Reveal Alert: How Albie Designed The Hygge Inspired Luxe Kitchen Of Her Dreams (+ What She Learned Along The Way)
Six months ago I began what I thought would be a “quick and easy” kitchen renovation. The plan was to get in and out in 4 weeks and y’all… I was so naive! I underestimated how long things would take and how quickly things could get derailed. Thankfully, with all the frustrations came valuable lessons, and now my family and I finally get to reap the benefits of our labor.
Before we get into the pretty after pics that we’ve all been waiting for, we have to take a trip down memory lane…
From the first time my realtor saw the kitchen, she knew it had potential. She was right. As soon as I saw the kitchen for myself, I knew immediately what I would do to create a kitchen perfect for our family. Or so I thought.
When I first introduced you to the kitchen makeover a couple months back, I shared my design plan:
- Open up the floor plan to create a galley kitchen for better flow
- Create custom storage solutions to fit our lifestyle needs & design wants
- Honor the home’s existing charm while staying true to our design ethos
Simple enough, right?
This wasn’t intended to be a super extensive renovation, yet just about everything was touched to make this all come together — the walls, lighting, countertops, cabinets…even the flooring (which wasn’t planned) got an upgrade. All of these updates came together to take the kitchen from its more traditional leanings to a design that feels both luxe & cozy.
For the hygge inspired luxe design I envisioned, I knew I wanted to marry bold designs elements with soft, warm touches in a way that would feel intentional. Now don’t get me wrong… I had no plans on sacrificing function for style–both weighed equal in importance to make this renovation work–so while I was swooning over the pretty parts, I was also fine-tuning all the utilitarian details that would make the kitchen actually work. I treated this like I would any project–personal or client–giving myself a design plan, allowing myself to take risks, an d practicing a lot of agility.
During the demo, we had to change all the flooring — unplanned! — which meant an 11th hour run to buy new flooring. Once the demo was complete, we realized one of the walls was off-center, which meant either relocating our roof vent or changing one of our cabinets — one would cost money, the other would cost time… we chose time, and changed the cabinet size. The fabricator’s timeline was pushed back due to their workload, meaning waiting months to get countertops, which led to a complete halt to the renovation. And back-ordered shelves meant having to reselect and reconfigure that design element.
My patience was tested, in addition to my know-how as a designer, homeowner, and content creator… in the worst and best ways. In reselecting, we found some newly released options we loved and in waiting we problem solved for other parts of the reno. Wearing all those hats for this project wore me out — I almost threw in the towel more than a few times! — but I always came back to my why: To finally have the kitchen of my dreams!
For years, I lived with kitchens that did the job but never excited me. Yeah, I explored all kinds of renter-friendly and reversible ways to level em up, but now I could finally get exactly what I want, how I want. I’ll admit that this project tested my resolve in ways I hadn’t anticipated–how bad do I want this, was this a good idea, and what did I get myself into?! On the other side of those questions, however, I knew it would be worth it. With all the logistical challenges–COVID induces delays, coordinating trade schedules, back-ordered product selections–the biggest challenges had less to do with the tangible, and more to do with the personal. It’s one thing to get invested in a client project, it’s something totally different when it’s your own, so for better or for worse, you have to live with it… literally.
I took design risks I never got a chance to take and had to do some wicked unexpected problem-solving. If those choices backfired, it was on me. If those choices paid off big… also on me… and in turn, directly impacting my husband & daughter.
With all this came some severe cases of imposter syndrome and decision fatigue.
Having a nearly two-month delay ended up being a much-needed reprieve, and gave me the creative space to tackle a lower lift project — our bonus bedroom. By the time we picked back up on the renovation, I felt refreshed and ready to cross the finish line.
As I said before, this wasn’t intended to be a full renovation but as the project progressed more renovating happened than I originally thought. Here’s what went down:
- We took down the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room
- Added new appliances to coordinate with the existing ones
- Installed new cabinets, including a wall of cabinets, for a new layout
- Replaced the dated lighting fixtures
- Used cooler paint colors, contracted with a dark backsplash
- Opted for open shelvings instead of upper cabinets
Every design decision was about choosing solutions that would be best for us, while also finding ways to do so with swag and style. Our new granite composite farmhouse sink workstation paired with the brass finished industrial style faucet, for example, were total upgrades from the previous sink and faucet combo. The old ones were “fine” and would’ve matched the space but they didn’t make my heart sing… so I changed em!
