All posts tagged: Kitchen Renovation

Cooking Without A Kitchen!

As we already know, my kitchen for the past nearly two years has been a sorry gutted pit of despair. Let’s not dwell on it. If you didn’t already know, here’s a basic rundown. Life comes at you fast sometimes.

While the period between gutting the old kitchen and finishing the new one might be JUST A TAD longer than what a more normal renovation might demand, most kitchen renovations do result in a space that’s temporarily unusable. The classic response to this is often some combination of microwaveable meals and take-out, the latter of which I am ALL ABOUT except for the part where it gets insanely expensive and super unhealthy and, honestly, pickings are slim around these parts. Additionally, I actually do like to cook my own food, especially to wind down a bit at the end of the day!

SO. If you are anything like me, and you might be taking on a kitchen renovation, HEED MY WORDS: give yourself the gift of setting up something efficient and functional in the meantime. It can be tempting to just throw yourself 300% into the renovation while your life disintegrates into squalor around you, but you actually don’t have to make your house a living hell of dysfunction as punishment for trying to make it better long-term. Don’t be a martyr. It’s taken me…a while to learn this.

For me, the most painless way to do this was to set up my dining room as a temporary kitchen. And honestly? It’s not the worst kitchen I’ve ever had!

I turned the dining table the other direction to free up a little space for that honker of a fridge next to the hutch. That big butcher block is my makeshift countertop, and the cookie jar thing holds food scraps for compost. I know they sell containers for this very purpose, but I find that it needs to be emptied because it’s full long before it ever starts to stink, so I like my vintage crock thing.

I gotta hand it to that fridge, by the way—it came from my friend Anna‘s old kitchen and is at least a decade old and aside from a few dents on the door (don’t ask), might as well be brand new. All LG appliances (including televisions!) I’ve ever had have been wonderful. Sometimes I get a little weepy over how great my LG washer and dryer are. On one hand I kind of hope the fridge dies because having a built-in ice-maker would be HEAVEN but at the same time, a new fridge is not an expense I need to incur at this moment. Anyway. Carry on, fridge. A+ work.

The hutch now holds all my everyday dishes, glasses, mugs, mixing bowls, colanders, measuring cups, etc., as well as pantry items! That thing can store so much shit. It’s not the most beautiful display I’ve ever put together, but it’s organized and efficient and works! Good enough!

Speaking of unattractive but organized and efficient displays, here’s what’s happening on the other wall! You might recognize the dresser from my old Brooklyn apartment, but I think it was originally intended to be a server. Those top two drawers are the perfect depth for storing flatware and various cooking utensils like peelers and pastry brushes and measuring spoons and stuff like that. The other drawers hold saran/foil/plastic bags, tupperware, pots, pans, oven mitts, tea towels—I basically have a whole slimmed-down kitchen in there! Those plastic drawers next to it could probably be eliminated, but do hold a few things, and mostly provide a pedestal for the trash so that my adorable and naughty dog doesn’t get into it. That girl is incorrigible.

I have to pause for a second to gush over these little induction cooktops because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. Induction is pretty crazy/amazing technology that I won’t claim to totally understand, but essentially it turns your pot/pan into the heating element, rather than heating the pot with an electric coil or a gas flame. It’s super efficient and precise, and because the cooktop itself doesn’t heat up (although it DOES get hot just from the residual heat of the pan during cooking), the cooktops are incredibly easy to clean—WAY easier than an electric glass cooktop. After a bit of searching around, I bought two of these single-burner cooktops by Waring for just $60 a pop! They make a double-wide version too, but I’m glad I bought these because they can stack and store away easily. For over double the cost, you can buy one with the Cuisinart brand name on it, but it’s literally exactly the same product so don’t do that.

Anyway. I love my little hot plates a lot. The plan for the kitchen is a gas range, but I can totally see myself continuing to use these now and then if I just need to boil some spaghetti or fry an egg or just keep something warm on the lowest setting. Endless opportunities!

Oh also! That leather skillet grip was a Christmas gift from bae and it’s perfect. It was made by locally owned and operated Jay Teske Leather Co.. And now that I’m looking at their website, I want to order about 5 other things…so much nice stuff, gah! I love the way natural leather patinas over time and expect to have it forever. I love that there are so many artists and makers producing stuff like this right out of Kingston. And at $24, I mean, such a good gift idea.

Oh also, also! The marble piece is this pastry slab from Crate & Barrel, which amazingly is still the same $50 as it was when I bought it several years ago. Once I tried to find a less expensive alternative, but this one’s such a great value for the size that I couldn’t beat it.

On top of the microwave (also a hand-me-down from Anna—thanks, pal!) are a few essentials within easy reach! I don’t know what that little teeny tripod bowl is for, but I use it to hold Malden Salt flakes which in my experience make all food taste better. A few cork trivets, paper towels, salt and pepper mills, and I decant olive oil in that little cork-lidded container which is supposed to be a creamer.

Side note: just realized the creamer was designed by Kaj Franck, who also designed my mushroom bowl from my last post!

Side-side-note: who knew BB&B sold iittala?! That little stack of 20% off coupons just got a whole lot more valuable.

In terms of actually cooking instead of just talking about cooking…I have a hard time getting to the grocery store regularly while in the midst of big house projects, and Sun Basket has been a GODSEND. I know, all you wanted today was to read another blogger review a meal delivery service. BUT I have no affiliation whatsoever with them, I just heard about them a few months ago on a podcast about cults like any other normal person and gave it a shot.

