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The Big I Design, You Decide Mountain Fixer Kitchen Plan Reveal



Today is the REVEAL (!!!) of the two final kitchen design plans for our “modern rustic Scandinavian mountain” kitchen. I just spoke to your employer and they agreed that while it’s not a formal national holiday, you should skip work and spend the day reading this, instead. It’s the biggest I Design, You Decide to date, and a lot of the design of the house hinges on today’s poll. No pressure (actually, it’s A TON OF PRESSURE, DON’T FAIL ME). You’ll need a while to read it (it took me a while to write it), but if you are a renovation junky, are renovating your kitchen soon or are in design school, don’t miss a word because I learned so much and there are a lot of valuable nuggets that aren’t just about colors and textures woven in. As an uncertified decorator, I have a new found respect for all the kitchen designers who have been renovating these hardworking rooms for years. Designing this kitchen to be functional, stylish, fashion-forward but not too trendy, mountain-appropriate yet with a super modern feel has been tricky, (though a very fun challenge).

To create two design plans and like them both (almost) equally was perhaps maddening, honestly. I’m so happy to say that we have finalized the two kitchen options for you to choose between, and we love them both. (And thanks to my amazing design and blog team for helping to pull this together…everyone weighed in SEVERAL times as things flipped and flopped to get to where we landed for these final plans).

Let’s revisit the “before” which was a pretty great time capsule of 1992.

In case you think I’m being a snob against this style, know that I realize wholeheartedly that the reddish-yellow-brown shiny maple cabinets of 1992 are the white, gold and blush bathrooms of 2018. We are no better than our predecessors when it comes to avoiding trends because the zeitgeist is a typhoon you can’t avoid if you are near. Hilariously, all-wood/maple cabinets are back, it’s just done differently. Perhaps a whole post on that is due (you tell me what you think).

But it is dated, and it was the darkest room in the house and yet the one we hung out in the most.

We renovated this entire kitchen to give it the modern mountain treatment that it deserved. As a reminder, here is where we are with the layout, and thanks to your comments all that is in red are new changes (see this post to see the full functional layout, and cabinetry and appliance plan).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Plan With Notations 01

The biggest change is that we switched the fridge and the dry bar cabinet so that the swing of the fridge door doesn’t affect the person sitting on the island (as per your comments and suggestions—THANK YOU). We spent a FULL DAY trying to add the dry bar on the end of where the fridge is planned to be now, facing the living room, opening in that direction, but the ceiling lines aren’t consistent over there and it was looking so messy and architecturally silly so we stopped trying to make it work (because it wasn’t working). We also clarified some overhangs for counter seating and dove deeper into the cabinetry storage.

The intent of the design is to create a kitchen that feels both rustic and refined, with elements and finishes of both styles that work well together and don’t compete. I want there to be some more forward, edgy elements as well as something that references that we’re in the mountains. We didn’t want it to go too cold and contemporary but I also didn’t want to be as traditional as my current house. So where we landed was not quite in the middle: we included strong design elements and finishes reminiscent of both, with clean lines and finishes that were at the same time warm and refined.


Option #1 is more dramatic and edgy, but with some classic details. Here are some inspiration photos, but obviously there isn’t anything that is an exact match because this kitchen hasn’t been designed or seen before.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Kitchen I Design You Decide Inspo Pic 1
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Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Kitchen I Design You Decide Inspo Pic 4
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Please note that black stained wood above…we LOVE that. In fact, we haven’t been able to stop talking about the finish for weeks (it’s on everyone’s minds constantly).

Without further ado, I’d like to present to you our first kitchen design option:


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Option One Final Edgy

Ellis Pendant | Faucet | Sink | Hardware Pull | Vic Sconce | WindowMini Dome Sconce | Micro Knob | Smokebell Pendant | Ledge Pull | Soho White Marble

There is so much to talk about that I am going to reference throughout, but I wanted to show you the materials before we dove into the renderings. To ensure that everything actually worked together (which we tweaked one million times), my design team (Julie, Velinda and Grace—THANK YOU) used their magic and skills to do 3D renderings of both kitchens for you (and us).

Here is how all those materials will actually look in the space. Remember that this is a rendering so what you can’t see are the natural light, texture and general soul.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 03 Fnladj

This option is more dramatic, modern and forward with its black and off-white color palette, light blue-gray honed marble (that we might leather) and hits of gold. You already know the layout, so it’s time to talk more about the finishes. (The dining table and chairs are just to help you understand the space but are not part of the design plans yet.)


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 07 Fnladj

The island is clad in a stained black reclaimed wood. After weighing and sampling so many different options, we landed on black stained old wood, instead of either unpainted rustic wood or painted flat wood because we really wanted some texture here. In person, it’s so pretty and subtle but brings in the cabin-y feel. It’s the focal point of this design and everybody who sees this wood is responding strongly to it.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 09 Fnl

The lowers and the floor-to-ceiling cabinets are an off-white (Egret White by Sherwin-Williams) to keep it light, but we didn’t want a stark black and white option (I realize it looks white but it is indeed an off-white). This white is warm and lovely.

We did change some of the drawers up there function-wise because we realized that we didn’t have a “junk drawer” and that top one on the left is when you first walk in through the side entrance so it’s the perfect place to throw everyday stuff. Plus, we are putting an electrical outlet in one side with a divider to make that the charging station for tablets, phones and computers. The vertical cabinets pull out and will have custom built-ins for a spice rack, knife block and utensil holders. The two big drawers in the center are for pots and pans, as well as the two cupboards on each side. We’re still deciding whether we want those cupboards to have a pull-out bottom shelf or not. That’s TBD.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 02 Fnladj

The stone countertop (called Soho White from Bedrosians) is so beautiful but quiet. It’s a super lovely blue-gray marble that is honed and has a lot of movement in a soft way. I know marble as a surface is controversial (since it’s so high-maintenance) and a “lifestyle choice”, but it’s my choice and I like a house that ages. Yes, I’ve questioned this one million times and we even threw in a quartzite that was stunning but we were worried it looked like granite. I originally was going to use Cambria quartz for durability and stain resistance, but when Brian forced this house into a more rustic direction, the rustic island needed an organic stone. This is the one choice that I might change should this option get chosen. We took it up the window wall so you could see it more, and chose to make it thicker—2 inches—so it has more of a presence (which means that we had to adjust the cabinet height…did I thank the design team yet? Yes, but they deserve another shout out because each change took HOURS to render out).


