I’m aware that some people grew up engaging in wholesome sorts of activities, like reading the Bible or watching Schoolhouse Rock. For such individuals, that type of stuff might have played a significant role in their understanding of how people should act and how the world should function. My family wasn’t really like that, though. Instead, every Sunday night, we tuned into a little television program called The X-Files, which I now realize was all part of my parents’ never-ending commitment to help raise the next generation of neurotic Jews (this, along with poor digestion). There, with eyes wide and hearts racing, we were taught the secrets of the universe while also having the shit scared right out of us. The fancy-pants parents of today would never stand for this sort of thing, but this was the 90s. Things were different then.
I’m just going to assume that you live on planet earth and know what The X-Files is. If you don’t, you need to take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself what you’re doing with your life and commit to making a change. Then go get a Netflix subscription. The X-Files hasn’t really seen quite the same trendy resurgence of late that shows like Twin Peaks and Buffy have, but it’s only a matter of time. As a home design blogger, I feel semi-qualified to make semi-confident trend predictions about these things. You’ll want to stay ahead of that one so that you’re cool when everyone else begins to recognize that the first 6 seasons of The X-Files were the best TV ever produced.
ANYWAY. In the pilot episode of The X-Files (which, admittedly, we watched as a re-run), there’s some crazy stuff happening with UFOs and aliens in Oregon, which Mulder and Scully go out to investigate. At one point, they drive through an area with radio signal interference, which Mulder mysteriously takes note of by spray painting an X on the road. Later on in the episode, they drive through the same area again, but THIS TIME Mulder checks his watch:
Then they see a flash of blinding white light.
When it’s over, Mulder looks at his watch again.
They mysteriously skipped over nine minutes of time. Mulder gets out of the car to find the X on the street. Scully follows behind. They discuss it in the pouring rain at night time, because most things happen in the pouring rain at night time on The X-Files.
THEY LOST TIME, YOU GUYS. BECAUSE OF ALIENS AND STUFF. Awesome. Best show.
I bring this up because this is more or less how a lot of home renovation projects seem to be taking shape. I’ll walk into a room to grab something, or think I’ll spend 20 minutes or so working on a project, and then I’ll come to and realize that the sun has set. I’ll check my watch and realize I haven’t had anything to eat or drink in many hours. I haven’t even peed. Then I take stock of my surroundings and realize that things look completely different than they had when I walked in. Maybe I have an open wound or two that I either failed to notice or failed to attend to while in the thick of things. All that time spent in the middle is muddled and fuzzy, a sort of abstract blur of tunnel-vision activity.
This is how the upstairs kitchen in my house vanished. I’m pretty sure I went in to grab a bottle of olive oil in the early afternoon. Then, POOF! Magic! It was the middle of the night and the kitchen was gone! I have only this series of photos to piece together what I guess happened in the interim.
First of all, this was the upstairs kitchen, which was presumably installed when the house was split into a two-family. It’s at the back of the house, directly above the downstairs kitchen, and was very ugly. I’ll admit that it was actually pretty functional (this is the kitchen we used while we renovated the downstairs kitchen, so I’m actually really glad it was here!), and almost all the components of it are being reused elsewhere. The stove, for instance, we moved downstairs for our kitchen (since the original stove was a busted-up piece of scrap metal), and the cabinets went to the mudroom (and, probably someday, the garage) and hold all my tools. The still-working but very old and inefficient fridge was donated, and the sink was kept just in case we want to use it for a future remodel.
ANYWAY. I demo’d that shit all by myself over the course of an unexplained time lapse. This is sort of how I did it, I guess:
I started with removing the sink, which I figured would be the most difficult. It was. The plumbing had already been disconnected at the basement level (I think ahead and stuff), so there wasn’t anything super technical to worry about. Just a lot of disconnecting things without adequate tools. Without adequate tools is becoming kind of a theme of my life——I’m FINALLY learning that I need to invest in decent tools when I need to buy them, and replace the cheap-o ones that are all breaking with something better when they inevitably give out. Cheap crappy tools were fine when I was just playing around in my apartment, but they’re not ideal for house renovation.
