My kitchen design a year later: lots to love & some regrets


It’s been a year and a half since I finished renovating this kitchen and now, as I’m designing 2 other houses, I’m looking around at mine thinking hmmm….what would I change about this kitchen…. with the follow-up question of well…. then, should I?

Answer: It depends what they are, how much they bother me and of course how much the update would cost.

Let’s first talk about what I do love …. which is a lot.


That tile still makes me happy on a daily basis. I know it’s more popularly used now than it was 2 years ago, but in that color and in our kitchen I feel like I could never get sick of it.


The cabinetry is still wonderful in every way, I love the color, the inset style and the bead detailing. It was honestly hard to not design the exact same cabinetry for the Portland house because it fits that style and I just love it so much.

I still love those brass handles and they have patina’d BEAUTIFULLY.


The faucet and pot filler were live raw brass and while they do take more care than any sealed metal, they have patina’d really beautifully, too. I love them so much for this house. Let me be clear here – these things are fragile and high maintenance – you have to soften your water, use special cleaners and generally be paranoid about how you treat them. In the mountain house we are opting for polished, sealed brass or black because I don’t want the maintenance up there (besides this is a 100-year-old house and can handle the age, whereas up there it’s late 60’s so it’s less appropriate). It’s not for everyone or every house but I love it in this house.


Here’s a long aside about a pot filler …. As we are designing the Portland house my contractor told me that the pot filler is off-center of the range. At first I was like ‘Well we need to move it’ but then I realized that mine is CRAZY off center and it doesn’t bother me (ha, well it didn’t). I think there might be a reason it was placed where it was but I don’t remember.

Let this be a lesson to you AND ME – while renovating, remodeling or designing a house there are 1 million details that you will obsess over and at times you really need to ask yourself ‘is this something I’ll notice or does this actually happen all the time in other homes and you don’t even see it?’ I think the more “rules” of design I learn the more it’s super hard for me to “break” them, which has really slowed down my creative process (and probably helped the end product). For instance, the sconce placement in the master bathroom at the mountain house is super tricky and the type of light we choose will likely not be the best ‘vanity’ lighting for your face. If you really want to know ideally it would be eye level, not a bare glass bulb, not directional as to not cast shadows on face, and they should be placed to be able to light both sides of face at the same time, evenly, ideally around 30″- 40″ apart … if it is above the mirror (which is obviously fine) it would again ideally be a fabric or white glass shade, but not metal or too directional (which we do ALL THE TIME) … thats just the functional ‘rules’ and I haven’t even gotten into scale or style or all the things that makes a house interesting! Maybe that is why so many houses by designers or decorators end up looking generic – all the creativity was sucked out of it in the name of “function”. This is why I had my team halt my ‘bathroom rules’ post – because as I was reading it I was like…. Dear god, I seriously wish I had read this post last year …. It’s still coming, but with a lot more personal drama infused with my own mistakes and anecdotes.

Anyway, that’s a long winded way of saying that the little things, while important and they might bug you a bit, often go totally unnoticed until someone calls it out. There were some things in the Portland house that we had to pay to change (decisions made without me early on) and my brother was like ‘Emily, no one in the world would notice that or even think about it’. We changed it anyway, but I think he was right so I’m trying to be more loose about that.

Point is – that pot filler could be more centered (not so the valve is centered but so the entire faucet looks visually centered) but I don’t care enough to move it.

On to the stone.


Our marble counters are holding up pretty well. We chose to do a ‘leather finish’ as opposed to polished or honed (leather isn’t available everywhere or with any stone and is typically done at the stone yard but some fabricators can do it). This stone is pretty forgiving because the finish isn’t shiny and there is a lot of variation in the veins, tones and colors. Sorry I don’t have updated photos – I’m now realizing this would be helpful for this post, but it definitely has some wear (no big stains) and I don’t really notice it. For those of you scared of real marble, you should be. It is a lifestyle choice and you have to be ok with the aging and care. As of right now, we are not doing marble in the kitchens in Portland or the cabin, opting for quartz instead. But man, that marble is so pretty and again, in a 100 year old home it fits perfectly – age and all.

Color-wise I still LOVE both colors – the stone tone of the cabinets and the green of the island. The farm sink is awesome (I prefer a single basin) and the vintage pendant + black sconces are still super lovely and frankly perfect for the room – both stylistically and functionally.

I suppose I KINDA wish I had done the floors darker but they certainly don’t bother me.

Ok onto grates and beadboard….

Above you’ll see that we put beadboard in the backs of the cabinetry and I still love it. Many of you worried about my grates because of dust or grime, but a year in I see none. We are pretty good at keeping them styled out nicely, with the simplest rule – just buy in bulk (aka not a lot of mismatched) and keep it simple – white, wood, clear glass and some amber glasses. These days you can design your kitchen drawers to hold all tupperware, kid’s stuff – all the stuff that is less attractive.