Backsplash | Shelving | Brackets | Blender | Range hood | Range Caddy | Salt & Pepper Grinder Set | Wood utensils | Faux Succulent |Round Cutting Board | Countertop | Cabinets | Pulls | Stove | Refrigerator | Always Pan | Pasta Bowls | Mixer
On the other hand, in choosing to keep the existing marquee appliances — dishwasher, fridge, and stove — I can now enjoy a black-on-black appliance suite that is a sleek and practical upgrade. I replaced their over the stove microwave with a matte black range hood & opted for a built-in microwave oven, separate from the stove. With that, I also treated us to a brand new wine fridge.
Where the previous homeowners had an eat-in area, I saw an opportunity to add more storage and create my very own at-home cafe — the hygge ranch cafe — for early morning cereal, mid-day lattes, and late-night glasses of wine.
The cafe is also a lens in which all the different yet complementary elements come together.
- The matte black backsplash serves as a contrasting backdrop to the matte white cabinetry.
- Flanking the feature wall of vertically stacked subway tiles is an unexpected pop of distressed gold wallpaper.
- The floating walnut shelves feature a slatted design and sit atop L-shaped brass brackets, unlike the other walls with solid shelves & “strap” brackets.
This area of the kitchen is where I really flexed my design muscle because why not?!
As proud as I am of all these design moments, like I said, it came with a lot of decision fatigue. When the overwhelm and fatigue would start to settle in, I’d start to organize! I took my time designing our cabinets so that I could optimize our storage throughout the kitchen… and all that meticulous planning paid off with everything exactly where we’d comfortably need it to be. If you know me, even just a little bit, then you know organizing is like my therapy — it gives me something to do with my anxious energy and keeps me focused on a singular task.
For the renovation, however, it helped me in other ways… it helped us as a family. I took my time designing our cabinets so that I could optimize our storage throughout the kitchen… and all that meticulous planning paid off with everything exactly where we’d comfortably need it to be. Good design isn’t just pretty…it’s functional. I was able to intentionally allocate places for everything so that we could fully enjoy the kitchen.
I designed, I planned, I shopped, I waited, I pivoted, I tiled, I organized, I waited some more, I cleaned, then finally, I styled… and now we’re here!
I actually hadn’t realized so much time had lapsed from when this project began until going through my IG archives! This was a project that, at the onset, seemed so simple and like something we could breeze through. In addition to the satisfaction of being able to breathe and simply enjoy my kitchen, all of this work yielded one unexpected side effect: now I actually enjoy cooking and baking all the time!
I always loved baking but never really did it as much as I liked. Cooking was never my jam. Now… I’m in the kitchen all day, every day… willingly. This showed me that my disdain for kitchen chore work had more to do with the kitchen than it did with the chore itself. You guys… even washing the dishes doesn’t bother me anymore!
*let’s out deep & audible exhale*
I have been waiting for this day for so long — and I know y’all have been too! — and now that you guys can enjoy the kitchen with me, it really is a huge relief. You guys have been along for the entire kitchen rollercoaster over on my Instagram and I feel like after all this, I owe you more than pretty pictures… like I owe you some sage advice or parting words of wisdom, so here goes…
If you are planning a kitchen renovation — really any renovation — no matter how small or simple you think it’ll be, allocate extra time, allow yourself creative respites, don’t be afraid to pivot, and get yourself a reno buddy. I know I wouldn’t have gotten through this alone, so it was fated that Rashida Banks and I would be simultaneously renovating our kitchens at the same time on opposite coasts.
After months of patiently waiting with me, are you ready for some side by sides?
In case you wanna get into all the different elements that went into designing the kitchen — cabinets, countertops, tile work, etc. — I’ve been breaking them down over on my blog. And if you were just here for the pretty pics, here’s one more for the road.