It’s been several years since I used a meal kit delivery service (Max and I used to get Blue Apron—also no affiliation), so I’m not sure how far the others have advanced, but Sun Basket is the best as far as I’m concerned. The food is REALLY good, produce is fresh, portions are generous, and I’m always kind of stunned when I look at the calorie counts—each meal is usually somewhere around 500-600 calories but you’d never know and it does not feel at all like diet food. Every week, they put out a menu with 18(!) different meals to choose from, of which you can either pick your selections or let Sun Basket do the work for you by specifying a meal plan. The meal plan thing is AMAZING—there are 8 options like Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian…and gluten-free! This is a big deal for me. Bae needs to be gluten-free, so consequently I end up being mostly gluten-free, and figuring out what to cook is hard enough already without throwing dietary restrictions into the mix. Sun Basket’s gluten-free meals have made that transition a billion times easier and unquestionably tastier. You can also skip as many weeks of delivery as you want, get 2, 3, or 4 recipes each week that can feed either 2 or 4 people! I have mine set up for three recipes a week for two people ($78), but it’s easy to bump up to 4 recipes or down to 2 if the spirit moves me. Each delivery comes with a little recipe book containing all the recipes from that week, so you can reconstruct and cook ones that you didn’t even order to try out. They’re actually good enough that you want to do that, for real!

The cooking part is nice, by the way. It’s never too complicated, but is involved enough that you really feel like you’ve made something instead of just tossing some pre-measured stuff together. Typically recipes will require 1 or 2 pots/pans and rarely do they call for the use of an oven, which is convenient because I don’t have one. I do have a lil bitty toaster oven, though, and that’s usually fine for whatever the recipe’s asking me to do. It really just works out well all around!

ALSO JUST SAYING: if you were considering trying out Sun Basket, now is a good time because they’re running a promo for $40 off your first order! And if you follow this link to place your order, I’ll get a $40 credit too, which I would not complain about.

Try Sun Basket. Feed me. Win-win.

Annnndddd while I’m just recommending ways to spend your money left and right, I just got a bottle of this stuff and it’s SO GOOD. Expensive and SO GOOD. I’m gonna have to experiment with trying to make my own because I cannot afford for this to be a habit, but I’ve never used something that cleans and protects a wood countertop in one fell swoop, and I just want to smear it all over every wood product I own. Liquid. Motherfucking. GOLD.

So there it is! The irony of gutting a pretty decent kitchen with the goal of building a better kitchen and then ending up living with this for two years isn’t lost on me. But I do feel like this “kitchen” has actually taught me a lot about what I actually need rather than simply want, and has really forced me to evaluate the utility of each and every kitchen item I own—it’s amazing how much extraneous stuff we can justify when we have the space for it. Also, just IMAGINE how luxurious my expanses of countertop will feel after becoming so accustomed to this set-up. I won’t even know what to do with it all.

The ounce of shame I have left will not allow me to show the dishwasher strapped to a stud in the kitchen to keep it from tipping over and draining into a five gallon bucket that I dump in the backyard because the kitchen sink still isn’t plumbed, so I’ll just let your imagination run wild with how fancy that is. Related: what the hell is wrong with all plumbers? That’s not a question that needs an answer, just one that I ponder constantly. LET ME GIVE YOU MONEY TO DO THE THING THAT YOU DO TO MAKE MONEY. PLEASE.

Anyone ever plumbed a kitchen sink? Asking for a friend.

So I Re-Did the Back of the House (Again).

Here is a shocking bit of information that you have likely already deduced if you have read this blog for any amount of time: I’ve been chasing my tail a bit with my own house renovation. I’m not proud. A couple of years ago, I bit off more than I could chew. I should have known better. I did it anyway. Unsurprisingly, it bit me in the ass.

Let’s talk about it.

I bought a house with an old and truly yucky kitchen. The kitchen was the very first thing I tackled, and ya know? That was a good renovation. The improvements were inexpensive but impactful (new paint, a little subway tile, and VCT floors for the win!), and the kitchen worked fairly well.

It wasn’t the dream kitchen but it was a fine, serviceable space, and one that could have easily lasted several more years. The kitchen took kind of a beating as other renovations unfolded throughout the house, but I’d renovated it with that in mind! It would all get torn out someday but, I figured, when everything else had been done, by which time this kitchen would certainly be falling apart.

Fast forward less than two years, and I found myself single. One night, I also found myself a little drunk (related: pls excuse the quality of these photos). With the contents of my kitchen cabinets now significantly slimmed down as a result of the break-up, I was suddenly overcome with the urge to slim down the cabinets themselves. I didn’t NEED all these cabinets! And if I just took down the upper cabinets, then I could also just rip out the enormous soffits above them, and then my kitchen would be brighter and more open and happier and maybe I’d put up a nice shelf or just a cool piece of art and HOW GREAT WOULD THIS BE?!?!

Don’t drink and demo. Or do, but with supervision so you don’t do anything stupid. Like meeeeeeeeeee.

So I took down the uppers and the soffits. Briefly this felt good.

I had to re-route the electrical for the little over-the-sink light, and drywall the area that had been behind the soffit because the plaster was too far-gone. I just had to do some more patching, sanding, repaint a couple walls and the kitchen would be good as new!

I really should have taken a bath or something that night. I never did patch and sand and repaint. Instead, a few months later I seized the remainder of summer and demolished the rickety old addition off the back of the house.