We switched out the stools below:

We love these new stools. The other ones are in storage and we might use at the mountain house because they are so classic, but I love the addition of the wood in here.

So what would I do differently in this kitchen?


UGH THAT OUTLET ON THE ISLAND KILLS ME. But apparently not enough to do anything about it. It would be so easy to change out the plate or replace it altogether with something more beautiful. I’m going to do that. 2018 is the year. After all, I have so much extra time (wink wink)!!

Also as you’ll see above we normally prop something in front of them (behind the cutting boards up there) and I wish we had concealed them more when renovating. If you have uppers you can put a power strip underneath them (unless it’s really done well it can still be visible and it might not be where you actually want to use it), or you can use a pop-up thing that comes out of your countertop but cutting into our marble is terrifying and too permanent … For code we had to have two on the island (at least that is what our electrician said) but I could have put it in a trap door – almost like a fake cabinet panel, but that too, could have looked messy, unless it was the size of the whole panel and then you don’t want to ‘open’ a huge cabinet door just to plug in your toaster… For now, I’ll source a prettier cover… stay tuned.

The outlet up there on the island could have been vertical and it could have been concealed like a trap door in the V-groove. Honestly that might be messy and now I’m realizing that this deserves a FULL blog post because as I’m writing this I’ve googled my options and all the articles about it are dated, not very researched, don’t give very many attractive solutions and there are no good roundups for beautiful light switches or outlets. We are on the case!! (let us know in the comments if you are interested in this).

So far the changes are really just to switch out the outlet covers – but that’s not a big deal, right?


My best friend designed her kitchen and it’s STUNNING. We are going to properly shoot it soon, but for now you can see it in the back of this dining room shot.

Besides the wood, lights, etc, one of the reasons it’s so beautiful is that it looks so simple. Now I knew about appliance integration (kinda) when I designed our current house, but honestly didn’t even consider it for three reasons: 1. Seeing nicely designed, modern appliances, has never really occurred to me – thats just how kitchens are. Full stop. 2. The entire renovation of the kitchen was sponsored by Frigidaire, a partnership that I was and still am super proud of. They don’t carry integrated appliances – or at least I don’t think so because I didn’t even look – it seriously was that much of a non-thought. 3. If I hadn’t worked with Frigidaire I was under the assumption that integration was crazy expensive and not really an option. “Rich people can hide their fancy appliances, but normal people can’t.” Why test drive a Tesla if you aren’t going to buy one?

Let me be super clear about one thing:

I’m super happy with these appliances, functionally. All of them work great and function perfectly for our family needs. I’m no longer in contract with that lovely company, so I can say whatever I want about them, and I’m telling you the truth – if you are not renovating and just looking to get new appliances that are great but not a fortune, I can absolutely recommend these. If I could go back in time I would skip the front ice and water feature – and they had that option, but my love of ice cold water trumped a cleaner design and I regret that.

But now that I’m designing these two kitchens (Portland and Mountain), with custom cabinetry I chose to integrate the appliances. It wasn’t even a question. I had lot of brands wanting me to use their appliances, but I didn’t budge on that. I need these kitchens to both be stunning.

FYI, we are working with on both kitchens – for Portland, we chose panel-ready Bertazolli and we went with Viking in the mountain house. Both are ‘panel ready’. MUCH more on that later.

The kitchen would just be simple if the appliances were integrated.

But is it worth the change???

We plan on being in this house til the kids are 10 and 12 (but who knows… we also dream of raising our kids elsewhere… more on that later). Why 10 and 12? I don’t know. I suppose maybe by then we’d want to have more space (our bedrooms are the perfect size for our family right now but as they become teenagers we all might want more privacy) and we aren’t sure what school they will be in for Jr and High School but if it’s not around here then I can see us moving more outside LA around that time. So let’s just say we have 8 years left here. Is that worth making some changes?


Renovating your newly renovated kitchen is what actually insane people do. Or perfectionists. Maybe I’m both…. not that I’m going to do it, but you know – I thought I’d give you a glimpe into my brain.

But then I thought … hold up…. we shoot in this kitchen probably twice a month and have to avoid some angles because the appliances feel large in this small kitchen….. Besides how much would it really cost?

It seemed worth doing some research and getting the quote.

The idea of having our fridge be seamless with our cabinetry, like below is just so tempting.

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Now what I’m extremely confused by and I’d love your help is what is the difference between 2018 ‘Panel Ready’ and ‘Integrated’. I know that back in the day ‘panel ready’ meant this:

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They just glued the “cabinetry” on top of the fridge but it’s not the look we are going for.

