A Semihandmade Kitchen Makeover

Photographs by Zeke Ruelas

Dear Diary,

The long, national nightmare that was my kitchen renovation has finally come to a close! If you’ve been reading about it here, you know it was a total comedy of errors. I made a ton of mistakes, wasted way too much money, and ended up feeling taken advantage of by my landlord. But now that it’s done I’m just gonna do my best to move on. Sometimes when I’m stressing about something money-related I ask myself “Take money out of the equation, would you still be stressing about this?” If the answer is “no” I try to get over it. Worrying about money is a never-ending game you can’t win. So whenever I realize that money is at the root of a stressor (as it definitely was in the case of this kitchen renovation) I try to move on and concentrate on what’s next, rather than dwell on money I’ve already spent (wasted?). If you’d like to see how much money I spent and on what, head on over to my budget-oriented story on Style by Emily Henderson today. Also, if you need a refresher on what this kitchen used to look like, check out the previous post about it here.

The best part of my renovation was working with Semihandmade to completely reorganize the kitchen and create a functional space to cook and host friends. Semihandmade is a revolutionary company that updates Ikea kitchens with custom-made doors to give the kitchen an upscale, fully custom look. It’s a great alternative to going full-custom, which can be very expensive since all the cabinet components are made by hand. My kitchen is tiny, so having an efficient, smart design with tons of storage was important. Working with Semihandmade was super easy. I just sent them measurements and a sketch of what I wanted and they figured out which Ikea components I needed to buy and created the custom doors for everything.

I was pretty conservative with this design because I wanted it to be something classic that would still look good when I moved out. My building was built in 1939 and has a very old European vibe, so I wanted the kitchen to feel pretty traditional. To save money, I went with wooden countertop from Ikea, which not only saves material cost but also saves on installation cost because it doesn’t need a base material (you can just install it on top of the lower cabinets).

The beautiful striped Roman Shade from Loom Decor is the perfect little kick of blue. I love how simple and paired back the color is in this kitchen, but I wanted to add hints of my favorite color around the space (including in my cute little Mini KitchenAid Mixer).

It’s hard to keep inside plants alive, but Trader Joe’s sells these cute little spice gardens you can use and replace when they start to die. Seems kind of wasteful until you think about the fact that when you buy spices like rosemary you normally can’t use the whole thing before it starts to go bad. And having a spice garden in your kitchen will make you feel like the world’s fanciest chef.

To protect from water damage, I bought trays to store my dishwashing liquid and scrubber. So far I haven’t had any issues with the wooden countertops, but I’ve been pretty diligent keeping them dry and oiled (I use Howard Butcher Block Conditioner). Wondering how long my intense OCD about this is going to last…

I’m not a fan of having too many decor accents in a kitchen, but I wanted there to be some personality so I accessorized a bit. I love this little Dude Cave sculpture from Chaparral Studio, so I figured I should have it next to the sink so I can see it first thing every morning.

The tall, skinny refrigerator feels a lot more integrated because of the Semihandmade panels that cover its sides. Wrapping a refrigerator not only covers the less-attractive sides but also makes it feel integrated with the style of the cabinetry.

  1. Countertop 2. Semihandmade Cabinet Doors 3. Globe Pendant 4. Flushmount 5. Roman Shade 6. White Tile 7. Refrigerator 8. Bertazzoni Range 9. Dishwasher 10. Dryer 11. Washer

These Storage Canisters were the perfect countertop accessory because they have a vintage-yet-modern vibe that goes along with the style I was trying to create for the kitchen.

It might seem weird/impossible to hang art on subway tile, but I wanted to add a little pop of color/vintage warmth to the space. It’s actually very easy to hang art on tile. I just used heavy duty foam tape. If the art is light enough it’ll remain firmly in place.

There are circles and triangles all over my apartment, so I wanted to add a little graphic edge to the kitchen. This fun triangular wall shelf was exactly what the design doctor ordered. I went to Trader Joe’s and bought basically every spice they had. I had planned on doing something cute/bloggery with their labels but I ran out of time before the shoot. That’ll be a rainy day project sometime soon where I’ll paint them all blue and hand-letter the name of each spice on the label.

