Our Cabinets Are Like Chumbawumba…

They get knocked down.

Well, they weren’t actually knocked down as much as they were “carefully removed” (since we plan to reuse various things like the doors for the new peninsula cabinets and then donate the rest). The room was feeling pretty wood-riddled when we moved in last December…

… so we were excited to un-wood-riddle-it for good.

As we mentioned here and here, we’ll be adding a wall of counter-to-ceiling penny tile…

… along with a bit of open shelving (on either side of the range hood that we’ll be building in).

Oh and to avoid having the open shelves/dust & grease chat again, just check out this post for a bunch of “research” that we did before landing on that decision. It won’t all be open shelving or anything (just a few feet on either side of the vent hood that we’ll be hanging above the stove) so we’ll also still have other upper cabs around (like the one above the pantry, fridge, and dishwasher), which is why we didn’t think we’d be flummoxed by the change in upper cabinet quantity (ten points for the use of flummoxed?).

But we couldn’t be sure, so the biggest test of storage capacity was when we emptied all of those upper cabinets before removing them to see where things would land. We only plan to keep our frequently used/washed everyday dishes on the open shelves (so they won’t have time to acquire dust) along with a few other things that are always stored out in the open (like a vase or two, some art, lidded jars full of sugar and flour, some cookbooks, and a potted plant or two) but everything else will be stored in cabinets. So we went into this relocation phase a bit nervous about being able to store all of the offset items somewhere else in the kitchen.

How’d we fare? Surprisingly well! It took us at least thirty minutes of brainstorming where it was most helpful to store things like phone books, light bulbs, cookie cutters, and all of the other random items that were in those half-full shelves, but we got ‘er done.

Although we probably could have shoved them into other cabinets all willy nilly in about five minutes, it made more sense to talk things out so as not to have to rearrange things fifty times throughout this process. And once we decided where we wanted to stash everything once and for all, we were thrilled to find ourselves with room to spare. The entire corner cabinet of the peninsula (which still needs a lazy susan and a door) is 100% empty, even though everything has been put away.

We also have our everyday dishes in the other corner cabinet (near the stove) so once they’re out on the open shelves that space will be freed up as well. We also have a completely empty upper cabinet next our pantry (that will get cut down to the right size and rehung with a microwave under it). So it’s safe to say that the added peninsula has more than made up for the few uppers that we’re trading in for open shelves). Whew.

Taking them down was as simple as unscrewing a bunch of super long screws that held them into the wall, the ceiling, and each other (while the other person stood under them to support them so they wouldn’t come crashing down).

We didn’t expect removing them to make such a visual difference, but the room immediately felt a lot more open (not sure if the photos will do that justice since it might be a you-have-to-be-here-thing).

Well, at first it just felt crazy (here’s how it was looking immediately after we finished):

But after we cleaned things up (aka: put the extra cabs in the sunroom and pushed the stove back into place), it immediately felt a lot lighter.

You know, if you squint past the nasty unpainted ceiling and the insane fire-engine-red paint that we revealed (can you imagine that paired with all that wood cabinets and dark paneling?).

So yeah, this is one of those things-have-to-get-worse-to-get-better stages that leaves the room looking strip-searched, but we love that change is in the air. Even ugly-for-now-but-soon-to-be-reassembled change. The kitchen just breathes a lot more without that hulking too-low-and-not-at-all-to-code black microwave that used to hover dangerously close to the stove…

…and a wall full of tile and shelves with a giant actually-works-well range hood is going to be such an upgrade.

Still to come down? The backsplash, the googly-eyed cabinet hardware, the cabinet doors (for priming and painting), and of course we’re waiting on our counters and then we’ll add backsplash tile, install our stainless dishwasher and microwave (which we’ll be building in), redo the lighting, and redo the floor with the mocha cork that we got on clearance. So yeah… lots to do. But we’re taking it one day at a time.

And so far living without a microwave hasn’t killed us (although soup is a favorite, so we’ve been heating it on the stove – which I must admit feels very quaint). We definitely miss the sink, but thanks to having the dishwasher hooked up we’re surprisingly ok with our in-shambles kitchen. So that’s the update. What did you guys do this weekend? Any cabinet rearranging or removing? Any karaoke? Come on, someone had to be singing Chumbawumba while our cabinets were coming down.

Psst- This post’s title was an ode to some of our early-blogging kitchen posts from four years ago entitled “Our Cabinets Are Like Mariah Carey” and “Our Cabinets Are Like Brangelina” – ah, full circle blogging.


  1. Kara says

    Looking good!
    Since you mentioned the microwave, I just wanted to comment that I have actually lived without a microwave for about 6 years. The apartment that my now-husband and I moved into was so tiny that we decided not to get one because of the space it would take up. And when we moved into our house 3 years later we decided we didn’t miss owning one at all and so we are still without! We heat things up on the stove or in the oven instead. The only thing that can be slightly annoying is thawing certain food from the freezer (some of which we put in a freezer bag and run under a very light stream of water in the sink). But nothing we can’t manage! I’m just weirdly proud that we figured out it is one appliance/electronic/convenience that we don’t really ‘need.’

    • Lindsey d. says

      I’ve been microwave free for two years now and don’t miss it all. But then again, I tend to take my dinner leftovers to work for lunch and can easily heat them up in the office microwave. I imagine I’d want a microwave if I worked from home.

    • says

      I have been wanting to get rid of ours for *so* long. It drives me nuts. We have an old school one that I’m pretty sure gives out way too much radiation every time it’s on. I heat my soup on the stove all the time, and most other things too anyways. We may end up with a small one hidden by a cabinet down the line – but I’d prefer to go MF. Microwave Free.

