...because home doesn't happen overnight.
I first heard about Blue Apron from our friends in Nashville. Sara and I were bonding over our shared dislike for cooking (but love of good food) when she pulled a folder from a kitchen drawer. Inside were dozens of Blue Apron recipes that she and her husband had tried and liked. She told me that not only were the recipes easy to make and delicious but the kicker was that the company delivered all the fresh ingredients right to their doorstep in exactly the right proportions. No grocery shopping with whiny kids. No wasted ingredients. And shipping was free.
Sara and John both work full-time and have a young daughter. Sara is a physician and her job requires her to be on call several weeks out of the year. Those weeks can be stressful and chaotic not knowing if / when Sara will be called in to work. So during those weeks they subscribe to Blue Apron. Sara doesn’t have to worry about her family going hungry should she get called away. When Sara isn’t on call, they suspend or cancel their service until the next time she is. There’s no commitment.
I was completely intrigued.
Fast forward to three weeks ago when Steve underwent an emergency appendectomy. The recovery was hard on everyone. Between looking after the kids and caring for Steve, I had no time or energy to think about grocery shopping or what to make for dinner. We were in survival mode and eating takeout more than I care to admit. That’s when I remembered Blue Apron.
I ordered three meals for the week. You can choose to feed two, four or six people. We are a family of five. I remembered Sara saying the portions were generous so I chose the four-person option to keep waste to a minimum. The ingredients arrived in a refrigerated box. One tomato was slightly smushed but usable and everything else was in perfect condition. Sara had mentioned to me that all the packaging was a downfall but, honestly, it wasn’t any worse than the takeout we had been getting. I put the ice packs in our freezer to reuse and we recycled the cardboard boxes, paper bags and plastic cups / bottles.
Everything is divvied up in the exact amounts for foolproof cooking. The only ingredients you need to have on hand are olive oil, salt and pepper. Every recipe includes images of each step which we found extremely helpful.
Basically, I prepped the ingredients then Layne was able to follow the directions to cook the meals while I supervised. (Btw, the day your kid makes you dinner is one for the record books. Kind of makes all those sleepless nights and dirty diapers worth it. Ha!)
Here, Layne is making Filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice. This was Steve’s favorite. It was labeled as four servings but we easily got 6-8 servings out of it. Based on our experience, I would venture to say the standard $9.99 per meal price ends up being more like $5-$8 per meal depending on the recipe.
We also tried the cod & pattypan squash en papillote with garlic butter & fresh herb salad. You guys, I cooked with parchment paper for the first time! And, yes, the parchment paper came as an ingredient with the service. Really. The peeps at Blue Apron think of everything so you don’t have to.
The pan-seared chicken & sautéed bulgur with tomato salad & creamy lemon-yogurt sauce was my favorite. Each recipe was delicious but what I especially liked about the meals was that there wasn’t any need to prepare side dishes. The meals were, in fact, meals. It was nice to try some new foods, too. Chayote squash, anyone?
Overall, Steve and I were super impressed with Blue Apron. We’ll definitely be using the service again during especially hectic weeks. Although, I hope it doesn’t involve another appendectomy. All I could think during our week of service was “Where was this when our kids were newborns?!”
Would you try Blue Apron? It would make a great gift for new parents, an ailing friend or a homesick college student in need of a healthy homemade meal. The service is available nationwide. Check here for a full map of delivery zones. The first 50 House*Tweaking readers to sign up here will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!
*This post is sponsored in part by Blue Apron. All images, content and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Framed engineer prints are everywhere. Have you seen them? I especially love the ones featured here, here and here. I had been looking for a large piece of artwork to hang in the boys’ room when it dawned on me that an engineer print might be the ticket.
I had taken a photo with my phone of Layne and Everett on our recent trip to Florida. They’re mid-air jumping into a pool and it just exudes BOY. I had the photo blown up into a 2′ x 3′ black and white engineer print at Staples. (I quickly ordered the print online.) One day and $3 later, I had the print in hand. Since the print was so inexpensive, I “splurged” on a wood poster frame.