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Sink Faucet Moodboard 01

Faucet | Sink

We went with a classic farm sink to keep with the cabin vibe. I love a single basin versus a double (and I’ve heard others agree). We chose the Purist in Vibrant Polished Brass to modernize the space and keep it warm and in the EHD brand. 🙂 The shape of the Purist is amazing and so simple that it can work with so many different styles. We ordered all the plumbing months ago and I recently was like “should I have ordered it in black?” but I’m so glad I didn’t let myself change my mind. I think this kitchen needs that brass and it helped inform all the metals in the lighting.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 06 Fnladj

The cabinets are inset so the fronts are flush with the stiles (hot tip: a stile is the vertical framing between the cabinet or drawer fronts; I JUST learned that). The wood we went with is alder that has 1-inch grooves and a 1 1/2-inch panel around the outside.

We wanted texture and detail but in a modern way that still felt simple. We tried 1-inch grooves with no border, but it felt too contemporary for Brian (he was right) so the panel around the outside helped keep it more classic. When renovating an older home, it’s my personal opinion that you should avoid looking “new build” as much as possible because even if the “new build” is super cool and trendy, it has the chance of looking more dated in the nearer future. I look at my beadboard in my bathrooms in LA and I’m like “why didn’t I do something more modern here??!!!” But then I remind myself that the house is 100 years old and wainscot is so classic.

I’m going to break down the whole process of how we chose the style, finish and profile of the cabinets in an upcoming post, so stay tuned if you’re interested.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 08 Fnl

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 08 Fnl1

We went round and round on these cabinets, at first going floor-to-ceiling as single panels, but it just looked like closets to us (we’ll show you that process in that upcoming post I mentioned above). It works in some houses, but it was feeling too cold for us. Besides, it couldn’t be seamless because of the freezer drawers (which were already on site). So by breaking them up, it really felt more interesting, custom, inviting and, frankly, functional.

I decided on glass fronts for the dry bar and appliance pantry because I wanted to add texture. Turns out I’m TRULY not a minimalist (shocking, I know) and I just couldn’t do a wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinets without adding more interest. I love how those two glass cabinets break it up, plus it’s two fewer cabinets that guests will have to guess their function.

We will likely use a thick almost “blurry” glass that I’ve seen around lately (go here for a visual reference). I will need to do more research on it, and I’ll show you what it is when we do the posts about how we are designing the inside of those two cabinets (why not make them special, right?). It might be cost-prohibitive, but I like the idea of slightly obscuring the contents inside.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Lighting Moodboard Option One 01

Ellis Pendant | Vic SconceMini Dome SconceSmokebell Pendant

Coming up with two lighting plans that worked together and still told the story of the house was hard. Plus, loving them both equally was quite the challenge.

For each plan, we have the following components: something streamlined and modern, and something lantern-like that feels more cabin-y. We will do a whole post about how to pick coordinating lighting and we’ll show you all the rejected combos (well not all 124 of them, but enough that you understand the process). Because we have hidden track lighting in the beams for function, the island light could be less about the light and more about the form; here, we picked this stunning sculpture by Katy Skelton. And yes, that is caramel leather in the middle. So gorgeous. The black and brass sconces flanking the window are glass lanterns from The Urban Electric Company. I’ve loved them for so long.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 07 Fnladj

Above the bar, we have three micro flush mounts (I think I just coined that term) to help light that area, but not detract from the view into the kitchen from the living room. These are modern but so simple that they can work with the rustic wood. That Katy Skelton pendant is the hero so we wanted to really see it from the living room. We mixed up the shapes and the numbers of fixtures but made sure that the style of the hardware/rods and the finishes worked well together. For instance, we wouldn’t have done that pendant over the island with sconces that had a lot of decorative detail. But doing sconces that were really modern might have taken this kitchen down a colder path. So finding really modern streamlined “lanterns” helped it make sense and give us the modern cabin feel that we wanted.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 05 Fnladj

The pendants over the dining table (more on those next) also reference the lantern sconces, but by being rounded instead of rectangular or square, it plays off the lines of the island pendant and doesn’t mimic too much the boxy shape of the sconces too much. We have a mix of round and square, refined and rustic, but all in the same three finishes – black, brass and glass. That seems easy but trust me it’s not. I’ll show you all the rejected combos soon. It took FOREVER, but was such a great learning process.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 04 Fnladj

Also from The Urban Electric Company, the rounded lanterns over the dining area are a little more modern, again in mixed metals. The frame is black, but the disc is brass. They have a large presence in such a quiet way. And I literally think that they will forever be in style. Finding “modern classic” is so hard, but I think these do it (all of UECo.’s lighting does, actually…and by the way, it looks like their product is to the trade but you can order anything over the phone). Urban Electric is a wonderful company; skilled artisans make all their product at their South Carolina headquarters by hand, and their entire staff has amazing work/life balance and they even offer paternity leave. Their lighting fixtures are high-end and thus expensive, but they should be and are worth it. If you love beautiful handmade lighting and can afford a design company that supports/creates US jobs and treats their employees so well, please do :).

**While the design of the dining room has not been started we wanted to plan the other lighting with those lights in mind as it’s a shared space. So don’t think about the table and chairs as they are just placeholders (although I’m OBSESSED with these, from Thos. Moser).

