t come back here and blame me if it’s a disaster… proceed at your own risk).
We chose to do a 6-inch backsplash on the other side of the kitchen instead of the tile because there was this “where do we stop the tile?” question since the kitchen has that structural beam running through it. See below:
So this was perfect and the 6-inch stone was definitely cheaper in materials and labor than tiling that whole wall would have been.
We went with an ogee bullnose edge instead of a squared miter edge (there are other options) to make it look more high-end and traditional. This was one of those decisions that added cost (you can expect to pay $20-$36 per linear foot depending on the stone and manufacturer for an ogee edge), but we all thought it was worth it and went for it. A normal house flipper would definitely save money here, but I’m so glad we added that detail. The stone from Bedrosian would have cost us $7,000 and the fabrication for this kitchen was $5,700.
As I mentioned earlier, the first round of windows that were installed were three really small, super high and had small grids on them. Unfortunately, we don’t have a very good photo of this, but here’s a rough iPhone photo we snapped during construction, so you can get the gist:
Since I don’t love playing the blame game, I often just take it because when you are leading the design you just have to, but no, I did not intentionally approve those three windows and it was an oversight completely – not sure how nobody caught them, but alas, we paid the $2k to fix it and we used the small windows on the shed (which turned out SO cute – more on that later). Milgard rushed that replacement window for us (THANK YOU). And you can see how much of a difference it makes.
Our goal with the new window was to bring in a lot of natural light, be big enough that you can see kids playing in the yard below, and also be able to pass food out to the outdoor dining area through those side windows if you wanted to. We worked with Milgard on the project and these windows turned out so beautiful and classic. We chose to do a picture in the middle, flanked by two grids that match the rest of the house.
The Window Treatments
We outfitted the entire house with custom window treatments from Decorview, and this is their Solera soft shades in the Layla pattern (in Mercury). I LOVE these shades because they are so simple and easy to use and when all the way up, they take up so little space, whereas a Roman can take up to 6 inches.
The room is bisected by that structural crossbeam, so the island didn’t have an obvious pendant location. Instead, our big light moment was these beautiful articulating sconces above the window.
As you can see, the ceiling was tricky because it’s lower on the side that faces the backyard, so getting something that made a statement but fit the space was challenging and these from Rejuvenation worked perfectly. I chose these also because they mixed in the black from the range, and this warm brass but not so much brass that it would be this huge BLING. They feel classic, with a vintage vibe, and totally timeless.
Originally, I was going to do polished nickel hardware to match the range and faucets, but the more I stared at the materials board, the more I craved the warmth and modern feel of brass. But the faucets and range were silver!? I found myself googling “How to mix metals” and my blog came up over and over which is when I reminded myself of my own rule: You can mix metals if you do it intentionally and evenly throughout the space. Don’t mix a polished nickel faucet with a brass pot filler; the faucet family should match (same in a bathroom), and I like those things matching the range (although not as necessary). The lighting and hardware is the perfect place to mix it up and add another metal, thus creating more warmth and depth. It’s almost like all the “permanent” things should match and all the “jewelry” should match, but not everything has to be the same across the board.
Hot tip: To get a custom look in any room, to look like you really cared and thought about your design, you HAVE to shake it up and take some risks, otherwise your home can look mass manufactured even if you customized everything. You don’t want to spend $75k on a basic B kitchen that someone down the street also has. Choose a few things to make extra special (for us it was the counter cabinets, the stone, the beveled tile, the hardware) and give them a tweak that keeps them still simple and timeless but makes them feel totally unique.
Back to hardware. We have four different styles/sizes all in the same finish, all from Portland’s own Rejuvenation. I’m going to do a whole post on how to choose, mix AND PLACE hardware because this was a struggle even for us and we did a lot of research to get where we got (of which I’m very proud). Hardware is where you can take your kitchen to the next level without spending a lot and I’m excited to show you how, but it’s stressful to drill those permanent holes so there is a lot to learn about doing it the right way. All of these handles and pulls make me so happy.
