Last year, I swore I’d never move again. Or do a renovation either. This year, I’m in a new home and just finished a full renovation of the kitchen and main floor. Go figure. I’ve learned so much from the past year of home decor projects, and there’s one major tip I can offer: HIRE A DESIGNER.

It always amazes me how quickly most people – ok, me – buy the most expensive thing they will likely own – their home. Andy and I spent less than an hour poking around our Point Grey duplex before deciding to put in an offer. Houses were selling fast – the best ones were being snapped up within days of listing – but we still took pride in how smart we were. (Delusional.) I figured that the dated kitchen just needed a budget-savvy paint job and new countertop, and then we were done. After we moved in, we noticed how cramped the kitchen was, how flimsy the cabinets were, the lack of decent storage, how dark the countertop was, and the age of the appliances. Plus the warm cherry wood floors were pretty beaten up. Our plan was the age-old idea of applying lipstick to a pig. (Sorry pig.) We had a big eating area that wasn’t being properly used so the solution became obvious fast – expand the kitchen and add an island.

BEFORE
AFTER

I’ve supervised lots of small decor projects myself including a makeover of a two bedroom condo last year. But I learned from a previous kitchen renovation in Toronto that the smartest thing to do is hire a designer. Tommy Smythe was a magician at maximizing my small kitchen and living room space. Tommy installed bookshelves in a neglected corner behind a spiral staircase. He tucked my television into the backside of my kitchen island. He found a perfect small and sleek refrigerator and added storage cabinets in a tiny dining room nook. And he put his foot down when I pestered him about ditching the oven. “I don’t cook, what do I need a hot box in the corner for??” Tommy was right of course. I needed somewhere to store my shoes, and also for resale.

For this project in Vancouver, our plan was to double the size of the kitchen and add as much smart storage as possible. I didn’t know where to start or who to work with. I wasn’t working full-time but I knew that managing a project of this magnitude would go sideways fast. A kitchen is the most important room in the house – and renovating it didn’t belong in the hands of someone who needed to be convinced to buy an oven.

JULIE'S MOOD BOARD WITH THE KITCHEN ON TOP

Andy and I interviewed three designers and then chose the one that we felt understood our taste and respected our budget. Where did we find the companies? Google, and then researched further on Instagram and read reviews. We looked for someone who wanted to hear our design ideas and could add more creative yet functional tips. A crucial point was a designer with a solid relationship with a contractor and trades. I wanted someone who specialized in kitchens and could manage the project on a realistic schedule. We didn’t want a bland cookie-cutter space that looked like it came from a builder’s showroom. And we really were scared by the idea of a “ballpark” estimate – we wanted a proper quote in writing. No surprises. We chose Dinnissen Design Co. and Howell’s Carpentry. Julie and Scott were terrific – always responsive and organized. Our project took a few weeks longer than we’d hoped – we started on April 19 and, as of June 19, there is still work left – but delays were due to pandemic-related shortages and booking trades.

REESE PENDANT LIGHTS FROM MITZI LIGHTING

The kitchen is still a work in progress but I feel like we turned a corner once the quartz countertop and pendant lights were installed. Lighting is critical in a kitchen so we asked for plenty of task lighting (still to come) and pendant lights (from Mitzi Lighting) that made a statement. So many elements in a kitchen are critical priorities – appliances for example – but when it comes to style, the lighting sets the tone. We are so close to being finished now. I already love the space and can’t wait to start enjoying it. 

Faucet – Riobel Azure Kitchen Faucet; chairs, Article; pendant lights, Mitzi Lighting. Follow Dinnissen Design on Instagram @dinnissendesignco