Here you can see how all the lighting interacts, which was tricky and maybe something that not everyone thinks about. But as a stylist, it’s really important for me to combine shapes and scales to ensure that certain things don’t block others and that there is a variety without it looking mismatched. I wouldn’t do two sconces, two island pendants, two dining room pendants and two bar semi-flush mounts. I worked so hard to make them different, but cohesive.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 01 Fnladj

I think seeing this entire thing overhead is also VERY fun so you can better understand how the whole space functions together. There’s great clearance around the island, and it’s easy to see how the view from the living room can go all the way to the dining room, thus the need for keeping the lighting minimal and quiet. We haven’t plugged in seating yet but there will be three stools at the island and at least two at the bar. And remember that most of the floor-to-ceiling cabinetry will retract and can stay open without the cabinets in the middle of the room (see this post for reference).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render Plan Fnladjd2

Phew, okay…that was a lot. Here’s a reminder of the materials below so you can stare at them while deciding.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Option One Final Edgy

Ellis Pendant | Faucet | Sink | Hardware Pull | Vic Sconce | WindowMini Dome Sconce | Micro Knob | Smokebell Pendant | Ledge Pull | Soho White Marble

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Ps Option1

But obviously, a full tour rendering of the space will help you feel as immersed as possible. I LOVE seeing this. Again a HUGE thanks to my design team for pulling these together for all of us to reference. It helped immensely.

Emily Henderson Mountian Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Option One Animation 02


Before we dive into all the exact materials and plan, let’s take a peek at some inspirations for this second kitchen design.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Kitchen I Design You Decide Inspo Pic 2
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It’s impossible to find something similar, but the surrounding cabinets and lowers will be in a darker tone, while the island will be a lighter focal point.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Kitchen I Design You Decide Inspo Pic 3
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Choosing an alternative color palette that I haven’t done before but fits a mountain house was hard. My current kitchen is dark green and a stone color, the Portland kitchen is a super dark green, but I have done a ton of blue kitchens so I didn’t want to repeat that. At the same time, a gray kitchen can feel a bit cold to me. I love all of these, so I found a color in the middle.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Kitchen I Design You Decide Inspo Pic 5
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This is similar, for sure, but the color palette, counters and lighting are all different. The function and layout stay the same mostly to keep my sanity and get the cabinets started. This one is a bit more predictable ‘EHD’ because it’s a medium toned gray/green with white, brass and hits of black but it’s also very appropriate for this mountain house. The same elements are mixed, just differently. It’s not a different style, but the elements that are applied are of a different finish thus giving it a different look.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Option Two Final Friendly

Chiltern Double Pendant | Faucet | Sink | Hardware Pull | Taylor Sconce | WindowMolten Sconce | Micro Knob | Chisholm Pendant | Ledge Pull | Sky White Marble

Option #2 does skew a bit more traditional mostly because of the lighting and the white island.


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 02 6.20.181

Instead of the black stain for the island, this will be a bright white PAINT of the same reclaimed wood, so that the tone of the wood doesn’t come through, but the texture does. We tested it with high gloss and it looks great and definitely reads as wood, but we are playing with matte white, still. The high gloss will likely be easier to wipe off, but we’ll seal the stain or flat paint so I’m not too concerned (but please weigh in if you have first-hand knowledge). The reason that we are only doing this on the island is that our contractor and cabinet maker don’t want to use it on the floor-to-ceiling unit because they have basically promised us that it will warp and the cabinetry will not fit straight and close properly, especially since our cabinets are inset. They said we can use a veneer on MDF and achieve a similar look that will be more structurally sound, but we think the additional texture of the reclaimed wood, even painted, is so beautiful.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 03 6.20.181

Also, we opted to enclose the island seating which means less seating as you can’t have stools on the sides, but since we have the bar/peninsula so close and the dining area right there, we think this will be enough.

Three people can sit at the island and that’s plenty since we’ll likely eat at the dining table. An overhang of the marble just looked and felt perilous with little kids running around  so having it enclosed lets us see the wood more as well as kept it a bit safer for the kids as their depth perception can see a big island more than a cantilevered stone (they can only really see what is right in front of them when running around like rabid rough housers—true story with ours).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 04 6.20.18

You can see in this view that the dishwasher is on the right of the sink, and the garbage and recycling is on the left. Over the weekend while on Pinterest, I saw how many people have added a pull-out cutting board above the garbage that then allows food waste to fall into a hole into the bin, so I will likely add that as it seems smart (it can be within the same pullout for the garbage so it won’t add a drawer line).


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 01 6.20.181

The cabinet profile is the same as Option #1 but in a different color. Listen, I can’t do a warm-toned cabinet unless it’s wood, so the options for anything painted are light blue, medium blue, dark blue, light green, medium green, dark green, white, light gray medium gray dark gray, black. You get it. I also didn’t want anything too BRIGHT because we are going really neutral in this house and I didn’t want a jewel tone come out of nowhere. What we have chosen is a medium green/gray that is kind of hard to define. It doesn’t immediately look “green” (and it also doesn’t really look slate-y blue in person, either) but it has so much more warmth and more tones than your average gray (Grays Harbor by Sherwin-Williams). It’s not “bright” per se, but it’s still happy. We love it.

The stone is lighter, with a lot of cream and taupe movement. It’s called Sky White and it’s honed marble (though we might leather, as well). It’s BEAUTIFUL, but it’s so light that it’s a little scary with stains. I will say that our current LA leathered white marble is holding up GREAT. Sure, there is some color variation where we use it the most but I think that the leather and honed finishes really do better with wine, citrus and acids. We’ve only been here for a year so we’ll see how it holds up but for an older home, it still looks beautiful. We also chose to not do a waterfall counter because it felt too contemporary for the house (despite your Instagram story poll—you guys voted to waterfall…sorry).