The print isn’t the highest quality and the paper is thin but for $3 I wasn’t expecting perfection. Also, the image doesn’t fill out the entire 3′ length – it’s more like 32″. This probably has something to do with the fact that I took the photo using the VSCO app. I might DIY a mat but next time I want the image to fill the entire frame. The frame itself is nice for a poster frame. The wood gives it a more expensive look and the facing is acrylic (not glass) which is ideal for a kids’ room.
Layne and Everett LOVE it and that’s all that matters anyway. The plan is to switch out the print for a current photo of the boys each year. I really like the idea of this being a feature that evolves as the boys grow. And at $3 per print, we can afford to change the imagery whenever boredom strikes.
Have you tried enlarging a candid photo into an engineer print yet? It’s so easy and inexpensive and instantly adds personality to any space.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Ohhhhh, the kitchen.
The original kitchen was walled off from the living and dining rooms.
If the cabinets had been in better shape, we might have tried to work with them but, sadly, they were rotted and the doors / drawers didn’t open or close properly. The odd layout assigned the refrigerator to a lone corner with no storage or counter space nearby. There was no dishwasher.
One thing we liked about the kitchen was the window above the sink which looks out onto the backyard. It was one of the few windows that had been replaced by the previous owner.
To enlarge the kitchen and create a more functional layout without altering the house’s original footprint, we removed walls separating the kitchen, living and dining rooms. We aren’t formal people so the small dining room was relocated to allow for a large island. The dining room window was replaced with french doors to connect the kitchen to the backyard. A vaulted ceiling and skylights flood the north-facing space with natural light. It’s a far cry from the dark, soffit-heavy room we started with.
We had our plumber run new water and gas lines to accommodate the current layout. A counter-depth refrigerator stands where the stove once lived. A freestanding range occupies the site where a wall used to separate the kitchen from the original dining room. A new dishwasher is located to the right of the sink. It’s hidden behind a cover panel that matches the base cabinetry. When the house came to us, a microwave sat in a corner eating up precious counter space. We added a shelf next to the refrigerator to house the microwave and a few cookbooks which freed up counter space for a coffeemaker, toaster and shelf of drinking glasses.
One thing we didn’t change was the location of the sink. I like that I am able to look out the window when I’m washing dishes to admire the greenery or watch the kids playing.
We opted for solid surface countertops around the perimeter of the kitchen for easy maintenance. An extra deep, under-mounted, single basin sink makes cleanup a breeze.
The nine-foot-long island is the hub of the house. It sees as much Play-doh, crafting and homework as it does meal prep, entertaining and casual dining. We topped it with a walnut slab to give it the feel of a wood table since we eat most of our meals here. It’s a warm contrast to the granite in the rest of the room. Guests always comment on the island and wood top saying they feel like they’re at a bar. We take it as a compliment.
We suspended a trio of pendants above the island. I wanted something that would punctuate the island but not impede the view of the kitchen from the adjoining living space. Clear globe lights were an ideal choice. I especially like the black cloth cords. The pendants are on a dimmer so we can have bright light for food prep or low light for dining and ambiance.
I chose durable metal counter stools to stand up to the kids and their inevitable messes. I wipe them down with a wet cloth and they look brand new. To keep the view from the living room to the kitchen uninterrupted, the stools are backless. This feature also makes it easy to turn around to talk with someone in the living room. Initially, I had some reservations about using backless stool with kids but it hasn’t been an issue.
We kept the back wall free of upper cabinetry and installed reclaimed wood shelves. A sleek range hood and minimal backsplash add to the open feel. It’s nice to look over from the living room and not be bombarded with a slew of wall cabinets or an entire wall of tile. I really wanted the kitchen to feel like an extension of the living space instead of a kitchen thrown into a living room. To achieve this, we continued the engineered hardwood flooring into the kitchen. The wood flooring, walnut island top and reclaimed wood shelving help bring warmth to an innately utilitarian room.
