Connect with H&H

It’s finally time to reveal the dramatic "after" shots of my new kitchen with cabinets from AyA kitchens! So exciting. From being frustrated with my previous kitchen to planning for a new one, it’s a great feeling to have the project completed. (This blog is sponsored by AyA. Follow my kitchen reno progress here.)

Ta-da! The result is a contemporary bistro-style kitchen. In place of the usual kitchen table, we went with a long counter-height table outfitted in the same marble used elsewhere for ample workspace.

Here's the handy new bar sink in the corner, with a ledge above made out of salvaged timber. To go from those yellow walls and mismatched cabinetry to this is quite dramatic.

I love the new cookbook shelves AyA put in, complete with drawers underneath.

Here's the new sink — it's so great to not have it squished next to everything else in the kitchen. The dishwasher is placed next to it for convenience.

I really like the magnetic chalkboard wall we painted. It's a cute way to showcase kids' artwork.

I now also have double ovens and a garbage pull-out to the left of it — love them both.

Under-cabinet lighting and glass doors are two features that really make the space brighter. The overall change was quite substantial, and I'm happy with the design and workspace created.

Going through any renovation is a learning process! Here's my advice:

  • It’s worth sitting down with all those involved in the kitchen reno to ensure everyone is aware of what is happening first, second, third, etc. For instance, if you’re installing new floors, requiring new electrical lines or water lines, ensure each of these steps are happening at the right time, and that everyone knows what will be needed of them.
  • By working closely with the AyA team, you’ll ensure your needs and wants are addressed, and will have a clearer idea of what to expect, and the process will run smoothly.
  • Going in with a good sense of what you want in a kitchen, including many photos for ideas and inspiration, can be very helpful. It will help you and the designer see what elements are truly needed and inject more of your personality in it, too.
  • Read the AyA Design Guide to learn more about the choices you'll have to make.

If you haven’t already, watch this online TV segment of my kitchen reno. In it, Cameron shares more details on the design choices. Now it's time for me to get cooking!

Photo credits:
1-3, 6. Jason Stickley
4, 5, 7. Cameron MacNeil

Cabinetry, AyA Kitchens & Baths, visit for showroom locations across Canada; antique brass hardware, Restoration Hardware, Vancouver (604) 731-3918, Toronto (416) 322-9422, (416) 223-2055, 1-800-910-9836 or visit; Bianco Carerra marble countertops and island top, Marble & Granite Stonecraft, Mississauga (905) 565-7557 or visit; subway tiles, Moscone Tile, Toronto (416) 741-7385 or visit;
Axor Montreux Bridge Model kitchen faucet with side spray (main sink), Axor Montreux kitchen faucet (bar), Hansgrohe North America, call 1-800-334-0455 or visit for retailers across Canada; island construction, shelf brackets, Perfect Stainless, Toronto (416) 533-5653 or visit; counter stools, Crate & Barrel, Calgary (403) 278-7020, Mississauga, Ont. (905) 949-1545, Toronto (416) 657-4100, 1-888-657-4108 or visit; salvaged timber shelves, Canadian Salvaged Timber, Toronto (416) 889-7801 or visit; pendant light, West Elm, Toronto (416) 537-0110 or visit; rug, Elte, Toronto (416) 785-7885, 1-888-276-3583 or visit; Active Wall magnetic primer, MagnaMagic, visit; curtain fabric, Designer Fabrics, Toronto (416) 531-2810 or visit; curtain sewing, Tonic Living, Toronto (416) 699-9879 or visit

After Cameron MacNeil and I chose new cabinetry for my kitchen renovation, and AyA Kitchens & Baths drafted the layout, it was time to bring our ideas to life! (This blog is sponsored by AyA. Follow my kitchen reno progress here.)

First, we removed the cabinetry and I donated the ones in good condition to Habitat for Humanity, along with my appliances, which were still working well.

We laid down new floors before the cabinets were installed. I chose maple with a custom grey stain.