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Lighting Moodboard Option Two Friendly

Chiltern Double Pendant | Taylor Sconce | Molten Sconce | Chisholm Pendant

Lighting for this round is feeling slightly more traditional I think because of the shades on the island pendant, but it has a good mix of simple and streamlined to work with the rest of the house. As a reminder, we have white modern track lighting (not shown because we haven’t sourced it yet) for task lighting as I know that the other pendant in option #1 does give off less light. But I love the lines of this one as well and it’s still modern, albeit slightly more traditional (the shades can come in a metal finish). The peninsula/bar flush mounts from Allied Maker are glass with a thin brass plate (they look a little dark in the above image, I know), thus referencing the lanterns and still keeping the sight line clear. The sconces for around the window are from Katy Skelton and add that streamlined modern touch that takes the traditional pendant over the island in an edgier direction.

The dining pendants are my FAVORITE LANTERNS IN THE WORLD. The lines are so clean and crisp; they are black and brass, and the glass is clear (not green like in the rendering above). It says “modern cabin” in such a sophisticated, high-end way. If this option doesn’t get chosen, I will try so hard to put these in the house somewhere else because my soul is responding really hard to them.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 07 6.20.18

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 05 6.20.18


Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Moodboard Hardware

Hardware Pull | Micro KnobLedge Pull

For both the floor-to-ceiling and the lower cabinets, the handles are a mix of tiny micro knobs, ledge pulls, and large squared off handles for the heavier drawers and appliances. Yes, you can mix up your hardware and should, especially if you stick to two to three styles in the same finish with a similar profile. Our picks are thin, black and modern. We toyed with SO MANY, including not having any at all (which I’ll go into in that upcoming post I keep mentioning). I love to mix a knob with a handle at the very the least, but if you have the opportunity to add in another hardware (or even a non-hardware…more on that later), then it will look even more custom.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 09 6.20.18

We wanted the stiles on the cabinet doors/drawers to be really small, but the smaller they are the harder it gets to find hardware that fits them. We definitely considered doing some options without hardware, but ultimately loved the detail and jewelry effect that the hardware brought. Big handles are great for appliance pulls and heavy drawers, but normal cabinets can just use a finger ledge, while uppers are perfect for a knob.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 06 6.20.18

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render 08 With Copy

Where it got tricky was the far left food pantry: two double pull outs that might be kinda heavy. We may still play with the knob versus ledge there. We made the surrounding cabinet panel on this side of the room 2 inches versus the 1 1/2 inches that is on the lowers so we can fit the fridge pulls. And the reason that we didn’t make the stiles bigger on the lower cabinet side is that if the panel got bigger, the drawers would start to look silly (although we could just make them a flat panel). We think that you won’t notice the difference and it keeps the function working on both sides for the best. And if you are wondering how we are working that microwave drawer, we are likely going to do a vertical hinge up and then the door would open out. More on that later. We were going to put it above, but once we shifted to glass, I realized we didn’t want to see it through the glass but at the same time we need easy access to it because we microwave a shameful amount.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render Plan 6.20.18

Now, if I could go back in time this is what I would do: Put the sink, dishwasher AND the cooktop on the window wall. A few of you mentioned that you loved having a clear island and I agree – I have one now and love it. We played with both being on the other side and they are super awkward with the current size of the huge window. They would have to be pretty far apart in order to put the dishwasher in between and where they would land would basically be right in front of the window frame. The plumbing and gas lines are already in and that massive window from Marvin is arriving next week. To move all the plumbing/gas, reframe and reorder a bigger window (or divide into two) would probably be $6 – $8k. I also don’t know if a window THAT big would look good or just massive. Plus, we’d have to redesign all the cabinetry underneath and on the island. At a certain point, you just have to call it. We will survive having a sink on the island. But if you are early in your stages of remodeling, I agree with those commenters who sang the benefits of a totally clean island for a food buffet and prep.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Ps Option2

Enough with the regrets because MAN I LOVE THIS KITCHEN. Who doesn’t want to have a full tour to help with their decision making?

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper I Design You Decide Kitchen Render Walk Through Option Two 01

So which one do I want? I think I’m leaning a little harder into the black island. I think it’s more of a departure for me and I love that Katy Skelton pendant SO MUCH. We thought about even giving you four options: each cabinetry design with each lighting design because they can definitely be intermixed, but at a certain point, we have to control the options and really just give the two that we think are the most successful.

I think either of these will be beautiful and do what we need in the house.

But you’ll decide. So dear god, please be a CLEAR decision. If its 49% to 51%, I’ll be wondering for the rest of my life if just a few of you didn’t weigh in and the kitchen should have gone in a different direction. You don’t have to enter your email to vote if that’s a deterrent. If you do enter your email, though, we can track you for the vacay giveaway (it enters you to win a week here for $1k toward travel…it’s going to sleep like 12 by the way, so bring your friends…hell, have your friends vote so you have more chances to win; and when you share it on social or email, you get entered every. single. time. It’s an IT nightmare, but we have a source that is doing it so don’t worry, we’re keeping track).

OKAY, IT’S TIME TO VOTE. Option #1 – Dramatic, high contrast, black and white OR Option #2 – happy, friendly a little more glam but still ‘mountain’. We’re all anxiously waiting to hear what you all think and where this vote goes

I Design, You Decide

The Kitchen

Option 'Edgy'


68 %

Option 'Friendly'


32 %
(Vote by Wednesday, July 4th to have your voice heard.)
You did it!

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂


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A five-night stay at the cabin in 2019 (with some blackout dates, of course, because our family uses it) with $1,000 towards travel expenses (if you live driving distance then it’s just fun money, or if you live internationally then we will cover up to $1,000 of your expenses. So, all the international readers please feel free to participate and enter as well). We’ll make it a dream trip! Including cocktails out on the lake with me.

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Hannah Gokie

That black reclaimed wood is the deciding factor for me. It is just SO pretty even on renderings so I’m hoping it wins so I can see it IRL. If it doesn’t win can you use it somewhere else?? Pleeeease? (Bathroom island or wardrobe or something?)