The cabinetry is Ikea. From the get-go, I had my heart set on a tuxedo kitchen: dark lowers, white uppers. I wanted dark base cabinets to ground the kitchen in such an open space. I wanted white wall cabinets to keep things light. A mix of black and white just made sense.
We fell hard for the Ramsjö black-brown base cabinets but were disappointed with the slightly pink tone of the coordinating white wall cabinets. In the end, we used three different door styles. (Ramsjö black-brown, solid front for the bases and Lidingö white, solid and glass-front for the uppers.) I was a little worried about the mix on paper but in real life I think it goes a long way in helping the kitchen feel less generic.
One end of the kitchen is devoted to paying bills, making grocery lists, creating meal plans and all the other secretarial tasks that go along with running a household. It’s also where I do the majority of writing and photo editing for the blog. Essentially, it’s a home office. Base cabinets hold a printer, office supplies and the kids’ crafting supplies. Upper, glass-front cabinets provide pretty storage. I use an assortment of baskets, bins and boxes to corral vitamins, batteries, camera accessories, receipts, crayons and a bunch of other miscellaneous. The planked backsplash is a repeated element also found on the ceiling and TV wall.
To give the kitchen space a cozy vibe, I added greenery, artwork, vintage rugs, an upholstered desk stool and a linen-covered lamp. It feels lived. It is lived in.
There are a few tweaks yet to be made in the kitchen. (We need to add a trim piece next to an upper cabinet in the corner near the microwave and I’m brainstorming an interactive side panel for the refrigerator.) But I’m very lucky to be able to spend the majority of my time in this bright and airy space. In the evening when the kitchen is tidy after dinner and the dishwasher is humming away, I pour myself a glass of wine and golden light glows through the skylights. It’s my happy place.
Resources of note:
wall paint – Benjamin Moore tapestry beige
trim, ceiling, planked backsplash paint – Benjamin Moore white dove
french door paint – Glidden trim & door oil paint, extra high gloss in deepest black
flooring – Jasper engineered hardwood handscraped birch in Texas brown via Build Direct
base cabinets – Ikea, Ramsjö black-brown
wall cabinets – Ikea, Lidingö white
perimeter countertop – kashmir white granite via Stone Design
walnut countertop – Hardwood Lumber Company
island corbels – The Home Depot
hardware – Ikea (Värde handles sans rosettes)
refrigerator, dishwasher, gas range, range hood – Ikea
microwave – LG
sink – Kraus 32″ undermount single bowl
faucet – VIGO stainless steel pull-out
backsplash tile – imperial bianco gloss 2″ x 12″ via The Tile Shop
backsplash grout – Laticrete epoxy grout in natural grey
globe pendant lights – West Elm
counter stools – Overstock
wall sconce above sink – Barn Light Electric
house artwork near sink – gift
spice rack – Ikea
glass storage containers – Wal-mart
kitchen towels – Crate & Barrel
step stool – Ikea, painted & stained
rug near sink – ebay (seller was manhattanrugs)
open shelving - DIY using Ikea brackets and reclaimed wood
oil & vinegar drizzlers – Amazon (These are the best!)
