When renovating your kitchen, it can be easy to think of your immediate wants and needs. From selecting colors and finishes that are on-trend to figuring out what type of floor plan makes sense for your current situation, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment.
But when Eunhee and John Szymanowski from Maplewood, NJ decided to renovate their kitchen, they knew they wanted it to be a space that would grow with their family as the years went on.
Life Before the Renovation
Eunhee and John’s kitchen before the renovation
Eunhee and John lived in their Maplewood, NJ home for two years before renovating the outdated kitchen. Although they always had plans to renovate the kitchen down the line, they wanted to get a feel for how they used the space they had before making any major changes.
“It was a very old kitchen,” Eunhee said. “Probably not the original, but it was a few decades old. There was a wall that was dividing the kitchen and the dining room. I think the kitchen cabinets and appliances were from the 60s or something like that. So it was time.”
Although the space was completely functional, it wasn’t the family meeting spot the Szymanowskis dreamed of having. “I wanted to create a space where we can have nice meals,” Eunhee said. “The kids are little now, but once they get older, I want it to be a place where they can come with their friends and hang out. A family space.”
In addition to making it a meeting place for friends and family, Eunhee also wanted the kitchen to feel like an escape while trying out new recipes. As someone who cooks every day, it was important for her to feel comfortable in the space.
Before the renovation, Eunhee and John’s kitchen felt small
Eunhee and John knew they wanted to make the space feel a lot more open than it was when they bought the house. They began compiling inspiration from Pinterest and magazines, and talked to friends and neighbors who had recently completed kitchen renovations of their own.
However, Eunhee and John soon realized they had very different visions for how they wanted the kitchen to look.
“John and I have very different tastes,” Eunhee said with a laugh. “I really like a very modern, clean, white look. Like my previous apartment, John would say it looked like a dentist’s office. He likes rustic. So we wanted to meet somewhere in the middle, where it’s not too rustic, but it’s not too modern.”
Building the Team
MBA Contracting helped Eunhee and John with their cabinetry
In addition to helping the Szymanowskis decide what they wanted the kitchen to look like, their friends and neighbors were able to help them through one of the most important aspects of a renovation project – finding a contractor.
"We reached out to our resources and had a few contractor recommendations," Eunhee explained. "We actually met with several of the architects and contractors and visited their showrooms. At the end of the day, we decided to go with MBA Contracting because they do everything in-house. We have a friend that worked with them, and they were highly recommended."
One of the biggest benefits of choosing a contractor that does everything in-house is that the Szymanowskis didn’t have to build the rest of their team alone. MBA contracting set Eunhee and John up with a designer and cabinet maker, which made the entire process more streamlined and less stressful.
Choosing the Appliances
Eunhee and John chose a Sub Zero fridge for their kitchen
Eunhee and John’s appliance journey actually started long before they purchased their home. The couple first started shopping for reliable appliances when they needed a new dishwasher for their previous home.
"We really wanted something that didn’t make a lot of noise cause John is very sensitive to noise," Eunhee said. "Miele appliances were highly recommended. We wanted to get something really good because we plan to use it for a really long time."
The couple chose to go with an induction cooktop
In fact, the Szymanowskis loved their Miele dishwasher so much that they moved the model into their new home. They also decided to purchase a second dishwasher, giving them greater flexibility both when entertaining as well as loading and unloading the dishwasher on a daily basis.
"I would highly recommend having two dishwashers if you have the space," Eunhee said. "It’s a game-changer, especially with two little ones around."
All the appliances are panel-ready
The couple also chose to go with an induction cooktop after seeing their friend cook with one in her own home.
"I love the induction cooktop," Eunhee said. "The old kitchen had an old electric cooktop and it was terrible because it was very slow. Prior to that, we always had gas. So we did think about both, but we love our induction. It’s very clean and it’s very fast. It does everything that you can do on a gas stove, except it’s just more convenient."
They also decided on a Miele combination steam oven, which has come in handy when the Szymanowskis want to bring their leftovers back to life. Eunhee also loves the steam oven for cooking everyday meal staples like rice and vegetables.
In addition to choosing appliances that fit their needs functionally, the couple wanted to make sure each piece complimented their overall kitchen design.
"The fridge and the dishwasher are panel-ready," Eunhee said. "The stoves, the induction, and even the hood are all very clean and simple. They don’t take away from the design, and they fit in very well with the colors and everything."
Life During the Renovation
Remodeling your kitchen can be stressful, especially if you plan to live in the home while the renovation takes place. Eunhee and John decided to stay in their home while the remodel was in progress but had to adjust their day-to-day routine in creative ways.
"They blocked the kitchen off, and we were able to use the rest of the house," Eunhee said. "Our contractor helped us set up a small kitchen in the basement. We put little cabinets down there and had a portable gas stove. Luckily we also have a grill in the backyard, so we did a lot of grilling and eating outside during that time."
The renovation took five months, which was a lot longer than the Szymanowskis had originally expected. They planned to start the project in early 2020 but were set back a few months because of the pandemic.
Life After the Renovation
The kitchen after the five month renovation
Although the project took longer than expected, the Szymanowskis couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. In fact, the renovation couldn’t have come at a better time for Eunhee and John, who both regularly work from home.
"I love this space. I’m here all the time," Eunhee said. "Not just in terms of cooking and eating, but I like to just sit in here and do work. And the kids just kind of hang out and do their little drawings and paintings. It’s just great. This is my favorite spot in the house."
The Bottom Line
The kitchen became a lot more open after the renovation
When asked what advice she would give to others at the beginning of the renovation process, Eunhee stressed the importance of making sure there is an opportunity to grow with the space. Before getting started on the renovation, Eunhee spent a lot of time thinking about how her family’s needs in the space will change over time.
She also focused on making sure everything she would need to cook was only a step away from the stove. For example, if she needs to grab a cutting board or rinse off some vegetables, she only has to move one step in either direction.
Eunhee made sure that everything she needed while cooking would be steps away from the stove
"I thought about our family and where we are right now, but also what we’re going to be years down the line," Eunhee said. "I focused very much on laying out the cabinets and where things go so that we don’t run into each other. When the kids get older and I want them to set the table and be able to get stuff from the fridge, they’ll never get in my way while I’m cooking. They have the space to kind of do their own thing."