It took just two days to install the kitchen cabinets. AyA delivered the cabinetry and got right to work. On the first day, two AyA employees worked away, and on the second just one employee was needed to finish the job. They really knew their stuff and worked quite quickly.

After it was all assembled, AyA even cleaned up so I wasn’t left with debris everywhere! As you can see, we also had new lighting wired by an electrician. So exciting to see the changes!

With the cabinets in place, it was time to get our sources for the countertops and backsplash to add in those finishing details. Here's the gorgeous Carrara marble we chose for the countertops. (AyA can suggest sources for tiles, countertops and more.)

Cameron spotted this light at a vintage shop down the street for $300. And, if you can believe it, found its twin at another vintage shop on the other end of the city for $200! What are the odds? The lights offer a bit of old-style contrast to the kitchen's modern design.

 We had classic white subway tiles installed with grey grout on the feature wall.

Then it was time for me to load up my kitchen! Here's an AyA cupboard option that features two doors, but when open showcases four roll-outs. Drawers are great for seeing items kept at the back.

We even had our new dishwasher drawers outfitted with AyA cabinet facings for a seamless look.

Now, check out the after photos! Plus, get a peek of the new kitchen in this TV segment and learn more about AyA.

Photo credits:
1, 3, 4. Isabella Cairess Favaro
2, 5, 6. Cameron MacNeil
7-9. Jason Stickley

I love looking at blueprints and floor plans, so when the time came to draft one for my kitchen renovation with AyA Kitchens & Baths, I was very excited. An AyA in-house designer came to my house and measured every aspect of my kitchen, and then discussed whether my needs were being met in terms of storage space, counter space, appliances and the room’s purpose. She showed me what options were available for my kitchen, considering the cabinetry styles I'd chosen previously. (This blog is sponsored by AyA. Follow my kitchen reno progress here.)

As seen in the before shots, the original sink was small and in a cramped corner, so in the new plans we moved it in front of a window on another wall, which looks out into the yard. To draft these plans, the designers have to know their stuff inside and out to get the measurements just right.

Because the plumbing lines were already in the corner where the former sink was, we added a bar sink and moved it over to the left. We also sacrificed additional cupboard space for open shelving to give the room an airy, spacious feel. This was also the time for me to go from a basic oven to a six-burner range, so AyA recommended a Fisher and Paykel one. Now I feel like a professional chef!

I really wanted a counter-depth refrigerator that would sit flush with the cabinets, so this was the time to allot space for that, too. AyA ensured each space on this wall was filled with storage, given that we opted out of upper cabinetry on the centre wall.

Throughout the whole process I was able to voice what I wanted and didn’t want out of the design, and AyA made suggestions and addressed my concerns. There are lots of cool features available for all your various storage needs. We toyed with these options from AyA when planning (click the photos to see more from each kitchen):

Shallow drawers for spices to let you see everything you have at once.

Narrow drawers with shelves to hold taller bottles.

Pull-outs to neatly house our green bin and recycling station.

An under-counter microwave spot. Lots of people have been doing this to keep it out of sight, especially in islands. I didn't end up going with this as I went with a counter-height table in place of an island, but it's a great solution.

Once we’d settled on a design it was time for AyA to get the pieces and put it all together! Read my blog on the construction process. Plus, watch a video of the kitchen reno in the H&H online TV show, and learn more about AyA.

Photo credits:
AyA Kitchens & Baths

One of the most noticeable things in a kitchen are cabinets. They take up a vast amount of space, and the slightest shift in colour or style instantly change a kitchen’s look. So, for my current reno with AyA Kitchens & Baths, it was important I chose the right ones. (This blog is sponsored by AyA. Follow my kitchen reno progress here.)

Before I went to the nearest AyA showroom, I gathered photos from magazines and the web of my favourite styles, colours and finishes so I would be able to easily share what I was hoping to achieve with AyA’s in-house designers. Knowing what styles I was interested before showing up made the cabinet selection process much quicker.

Senior design editor Cameron MacNeil came along for the trip to the Missisauga showroom, where we could see several kitchens already put together, from traditional to contemporary designs. It was great to have his input — I definitely recommend bringing a friend or family member who knows your design style.