Now things have certainly progressed since then. Here is what it can look like now (but again, I’m not sure if this is ‘panel-ready’ or ‘integrated’).

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Hey Amber, let us know! Also I love this kitchen you designed so much!

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Integration is so seamless. You actually don’t know where they are, which can be kinda annoying (I know at my friend’s house people have to ask where, because they are all floor to ceiling so it’s hard to detect the fridge versus the pantry). But how much of a sacrifice is it?

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The above fridge is certainly ‘integrated’ and the below is more ‘panel ready’ (I think). It seems to me that the difference might be the seams and the venting (but please tell me if I’m wrong).

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Either way, I think if well-done it would be much more streamlined and simple, especially since our kitchen is small and our appliances aren’t crazy fancy.

If we were doing it, we’d likely do the dishwasher as well:

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And why stop there – would we build over the hood?

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At this point, based on our research we think that ‘panel ready’ actually is ‘integrated’ but nobody has been able to tell us for sure. We would add custom handles and not use what often comes with the panel-ready appliances to better integrate with our handles on our current cabinetry.

So I had my cabinet maker, who built our kitchen, quote for integration and here is what he came back with:

$ 2,875.

In my mind it was going to be cost-prohibitive. But then I realized it’s actually less work than I thought. They don’t have to change the depth of anything, just the height of the fridge and build some panels.
They would demo out the cabinet above the fridge because most 36″ integrated fridges are 84″ high (ours is currently 72″). Then they’d rebuild that cabinet to be much smaller. For the hood they would keep the current hood and build over it (although the hood might depend on the new range, UGH).
But that doesn’t include the cost of all new appliances. As I know you were about to ask.
RUH ROH. And yes ‘panel ready’ or integrated appliances do cost more than typical appliances not because they are more complicated but because as of now only the high-end brands are making them. There is a pretty big gap in the market for more budget-friendly panel ready or integrated appliances and this trend is NOT going away. The first $3k panel ready fridge to come to market is going to be VERY popular…. You are welcome, appliance companies. This is a game changer and whoever is first to market might win.

But for now the cost is anywhere from 5k-10k (10K are typically for the Subzero and Viking options) for a 36″ with stacking fridge freezer like we have now. We can also look into 2 side by side 18″ fridge and freezer (which would look more seamless, as they would look like two tall cabinets).

Panel-ready dishwashers are anywhere from $600-1200 depending on the brand.

Hopefully, we’d keep the hood, but if we are going to change the range then I’d want to do some research on the hood to make sure its the best one with the new range.

So it’s not cheap. Sure, I might get a sponsor but the labor will add up and the change isn’t necessary.

At first I was like ‘Oh man, I’m going to get called out for being ‘wasteful’. But I was reminded by my team that it’s not really waste because we donate perfectly good product to those who need it, but can’t afford it – Miry’s list, Pen and Napkin and The San Fernando Rescue Mission are on constant rotation to pick up furniture and accessories from my house. Sure, I waste my time and money, but it’s part of my job to experiment and update my home then tell you about how I did it, or wish I had.

Besides, isn’t it fun to witness crazy???

Back to the appliances.

The last thing I’ll say to justify this potential change is this: if you were to sell your house tomorrow what improvements would you make? So why not make those changes NOW so that you can actually enjoy them?? Every realtor knows that you can’t sell a high-end house without high-end appliances and while high-end appliances aren’t something that we really obsess over (we’ve never had a fancy one so it might be something that we love once we have), good design is something we value a lot. Even Brian is into it. He knows for resale that we need to upgrade our appliances …. so why not do it NOW?


Of course, we need to lock down the appliances, coordinate a plumber to install and be ok that our kitchen will be in construction for a week (we could do it while up in the mountains this summer)…. It’s not like buying a lampshade …. But its worth talking about.

What I’d love to know is the following:

  1. Do any of you not like having integrated appliances? Am I fantasizing about something that has serious drawbacks?
  2. Does anyone know if there is a difference between ‘panel ready’ and ‘integrated’ (in 2018 terms)? Neither of my contractors or cabinet makers could tell me the difference based on the specs, so I think they mean the same thing these days – except maybe the venting is different? I can’t find photos of the Viking or Bertazonni product in an actual kitchen so I’m excited/nervous to see what it means.

Most importantly:


*UPDATE: I knew there was going to be backlash but as a reminder: this is just a conversation to get your opinion about integrated (if you have them), and If we do end up doing this we will donate all our appliances to a family that Miry’s List, Pen and Napkin or San Fernando Rescue Mission is helping.

Let me know your thoughts, and if you have any questions on the current kitchen or where things are from….

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