I know if you read my last post, you were probably expecting my next post to be a full-on house tour, MTV Cribs style. “Hey, my name is Daniel, welcome to my busted up crib! Wear some closed-toe shoes and try not to get caught in cobwebs or cut on broken glass! Oh, that bathtub full of green water? Don’t worry about it!”
I thought it would be more productive to do a tour when I’ve put together some modicum of a floor plan, though, so you’d understand the spaces and how they relate to each other and all that. The layout of the house is pretty simple, but still. It’s disorienting to just look at photos of different rooms. So we’ll wait on that for a hot second.
Instead, we might as well talk about the actual first priority of this reno business, which is the downstairs kitchen. I mentioned before that the house has an upstairs kitchen as well, which is a little bit nicer and a little bit worse at the same time. Pictures to follow, but basically it’s a room that really wants to be a bedroom with a kitchen inside it. There’s very little storage, whereas this downstairs kitchen has loads of storage. The downside is, obviously, it’s a wreck.
When we first saw this house, we came to it by parking on the street, trespassing our way into the backyard, and looking in all the windows we could. For some reason, through the blurred tint of “OMG this house is amazing and OMG Kingston is so cute and OMG wouldn’t it be cray if we bought this house??” I distinctly remember thinking the kitchen was, like, totally workable and fine! Disregarding every flaw is a weird thing that happens when you really want something, particularly when there’s snow on the ground and everything is very pretty.
Then when we came back to actually tour the house with the realtor a couple months later, I started to get a little more realistic about the kitchen, and by the time we moved in, I was both afraid and skeeved out by it.
These are some truly lousy photos I shot at our first walk-through (we did about 3 or 4). I’m thinking the kitchen was probably renovated and installed during the 1950s, and has seen a few fancy additions over the years—like a luxurious drop ceiling, for instance, and some nice flower-patterend contact paper lining the backsplashes. The realtor had the ceiling tiles removed so prospective buyers could see just how tall the ceilings really are, which frankly probably wasn’t an improvement. Above the drop ceiling skeleton is a grease-stained old ceiling and some questionable electrical work (wires feeding second floor outlets swinging like vines, an overhead light with no canopy, secured with non-electrical rigid wire…that type of thing!). Nice!
1. The door on the left in the first picture is where the entrance to a back stairwell would have been back in the olden days, but at some point the stairs were torn out and a pantry was put in its place, which is actually sort of nice. I mean, the pantry is terrifying and gross, but the fact that it’s there is nice. It could be nice.
2. We weren’t sure if any of the two stoves and two fridges in the house were operable, but turns out this fridge it totally functional! It smelled like soured…something…but I gave it a freakishly thorough cleaning and it’s basically like new. Scrubbing Bubbles in the aerosol can is a lifesaver, for real.
3. The door on the left was probably originally an exterior door, but now leads out to a weird janky mudroom. Max is convinced the mudroom can be adorable and functional someday; I want to burn it. The doorway on the right leads out to a small enclosed porch on the side of the house. Someday, I think it would be really nice to restore the porch to a regular exterior porch, but that’s going to have to wait. Right now, it is mildly horrifying.
4. 50s wood cabinets, contact paper, and white and gold-speckled formica countertops. I kind of dig the countertops, actually, but they’re in rough shape and I can’t really come up with a design plan where they wouldn’t look dumb.
1. That is not brick. That is brick-patterned vinyl wallpaper. Behind that is a couple inches of plaster, and behind that is brick. I really want to chip off the plaster and expose the brick someday, but that’ll probably wait until the full overhaul.
2. Here’s a better view of the sink, which unfortunately is covered with all of our toiletries. We didn’t have hot water for the first 5 days in the house, so this leaky sink was also our cold sponge-bath spa!
3. I have no idea if that stove works, but we’re not keeping it. First of all, it’s very yucky. Second of all, it’s gas, and we currently don’t have gas service. Third of all, there’s a functional and cute electric stove on the second floor thats clean and nice and works, so we’re moving that down here. I already had the plumber cap the gas line.
4. I know, the floor is gone. I originally planned to cover it, but the old tiles were crumbling in places and the adhesive had totally failed across the entire floor. The whole thing came up in about 2 hours, and all of the tiles that weren’t already crumbling came up completely whole and intact. I was sure to keep everything very wet with soapy water, I wore a respirator mask, and double-bagged (and duct-taped closed) all of the tiles, just in case they contained asbestos fibers. I don’t really want to get into that stuff right now, but given the circumstances (crumbling tiles), I think I did the safest thing for me and my family. I mostly followed these guidelines, just in case. In any case, it’s done, and now we’re left with old plywood underlayment, which is…disgusting. Someday, I’d like to go all the way down to the original pine plank subfloor and either refinish or paint it, but we have no idea what the condition of that will be, and I’m not prepared to find out yet. There is also a hole second layer of linoleum and a whole second subfloor beneath that, and who knows what we’ll find there. So for now, this underlayment stays. I think if it’s all painted, it’ll be OK. If not, I’ll explore other options.