Ha. We are in the guest bath that you guys chose! Apparently it might be a theme 🙂

kanchipuram silk

I love both designs as well as the functional changes you made. This kitchen is going to be so much fun to hang out in! I would suggest rethinking the pull out cutting board, especially in a house you will be sharing with others. They are so tough to clean and often get shoved back in wet, making your cabinets gross and water damaged. We had them in our old house and found them inconvenient so we really didn’t use them much but our neighbors house had been a rental where they were used and really did a number on… Read more »


I agree about the cutting board – we took ours out because over time it started to smell like old onions and “wet” every time you opened the drawer and we could never seem to get it clean enough.


My parents had pull out cutting boards and they were used often. The house is now 20 years old and they are still used. Just make sure you wipe dry with a dish towel.


I second this. Also, it’s oddly difficult to cut on a surface that’s an inch or two lower than your normal countertops. It makes a task that is usually mindless and automatic into one where it’s just slightly weird and you have to really concentrate in order to not cut your finger off. Haha!


Kelly, I totally agree! My in-laws have a board like this, and I find it impossible to use. Their other cutting board is made of glass(?!) or something similar which is also horrible to cut anything on, so I always volunteer to set the table and keep wine glasses filled and peace out of the kitchen!


I totally agree about the cutting board. Plus I think that would be a really awkward spot to actually be cutting stuff, and how sturdy can it really be when it’s pulled out all the way? Seems like it would wobble a little.


I agree with Kelly! Cutting two inches lower than you’re used to is surprisingly hard. My parents had one in the house I grew up in and my dad cut himself FOUR TIMES WITH STITCHES REQUIRED before they took it out.

HA. you guys are BLOWING my mind and I thank you so much. Ok done. I rarely cut anything but why would I design something purely for function that just isn’t. 🙂


I agree 100%! We had one growing up and man that thing was gross. Plus over the years it warped a bit meaning you had to shove it hard for it to go back in which left wood shavings in the cabinet shelves below.


My parents have a pull out cutting board and we used it all the time for cutting bread and vegetables (never for meat). Usually it just needs a quick wipe with a damp sponge or dish rag before it’s pushed back in. My dad did make a replacement cutting board some time in the last 15 years but the house is 35 years old. However the pull out cutting boards in my last house (1952 original kitchen) and current house (1925 original kitchen) are disgusting and gross and I will never use them. BUT, because I have to replace the… Read more »


We have one and I don’t use it cos I think it’s gross


I live in a new rental (I’m the first one to live here) which has a pull out cutting board and I newer use it. Honestly it’s just waste of space in my little kitchen. Every other apartment I have lived in has had pull out cutting board and they have been nasty. I agree that they are also impractical.


Wow! I always thought they looked so great on Pinterest, etc. and was planning to ask our kitchen designer for one! My germophobic husband would definitely melt down over a wet, smelly board so thank you (and everyone else who weighed in) for the 411!


I think pull-out cutting board is a must for cutting bread! In my family it’s always been used for cutting dry things only, so it doesn’t get wet. We vacuum the crumbs off every once in a while and put some oil maybe every couple of years.


I was sold on the ‘Edgy’ option because I love the light fixture over the island so much. That leather in the middle is so nice.


Ok I know you said you didn’t want to give us all four options but before you even mentioned that I was thinking AH I so want lighting option 1 with cabinet/counter option 2. But really it’s all amazing! The renderings are endlessly helpful!


Me toooooo!! I love everything, I’m breaking my mind as if I was choosing my only child’s name. Arrrrrgggghhhh


Me too! I wound up voting for Option 2 because of the cabinets. I’m sad my option is currently losing, but I’ll get over it.


Agreed, I am rooting for you #2! But it will be gorgeous either way.


Me too! I went for option one because of the lighting- but if you could combine light one with cabinets 2 then I would be happy! Whatever way, its gonna be beautiful 🙂


Yep! Same! Lighting from option one with cabinetry from two.




I agree. I loooove the lighting in option 1 and the black wood, yet I prefer the dark perimeter with the lighter island IF the space has enough natural light to support the extra dark cabinetry.


Yes!! Option #2 but with lighting from #1 is the winner for me! Either way, both are lovely and so well thought out!

SHOOT. I knew I should have given you both options, but it just got so convoluted and doing the renderings of both was time consuming (not for me – THANK YOU GRACE!). So I was like, ‘no, we can curate. we can narrow it down’ but now i wonder if we should have given you multiple options. Although what am I saying, I love option #1. 🙂

Yvonne Bouma O'Brien

Yes, my thoughts exactly! Cabinets from #1, lighting from #2.


same. Lighting from #1 with cabinets from #2


I am opposite! Option edgy with friendly’s lighting.

Vicki S Williams

Ha! Option 1 and switch the island lighting with the dining table lighting. :))


Same! I do not like the lighting option in number 2, but the cabinetry is gorgeous.


I voted for option #2. Love the black island in #1, but the lighting options ruined it for me. Lighting from #2, with cabinets from #1!

Megan T

Option 1 for sure! I love that light over the island. Love this post. Thank you so much!! Ya’ll have been working hard to give us some great content! The one thing I do not like is that the stone comes up the window wall past the bottom of the window. I know that is the popular thing to do, but it has always looked like stair steps to me that start up, then down, and then go back up. In my head, I want the stone to be in line with the bottom of the window. That keeps everything… Read more »

We did this and put it in the rendering and I wished I had more stone. But the renderings don’t really reflect reality, aka the stone looks boring in the renderings so by adding more stone you can at least see it vertically … but i’m interested in thinking about this….

Anna McNinja

Option 1 is SLAYING me with its fierceness. I’m voting from beyond the grave. 11/10 killin’ it.

Thank you Anna. Favorite comment today. xx


This is the most anxious I’ve been for the vote results! I love the first kitchen so much and all my fingers and toes are crossed everyone else does too! This is so fun, Emily – thanks for letting us participate in this with you! XO


It’s so great to see this- I have wanted cabinets in a color similar to option 2 for a while- but I was surprised to find myself drawn much more to 1! My much more modest cabinet painting and lighting remodel might benefit from you and your talented renderers 🙂

The stained black is reminiscent of shou sugi ban and I am hoping to achieve that look on some paneling in my new home. I love it.

