If you had asked Margaret and me five years ago what our new kitchen would look like, we'd probably have both said it would have white cabinets and a black-and-white checkerboard pattern floor - classic, traditional, in keeping with the character of the house. The essence of that vision remains, but we took some turns along the way.
The first to go was the floor choice. Our “temporary” black-and-white checkerboard floor had the right look, but was impossible to keep clean. The tiniest speck of flour or sugar showed up prominently on a black square, and any scuff or crumb on a white square announced its presence loudly. And with two small children in the house, we had our share of specks and scuffs.
After looking at dozens of other flooring options, we decided to go with wood. Our next-door neighbor has a fir floor, and advised us to get something in a harder wood - softer woods simply scratch and dent too easily. Since the rest of the main floor is oak parquet, oak was the natural choice. We worried about being able to scrub it, but we learned (correctly, we hope!) that we could get a marine finish on it, a polyurethane finish so tough it's used on boats.
As we looked at cabinets and appliances, we realized that an all-white kitchen was going to look rather sterile. We wanted classic, not hospital! One option was to go with stainless appliances, but we just don't like them - our kids leave fingerprints as well as scuffmarks, and we both simply preferred the look of white appliances. (The relative cost of white compared to stainless helped seal that deal.)
With all white appliances, though, white cabinets seemed wrong (a failure of imagination if not of design). We were drawn to painted wood in colors other than white, and eventually we decided on a traditional recessed panel style in a light shade of green. As best we can imagine in the mind's eye, the cabinets, appliances, and floor will all work together nicely.
Having made those big decisions, though, we were faced with all the many other choices that flow from them. Deciding on a white refrigerator is one thing - picking the actual model is quite another. Margaret and I agreed on the freezer-on-the-bottom, French door design. But what brand? Plastic racks inside, or metal? In-door ice and water, or no? It was dizzying, and that was just the refrigerator. We still needed a dishwasher, range, and range hood before we were done with appliances.
The choices kept coming, and kept getting smaller, but they all carried some weight. Utensil divider in this base cabinet drawer, or in that one? (Pick the wrong one for the work space and we'll be bumping into each other for years as we try to clean up after a party.) How many lights, what style, and where to place them? (Poor lighting can ruin a kitchen's ambiance, and too little of it can make it difficult to work.) Where would we need outlets, light switches, dimmers, timers?
Drop-in sink or undermount? What material? One bowl or two? Spray hose inside the faucet, or beside it on the sink? What finish on that faucet? (OMG, that's just the sink!)
We generally know what we like, and we both have pretty good taste, but the difficulty is in seeing how all these little decisions will eventually come together. Since we were working with a terrific architect and contractor, we hadn't hired a separate kitchen designer, but we came to realize what we were missing. Our new kitchen will be born of a thousand individual choices (which are currently sitting in a big stack of shipping boxes in our living room!), and now we have to hope that they all combine into one cohesive style.
Next: It's electrifying! (Planning the wiring, that is.)
For more on remodeling your kitchen, consider:
Planning Your Dream Kitchen
Quick Tip: How to Choose Tile
Disguise Your Appliances