The boldest accent in the room is the gorgeous hardware from Park Studio. They’ve been doing lighting for years but just released an amazing line of hardware. They’re like beautiful sculptures for your cabinet doors. I tell people all the time that investing in pretty hardware is smart. It’s the first place your eyes go, it’s the thing you actually touch and focus on. It makes a huge difference to how a room feels and how you experience it.

The ventilation hood is integrated into the cabinets above the range. The Semihandmade people did a great job installing it, making it basically invisible. And the ventilator itself was pretty inexpensive ($399 from Ikea). I’m a fan of building the extractor into cabinets, especially in smaller kitchens. It maximizes storage while keeping the look light and open (freestanding vent hoods can be heavy in smaller spaces).

I tried to be pretty cheap with most of the items I chose for the room, but I did splurge on a Bertazzoni range. I love it and it’s the centerpiece of the room, so even though it was pricier than I would have liked, it was worth it. Like hardware, a range is something you interact with and focus on when you enter a kitchen. So while I scrimped a bit on the fridge and dishwasher, I was okay spending a bit more on a range that made a statement.

1. White Dishes 2. Triangle Spice Rack 3. Marble Tray 4. Storage Canisters 5. Blue Pattern Vase 6. Sculpture 7. Soap Dispenser 8. Mini Mixer 9. Marble Bowl 10. Hand Towel 11. Pour Over Coffee Maker

While I wasn’t super happy with how the financial elements of this kitchen makeover transpired, I am happy that it’s done and satisfied that I created the best design for the space, given the limitations. If I’d had an unlimited budget I might have ripped down the wall and opened it up into the dining room, but I’m content that I made this small kitchen the best it could be. Semihandmade was wonderful to work with and their beautiful cabinets make the kitchen insanely functional and insanely gorgeous simultaneously. I don’t know that I fully recommend remodeling in a rental, but I do know that I’ll enjoy using this kitchen a lot more than I would have enjoyed the kitchen that was here before I moved in.

It’s stressful to spend money on a renovation project, especially when you don’t own the space. But the money is spent, the kitchen is amazing, and now I no longer have to wash my dishes in the bathtub. YAY!


PS: See more about this project, including the breakdown of the budget on Style by Emily Henderson.

This post was created in collaboration with Semihandmade, who donated a portion of the cabinetry in exchange for a review on this blog. The opinions and ideas expressed are genuine and my own. 

37 thoughts on “A Semihandmade Kitchen Makeover

  1. Looks amazing. And I hope you take that range with you wherever you end up next. Flaky landlord does not deserve to keep it.

  2. So, so beautiful. What a dream kitchen! It is fantastic. the pop of blue is everything. Thank you for sharing this with us, and making me laugh and ooh and ahh at the same time:))) Bravo!

  3. Bravo!!

    I live in Rome and here unfurnished means you have to install your own kitchen. People don’t move as much here so renovating a bathroom or a kitchen in a rental makes perfect sense. Sorry that your landlord was a jerk. However, your new kitchen is beautiful and I hope you enjoy it (despite all the drama).

  4. It’s the most stunning kitchen ever! I can’t believe it’s the same place…
    I’m dying over the color of the grout and bottom cabinets! Please tell us!!!

  5. Love, love love it! I am in the beginning stages of doing my kitchen renovation, and while we do own are trying to do it as budget friendly as possible (don’t know how long we are going to be in our current house).
    I’m loving the white subway tile, what color grout did you use? I like that it makes it pop without having to use an expensive tile.

  6. Looks really nice! But of course I have more questions:
    – what’s on the floors?
    – what do you put in the shallow storage across from the sink? can you share a picture?
    – to the right of the stove, why didn’t you use the comma hardware there?

  7. Looks great! Lazy landlords are the worst and I know doing improvements and spending money on a rental may not seem like the best, but if you are staying there for a while it can make such a big difference in your daily life and happiness! I also love the shallow storage. I had some in my old apartment and it was great for storing cans and spices you didn’t want to get buried in a deeper pantry or cabinet.