Boy was that exciting.

This, in turn, prompted replacing the window and vestigial fire escape exit door in the second floor room above the kitchen and insulating and re-siding the back of the house—it was a huge job and one that I wasn’t totally ready for. One of the casualties ended up being the kitchen window, a cute casement that got split up into two casements for the second floor, like so:

So I ripped the kitchen window out, put in a “temporary” vinyl window, still thinking I’d patch up the kitchen and continue to use it for another 5-10 years and this would be good enough for now.

I never did patch up the kitchen. The wall surrounding the new window just remained open to the studs and insulation for the next several months. Elegant!

Then I designed and built an entire house (I. will. show. it. to. you. I. swear.), and at the tail end of that little gig, I circled back to my own. I did this with great excitement because I hadn’t been able to put any real work into my own house for a while, so naturally I took on the biggest and most involved project this house will ever see under my care: the enormous restoration of the side of the house.

This saw the removal of two more additions and the installation of five(!) new windows—two of them in the kitchen, but a different wall than the one from the year before. Round and round we go.

In order to install these new windows, we first had to frame in the openings for them. We probably could have gone about this a couple of more intelligent ways, but instead at that point it just felt like…fuck it. Just gut it. So that’s what we did, and suddenly my kitchen and pantry were reduced to a few remaining cabinets and a sink. Which I then also removed because it felt like they were in the way of completing the next steps, which I was sure I’d be addressing imminently.

So dumbbbbbbbbb, omg Daniel.

But at least I had two windows where I needed them to be…you know, for the kitchen that still has not manifested.

Before I could really even address the kitchen, I had to actually wrap up that whole side-of-the-house-restoration project on the exterior before winter hit. I ran out of time and didn’t totally finish, and shamefully still haven’t, but I finished enough that things have been fine.

I ran out of something else around that time too, though! The money in my bank account! That exterior project was more involved and costly than I’d given it credit for, and it cleaned. me. OUT.

THIS, my friends, was a bit over a year ago, and it was truly a low point. The house was a wreck. What was left of the kitchen (appliances, some cabinetry) had overtaken the dining room. The living room was mostly just exceptionally dirty from the renovations but literally felt unsalvageable at the time, like it might after a flood. The bedroom was missing a wall. The den was missing a wall and a ceiling. I hadn’t managed to get a plumber to come cap a couple of radiator lines and get the boiler going, so I didn’t have a real heat system that winter. I couldn’t figure out how to get hot water running either (turns out the motherboard of the boiler had died!) so I took frigid showers or sponge baths with water from the electric kettle, since I no longer had a stove to heat it. This went on for months.

Guys, it was fucking horrible. In the summer, cold showers and doing my dishes on the front porch had felt kind of quaint and folksy, but now it just felt like I could not be more of a disappointment to myself and to this house. And it was my fault. Decisions I had made myself had led me here. To Grey Gardens, my new home.

We ain’t done.

I guess it was kind of OK to not have the cash to do the kitchen a year ago, in part because there were plenty of low-cost projects to keep me occupied, like the bedroom and the den. You can do a lot with joint compound and paint between bigger projects, so I just focused on that kind of stuff. Besides, there was another huge roadblock in front of really even getting the kitchen renovation started, aside from the money part: re-doing that back wall…again. Already. The one that I already did two years prior, when I thought I wouldn’t have to think about it again for a decade or so. The kitchen design kind of hinged (pun def intended) on moving the location of the exterior door, and replacing the temporary vinyl window, so the chimney could be flanked by two matching windows to the new ones on the other elevation.

I’d hoped, I think, that this would somehow just happen. Like I’d wake up and find windows and doors where my computer renderings had placed them, and then I could move ahead into the rough-ins and the finishing work!

Sadly this did not come to pass. So at the tail end of this past summer, with the goal of being able to really work on the kitchen this winter, I bit the bullet and Edwin and Edgar and I took a week and did it (followed by a few weeks of me working alone every evening/weekend…). I had a better idea of what I was getting into, so it wasn’t as bad as the first time around, and I had a bit more help. So we took out the door and the vinyl window.

Then we removed the siding from the first floor (again) because it seemed a bit easier than all the patching that would have been required otherwise.

All of this pretty much sucked, by the way.

Once that kitchen wall was framed and the windows installed, we moved on to putting the wall back together.

One thing I never loved about the first revamp of this wall was that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to expand the corner boards. The original corner boards are 4″ on this house, which feels kind of dinky below such a substantial cornice and eaves returns, so we popped off the corner boards and cut another 4″ or so off the ends of the remaining clapboard with a circular saw. Inside the house, we added new nailers so the new ends of the clapboard would be affixed to something stable. The new corner boards are 7.5″ wide on this back kitchen addition, and 11.5″ on earlier parts of the structure. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference! And doesn’t really complicate anything if you’re doing all this work anyway.

Boom! Someday I’ll trim out the tops of the corner boards to really finish it off, but for now they look fine.

MOVING. RIGHT. ALONG! Next came the new exterior door location and the windows for the planned pantry space and the first floor powder room. Just rebuilding every goddamn wall. The new door is off-center to accommodate cabinetry in that room, and I think an exterior wall sconce to the right of the doorway will be a welcome addition and balance things out.

By the way, yeah—that new door is in what was my laundry room. Also gutted to make space for this big ambitious kitchen plan. In case you thought things couldn’t get worse! They got worse. They’re getting better again, though!

