These days, the internet is littered with cute small spaces: tiny houses, cool and funky modular homes and she-sheds galore. But what about the process of getting there? Virtually none of them started out that way. In fact, many began as dysfunctional, poorly-planned spaces.
To kick off the year, I’m excited to do a two-part feature on two personal kitchen remodels in small existing spaces.
Both of these designers are located in the Portland Metro area. In their own unique ways, they each dreamed and delivered a wonderful creative space change that I think you will find inspiring! When it comes to small spaces, it always pays back to do your research and check out what others are doing.
Today, I am speaking with Robin Fisher, a local designer and CEO of Robin Fisher Design. I’m excited to share our conversation with you!
What did your old kitchen look like? What worked / didn’t work for you in that space?
My old kitchen was a poorly designed, builder-grade space. The crazy thing is that the house was built in 2008, so there was no reason for this kitchen to have been designed so dysfunctionally!
There were maple recessed panel cabinets, which I could lave lived with if the layout was better. In fact, there were two entire cabinets that were not useable since the doors were so narrow. This poorly-designed kitchen also had a peninsula that blocked traffic and was completely unnecessary since it didn’t add to the functionality of the kitchen. The truth was that this space was in need of an upgrade even when it was brand-new.
What was the impetus for taking action on doing your remodeled kitchen?
In 2018, we downsized from a much bigger house. I was tired of the commute and wanted to simplify my life! We added a 12 x 16 shed in the back yard, wired it for electricity and this became my office. As a result, it was important for my home to work as a showroom in addition to being a more functional and pretty space to live and entertain in.
The house itself is 1,400 square feet. We tore out the carpet, put in new flooring, molding, lighting, and a new kitchen and powder room. Nothing structural was moved, just a lot of replacement of what was already there.
How long did the remodel take from start to finish?
It took about three months total. And yes, three months can feel like a long time but it really isn’t! You just get through it and the final product is so worth it.
How did you manage without a kitchen for three whole months?
This was the second major remodel my husband and I have done since we have been married. We are both quite laid back about the process. I have no problem cooking without a kitchen – we love our instant pot! With that and an electric skillet, we had no problem. We set up a makeshift kitchen in the garage with a table, chairs and a heater. It was cozy.
Here’s the truth: renovating is a first world problem. Humans are so adaptable, and this is a temporary process. We chose to renovate a week after Thanksgiving. I will say that it’s easier to remodel in the summertime than the winter, but we made it work. My husband made a cocktail advent calendar and we had a new, fun drink each night. That made it special.
Could you share one thing you learned in the process?
This may seem cocky – but I really am a good designer. If anything, this was good practice at rolling with the punches. If you get too uptight with this renovation stuff, you learn that you have to shift. Things cost more than you think they will. You start out organized, and then things get messy because it’s your home and your stuff is there too. But it’s ok – everything is temporary. It’s a good lesson in patience.
What is your favorite thing about your new kitchen?
I am in love with all of the extra storage space and counter space we have! The appliances are all new and selected just for the space. I put in a steam oven – it is the absolutely best item in our kitchen. I also love my refrigerator – it is a 30” wide all refrigerator SubZero. To save space, we put our freezer in the garage (right outside of the kitchen). It doesn’t create an issue to have it a little further away, and gives us a lot of extra space in the kitchen.
The dishwasher is 18″ and fits perfectly in the space. And instead of extra cabinets, which can make the room look heavy, we added some exposed shelving for dishes. It looks tidy and never gets dusty since they are constantly getting washed.
What do you want people to know about the process of doing a small renovated kitchen from the perspective of a designer?
Trust your designer! The process of doing a remodel can be challenging, but you will get through it. Don’t be afraid of color – if its your favorite color, you will love it forever! Don’t design based on what everyone else is doing, do what works best for the space, and for the way you live.
One more thing: bigger is not always better. Do not design for that one day of the year. I can make your kitchen works for the holidays as well as design for the way you live every other day.
If you want to get in touch with Robin, you can reach her via email or phone, below!