Vicki S Williams

I love shou sugi ban so much and am wondering why you didn’t use it on island. The stained black looks wonderful also, but just sayin’.

Kate F.

Oh man, I hope option 1 wins. So much cooler and also more cabin-ish. You asked about pull-out cabinet shelves. If you can’t swap out those 2-door cabinets for more drawers, DEFINITELY install pull-out shelves. Bottom cabinets are nearly useless; you have to lie down on the floor to get anything out of them, so they become dark pits of despair. I installed almost entirely drawers in the best kitchen I’ve built: The entire work-side of the island (and yes, it’s a shame you can’t get the sink out of the island; I think having cooktops or sinks in islands… Read more »


Totally agree about going all drawers! SO much more functional than lower cabinets!

emily jane

I agree INTENSELY -bottom cabinets without pull-out shelves and/or drawers become useless, back-breaking, “dark pits of despair”!!! I am practically desperate to instantly convince you to install the pull-out option -like, FOR ABSOLUTE SURE! But beyond my bizarrely intense emotional reaction (what is wrong with me.!?) to the idea of not installing them in an otherwise BEAUTIFUL and almost poetically functional kitchen, I wonder if perhaps there is a consideration we are not aware of..? But then, it just seems soooo simple to install them as part of this grand kitchen renovation rather than leaving it as TBD..? taking a… Read more »


I have a massive island and put in drawers on either side and then decided to add a cabinet with pull out shelves for visual interest and every time I have to open the doors AND THEN pull out the shelf, I kick myself for not putting in a bank of drawers instead of the dang cabinet. #totallyfirstworldproblems


Agree with this so much. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t like the dark cabinets in #2, especially because I HATE white kitchens, but the dark island is a focal point that allows you to look at the space. The darker cabinets suck attention, and I don’t know where to look. I’d rather look outside at your beautiful view than your beautiful cabinets (as amazing as they are).

Jonna l Mulqueen


I am a designer in Denver and I love all that you do.
However, just a heads up that those BELL lights…I personal bought for my kitchen are a BEAR to clean.
You have to unscrew the entire glass…from the hanging mechanism and it takes two people! I am cleaning them about every 6weeks. I love them so much so for me it is worth it but wish I knew going in.

Jonna Mulqueen
Uncommon Nest Interiors


This is useful information! I love the look, but when I saw them I was wondering about how much dust would collect in the bells…


Yes! We put only drawers in our new home (except for the trash bin and under the sink) and I will never go back to cabinets with doors!

Vicki S Williams

Yes! You MUST have pull outs in your door cabinets! No question!


Such a hard decision! I love them both! I love the lighting in option 1, but the cabinet colors in option 2.

Tavia Doyle

I really like everything about the edgy kitchen especially the lighting …..except the pendants by the window. They are seeming a little too 80’s exterior and clunky. Great job on all the renderings!!


I agree about the pendants flanking the window; I love everything else, but they did seem a little “outdoor lighting” to me as well. Maybe they look cooler in person? But the amazing light over the island was enough to secure my vote for option 1!


same! totally exterior vibes. they seem weird for indoors.


Agreed! I almost voted for option 2 just for those lights by the sink. *love*

Helena McNeice

I agree with you that the lights by the window scream outdoor 80’s.


Yes! I’m all about option 1 but the sconces look like outdoor or bathroom lighting to me.

emily jane

Loooved and voted for Option EDGY but am not fond of those sconces framing the window either…




#1 is just so, so cool. We get way more opportunities for “friendly” design, but how often do we really get to go edgy?!


I’ll be honest, I was pretty split on this one with a slight leaning towards #2, but you seem to truly want #1 more so I voted for that. ???? It bums me out to think of you not getting the kitchen you really want in your heart.


Edgy, for sure! That black island is perfection. All the light fixtures, heck, all the elements in this kitchen are gorgeous, but please consider the glare factor of bare bulbs and clear glass over areas where you’ll be working/hanging out. I have clear glass pendants over my island and while I love the look, I NEVER turn them on because they are just not pleasant to be around when lit. I have plenty of other light for the work space, so I don’t need them to see what I’m doing and they’re really more decorative, but even with a low… Read more »


I voted option one because I love 99% of it. But I prefer the option two island light.


Molly’s comment made me laugh because that was my voting logic too, except it was the option 2 sconces that 1% swayed me. (I also love the option 2 dining room lights but those can go somewhere else in the house.) Our current house has a cooktop with downdraft and two pot/pan drawers beneath it, facing an outside wall (with glass blocks under the upper cabinets, because built in the 90s) and the only thing I don’t like about that situation (other than the cooktop not being gas) is that the downdraft takes up a lot of the pot/pan storage… Read more »


The pendant over the island and the black wood in #1 have my heart, but both are stunning! Great work, as always!


Of course, both designs are spectacular, but I adore all of the unique details in the Edgy kitchen (#1). It’s beautiful and also feels very special, one-of-kind. 🙂

Clever Girl Reviews

Loved both pretty equally but I chose option two because I love the cabinet color. It’s just such a great color for a mountain retreat.


Is the window going to be the color in the renderings? It kept sticking out to me as this random beige. Maybe making it white or black (for the first edgy option of course!) would make more sense?
Love love the stained black wood, such a cool material and very unexpected.

Vicki S Williams

I kept wanting the window framing to be black also.

karen robinson

Hi Emily, Wow such an amazing post and such gorgeous work. I voted for the first kitchen although both were fabulous. I do have to say though that I found the sink in the island on both designs to be jarring. My eye kept going there instead of the rest of the kitchen which has so many beautiful and “eye” worthy elements. I understand your thinking in putting it there but from a design point of view its pretty distracting. Im not sure you really want the sink to be the focal point of the space. I thought the lighting… Read more »

Raha Hezar

Where will you use the ledge pulls?? I love that style of hardware but have only seen it on slab front cabinets. We are re-doing our kitchen as we speak with shaker style doors and I kept wanting to use ledge pulls for hardware but haven’t seen it done and cant picture it. Is it possible to ledge pull with shaker?!?!?!?!


