Kitchen Reno

First World Problems

Kitchen Reno

As I’ve mentioned, our kitchen has infuriatingly little cabinet and counter space for a room of its size—290 square feet thanks to a wall that was knocked down sometime before we owned the house. The storage squeeze has led to some desperate organizational measures on my part, such as converting a broom closet in the hallway into a pantry and hanging a shoe bag on the door to hold overflow items like cake and cheese knifes, an apple corer, standing mixer parts, and birthday candles.

The layout is equally irritating. It takes a person — who in this house is usually carrying a colander, handful of washed grapes, or sloshing water cup — seven steps to walk from the sink to the island, and these drippy treks have taken their toll on the wood floors. Another pet peeve: the kitchen table where we eat most of our meals is difficult to maneuver around (and impossible for my wheelchair-bound father-in-law) and perched perilously close to the stairs leading to our sunken family room.

Living on the edge: A child throws food from his seat near the family room stairs while his reckless parents snap photos.

I’ve written about enough beautiful kitchens to know roughly what I want for our space, and what we can afford. This photo from Houzz captures the essence of the modern farmhouse look I love.


What stumped us was how to transform our bowling lane-shaped kitchen with six door openings and two windows eating up precious wall space into a functional workroom. We had a couple of meetings with a designer at a local home center, who made several game-changing suggestions: position the island parallel to the long walls to gain more counter space, move family meals to the island and lose the unwieldy table, and get rid of a small north-facing window, creating a solid wall for cabinetry and appliances. But we found that working with stock cabinets in our oddly configured space made it difficult to position appliances and certain items on our wish list, such as a china cabinet and open shelves, where we wanted them. I had assumed custom cabinetry was well out of our price range until I did this interview with Ben Block of Block Brothers Custom Cabinets. Next week I’ll reveal how the red-bearded woodworker from Searsport won us over.


  1. Sharon Smith

    Where will your father-in-law eat his meals if you have an island surrounded by tall chairs?

    If your wood floors are being damaged by ordinary traffic, apply a stronger finish to them.

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Hi Sharon—the island is something we have refined in the final design to be more kid and father-in-law friendly. I will show the plans next week! And, man, do our floors need a stronger finish. This will happen during the renovation. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  2. Mary Ann Yavelow

    We live in a Dutch Colonial in Florida built in 1976. We renovated our kitchen in 2005. Our contractor refused to put wood floors in the kitchen due to possible “water issues” with plumbing and dishwasher. We opted for tile and never regretted it. We kept the integrity of the kitchen to stay with our Colonial abode and were able to add more cabinate space with updated cabinates.

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Your home sounds beautiful Mary Ann and, boy, what I would give to be in Florida right now! Thank you so much for your feedback.

  3. Nancy

    Sarah, I can’t wait to see your kitchen! Really, the shoe bag was quite the clever fix. I am looking forward to using so many of your ideas in our new home. Thank you for your humor and wonderful ideas.
    PS…sorry about the carrying and borrowing!

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Aw, thank you Nancy! As you can see, I have found a career that doesn’t require too much math — pfew. I really appreciate that you are reading!

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