stainless steel containers – Target
antlers – etsy
black & white planter – vintage
rug near desk – etsy
desk stool – Blu Dot knicker stool
laptop bag – STM
blue & white planter – JoAnn’s
letter tray - Ikea
magazine files – Ikea
linen lamp – Crate & Barrel
wood cubby – Kalon Studios
highchair – Ikea
art above highchair – Clare Elsaesser
mat & frame – Utrecht art supplies
tongue & groove planks – Home Emporium
skylights – Velux
In case you’re interested in seeing how this space came together over time, a slew of kitchen-related links:
For ease, you can access this kitchen tour under the “See My House” tab in the side bar along with a general house tour and the living room tour. I’ll be adding more rooms in the weeks to come. Thanks for reading!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Obligatory preamble rambling: When we were renovating our kitchen, I searched high and low for any information I could find on Ikea kitchens. The results were few and far between. We did end up with an Ikea kitchen (which we love) but I’d like to shed more light on Ikea kitchen renovations from the perspective of other real life homeowners. It’s something I wish we would have had access to when we were considering Ikea for our own kitchen remodel. Plus, it’s fun to see how others use Ikea to suit their personal style and needs in the kitchen. I hope you find these posts helpful and inspiring – whether you ultimately end up with an Ikea kitchen or not. Enjoy!
After renting for nearly a decade, Annie and Greg bought their first home in 2011. Since then, they’ve slowly been updating the 1950′s house located in southern Minnesota. With a job relocation to Seattle on the horizon, they decided to tackle the kitchen to get the most bang for their buck when they list the house in a few months. They considered making do with the original cabinets but realized a few coats of paint wouldn’t address the need for a better functioning layout and more counter space. Keeping their small budget and future resale in mind, they opted to source most of their kitchen components from Ikea. I asked Annie several questions about their experience. Find her answers and images of the newly remodeled kitchen below.
Which items in your kitchen hail from Ikea?
The cabinets, doors, drawer fronts and toe kick are all from Ikea.
What made you decide to source these items from Ikea?
We never considered going elsewhere for those items due to our numerous trips to the Twin Cities Ikea where we’d snoop through their kitchen displays and dream. My husband, Greg, is a design and process engineer with a construction background and I’m a stickler for good design as well. Quality, design and function are important to us. Ikea delivered those aspects and fit our small budget. You can’t beat the hinges and door dampers on the soft-closing cabinets. We outfitted most of our 9′ x 10′ galley kitchen for ~$2,600. People don’t believe us unless they’ve also researched and / or created an Ikea kitchen.
Who designed your kitchen? What aesthetic were you aiming for?
The design was our own. We wanted to increase the amount of storage while not overwhelming the small space. We’re putting the house on the market in a few months to move to Seattle for my husband’s career. We’re trying to keep the same feel from room to room. Every bit of our house has been updated or renovated and the kitchen was the last room to finish on the main floor. I think it flows very well which goes to show Ikea’s versatility.
Did you assemble and install all Ikea kitchen components yourself? If not, what did you seek help with?
The two of us assembled and installed the cabinets. We read that putting the cabinets and drawers together was a pain but we didn’t have a problem. Once assembled, we stored the cabinets in the master bedroom to keep them away from our dogs and my accident-prone ways.
How did you customize your Ikea kitchen to suit your needs and preferred aesthetic?
The original plan was to keep the old cabinets and paint them then add a new sink, faucet and countertop. One side of the 1952 kitchen had the stove and refrigerator next to one another with no counter space whatsoever which bothered us quite a bit. I’m short and the shelves in the old cabinets were hard for me to reach – even with a step stool. Once we started looking at the facts and what it would take to update the old cabinets, we realized it wouldn’t look or function any better. We said, nope, let’s go to Ikea. Let’s start fresh.
After that I started designing the space with the Ikea kitchen planner online. I took a few afternoons scattered over a few weeks to go over layout options with all the measurements. Then we took a Sunday to revise it together and arrive at the final design.
I pictured the new cabinets going nearly to the top of the 9′ ceiling to bring the eye up and make the space look larger. (That was one thing I liked about the old cabinets.) I wanted to make it look more custom with crown molding. The trash and recycling also have their own place inside of a pull-out base cabinet which we love. We definitely wanted a better layout and more storage. It’s odd that we have more storage now – I still have empty drawers and shelves actually! – even though we omitted upper cabinets by the stove in the new design. Less cabinets and more storage is pretty awesome.