One of the kitchens displayed featured built-in wall ovens, decorative glass and a clean, covered range hood. I liked the clean yet warm aesthetic.

Condo dwellers need not worry about having a small space. A built-in freezer, refrigerator and dishwasher keeps this look clean. You can hardly tell which is just a cabinet and which is an appliance! Plus, two levels of upper cabinetry makes full use of the ceiling height. But this look was a bit too contemporary for me.

Once I selected a cabinet style I was interested in, Cameron and I were able to see the variety of colours and finishes the door comes in.

I decided on this charcoal grey cabinet style, and with the help of an AyA in-house designer and Cameron’s advice, went with a creamy white cabinet for select upper cabinets. The on-trend combination meant that my kitchen wouldn't be overwhelmed by grey.

After I was happy with what we’d chosen, we got to peek into the manufacturing centre — right here in Ontario! It was very cool to see the production line and how it was all made. I love that they support local workers.

The best part was knowing AyA is properly certified for eco practices. From finding ways to reuse paint to the leftover wood, their own recycling programs help reduce the company’s carbon footprint. The finishes and top coats are made of low pollutants, too. (Read more about the company’s green practices.)

See the kitchen floor plans drafted by AyA’s in-house designer and how AyA maximized the amount of space we had to work with in my next blog.

Photo credits:
1, 4-7. Isabella Cairess Favaro
2, 3. AyA Kitchens

As a producer/director for online decorating shows, I frequently see a lot of beautiful kitchens. Yet not too long ago, my own kitchen wasn’t that dreamy.

Don't get me wrong, my kitchen is a really good, large space, at around 19 x 23 feet, but it was very poorly laid out. It’s all my fault — I renovated it in 1999 and was left with a terrible work environment. Now, 12 years later, I enlisted the help of AyA Kitchens & Baths to help give my kitchen a well-deserved facelift. (This blog is sponsored by AyA.)

With the sink in the corner, everyone was always clustered in the same corner to work. The cupboards on the left also ended awkwardly before reaching the end of the wall, which meant we had almost no counterspace. To create another prep area, we added an island, but it never looked right in the room.

The mismatched cabinetry, varying door heights and finishes looked very “bitsy” — it wasn’t a well-thought out space, which made it a really painful kitchen to work in. Not to mention the yellow. I had gotten so tired of those yellow walls. The eat-in dining space wasn’t well used either, and added even more wood than was needed to the room.

With all of this, it was about time for a kitchen makeover. My colleague, Cameron MacNeil, had worked with AyA Kitchens & Baths before, and so I ended up working with them to give my kitchen chic bistro style and ample workspace. The company creates custom-looking cabinets for a much lower price than a custom kitchen would cost, so was very appealing for the project.

I knew I wanted a kitchen reno, but I wasn't sure what styles I would lean towards, so I took a look at the AyA website for inspiration. Here is a more traditional look, with the Ascot cupboards in Charleston Clove.

The Stratus cupboards in Slate Grey Zebrano and Oyster Maple offer very clean lines. Maybe a bit too clean for my style, but still very nice.

I did like the deep grey of the Allegra Anthracite cabinets, and the deep, stainless steel apron sink. Once I'd gathered more inspiration shots and had an idea of what options were available, AyA was able to take my kitchen from those before shots to something magazine-worthy in a few weeks.

I can’t wait to show you the dramatic after photos! For now, read about my visit to the AyA showroom and choosing cabinetry. Plus, learn more about AyA.

Photo credits:
1. Isabella Cairess Favaro

Comment Guidelines

We welcome your feedback on H&H reserves the right to remove any unsuitable personal remarks made about the bloggers, hosts, homeowners and/or guests we feature. Please keep your comments focused on decorating, design, cooking and other lifestyle topics. Adopt a tone you would be willing to use in person and do not make slanderous remarks or use denigrating language. If you see a comment that you believe violates any of the guidelines outlined above, please click “Flag as inappropriate.” Thank you.