I swear all of this is in the service of someday being able to live a normal life in this house and NOT just destroying everything on a biannual basis.

That little crooked window on the left was the laundry room window. That little skinny window on the right was the first floor bathroom window. They were a funny weirdly proportioned pair, and now they are history. Down came the vinyl, down came the clapboard, out came the brick nogging and old windows, and in went some new framing and new insulation and sheathing and windows.

This is definitely the most awkward (and, thankfully, least visible!) elevation of the house, and I think it’s just always going to be something less than gorgeous. I hemmed and hawed a lot on how to make this window arrangement feel natural inside and outside the house, but ultimately the architecture is just weird—it’s always going to look like an addition, and that’s OK! I love to tear off additions, but sometimes you need them. Like, say, when they contain the only bathrooms!

So with these new windows, I aimed to make it look like a slightly more elegantly planned addition than before, like maybe a porch that was enclosed at some point. The windows themselves are the same proportion as most of the other windows on the house, but smaller (larger than what was there, though!), and the top of the windows align with the top of the newly installed adjacent back door. I also chose 2-over-2 windows, which I kinda pulled out of my ass because it just felt right and a 6-over-6 in that size is a bit much with all that lite division.

I can kinda dig hanging something between them and planting some fabulous climbing rose bush or something? That feels like a very distant goal so we have time to brainstorm.

Annnnnnnd, this is as far as I got out there! Clearly there are various things that still need doing, but all the big stuff is done. A little odd, but I’m pleased with it!

Do you like my little deck? It’s fancy. I built it in an afternoon out of scrap wood. The post rests on a piece of bluestone from the yard. Obviously I want to do something better but I had to get rid of that big drop ASAP and “something better” is not in the existing time or money budgets.

So to review, in the space of 4-ish years, we have now gone from this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

to this:

Clearly there is some finish work to return to in the spring (we don’t need to start listing it, do we?), but HEY! I know I seem crazy. My neighbors would probably concur on this. But NOW the kitchen/pantry/half-bath work can continue and—good lord willing and the creek don’t rise—I should never have to redo this again for as long as I am alive and kicking.

Let us pray.

Revised Kitchen Plans + Butler’s Pantry Vibes

I feel like I think about my kitchen an inordinate amount. I think about it when I go to sleep almost every night. I think about it when I wake up in the morning. I think about it throughout the day. I blogged about it less than a month ago yet here I am again. Going on and on.

I’m hoping this means that I’m thorough and not just too stupid to figure stuff out faster. This is the first kitchen I’ve ever truly renovated for myself, and I’m super excited. But I also really don’t want to screw it up and hate myself forever. I want to get it right. And I also want it to be very beautiful. And I also want this to be the kitchen that I have, enjoy, use, and live with for a gooooooood long time, because I have absolutely zero plans to sell and move and I never want to renovate it again.

Also! It’s for me! How much fun! I end up designing for other people much more than for myself. I’m used to having the constraints of what a client will go for, or certain expenses that affect how the budget is allocated…it’s working your ideas into someone else’s priorities, basically, and at the end it’s never really all the things you want even if you’re satisfied with the result. Ya know? But here…I’m the client. I’m the future homeowner. I’m the wind beneath my own wings. Too far? Point is, I HAVE TO PLEASE NOBODY EXCEPT MY OWN DAMN SELF. How thrilling. How paralyzing.

To be clear, this is not to say that I don’t care what you think. You guys had a lot of thinks to think on the last kitchen post, and I read every single think and and found them very helpful! You people are smart and kind and important and the best on the whole Internet? We have fun here? We’re nice to each other? We disagree about fridge placement yet we still find common ground over wood stoves? I’m so grateful. Never change, you.

By the way, just to quickly dispel an assumption that came up in a lot of comments: I DO actually cook! I love cooking! I’m not some amazing chef, but this kitchen is by no means decorative. It will be used and abused.

So this was the plan I presented a couple weeks ago:

I still like it but it’s got some problems that some of you picked up on.

  1. The island is too big, unnecessary, I don’t know. It’s shown at 6’x3′, giving a 3′ path on either side. I DO love the idea of having a big work surface, but with the wood stove 3′ isn’t going to be enough to maneuver comfortably without stepping onto the hearth stone (which will get annoying and make the room feel cramped) and/or burning my ass. It needs to be scaled back.
  2. The cabinet return from the corner to the chimney is dumb. Chimney will look better without it, and I do hate corner cabinets.
  3. The pantry mudroom build-out is a mess in these drawings. I should have been more clear about that part of the plans being MUCH more preliminary than the main kitchen part. Everyone freaked out and I was like WAIT CALM DOWN. Oopsie!
  4. The door from the kitchen to the dining room can and should swing the other way, out into the dining room. That’s how it was originally and I think it’s worth restoring.
  5. Everyone and their mother thinks the sink/stove placement is wrong. This isn’t necessarily a problem, just a notation.
  6. There IS a dishwasher to the right of the sink, standard size, completely necessary to my life. I lived without a dishwasher for almost a decade, and in that time I learned that I’m a slob who would rather do almost anything than my own dishes.
  7. Lighting: Aside from the sconces, there will also be a central pendant ceiling light chandelier number. I know recessed lights in the ceiling would be functionally good and there are some pretty inconspicuous options out there, but it’s not happening. Not on my watch, not in my ceilings.