The fridge took some work because it is not counter-depth. We had to shorten the door opening by 7” to get a built-in look after removing a pocket door and widening the doorway. Today, the doorway goes with the scale of the house and makes the kitchen and dining room feel more like one space. Carpet is not my friend and it was in the dining room. Gag. We installed hardwood flooring in both rooms for added cohesion.
There were a few kitchens on my Pinterest board I was obsessed with which lead me to the hardware, the butcher block countertop and a single basin sink. My original idea for the countertops was soapstone but butcher block is more affordable and more forgiving. We work with wood furniture in our design / refurbishing business so it’s not a big deal for us to repair it. The more it ages, the better it looks to me. We didn’t install a backsplash because I think it’s a personal decision better left to the next owner…who I hope sends me a picture. I did consider a few backsplash options. We have subway tile in both bathrooms, marble in one bathroom and various of shades of gray throughout the house which were all tile options that caught my attention.
I wanted high contrast between the off-white ÄDEL cabinets and accessories so we used an almost matte black, oil-rubbed bronze in the details. The hardware has modern lines but the warm wood countertops and classic schoolhouse lights keep the room from leaning too contemporary. My taste tends to be modern rustic.
How long was it from design to the final product?
We did very little to the kitchen until October of 2012 when we removed the laundry chute the previous owner had in the kitchen. I ran into the chute cabinet at least three times a day. The two of us removed the pocket door and opened the doorway to a nice 55” from the 26” it had been. We didn’t start the real work until March of this year.
The Ikea kitchen sale started late February which was right after we finished renovating a bathroom. Mid-way into the sale we went to Ikea with our design, logged into our kitchen planner account and asked the kitchen specialists a ton of questions. A specialist printed off our list, added what was needed (an important step since not everything is correct or included on the list) and we had our total in about five minutes. $2,634 didn’t even qualify for the discount which was fine with us. At that time, Ikea had everything we needed in stock but since we were not purchasing that day we had to call ahead to inquire about availability – especially because of the ongoing kitchen sale.
We nailed down our finances a few weeks later then returned to Ikea to order our kitchen. It was only $99 to deliver to our home a little more than 30 minutes away.
Everything was in stock and could have been delivered a few days after ordering but we requested a later delivery to accommodate our schedules. The delivery company called on a Tuesday to say they would be in our area the following day. I called back and scheduled the drop-off which fell into a 5PM to 9PM time slot when we’d both be home from work. Wednesday rolled around and the delivery company left a voicemail at 2PM saying they would be at our house in 40 minutes and that if we couldn’t be there we’d have to reschedule. This was our only unhappy moment. (Ikea hires the delivery out so it’s not really much of a reflection on them.) Luckily, Greg was able to leave work early and arrive home just before the delivery truck. Nothing was damaged upon arrival and we signed off with the delivery company. Simple and fast.
I immediately checked the list. Everything was accounted for. We started putting the cabinets together that night for a few hours. It took three weekday evenings and a total of six hours to assemble most of the components. Having years of experience in his family’s construction business, Greg wanted to do the rest on installation day. He’s an engineer and was impressed with the assembly method. If you pour out the box contents correctly it practically puts itself together. A screw gun is handy, too.
Installation was easy and we spread it out over two weekends. The suspension rail was simple to use and helped a lot since it was just the two of us. The problems we did encounter were part of the kitchen structure itself: uneven walls and ceiling. You know, stuff that goes along with older houses.
Custom framing came into play for the cabinet above the fridge and the tall pantry cabinet. Otherwise, the process was pretty straightforward.
The flooring installation was aggravating compared to the cabinets. It took us a few weekday evenings in a row to knock it out. We were a tiny bit shy of toe kick in the end and we damaged a set of shelves at some point during installation. A trip to Ikea and $20 solved those issues.
How long have you lived with your Ikea kitchen? Have you encountered any problems?