We REALLY don’t have the budget for a full-on kitchen overhaul right now, which is kind of a good thing——I really don’t want to renovate a kitchen before I’ve had a chance to live there, see how we use the space, and come up with the best layout options and materials and all that.
Still, there are a TON of free or very cheap improvements we can make to get this “temporary” kitchen to last us a goooood long time. I think once it’s done, it’s probably something we’re going to be fine with keeping until most/all of the rest of the house is done, which is good. Kitchen renovations can easily cost a ton of money, and while I think most prospective buyers probably saw this kitchen as a total gut job, there are actually good things about it! By which I mean that the cabinets are totally plain, basic, and structurally solid, and the sink is pretty cute (big white double-drainboard. better pictures forthcoming!).
SO, maybe some inspiration is in order, then? My favorite combo for kitchens (maybe just for everything, generally) is a mix of black, white, and wood. I don’t keep a ton of inspiration images around me all the time (I get easily overwhelmed), but I love this picture of this restaurant I saw on Brian Paquette‘s Instagram feed. From what I can gather, it’s called Tinello and was designed by Cassandra LaValle, and it’s really pretty. I really love the crisp contrast, and I really love the mix of the black-black chairs with the super dark inky-blue-black benches. It’s a combo that might sound clashy, but I think it works beautifully here. The wood tabletops and picture frames keep things warm, and that little sconce is just the right amount of vintage without going too cutesy.
Also, that kitchen on the right——HOLY WOW. I’ve had this post from Design*Sponge bookmarked for ages, and I just love what Tara Mangini and Percy Bright of Jersey Ice Cream Co. did on the cheap with this client’s kitchen (also in the Hudson Valley!). They color-blocked the whole room, and I think the effect is so gorgeous, and really helps distract from the less desirable parts of the kitchen (like the cabinet doors). The butcherblock adds the perfect amount of warmth, and that sink is…really awesome.
It’s no secret or surprise that I really love Anna and her house and everything she does to her space, and her kitchen is no exception! Black, white, wood, subway tile, Victorian details, Swedish cleanliness, that OneFortyThree lamp——Anna just knows what she’s doing. Max and I went over for dinner last weekend, and it was so nice (and yummy!) to get a break from our chaos and get re-inspired by walking around Door Sixteen. I really love the subway tile with black grout in Anna’s kitchen——it somehow feels warm and cozy, is really inexpensive, and makes the room feel incredibly finished and put together.
ZOMG, you guys!! I MADE A MOOD BOARD. I am a real blogger now. BOOM, kitchen.
What’s a better term for “mood board,” by the way? Surely we can come up with one. I really never want to write that again.
1. There are a ton of old painted-over hooks everywhere in the house, but I recovered a few from the kitchen already. I’m planning to strip the paint off, probably spray-paint them black, and re-hang them for tea towels and aprons and stuff. Aside from the can of spray paint, they’re free! I like free.
2. I definitely wasn’t planning to do any tiling in this kitchen, but the more I look at it and the more I think about how long we might have it, the more I’m tempted. I already have all the tiling supplies from tiling my apartment (including enough leftover thinset and grout!), so it would really just be probably something like $40 of tile for all the areas I want to do. Kind of seems worth it?
3. I hate to link to this since it’s no longer for sale, but I love the Flag Conversions Tea Towel by Shanna Murray for West Elm Market. It went on sale a few weeks ago for $4.50 (!), so I ordered a second one, but now it looks like it’s out of stock. I think I want to hang this one and use it for reference, though. It’s so cute and so helpful!
4. Wood countertops. These are the IKEA NUMERAR oak butcherblock counters, which are probably the most affordable butcherblock option. I have a section if it in my kitchen in the apartment, and I love it, but I’m not sure I want to spend the money here. I have an idea for a cheaper alternative, though, so we’ll see how that goes.
5. You can kind of tell in the pictures that there’s a weird outlet in the soffit above the sink. I had no idea what it was for, but turns out it’s for a clock! Cute! The Newgate Bubble Clock (which I already own!) is battery-powered anyway, but it would be cute to cover the outlet. If Max doesn’t want me to move the bubble clock out of the apartment, maybe I’ll find something vintage.
6. I might look for a cheaper alternative, but while the sink is nice, the faucet is not. It leaks everywhere and it sucks. I love the IKEA RINGSKÄR faucet we have in our apartment, so I’d like to do something similar here.
7. OK, this isn’t the light fixture I have, but it’s similar. I’ve been hoarding a faux PH-Lamp I found in the thrift store in Sweden for $7 for over a year now, and I finally get to use it! I think it would work great as the main light source in the room. There’s a light fixture over the sink, too, and maybe we’ll add some IKEA under-cabinet lighting, so I think the kitchen will be plenty bright.
8. I love the idea of this marble French Kitchen Pastry Slab from Crate & Barrel, especially if we do the countertops super cheap. It’s nice and big, and the marble would class things up a little.
9. The palette! I haven’t chosen exact colors yet, but I’m thinking a warm white-grey for the walls, a crisper white for the ceiling, moldings, and upper cabinets, and a true black-black for the floor, radiator, and doors(?), and a deep inky-off-black for the base cabinets.
Totally solid plan. So much work. Hold me; I’m scared.