DON’T GET TOO EXCITED. But for the sake of making my indecision that much greater and the voices of disagreement that much stronger, I did some stuff:

  1. Bye bye, island. Hello old table. I do think it helps greatly with the too-cluttered issue, particularly around the wood stove (and in turn making the stove more of a feature in the room) and I think could be really pretty and nice. I’m about it.
  2. Cabinet return to the right of the chimney, eliminated!
  3. I made the sink/stove change. I have so many feelings about it:

When I say I think about my kitchen, I guess I really mean that I visualize my kitchen. Being in it, cooking a meal, laughing with friends…the inside of my brain is an Applebee’s commercial. And I always picture the stove where I had put it before. It just feels more right in my head? So that’s been Option A. And this has been Option B. And I go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Both are equally possible, technically.

I actually think Option B is prettier, for what it’s worth. I’d prefer to look at that kitchen.

I also think Option B has some issues. And that I’d prefer to work in Option A.

  1. I installed those windows for three-ish reasons: trying to balance out that exterior elevation, bringing natural light into the kitchen, and ventilation. The view out that window was not part of it. Telephone pole, street, parking pad, falling down fence, trash receptacles, yellow aluminum (and, out of view, green asbestos)…it’s far from bucolic. I actually would prefer to NOT have the sink under the window in this instance, even though I know that’s a really normal thing that’s perceived as almost a requirement and unanimously understood to be more pleasant than facing a wall. This is a not a new concept to me, but I just think it doesn’t suit every single space! That being said, I don’t wash dishes by hand unless it’s completely unavoidable. It’s not like I’m ever really standing at the sink for a long time and looking at anything other than what I’m doing with my hands. I guess what I’m saying is that the sink/window thing is neither particularly appealing nor entirely unappealing.
  2. The sink feels far from the stove. Like too far. But moving either one closer to the other feels very weird and does not satisfy my urge for symmetry or having things line up with other things. I know I could do a pot-filler to resolve some of the issue there, but it still seems a little…off to me.
  3. Those windows sit pretty low (I wanted them as big as I could while matching the header height of adjacent windows at the top and being above counter height at the bottom), so I feel like I’d be cleaning water spots and stuff off the window panes CONSTANTLY. I also kind of don’t want to see my sink faucet from outside the house? Also if there are window boxes on these windows outside, will reaching over the sink and around the faucet to access them (assuming herbs are growing, which may be a pipe dream anyway) feel good?
  4. If there’s one modern kitchen design thing that I totally do care about and I think will enrich my life, it’s prep space on either side of the stove. In Option A, there’s such an EXPANSE! And in Option B, it’s two feet on either side. It’s enough—I know it’s enough—but it could be MORE and I really think I want more. ESPECIALLY if I’m losing the more spacious island.
  5. A range hood feels more necessary in Option B because you lose having two windows right on either side of the cooktop. Necessary might be a strong word. Advisable. The being said, if I were going to add a range hood down the line, I’d prefer to do it on the wall in Option B than right between the windows in Option A. SEE HOW HARD THIS IS?

By the way, here’s the deal with the range hood. I have to confirm with the building department, but I actually don’t think it is required by code, which is something a lot of commenters brought up, because natural ventilation is provided (amply!) by the windows. I understand the benefits of range hoods. I’ve had them in the past. I don’t feel like I need one, but what I WILL do is rough-in the electric to add one and leave it dead in the wall, just in case. That way it’s really easy to do down the line. I’m just not ready to plan on it because lots of people have (mostly valid) feelings that I should. I’m too stubborn.

SORRY. There are also other venting options that I’m looking into. I’ll keep you in the loop!

SO ANYWAY, I think I’m still in the Option A camp for the stove/sink placement, but with the changes to the cabinet layout and modified island/table included here. I should have done that in SketchUp but seriously, it takes me so long so let’s just imagine.

You don’t seem convinced.

On the other side of the room is where the magic happens. Here’s where we were…

Here’s what I’m thinkingggggg….

SO, I lost the hutch (that grey mass). Which is sort of disappointing but OK. It’s a really large piece that I think would be great in a kitchen, but maybe just not this kitchen. ALSO I think there’s another wall for it in the dining room that will work better than where it is now. I love that piece so I just want to do right by it.

What I gain is…

    1. More shelf. This suits my collection of old and semi-useless but beautiful bowls and pottery greatly.
    2. It’s not in the drawing, but I think I’d like to do some simple shaker-y pegs along the apron beneath the shelf, which can hold aprons and tea towels and…aprons…and…DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. I like how that wall is more flexible now.
    3. A more central and sizable entrance to the mudroom/pantry space. Allow me to explain:

I’ll give you a moment to pin.

Ready now? Try to keep up.

This is an old picture of the old kitchen and the entrance to the now-demolished solarium addition. For reference, that doorway is about where the stove is in Option A. Obviously all this has now changed but you’re insane or just very fresh to my blog if you think I didn’t salvage that little transom and the surrounding trim work.

do want the pantry to feel like a natural extension of the kitchen, but totally opening up that wall is not an option I’m willing to entertain. It doesn’t fit with the house and structurally it’d be tricky. But a larger cased opening with a transom above that matches the header heigh of the windows…that sounds nice, right? This way the entrance would be 44″ wide, so wider than a standard doorway but nothing too crazy and out of place.

The doorway also moves over to the left about three feet, which means there’s a much bigger corner to play with by the wood stove/radiator. Partially, this is in anticipation of storing firewood, but I also think you could sneak a nice chair in into that corner, or a dog bed, or whatever, and it would make the room feel more…rounded?