  8. Orlando, I freaking looooooove your kitchen!!!! In no particular order: the subway tile and it’s accompanying magical, mystery grout color; the pattern & color of the floor tile (source not mentioned here or in Emily’s post..?); those cabinet doors -style & the perfection of the contrasting colors on the upper and lowers; your space planning/layout skills inspire; the sublime cabinet hardware/sculpture; the simplicity (& confidence?) of the white appliances & butcher block counters; the understated yet impactful lighting choices; all your kitchen accessories are as charming as all-get-out; oh! the cheerfulness/optimism of that roman shade; that vintage landscape actually makes my heart race I love it so much; and for heaven’s sake -that raaaange!!! I want to see pictures of all your cabinets open so we can see both the functionality of Semihandmade’s products as well as all of your dishes etc (which in this moment strikes me as perhaps too personal/a little questionable on my part..?). more simply -CONRATULATIONS..!

  9. Holy moly your taste is impeccable!! This kitchen is both gorgeous and thoughtfully designed – I love it!

  10. Despite the financial fiasco, the kitchen turned out wonderfully. It really is gorgeous! And you better be taking that Bertazzoni baby with you when you eventually move. I’d put a junkyard stove in its place, and let your lousy landlord deal!

  11. What’s the old saying…..’I’d give my eye teeth’ for a rental kitchen like this or even partially as lovely. Enjoy the heck out of this kitchen and welcome home.

  12. I LOVE that you went with a white fridge and dishwasher- I agree with what you wrote on EHD that the stainless behemoths are hopefully becoming a thing of the past. The wonderful thing about this fridge is that you don’t notice it. Your eye gets to look at all these beautiful details instead! Bravo on this whole space, I just pinned the shit out of it. Also, agree to the above statement about you wearing blue, because them eyeballs are looking straight up mesmerizing right there.

  13. Just pretend you’re European- in Paris it used to be more de rigeur and I think in Italy it’s more common- but when you let an apartment it came sans kitchen.. so I was thinking that you MUST Stop thinking about it being a waste of money- if you had seen you apartment with THAT kitchen and it was $275 month more would you have taken the apartment? Yes right? So basically you have to live there for three years and imagine your rent is a bit higher and then you can walk away guilt free. (I’m using your cash outlay amount- not total including your sponsored shit).. also investment in your career, book, blog, sanity.

    If you look at it in those ways- it’s practically free. Also- maybe the universe was giving you THE GIFT of a kitchen remodel- maybe after your breakup- creating a nest out of hardship, and creating the heart of your home was your Medicine. It’s what you needed to heal – especially after investing your heart and soul into Orcondo. Be thankful for this strong medicine and stop talking about “waste” and “throwing it away”. Be positive that you get exactly what you need. You did a beautiful job and you are provided for and loved.

  14. Maybe a weird question, but is there anything we can do to help you monetize this post to recoup more costs? Like, can I click on an ad or affiliate link or something? This kitchen is so beautiful, and I think you’ve got the right idea to not stress about the money spent. But still, if there’s a way we can help by simply interacting with your post here or on Emily’s site, put us to work!

  15. But why oh why there are NO intergated fridges in the US? They always look so cumbersome just shoved inside a case…

  16. Kitchen looks gorgeous! Can you explain how you used/where you put the Globe Flushmount + Sconce?

  17. you and your kitchen are amazing. How do you see that triangle shelf and immediately think spice rack? It looks so good and makes me want to go out and buy some spices and a shelf, too.

  18. Of all the self destructive ways to behave after a breakup, spending $10k on a kitchen is far from being the worst. It’s not like you got a tattoo or burned all your belongings!
    Our landlord just fixed the gutters, 18mths after half of it fell off the house so yeah. Landlords suck.
    But the kitchen looks great! Washer and dryer very grown up things to be proud of?

  19. The kitchen is beautiful, of course, but I just want to say that the hardware looks like quotation marks and they are making me so happy! Well done, Orlando, as usual!

  20. I love the kitchen. Is that beautiful range stainless steel finish and fridge is white?!? I am only asking as I didn’t know this was ok to do and settled on an (ugly) white range that I don’t really like (also love your tip of going a little more pricey to get something that makes you happy). I suggested non-matching appliances and EVERYONE called me crazy. Now that I have proof from a real stylish person I can shove it in their faces, even if it is too late for my own kitchen.

    Also, I’ve been reading some of your more recent old posts and I have no idea what or how one does this, but I totally think that your writing and voice could belong in the Modern Love column. So, add that to your “to do” list.

  21. I was forced to come here after watching all your instagram stories and just say it’s been a really long time since I’ve laughed that hard. Thanks for a very enjoyable five minutes.

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