I voted “Edgy” because I LOVE the dark black island. I guess its not really on the table, but I don’t love the vertical wood details on the cabinets in both choices. I feel like this is will add a lot of ridges needing to be constantly dusted/cleaned and it doesn’t look very modern or fresh. Much like I don’t like the panelling in Charlie’s current room, I think it looks quite dated, but could just be my take. I love the lighting and leather finish on the marble will be gorgeous.


Option #1’s lighting did it for me. Though I love the cabinet color in #2. What about putting the microwave in the pantry cupboard? I feel like you could put in the pantry and that would be a great way to not have to squat down to use it, but also have it concealed. The microwave space can be additional pantry storage like another drawer. I recently did my kitchen and went with the “old school microwave out in the open above the range” due to the limited amount of wall space, it was there or the island. The person… Read more »

Stephanie Horton

Agreed on the crouching microwave thing being awful. I’m a parent of kids similar ages to yours, Emily, and we also use ours a ton. I know there are microwaves that are pull out drawers themselves. Could you use one of those and somehow get the custom front on it or build a drawer to put the pull out microwave inside?


While I love Marble did you know cambria can hone their slabs now? Our rep came by and told us they will hone any of their slabs for maybe $3 a sf? just something to consider.
I dont mind a house that ages too. Just wondering if you would ever ‘rent’ this house out as an income property
Or let friends use it you might want something more durable than marble since its not your primary residence.
but I love the marble too. Im sure you considered everything.


OPTION 1!!!!


Option #1 is definitely my favorite, even without having to compare it to another option, as a stand alone design I absolutely love all of it and specifically love it for this house. But I share your passion for the dining lanterns in Option #2 so please, please find a place for those. Maybe the foyer and/or stair landing?

(P.S. I was extremely excited when I saw what looked like a panel-ready microwave drawer – why don’t those exist???)

Vicki S Williams

They do! Yes a drawer! Though i still worry about the little ones having access to the microwave. I think it is dangerous. :((


I voted for Option 1, but I really want to mix/match the lighting choices. I feel the island pendant from #1 is the best thing I’ve ever seen, but want it paired with the rest of the lights from option 2. They feel much cleaner. The other fixtures from #1 are too heavy with the airy, lightness of the Katy Skelton island pendant. I’m sure you’re worried about both Katy Skelton lights being too matchy-matchy tho.


I voted for “Friendly” and it wasn’t even a hard decision – it’s so much warmer, feels more casual somehow, and still feels like “Emily” but with new finishes I haven’t seen you do! I wish I could see the designs styled out with art and accessories and maybe some plants? Those things can change the look so much. Also, I’m struggling with the shades on the Chiltern light fixture. I wish they could be switched out with maybe a metal shade – zinc, copper, even old brass? Or even a light woven. Either way, they’re BOTH beautiful and I… Read more »


I think she actually mentions that the Chiltern light fixture comes with metal shades!


Yes, I just saw that! On the lighting company site, it shows it in both white and a green enameled metal and it’s SO much better than the black.


I agree with you about the accessories. I also feel many people chose option one because subconsciously they perceived option two to be dark. Unfortunately all but the last rendering don’t show how light the rooms are. I also feel that being in the middle that’s a perfect place for color in the home. Also it’s a mountain home and not a main home which suggest too do something other than white. Either way both options are beautiful.


You really can’t go wrong, Emily – both kitchens are amaze! But if those dining room pendants are a dream come true for you, then lighting of option 2 (obsessed with those sconces) with the cabinets of option one! it’s not too late!


Incredibly hard choice but ultimately that black island won me over! I still love the lighting of option 2 best though!


#1 all the way!!! And that’s coming from someone who always votes traditional! Ugh it’s just SO good.

Something about the darker island and lighter outer cabinets just seems to work better in the space, I think? Also, I think my eyes are starving for some NEW styles, and #1 is giving me life.

Jenny Denton

Interesting that you said your only regret right now is the sink on the island. With everything worked up and 3D, I feel the same way, but I understand about just calling it when you can. We had a big mistake in our house when we designed the kitchen (bar height), and even today I was thinking about how I wish I could change it. But it’s been 11 years, and it’s fine.

BTW–option 1 has my vote. I hate how many scuff marks my white wall has under my bar. Black would eliminate that completely.


Both are beautiful!! I’m TOTALLY SWOONING


Do you mind commenting what program you are using for the 3D kitchen renders? I am looking for a computer program just like that to help design my kitchen. Thank you!


Sketchup is pretty good, and open source


Love this series. Every IDYD post I feel so strongly about one of the options! Fun to see the thought you put behind things, and always exciting to see which direction gets picked (even when I lose).


I’m selfishly sad that there isn’t tile anywhere. You always source the most amazing tile. I agree that the sink in the island isn’t ideal but I totally appreciate your make it work mentality. I voted for one. I really like it – but because this is the internet and I’m a human, I have feedback I feel compelled to share. 🙂 I’d rethink the glass in the small appliances cabinet. Isn’t the point of a small appliance cabinet to hid away your toaster, blender, etc? I think those cabinets are genius because of the function which you are essentially… Read more »

emily jane

oooh!!! LOVING the idea of a stained black reclaimed beam at the corner of the island counter : )
I do like the addition of the glass cabinets -especially in a thick “blurry” glass as Emily mentioned- and think they suggest a pleasing ‘syymetry’ to the windows across the way.

Vicki S Williams

I agree about the glass showing the appliances but there is glass that would give the look and also be less clear. the blurry glass is still too clear to hide the appliances. I hope you can find another glass tho I love the blurry glass. It may be called “granite”.


I adore what you’re doing with the edgy/sleek/alternate Emily – I hope the house goes in this direction. Option 2 is a little too similar to your current kitchen, even though it’s darker green the overall feel is the same.