The Faucet/Pot Filler
That beautiful range is what drove the kitchen in a lot of ways (which we’ll discuss tomorrow) and like I mentioned above, I like it when the metals on the range match the faucets (again this is just a preference but I’ve seen silver metals in a range mixed with brass faucets and it looks beautiful, too). We chose a classic, antique style pot filler and a BEAUTIFUL gooseneck faucet, both from Kohler.
We obsessed about the metals of the sink matching the metals of the range perfectly, but when they are coming from different companies (faucets from Kohler and range from Bertazzoni), you can’t really know until you get them right next to each other but you have to purchase them in order to get them next to each other (unless there is a showroom that might have both, which is possible). The range is a mix of polished chrome and stainless steel. The faucet that we wanted didn’t have a pot filler that matched, but the faucet that matched the pot filler didn’t feel right. I really wanted this sweeping gooseneck. The faucet came in polished nickel and polished stainless, but not polished chrome, whereas the pot filler came in polished chrome and polished nickel but not polished stainless. We felt that it was more important for the pot filler to match the range, so the pot filler is in polished chrome and the faucet is in polished stainless (to also hopefully match the range).
THIS KEPT ME UP AT NIGHT. Not knowing how different those three metals would be next to each other (polished chrome, polished stainless and brushed stainless) was a real source of stress for me. The good news? YOU DON’T EVEN NOTICE ANY DIFFERENCE and it looks really beautiful. Do I recommend taking this risk and adding this source of stress in your life? No. And yes, of course, I could have just chosen polished nickel for both faucets, but PN is definitely warmer than the chrome on the range. I could have chosen brushed nickel to hopefully match the brushed stainless of the range, but I don’t love brushed nickel.
These are the things that really stressed me out in this project, and I’m glad I learned a lot. I’m so glad I didn’t just phone it in and choose matching brushed nickel faucets that technically “worked,” but one of the biggest lessons I learned is that when a project is finished, when you pull back both visually and mentally and look at is as a whole, what you see is this beautiful layered finished room and you truly don’t notice the tiny things you thought you would.
Being in this kitchen feels good. The green is the perfect amount of bold, the lighting, stove and appliances just SING and that pretty soft tile and flooring are so classic, timeless yet fresh.
This room had okay light, but not as much as it could have had and as you know, natural light is EVERYTHING in a space. So we put in this huge Velux skylight that brings it all in and really changed the space. If you are renovating, please don’t forget to think about the option of a skylight—it can be a missed opportunity (I should know, I didn’t in our kids’ bathroom and am seriously considering adding one in a few years).
While it’s just me standing up there grinning from ear to ear, I think we all know that I didn’t do this alone. A huge thanks goes out to Brady, Julie, Priscilla, JP (the GC of Sierra Customs Home), Ken, Jenna (for initial project management), and Annie the architect.
There she is folks. The Portland Project kitchen reveal. And yes we have CLOSED on the house YAY!!! I’m debating doing a big old post about the construction and staging process and how much it all cost versus the time and investment put into it. Some of you really don’t like it when I talk money, and it can feel gross but you know what, so is the net profit sometimes which I think is fun to share. Also, LESSONS WERE LEARNED and you know how I love to share those. I fixed all my design mistakes and regrets in this house, but there are some project management and budget allocations that I would have done differently, especially for an investment project—AKA there are some things that we probably didn’t need to splurge on and while I don’t regret them because the house turned out so beautifully, the profit margin decreased substantially by a lot of my design choices. So if you are curious about those, let me know in the comments and we’ll pull together the post.
Oh, and be sure to come back tomorrow for a post that’s ALL about the appliances (including my choice to make most of the major pieces panel-ready).
Before we move on to the Get the Look, I just wanted to quickly put this shot in for anyone who will be all like BUT WHERE ARE THE OUTLETS. We did a poll earlier this week on my Insta Stories after we did the master bathroom reveal, and people seemed into seeing “real life” images instead of Photoshopped for aesthetics. No outlets = visually cleaner for showcasing images like these, but I wanted you to get a glimpse at an image WITH outlets, and get your thoughts in the comments about whether you’d rather see things like outlets in images we showcase, prefer something pristine without them, or don’t really care either way!