Journalist, Author & Detroit-Home Renovator

Retail Therapy: Thoughts on Doors, Cabinets and More

Look! No walls, mom!

Look! No walls, mom!

I have so much to update you all on. Like the time I nearly lost it when our contractors kindly suggested we could just move a door way over and then shift another and then shift another and another and another and NO MORE MOVING WALLS.


That was my limit on decisions or changing one more thing. That, after several weeks of non-stop unexpected decisions — at work and Matilda — was my bridge too far. Thankfully, our wonderful, patient contractors have informed us we’re very nearly out of the weeds on decisions.

That’s good because I’m pretty sure I only have bad ones left in me.

Anyway, it’s been a crazy busy month filled with late nights and long weekends at work. (Here’s the reason why: Detroit 2.o. Go read it; make it worth all of the blood, sweat and tears we all shed over it.) That’s why it’s been pretty quiet over here at Matilda. Not because nothing is going on but because everything has been going on.

  • Pack the house! (Mostly Karl on this front, to be honest)
  • Decide!
  • Produce special issue!
  • Decide!
  • You’re homeless in two weeks!
  • Decide!
  • Pack!
  • Decide!
  • Produce!
  • Decide!
  • Homeless!
  • Pack!
  • Produce!

You get the picture.

So I promise to update you on all the crazy kitchen design issues and other conundrums, but for now let’s go shopping, shall we? Yes, it’s time for some retail therapy. And since I’m at my decision limit, y’all chime in with your thoughts, ok?

Let’s start with something that both Karl and I agree on. The exterior lights. We need one for the front and side entrances. Stylish but not too period, n’est pas? (Remember, Matilda is a 1914 Colonial.) They are approximately $190/each.

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.16.33 PM

Now we move on to exterior doors. We need three, including one that is 42 inches wide. That is turning out to be more of a challenge to find, especially because we’d like to use old wood doors.

So this is our first find, and we’re considering it for the side entrance. This would be the “utility” entrance, where we’d come in with groceries and dogs and more. The front door will likely be more for guests.

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Side door?

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The color is green on one side and white on the other, and the condition is solid but rough, so of course we’d have to redo the door. I think that’s something we could manage? Right? Sanding and staining or repainting seems like a Karl and Amy-appropriate task.

We really like the two window panes at the top because it brings in light without leaving our side entrance completely vulnerable.

The price tag is $475, but we’re hoping to get the salvage house to come down to at least $400. High? Low?

Next up we have our dream idea. I won’t get into all the kitchen drama here, but suffice it to say there have been some tears shed as we try to figure out what our ideal kitchen is Right This Very Instant. We do know this: If there is a way to turn these old windows into upper cabinets, it would make us so very happy.

Sadly, we neither posses the skills nor the connections (we don’t think) to make these into something truly special.

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We could go with either the lighter or the darker windows because we are considering dark cabinets with contrasting butcher block countertops. And by dark, I’m saying espresso or slate.

We like a slab-style door (non home-reno friends: that means completely flat fronts, no stupid arches or flourishes or details) but think it might be too modern. So we’re considering a prairie style. (First image below.)

Oak seems to be the wood of choice over cherry or maple because we like the strong horizontal grain line. It makes it modern but still old and rough somehow. Like the cabinets at PJ’s Lagerhouse. But I’m hesitant with oak because, well, sorry mom, I grew up with blonde oak cabinets and geese wallpaper. Oak, to me, says country kitchen.

Anyway, here are two we are considering. Keep in mind the lighting was terrible in the kitchen design store so it’s not true color. But you’ll get the idea. (I won’t tell you which I prefer.)

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Oak doors

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So here’s the kitchen sink, an Ikea special. The kitchen store found one for us, but it was $1,200. I much prefer the $300 version from our Swedish friends. Did I mention it’s a farmhouse sink? Apron front!

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Kitchen sink

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So that’s about it for now. Still shopping for doors, deciding on cabinets and will soon have to think about interior lights, doors, tile, toilets and more.

As Stacy would say, I need an auxiliary brain on which to offload some of the decision-making. (And no, Karl doesn’t count. He needs his own auxiliary brain to think about things for him; then our two auxiliary brains could meet and brawl over drawer pulls instead of us. Sounds way more pleasant.)

7 Responses to “Retail Therapy: Thoughts on Doors, Cabinets and More”

  1. Betty

    The door and sink are both excellent choices. My vote is for the prairie style lower cabinet doors, and go for it on the windows-as-cabinets. Have the cabinet makers size the cabinets for the windows you like, and if you can’t get them up right away, having open-faced cabinets for a while will look intentional and stylish.

  2. Benjamin Peikes

    From our personal experience, I’d go with lighter cabinets in the kitchen. We went with light wood downstairs, and then white kitchen cabinets on the top floor. In retrospect, we would have gone with white (or at least painted instead of exposed wood), on the first floor as well. Mostly because we have the wood floors so the whole place looks way too, well woody.

    • Benjamin Peikes

      PS – Thumbs up to the Ikea sink. We’ve used their sinks in the upstairs kitchen and in our bathroom and you can’t beat them for price for the large old fashioned looking sinks. Plus their ceramic instead of enamel over cast iron, which at the end of the day is way easier to maintain.

    • haimerlad

      Thanks, Ben. We were looking at Ikea cabinets, too. We like them, but we have a really awkward space so they don’t seem to have sizes/shapes that quite work. On the white cabinets: What are your thoughts on keeping them clean? We’re afraid that with two big dogs (drool, dirt, etc.) and two cats (one who seems to fling eye gunk everywhere) that they’re going to be dingy in no time — or require constant cleaning and maintenance.

  3. Joanne C. Gerstner

    what are your floors and wall colors going to be? how much light in the kitchen? that informs my cabinet choice… If dark floor and low light, I wouldn’t go so dark. I have white cabinets, shaker style, opened up space hugely, no regrets. Home Depot. Off the rack.

  4. Kelly McMenamin

    I bet white cabinets will not be as dirty as you think. I recently bought a mirrored dresser and thought it would look filthy with greasy children’s fingerprints. And there are fingerprints there but nothing I notice and I notice tiny little annoying details. So my bet is with the right paint finish on the doors, white would be fine.

  5. haimerlad

    I have six windows in the kitchen. This house does not lack for light or windows. (I curse those windows daily because of what they did to my budget. But I know I will love them eventually!)

    In fact, I have almost no cabinets because of this problem. That is the topic of a future post 🙂

    So I think we can do dark cabinets and have it work well in the light kitchen. Plus, I know us. I look at the base of our white walls here and am constantly amazed by the grime that gets tracked in by the animals. (Occassionaly Maddie chews her tail into a bloody stump, for example, and then thumps it on the wall. Fun.)


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