I’m in the minority. I voted #2. If there had been more of that gorgeous reclaimed wood in #1, I would have been ALL OVER it. With just the wood island, though, it seems like yet another white kitchen. I’m sure either will be beautiful in person, but I have a strong preference for what I think will be the more dramatic kitchen.


My choice and reason EXACTLY. So over white kitchens.


Agree. Less white !!


Agreed. I wanted to see an overall dark kitchen as well. With all the windows she has the kitchen will still be bright! Love the darker cabinets and the lighting overall, especially around the window for Option 2!


Emily! Whichever option you go with (but, obviously it will/should be the “edgy” one right?), please please please swap the window flanking pendant options. The boxy lantern sconces want to be with the boxy lantern dining fixtures SO BADLY… and the curvilinear sconces want to live with all the curvilinear light fixtures in the “edgy” world SO BADLY. These families should not be separated! Think of the children! Design with heart! (Sorry, I am not trying to make “light” of real world events.)


I voted # 1 but both are beautiful. I like light and airy so went with the white cabinets. I am not a fan of the grooves though – wondering what others’ experience is on how much dirt/grease gets trapped in those grooves over time. I do a lot of stir-frying so this may not be a concern to you but especially with a downdraft vent which is not as good as overhead vents (I think this is what you are getting but don’t remember for sure), cooking grease and other stuff could accumulate in those grooves.


I absolutely agree and have the exact same concerns. As a mom to three Littles who lived with those cabinets for a year – it was a cleaning nightmare. Also a bad idea for anyone with pets, anyone who cooks with oils, and anyone who deals with dust – so basically everyone. I would reconsider flat front cabinets or simple shaker style. Just imagine cleaning spilled smoothies, yogurt, dust, grime, and so on out of EVERY single grove; and then the cleaning cloth getting stuck and leaving lint in the groves. Every single grove. Seriously.


I agree. The v-groove doesn’t really make sense to me, but I think it is a done deal regardless of the color scheme.


I voted option one. I love the white and black, especially the black stain! As for the pull out bottoms for the cabinets on the window wall – YES, always yes! It just makes life easier when you need the item on the lower shelf in the back. Also I’m with the others that said no to the pull out cutting board. A disaster every time, especially when you have renters. They don’t clean them properly it gets super gross and then stops sliding in and out or gets stuck permanently sticking out half way (it happened once). The idea… Read more »


I love option 1 so much i didn’t even want to look at option 2! but then i love learning about your process and all the possibilities so much, so i did in fact read it. they’re both lovely but option 1 is so unique!

ps – just thinking about making the lighting decisions makes my head spin. you gals (and brady) are so talented!


I really love number 2, but I would 100% use the Katy Skelton fixture instead of the shaded one, I just kinda hate the shaded one. I don’t know why, I just do lololol. Honestly both are BEAUTIFUL!


I voted Edgy. I wasn’t initially sold on the sconces around the window, as I too got an 80s vibe from them. However, once I saw them in the room renderings, I like them. The Friendly option looks very EHD. I like that you branched out with the Edgy one to something we don’t typically see in your designs.

Also: I LOVE the black reclaimed wood. Painting it with white paint would lose the depth and richness of the wood.


I don’t like the wall scones at all for some reason … the rest of the lighting in both options is great. The scones in both? Not so much.


This is perplexing to me. I loved the sconces and am not getting an 80s or outdoor vibe. Just wanted to cast a positive vote for that choice…


I also love the Urban Electric dining pendants in the ‘Friendly’ option, but I wanted to mention hanging two square pendants side by side is tricky! Unless they are hung from a rod [which I’m sure Urban Electric could customize] they will twist and turn and never hang straight next to one another! Some may be OK with that, but it would drive me crazy! I am an interior designer and have made that mistake before, and we ended up eventually switching them out for round fixtures.

Kelly V.

Option #1! Love that black island and lighting option!


Thanks for the tip!

David Peck

Love Option 1! But both designs are great.

Two thoughts, would you consider running the stone on the window wall all the way up to the ceiling? Where it stops now seems to break up that wall too much. Also, the sconces in Option #2 seem like they would go so well in Option #1. I agree with some of the comments that they look a little “outdoor.”

No matter what, the finished product will be beautiful!


I sounded like that orphan from Annie while reading this because I just kept going “oh my goodness, oh my goodness!!”

Both options are STUNNING. I had such a hard time deciding! I finally leaned toward option 2 because the “friendly” feel just made it seem more welcoming- but either one would be a knockout.

I can’t wait to see how it turns out and who wins!!


I LOVE the ledge pulls! So functional and unobtrusive and totally wonderful. I’d put them everywhere! They come in all finishes and all lengths, and you can install them vertically for cabinet doors. My fantasy kitchen has pale wood slab doors with ledge pulls so the beauty of the wood grain is unobstructed. My current kitchen has the edges of cabinet doors and drawers routered so they stand out from the frame a bit — no hardware needed at all, and it’s a lovely clean look that I also like a lot. No problem with fingerprints, either. At all costs,… Read more »


I actually prefer the lighting in #1 but I didn’t vote on it because it is such a hot look RIGHT NOW, that I worry in a few years it will feel dated. That type of edgy lighting is so great, but is so popular it might burn out as a trend. The other is a little more classic.
Love both, though!


Yeah, I have a feeling that that sho sugi ban look is going to get really hot and look dated really soon. When something is that dramatic it has immediate emotional resonance, but it can pall quickly, too.


I love both styles! But the sink location vs. cooktop location need to be switched, IMO. I think a cooktop in front of a huge glass window is an odd idea–and you will forever be cleaning muck and splatters off the window. I wonder if anyone else had the same reaction..?


This was a major point of discussion in earlier kitchen posts 🙂 Emily’s rationale (which she thought a lot about if memory serves) was that they don’t cook that often and she was more likely to be spending time at the island doing dishes and wanting to see/lookout to open space. I think that’s right, but many folks shared your thinking…

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