Here’s the pantry “plan” from a couple of weeks ago:

Here’s what I’m thinking now:

And then what do you get? Butler’s pantry vibes. Ohhh yeah they feel so good.

I moved the exterior door again. I like this better for a number of reasons, inside and outside the house. Groovy. I feel at peace.

We gain a window! This will add some balance to the exterior as well because the powder room will get the same window. Smaller than the kitchen windows but same proportions.

Also, more pantry! More cabinet space! More counter space! The room is very narrow (5’7″) so the base cabinets here are really uppers, just installed as base cabinets. Still, that’s 8 feet of (shallow, albeit) countertop and cabinet space! I’ll take it!

Countertop next to the fridge. This is a big thing people brought up, and I think this plan accomplishes it. It’s all RIGHT THERE. You could wrap the counter but I still want that small closet. I really do need a place to store a vacuum cleaner, a mop bucket, stuff like that, and there’s not really anywhere else in the house that makes more sense than in here.

NOW, I KNOW. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. I could rotate the fridge 90 degrees, cut a fridge-size hole in the kitchen wall, and recess the fridge into it so it faces the kitchen. Many commenters suggested this. My boyfriend suggested this! I know the option exists.

I’m not going to do it. That feels distinctly like a better option for newer construction, maybe? But I can’t picture it looking OK here. I really can’t. The house is too old and the vibe of this kitchen is too old and it’s just so not right. It also seems like the most minor functional difference. We’re literally talking about a few extra steps. I can deal with a few extra steps to build a kitchen that I love with a pleasantly tucked-away fridge. Sorry folks. Fridge niche is not for me.

This is also one of those me being the client things. It’d be so hard to find a client who could be convinced of this plan and I think that’s part of what I like about it? Because normally it would be an idea that would start and end with “if I could do anything I wanted…” but in this case…I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT! Ya know, within reason. This is very exciting to me and I want to take full advantage by making as many unpopular decisions as I want.

Shall we address the elephant in the room? OK YOU GOT ME. I have to confirm that it’s as easy plumbing-wise as I think it is, but I’m enamored with the idea of adding a teeny tiny bar sink in the pantry. Three semi-compelling reasons:

  1. Fancy. My god, how fucking fancy. Two sinks. It’s like I’m the Queen of England!
  2. Coffee station! How nice would it be to keep small appliances like the coffee machine a bit more out of sight and in here, not cluttering up the kitchen countertops? I’m never gonna be the type to brew my coffee in anything more attractive than a regular drip coffeemaker every morning, this much I know. And with a sink right there, it would all be so easy and convenient.
  3. Ice cube trays. I hate filling them but it’s a part of life since I’m not planning to replace my fridge. Too much money, no real reason. I’d rather not walk to and from the main sink to do this because I always spill.

ALSO CAN YOU ALL RELAX BECAUSE THIS SINK IS UNDER A WINDOW? I DID IT FOR YOU. Kinda. Not really.

But THIS window looks out on the backyard, and that’s a very different situation than the other window.

Nobody in my life seems to think tiny bar sink is remotely necessary, but I’m obsessed with it? So, until further notice, consider it the plan.

So that’s kinda where I’m at now! I’m feeling really good about it, and it’s making me so excited to get going.

Improvement? Worse than before? TINY BAR SINK?

I love tiny bar sink.

Planning My New Kitchen!

In only a few months, I’ll have owned my house for four years! That’s pretty wild. Which also means it’s been about four years since I started thinking about how I’d like to someday renovate the kitchen…you know, after that time when I kind of already renovated the kitchen. That’s a long time to design a kitchen! Yet somehow I keep changing the plan again and again—waking up one morning certain about something and then going to bed roughly 16 hours later absolutely sure about the exact opposite decision. It’s vicious and at some point very soon I need to just make up my mind once and for all so I can get on with things like roughing in my plumbing and electric.

Granted, the house has changed a lot in those almost four years! I drew the above floor plan on some weird software back when I bought the house. It’s like a different place today!

So yes—I’ve definitely lost some square footage, but that loss is totally outweighed by what I’ve gained in natural light, structural integrity, and—I’d argue—giving this house much more of an architectural identity. Just looking at that 2013 plan makes me feel kind of anxious! But the clarity and simplicity of 2017 makes it feel better.

ANYWAY. The area highlighted in yellow. It’s ALL CHANGING. Bear with me and let’s see if I can stumble through this.

Cool? Just pretend you zoomed in on the bright yellow part, and then changed all the things.

Ah, memories! One thing I always hated about the kitchen was the sink location. If you look back at the first floor plan, you can see how the doorways align—meaning you can be standing in the living room at the front of the house with a perfect view of the kitchen sink! Blech. I also hated the huge soffit overhead and the lack of countertop adjacent to the sink. The sink itself is really not in good shape—the enamel chipped and rusting in some places, and just very worn down overall—and the base cabinet below it basically started disintegrating several months ago. So that was all pretty cute.

Also, the stove location. It sucks! That little kitchen cart was the only thing that made it OK, but still. No prep space and no room to add any. See what I mean? I feel like I made the kitchen as cute and functional as I could without doing anything major, but ultimately there’s only so much you can do to turn a bunch of rotting lemons into something resembling lemonade.

Blam! That grey mass on the left is meant to represent that antique hutch that currently lives in the dining room, by the way. This one:

I’ve always felt like it was more of a kitchen piece, and so I really wanted to work it in. I think it’ll hold the majority of my everyday dishes and stuff, which I’m really excited about!