Anyway, the sink plumbing came apart super easily. I thought it would be easy-ish to just lift the sink off the base once the plumbing was disconnected. HAHAHAHAHA. Oh, Daniel. When will you learn.
See that strip of white behind the sink? Well. The sink was sort of built into that strip. That strip was made of three pieces of 1/2″ plywood glued and nailed together and screwed into the studs. WHYYYYYYYYY.
Sawzall time! Note how this sink base is A) the worst thing you’ve ever seen and B) super hand-made meaning super-badly-made meaning built like a tank. I really did think I could just take this whole thing out as a single unit, and I’m pretty sure it ended up as just a pile of splinters, infused with my rage.
Once it was gone, I got to wondering what the deal was with the platform that the sink base was sitting on. In another room, there’s something like this under a radiator, which the wood floor was clearly laid around, so I figured that this was the same kind of deal all along. Then, whilst demoing, I had the following conversation with myself:
Me: What if this piece of wood is actually on top of the wood floor? What if there is more wood floor underneath it?
Me: No, definitely not. It’s the same as under that radiator. The floor probably rotted out at some point so they cut it all away and added this thing. Or something. Your house isn’t the fucking Secret Garden.
Me: I really think this is a possibility. I don’t know why you’re always so negative.
Me: Because everything is terrible. You know that.
Me: MAYBE THIS WON’T BE TERRIBLE JUST GIVE ME A CHANCE.
Me: You’re going to regret this.
Me: We’ll see about that. By the way, your left arm is bleeding.
So I dug in with my pry bar. And hammered, and pried, and stuff, and probably hurt myself again.
WHAAAAAT. There WAS wood floor underneath the weird platform thing! I was all:
Anyways. Then I removed the sheet vinyl floor, which I was pretty safe about, I guess. It’s possible that the backing of this kind of sheet-vinyl contains asbestos, but luckily there was no adhesive used to secure the flooring to the wood floor underneath. I used a box-cutter to cut it into strips, rolled it up (spraying the backing with soapy water as it was exposed, although the sheets weren’t tearing or coming apart or anything scary like that), and bagged it all up.
By this point, many hours had passed. I guess Max finally got curious about my whereabouts and came upstairs and was all:
And I was all:
And the kitchen was all:
OK, I know it still looks a mess, but it’s exciting that it’s…not a kitchen anymore? It’s just a regular room that needs a lot of work?
Pretty much the big exciting news is that the floor is actually in pretty great shape! Turns out all those years of being covered up did a nice job of protecting it, so while down the line we’ll probably want to refinish it, it can totally just be cleaned for now and look fine.
I still have to rip out that pantry thing in the corner, but after the sink cabinet…well, at least I’m semi-prepared emotionally and mentally to deal. It’s going to be a pain.
Anyway, this is a pretty good room. It will be a pretty good room. That door leads to a terrible set of exterior stairs that you can see here (which we’re hoping to have removed soon!), and the window has a piece of plexi on the outside, so it doesn’t open. The walls are all made of this weird fiberboard stuff (not plaster, not drywall), which is in pretty lousy condition and has a gross texture, and now half of it is ripped out to make way for new plumbing for the upstairs bathroom (long story, different post…). Basically, it will all need to come down to the studs at some point.
But! Underneath that pillar thing between the window and the door is a brick chimney! Above that super low ceiling (I think it’s 7.5 feet) is nothing! There’s no attic over this part of the house (the kitchen and this room were a later addition, probably around the turn of the century), so someday I’d love to loft the ceiling in here, which will make the whole room feel much bigger. So…refinished wood floor, lofted beadboard ceiling, two windows on either side of an exposed brick chimney——hello master bedroom? That way, that middle room can become a kind of flex space——like chill-out zone with a TV (we don’t want a TV in the main living room, but…I like TV. So.) and a pull-out sofa, which will eliminate the awkwardness of having the access to this room attached to another bedroom. Here is a diagram to better explain what the hell I am talking about, lest you have not memorized the entire layout of my house:
Something like that? I am tired just thinking about getting there. Let’s hope for more magical X-Files alien time lapses, yes? Skip ahead to a time where this is all done?
Cool. Great plan.