The new kitchen has existed for about a month. Out of habit, we still find ourselves walking into the dining room looking for the fridge because that’s where we kept it during the reno. There haven’t been any concerns or problems. With our rambunctious pups, the floor has been scratched even though we use rugs. The cabinets are fine. I accidentally ram my step stool into them on a daily basis and they stand strong. I love this space now.
What is your favorite thing about your kitchen? Least favorite?
I love the flow and storage. And, although we kept resale in mind, there is still a lot of us in the design. We lived in nine rentals over the course of ten years before buying this house and nothing was even close to feeling like us. I’m also a food blogger on top of a DIY / home improvement blogger so the kitchen is the room in which I could spend all day and be happy. It’s my meal prep space, where I catch up with my husband over a glass of wine, where I break out in song and dance on the new hardwood floor and where the designer in me geeks out. Honestly, my least favorite thing is that we’re moving soon and that we waited so long to tackle the kitchen. I’m also bummed about not having found the items to display on my counters yet.
Would you recommend Ikea as a source for a kitchen remodel?
That’s a big yes. We recommend Ikea to anyone who will listen. If you create a design that truly fits your needs, seek advice from the kitchen specialists, prepare and organize your lists (I make a lot of lists) and materials, dedicate time to assembly and installation, accept that some problems might arise but that you will face them and all will be well, you can have a beautiful, quality Ikea kitchen. If things aren’t going together easily that means you are probably doing something wrong and need to take a step back. For example, we first put the base plate of the hinges on backwards.
Would you consider Ikea for a future kitchen remodel?
In our next (Seattle) house, kitchen renovations will come first and Ikea will be a big part of it.
Resources of note:
cabinet frames, cabinet doors, drawer fronts, toe kick – Ikea, ÄDEL off-white
trim, molding – Menards
wall paint – Benjamin Moore rockport gray
trim paint – color-matched to Ikea ÄDEL off-white and Benjamin Moore decorators white
hardware – myknobs.com
kilim rug – ebay, vintage
butcher block countertop – builder outlet store
butcher block finish – dark raw tung oil + citrus solvent (waterproof, food-safe, all natural)
sink – build.com
faucet – Signature hardware
water filtration faucet – Amazon
range hood – <$200 at Rakuten.com
dishwasher – craigslist, $60
refrigerator and stove – already owned
lighting – Home Depot, Lowe’s
blinds – JCPenney
flooring – American Carpet Wholesalers
dining room pendant – Overstock
Thank you so much Annie for sharing the details of your kitchen renovation!
How amazing is it that less cabinetry actually resulted in more storage?! This small kitchen is an example of thoughtful design at its best. I love Annie’s choice of hardware and lighting alongside the white cabinets and wood countertops. And don’t get me started on that vintage rug. Inevitably, making the decision to spend a little more on the kitchen reno to gain counter space and storage was a smart choice. The new layout and classic design are sure to be advantages over comps when the couple lists the home in the near future. You can follow the couple’s home improvement adventures over on their blog and you can see what Annie’s whipping up in the new kitchen on her food blog. (Pssst…the bathroom renovations are equally inspiring!)
If you’re in the mood for more Ikea kitchens, check out the rest of this series:
An Ikea Kitchen in Brooklyn
An Ikea Kitchen in Orange County
An Ikea Kitchen in Texas Hill Country
An Ikea Kitchen in Chesapeake
An Ikea Kitchen in a Barn (in France!)
An Ikea Kitchen in Cape Cod
And if you have an Ikea kitchen (it doesn’t have to be 100% Ikea) that you would be willing to share on House*Tweaking, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
P.S. – Thanks to everyone who has already submitted an Ikea kitchen. I really, really, REALLY appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into bringing these posts to fruition. I have a slew of Ikea kitchens sitting in my inbox waiting to be featured. I apologize for the lapse in time between submission and the post going live. I’m buried in Ikea kitchens – in a good way! Keep ‘em comin’!
images: Annie at The Wits