The original radiator stays, but changes locations to be where the sink used to be. I don’t mind being able to see a nice black radiator from across the house, but not a big sink full of dirty dishes. Of course, the soffit is gone, and both the window and exterior door get replaced with windows that match the ones that got installed on the side of the house this summer. It’ll all feel so uniform you won’t even know what to do with yourself.

Also, I’d like to put a little wood stove in the fireplace! That’s what it’s there for, I love burning things, and can you even imagine how cozy?? This kitchen has historically been VERY VERY cold. Hopefully a lot of that will be resolved with new insulation and less house than there used to be (I think the solarium/”side porch” was a major culprit), but I love the idea of that option for some supplementary heat.

Also, burning things.

Confession: when Max and I broke up, I went a little nuts one night and ripped out the upper cabinets and the soffit in this picture, started work on repairing the wall, and that’s as far as I got. I never repainted and it looked like total shit for about a year. Adorable.

But who cares now because it’s all gonneeee. So you might be wondering…if I remove the exterior door, how am I going to get outside?? Good question. The door moves to the current laundry room, basically right where that funny little window is now.

And no, I can’t actually believe I’m messing with my laundry room. I love that laundry room! BUT, let’s think of it this way: I have a better idea, and basically all the value in that room is the machines themselves, which of course will be saved. The entire rest of the space cost me about $350 and a few weeks of part-time work three years ago, so I can get over it.

Want to talk about that island? It’s a concept I’m digging. As much as I’d really love to just put a nice old table in the middle of the room (which might end up being a short-term solution that ends up lasting a very long time), I think I’m going to want more storage. My biggest anxiety with the kitchen is that I DON’T want it to look super new and…suburban? I grew up in the ‘burbs and got nothing but love for the 90s granite-countered kitchen that raised me, but that’s kind of my biggest fear here. So I like this middle-ground, where the island is still a piece of cabinetry but doesn’t match all the other base cabinets and end up feeling like a huge mass in the middle of the room. Ya dig?

YIKES. I do not miss this.

Now about where that doorway to the solarium used to be, there’s a stove! But not just any stove! A 36″ gas range! I haven’t picked one out yet (omg, so many options, so many reviews, so much money), but I’m really excited. I think it’ll feel like a big upgrade over the 1960s bottom-of-the-line Sears-Kenmore electric stove I’ve been rocking all this time! I’ve given a lot of thought to doing an induction cooktop at the encouragement of several commenters—everyone who has induction seems to love it, and I’ll admit they are very very cool!—but I just can’t see it in here! I can’t! I’ll do induction in the super mod lake house that I’m building (someday, no formal plans).

I know these images look really….blah…but try to imagine this as a real space. The back of the island can hold cookbooks and pretty bowls and whatever, and that shelf over the sink will be styled out all pretty with bowls and cutting boards and shit, and the room will have color and texture and a rug and…ya know. It’ll look like a real space and not a computer drawing.

I couldn’t bring myself to install a range hood in the SketchUp rendering. I know. I know. I know. I’m trying really hard to convince myself that this is something I need or want since I know the rest of the universe has decided they are necessary.

I don’t want one. The thought of drilling a 4″ hole and installing a vent cap outside on the newly restored side of my house is giving me agita.

Have I lost you? Is this making any sense? I feel like I need a focus group for this post.

SO. I wanted badly to sort of isolate the laundry room from the whole kitchen and first floor bathroom renovations, but no. It will not be spared, because I’m moving the laundry! I’m moving the laundry upstairs! I’m PSYCHED. It’s an option I wrote off long ago but then reconsidered just this past weekend and I can’t believe I didn’t figure it out sooner.

This means that the current laundry room, above, becomes a small mudroom kind of space but also an extension of the kitchen. On this wall, I see doing a nice big built-in, with shallow cabinets below and open shelves above. Hey, new pantry! At some point I had to stop obsessing over SketchUp and just put up this dumb post, so use your imagination. It’ll look great.

I’m toying with the idea of widening and heightening the doorway into the current laundry room and adding a transom window above. YES THIS IS THE SAME DOORWAY THAT I NARROWED AND SHORTENED A FEW YEARS AGO TO FIT A DOOR I NEVER INSTALLED. Oy vey.

I can’t stand me either.

New exterior door goes essentially where the window is and that’s how we’ll get to the backyard. Washer and dryer move on up to their new glamorous second floor life. The wall behind the machines gets demo’d. I steal about 3′ of space from the downstairs bathroom.

And that makes enough space for the fridge and a closet! I haven’t really sorted out quite how this build-out will go, so the drawing shows a location but nothing else really.

And yes, I know as a blogger that putting the fridge here might actually get me murdered because people are SUPER INTO their working triangles and stuff, but…well, find me a better spot where I don’t lose countertop, storage, or a window, and I’ll eat all my words and do that. In all seriousness, though, refrigerators are hideous and counter-depth panel-ready ones are WAY out of my price range. THIS WAY, I feel like I can have the huge honker of a fridge (switching to a cute designer-y fridge or under-counter both seem super impractical), but it’s out of sight while still being right there.

You don’t seem convinced. Please calm down it’s going to be OK.

Anyway, the original plan was to stack the washer and dryer and put them in the space next to the fridge, but now that the laundry is going upstairs I have a nice big closet! I usually want to rip closets out much more than I want to put them in, but in this case I’m really excited to have a space to actually store the vacuum cleaner, the mop bucket, I guess even winter coats and boots and stuff, conceivably! The options feel endless.