    • says

      …and that sounded crazy, like I’m worried about radiation. I’m really not. I just don’t like the thing. It’s massive and we use it so rarely it’s such a waste of space. My husband might miss it for the occasional lean pocket though haha. In my book that means we wouldn’t ever buy them again though! Fine by me :)

    • says

      I’m with you, Kara. We haven’t had a microwave for years. Love having the extra space in the kitchen. We use a small toaster oven to heat things quickly (which also eliminates the need for a toaster). Don’t miss it at all.

    • Emily says

      I am microwave free for five years now and also never miss it. It was also due to space concerns. The few times I have accidentally purchased microwave only items I bring them to work and eat them for lunch.

      When I renovate my kitchen I may add one above the stove for resale purposes, but I can’t imagine using it again!

    • Ruth says

      I have also been without a microwave for 2 years. I actually like it now. One thing that has changed is using the oven more for reheating things (including leftovers). It takes longer but it turns out better anyway.
      You do have to plan ahead for thawing things… if it is an hour or two ahead, I put them in a sink of cold water and change the water/flip the food every 30 minutes. If it is at least 8 hours ahead, I put them in the fridge in a bowl of water (the bowl of water helps them defrost 2x faster).

    • Carrie says

      Like Kara, I am also weirdly proud of my microwave free kitchen. It has been two years and we don’t have any plans to add one.

    • Lara says

      We’ve been microwave free for at least five years & I don’t miss it. We are replacing all of our appliances right now & my husband thinks we need a range hood microwave for resale value. Do most people want microwaves?

    • says

      I do believe that if it’s not in a kitchen you’d use a pretty large number of potential buyers (or they would try to work it into the offer, like “seller will pay a credit towards a microwave and mount it over the range” since they seem to be a pretty standard appliance- although there are definitely folks who go without! It might just really compromise the number of potential buyers, ya know?


    • Jennifer S. says

      We’ve had no microwave for over 2 years and haven’t missed it at all. Well, my kids miss the microwave popcorn, but that stuff is nasty anyway.

  2. Emily says

    I can see it! I can finally see it!! I admit that I was having trouble really visualizing the space, but this finally did it for me.

    • Lisa says

      I agree, the window looks bigger and it lets in so much more light, at least from that angle in the room. It’s a little bit of a shame that the microwave cabinet will go back up to the left of that window and block some of that view/light again. So there won’t be a cabinet to the right of the window, because of the open shelves and tile on the adjacent wall? Will that look a little unbalanced? Sorry, I can’t remember if you have done a rendering/illustration of the sink wall for us.

    • says

      The cabinet to the left of the window and the open shelves to the right of the window will be the same width, so there will be the same amount of breathing room on either side of the window (about 14″). I am crazy about things like that, so I wanted to make sure it would look balanced in the end!


    • says

      No, they’re just going to be 12″ deep (so we can put dinner plates on them and stuff) so they’ll jut 12″ onto the wall to the right of the window. If they turned the corner we thought it would look weird if we didn’t continue the tile to the ceiling on the sink wall too (since if the shelves turned it might look odd to have paneling behind some of them and tile behind others). So by stopping them at the corner we would have some breathing room to the right of the window, which we could then echo to the left of the window to keep things light and airy. Hope that makes sense!


    • Lisa says

      Makes sense! I’m glad there is going to be that “breathing room” on each side of the window! I should have known you had already worked this out, with your love of symmetry!

    • says

      I love it! I was wondering the same thing. My house would drive you batty – there is literally *one* (I’m not kidding) window in my entire house that is actually centered on a wall. It is hands down the weirdest thing ever. I am anxiously anticipating the day when everything is centered appropriately and symmetrical!

    • Lindsay says

      I see now. I didn’t think the shelves were going to turn the corner, but I was confused about you saying they’d be the same width as the microwave side. I think it was just because it was hard to see how much room is to the left of the window. I think it is going to be great!

  3. says

    Love that fire engine red paint! Haha! When we redid our living room it was so interesting to unveil all the different layers of the home. I felt like it was the house’s history in a way . ..
    The progress is looking great!! :) So excited to see the penny tile make it’s appearance!

  4. Renae says

    Hey guys,
    My husband and I are on week three of the entire kitchen remodel (tearing out an island, adding a peninsula complete with beverage fridge, building in the fridge, swapping oven and fridge locations, spray painting cabinets, etc.) and I KNOW how difficult it is to live without appliances. But I couldn’t imagine living without a sink. I mentioned this to my husband he suggested you might try the restore store and get a temporary sink put in a piece of plywood you have sitting around. You could re-donate it and i’m sure you wouldn’t be out too much $$. I’m sure you’ve already thought of it but just in case you haven’t…he always thinks of stuff that I never do. :) Loving the progress at your house and mine.

    • says

      Yeah, we defintiely plan to go that route if it gets to rough (it actually hasn’t been a big deal since we have the dishwasher and just rinse out things right after we use them that aren’t dishwasher safe in the nearby hall bathroom).


  5. Ellen says

    Great progress! I am confused. I can’t figure out where you’re going to hang the microwave. I’ve read and re-read and just don’t get it. Hmmm….

  6. says

    Exciting! I was just telling my husband how easy it will be for us to remove cabinets so we can get new ones. :)
    Although, I know nothing is that easy when you are dealing with 1950’s cabinets. I can’t wait to see the shelving and tile. I am trying to decide about open shelving or cabinets on an empty wall in my kitchen, and need some more inspiration!

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