How I Navigated an Unexpected Kitchen Renovation in Days

Squish. That’s the noise the tile floor in my kitchen made under my feet when I stepped on it one day this summer. As water slowly pooled around the grout, I (naively) thought it was because we’d just gotten a puppy, and he was dripping water on our floor. But when the squishy water situation got even worse the next day, my husband and I knew we needed to call insurance. After coming out to assess the damage, they told us the words no homeowner wants to hear: You have a leak, and it’s gotten under your floor.

A few years ago, we bought our first home—a 1970’s ranch house in Birmingham, Alabama that needed some work. Since then, we’ve painted every interior wall of the house (and scraped all of the outdated texture), renovated two bathrooms, added a new roof, created a small back patio, and more. While we’re no strangers to managing home projects, we were certainly not expecting an old copper pipe behind our sink to randomly burst and (not-so-slowly) leak water under our kitchen floor. Regardless, we knew we had to get that floor ripped up and start remediation ASAP (warm Alabama weather + moisture = not good).

Mold is gross, and no one wants it in their home, but as someone who’s highly allergic to mold, I really didn’t want it in my home. So my husband and I were faced with a unique situation: We had just a few days to let the industrial fans dry everything out, settle with insurance, find a contractor, and start designing our dream kitchen. I let my husband handle the insurance claim while I set out to conceive a space with a make-believe budget. We didn’t know if we were going to get a single penny from insurance or if we did settle our claim, how much money we would actually get for the project. This made choosing things like flooring a huge challenge—for example: Should I go with the $5-a-square-foot budget version we could afford with our emergency savings or upgrade to a luxe patterned kitchen tile if we were working with a more generous budget?

 

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Beyond flooring, our kitchen was from the 1970’s and all of the cabinets were built custom on site. Since insurance determined that they couldn’t be matched or salvaged, they all had to be ripped out and replaced (something I was not at all upset about since they were pretty hideous). While insurance did pay for the full claim since it was a freak incident—and I’m truly so grateful for that—the settlement amount was…not great. It would just barely cover a bare-bones reno (looking at you, $5-square-foot flooring). As an editor at VERANDA, I was excited for the design challenge but concerned about the budget and timing of everything—realistically we had just days to come up with our design since cabinets can take weeks or even months to be delivered (and I wanted my kitchen back in one piece ASAP).

kitchen remodel

The “during” of our kitchen renovation. Gorgeous, right?

Jaime Milan

Here’s the thing: Whenever you renovate your home, it’s stressful. It can be agonizing choosing a kitchen design when there are so many beautiful spaces to be inspired by, and as a VERANDA editor, designing my own home is brutal since I get to look at photos of the world’s most beautiful homes every single day (read: figuring out your own design aesthetic is tough when you’re surrounded by everyone else’s beautiful spaces). Even though it was nail-biting working on such a tight design deadline, I’m grateful that I had such a short window because it forced me to be super decisive. My process was simple-ish: I thought about our family’s routines and how we used the space; then I tried to make it equally beautiful and usable.

I love to cook, and we spend a lot of time entertaining in our kitchen, so I knew the space had to be functional and have lots of storage for my appliances and cookware. As much as I adore the look of floating shelves (and they’re one of the biggest kitchen trends right now), I opted for both upper and lower cabinets to maximize our small space. I also knew that I didn’t want an all-white kitchen. I’m a messy cook, and the idea of spaghetti sauce on a beautiful white cabinet freaked me out. Plus, our home is pretty neutral, so I wanted to bring in a big splash of color with the cabinet paint.

After quickly diving down a Pinterest rabbit hole and swatching some paint on our existing cabinets, I settled on the perfect color: Pewter Green by Sherwin Williams. Since it’s a bold and moody color, I wanted to carry it throughout the room (we ended up swathing it on our upper cabinets, lower cabinets, range hood, and coffee bar for maximum visual impact). This dramatic decision helped a lot of the other design elements fall into place.

kitchen remodel

I wanted to keep the rest of our kitchen design light and neutral to let the cabinets be the focal point, so I added a linen-colored ceramic tile floor and white quartz countertops with subtle gold veining. I also added some “jewelry” with a shimmery white zellige backsplash, champagne bronze hardware, and funky brass light fixtures. For the pièce de résistance, I opted for an oversized flush-mount white farm sink with a large-scale faucet to match. Since our sink is situated under a window in the center of our kitchen, I wanted it to be a focal point when people walked into the room. I added a beautiful satin brass faucet from DXV to help give the sink a little extra pizazz (and I personally think the large scale of the faucet adds some welcome drama).

Overall, I love my fast-turnaround kitchen design, and I’m so grateful that we got a chance to revamp the space (even if it took a pipe bursting behind the sink and leaking under my floor). Though home renovations are always a little bit stressful, and you will want to pull out your hair at times, it is possible to nail down your design quickly while staying true to your aesthetic.