LASTLY. Downstairs bathroom becomes a powder room.

Toilet and sink locations swap, window moves over and down a little, and that’s basically it. Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.

For those of you who were horrified at my plans to reuse that tub-turned-temporary-human-grave, YOU WIN. FOR NOW. I still have the tub and I’d still like to find a home for it, but not here. I decided having a full bath on the main floor kind of felt like a carry-over from the house’s past as a two-family (in fact, this bathroom was installed when the house was split up originally in the 30s), and the whole fridge/closet thing just made so much more sense.

So that’s where I’m at! I know this is not the kitchen that everyone would install, but I’m feeling really good about it! We’ll talk all about specific materials and fixtures and stuff soon, but I just wanted to put the basic strokes out there.

Let’s do this thing, kitchen!

I Want to Live in The Knick.

Remember how my kitchen is completely gutted right now and I’ll soon be embarking on the wild ride of rebuilding it myself from scratch? I’m very excited about it. I’ve been trying to pull together a post telling you all about my plans, but it’s taking me forever! It’ll have to be next week. On the bright side, there are some dazzlingly basic SketchUp renderings coming your way, and on the BRIGHTER side, today we get to talk about my favorite thing in the world: TV.

I swear this is pertinent.

Have you watched The Knick? I feel like not many people have, because it airs on Cinemax and who knew that was even a thing. It premiered almost 3 years ago and has two seasons under its belt, so I’m really ahead of the curve on this one. The point is, you should watch The Knick. It’s a period drama beginning in 1900 about the Knickerbocker hospital in New York City, at a time when medical science was fucking crazy and everyone died from everything all the time. If you thought Victorians were insane with their woodwork and furniture, you should see what they were up to with surgical medicine. It’s nutso.

Anyway, The Knick is a good show. At least I think it is? It’s really well-acted, beautifully shot, nicely scored, and well-written. I’m mostly guessing about the last one, because honestly I have a difficult time paying attention to anything other than the sets. Oh-em-gee it is beautiful. I find myself constantly pausing and rewinding it to get a better look at the interiors. Ideally where this is headed is that I’ll just give the production director Howard Cummings and set decorator Regina Graves the keys to my house and just let them finish it up while I go on vacation. Or at least the kitchen. Somehow I’m guessing I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

The lobby and main corridors of The Knick…can you handle it? Look at that floor tile!! These and similar styles of brass light fixtures populate many of the interiors on the show and I am obsessed with them.

I mean, look at this. Shoot me full of typhoid and let me die here! I love how the wood floor is echoed with the beadboard ceiling, and I really love the simpler version of those sconces and ceiling fixtures. It’s all so good.

Those built-ins! Love love love love love love love. I love the sliding doors and the monochrome scheme. I feel like that sick lady isn’t appreciating it enough. You gonna die, sick lady. Better enjoy the view while you can.

One of the major players on the show is the surgical theater, which has an attached room for the doctors to scrub up before they operate. Again, I am all about this built-in situation, with the inset doors and the bead detail around the glass and whatever that caning situation is on the taller doors? I also love the marble slab wainscoting and, of course, the sconce above it. I pay a lot of attention to the different wall treatments on this show—plaster, natural stone, tile, beadboard, and other types wood paneling—and try to figure out how high up the wall they’re going and how high the sconces are in relation, and how tall the ceilings are supposed to be in relation to that, because it all just looks so fucking good. 

Also, if my doctor looked like Clive Owen, I’d be totally fine with him being a heroin addict and sewing my arm to my syphilitic face. Why not.

SORRY MY HEART JUST STOPPED HOLD ON. Guh. GUH! The floor. The lights. The beadboard wainscoting. It’s like, yeah, this is the room where patients basically all go to die, but the last thing they see is that light fixture! Lucky bastards.

I think my favorite space on the show is Dr. Thackery’s office/lab place. I want to just pick up this room and re-install it in my kitchen and make no more decisions. I love the black hex floor with the light grout. I love that table. I love the lighting. I love the black cabinets and moldings, and the subway tile, and the beadboard wall mixed in over there on the left. It’s all just so good. I’m a huge fan of the color palette in general on the show—a lot of black, white, wood, and brass, yes, but also a lot of light greys and beiges and earthier, more subdued tones I wouldn’t necessarily think I liked. It’s all just perfect.

You could go a million different ways with my kitchen considering everything from the floor to the ceiling will be brand new, but at the end of the day I want it to look like a turn-of-the-century hospital as imagined by some really talented set designer people in 2014. I don’t understand why this is too much to ask. I’m stoked about this traditional-modern-utilitarian vibe, which I think will feel at home in this house while also being simple and modest and unfussy.

OH AND ALSO! The kitchen is one step closer to becoming reality thanks to ALL THE AMAZINGLY BADASS MANHATTAN NEST READERS who voted for that laundry room makeover on Angie’s List! I won! You won! You made me win! I don’t know! I’m so grateful and flattered and full of warm fuzzies! So now I have $2,000 in winnings to immediately blow on the plumbing for my kitchen, which is an enormous help. Thank you, thank you, thank you. #tooblessed

P.S.—This article + interview with production director Howard Cummings and set decorator Regina Graves is cool, if you want to read more about the design of the show!

P.P.S—The Knick is currently available to watch on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Max Go!

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