The Kitchen: Inspiration and a Plan!


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!

Moving clockwise:

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.


This mess:

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.



About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 6.21.13

    Obvious comment is obvious, but I love your kitchen plan. I think you’re making the right decision by going ahead with the tile even though this is sort of a semi-non-permanent overhaul of the space. If I hadn’t been so completely clueless about the joys of tiling when we bought our house, I wouldn’t have waited 7 years to do the subway tile in my kitchen.

    I can’t believe that’s brick-printed vinyl wallpaper. WHY? It reminds me of that shag carpet-printed vinyl flooring that was in Adam’s bedroom closet. (Somehow Piet Hein Eek’s scrapwood wallpaper manages to be non-gross? Hmmm.)

    You are a total liar for calling that dinner I made “yummy,” btw. Culinary failure! I’m still ashamed.

  2. 6.21.13
    LP said:

    I love it when a plan comes together – it’s all going to look great! ok, the brick wallpaper-over plaster-over brick. wtf indeed. as for the crate&barrel pastry slab – get it! I had one and it was wonderful. I stupidly gave it away when I moved from Seattle to New Orleans a few years ago b/c it was so very heavy and I was sure I would drop it on my toes somewhere during the moving process. that was stupid of me. toes heal

  3. 6.21.13
    Tory said:

    Longtime reader, infrequent commenter, but I’m so excited to see what you guys do with this space and just wanted to share a post that popped into my head as soon as I read “mudroom.” You’re probably all over this but Abbey over at Aesthetic Outburst has been wrestling with her mudroom for awhile now and I’ve found it, and all her renovations, very inspiring:

    Can’t wait for more from this adventure you four (I can only imagine how excited Mekko and Linus are about all this) are embarking on!

  4. 6.21.13
    Steph said:

    Inspiration board? Goodness knows. Very cool direction you’ve got in mind, regardless. I wish the owners in my (soon to be!) new house hadn’t gutted the kitchen, if only they had left us 50s hardwood cabinets instead of a piece of shit laminate kit kitchen. Full speed ahead.

  5. 6.21.13
    Kirk said:

    Nice plan. Is there a weird angle on the stove/sink wall or is that just how the photo came out?

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Oh, it’s just two photos pieced together in photoshop, sorry! The wall is straight, although it probably doesn’t help that the stove was sitting at an angle. The other one will be parallel with the wall, obviously.

  6. 6.21.13
    Colin said:

    Giiiirl, get that bathtub functioning – you’re gonna be soar from all that work! I’m thrilled to observe this process; I feel like I owe you a housewarming gift for letting me in on this. I’m going to learn so much to apply to my own future Gay Gardens! Or maybe I’ll just park an Airstream in your backyard and call it a day.

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Well, the upstairs bathroom functions now, so that’s good! It’s the downstairs tub/toilet that are messed up. I think the lines may be clogged…our plumber is going to come out and try to fix it ASAP. Now that I have the Shop Vac, though, I was at least able to suck out all the gross murky water, so that felt like progress! ha, haha…*tears*

      Also, Airstream is totally welcome!

  7. 6.21.13

    I really think I’m just as excited about watching you re-do this house as I was to buy/redo my own :)

    Thanks for all the work you do to keep us all updated here in internet land!!


  8. 6.21.13
    Linda said:

    Love your new house, kitchen,and potential plans. Due to a series of dastardly events that are too long to go into here, I ended up after a kitchen remodel with gray walls, white upper cabinets and black lower cabinets, and I love it. It was nothing I had planned. But that’s what happens when you are working with an old house. Mine is almost exactly the same vintage S yours, so I am looking forward to seeing all the great things you do with yours!

  9. 6.21.13
    Mariane said:

    Ooohhhhhhh! it as begin, your pain and joy and just my joy of watching-reading! Yé!

  10. 6.21.13

    Your place seems like it has serious potential! I love that kitchen from Design Sponge…it’ll be fun to see what you do to everything.

  11. 6.21.13
    Melissa said:

    Congrats on your purchase! Excited to see what you do in your new house.

  12. 6.21.13

    I LOVE the plan! And I usually use the term “inspiration board” instead of “mood board.” It sounds so much less cheesy. Also, you can get a marble slab for $10 less at Sur La Table:

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Oh, thanks!!

    • 7.11.13
      TJ said:

      It’s also 4 inches shorter which is why it’s cheaper.

  13. 6.21.13
    AnnW said:

    Totally excited for you. We started our home ownership with a huge 1920’s co-op across from Bloomingdale’s loading dock on 60th St. It was advertised as a wreck and it was. We found 23 colors of paint on the built in corner kitchen cabinets when we stripped it. For the kitchen floor. You could try the old New England standby: paint the floor grey or another color and then spatter all other colors on top. Used a lot in summer houses. Miss Mustard Seed just installed Butcher Block countertops, read her tutorial. Please document everything you do, it could be a book. That’s how Martha got started. You could also get sponsors to donate supplies and you write about your experiences. Work on getting everything functioning before you worry about decorating. The heating and plumbing are the most important parts. Join Freecycle. The biggest sales for furniture and home goods are the Visiting Nurse Association in Bernardsville, NJ twice a year, Minks to Sinks in Wilton, CT, and a good one is the St. Marks White Elephant Sale in New Canaan the Saturday before Mother’s Day every year. You will find tons of things that people don’t want and are basically giving away. Need brass sconces? Looking forward to living vicariously through you. Did you graduate? Oh, and try Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on the cabinets, or make your own. Ann

  14. 6.21.13
    nella said:

    Someone who can deal with a toilet explosion can do anything.

  15. 6.21.13
    Chel said:

    I can’t wait to see what you do! If you have a marble yard nearby, you can usually get them to sell the sink cutout from a cut countertop for a few bucks (and sometimes they will just give it to you). You have to clean it up but it makes a great pastry slab.

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Oh, that’s a wonderful suggestion!! Thank you!!

  16. 6.21.13

    Not much is scarier than the words “brick patterned vynal wallpaper.” I love that you see such potential in what you have. I always hope that I would do something similar even if I had all there money in the world. There is something so impersonal about a total gut job although I understand it can be necessary.

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Jessica! I think the kitchen will be a (mostly) total gut down the line, but that’s fine in this case——pretty much nothing (except some moldings and doors, which would stay) in the room is original, and almost all of it is in pretty bad condition. These cabinets won’t last forever, but they’re totally fine for now, until we can really do it right!

  17. 6.21.13
    kelly w said:

    But we do still need the full-on house tour, MTV Cribs style. Because a Cribs tour from Daniel would be the best thing ever and we would all totally win the internet.

  18. 6.21.13
    Lena said:

    Soooo excited! What kind of cabinet hardware will you do? Will you do something like a kitchen island? I think a little bit of colour would be nice, like in Annas kitchen there are the yellow stools and some red things…. Maybe you could spraypaint the lamp?

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Not sure about hardware yet, but I have an idea!

      The kitchen really isn’t big enough to do an island, but I wish! And yes, there will definitely be color! I like color too much to not have color!

  19. 6.21.13
    Michelle said:

    You have f’ing transom windows. *swoon* I’m so looking forward to seeing your progress.

  20. 6.21.13
    Jack said:

    Mood board, inspiration images, when are you going to get Pintrest?

    Omg that is the cutest kitchen though! The cabinets and stove are gorgeous! And brick wallpaper is adorable, and so is the contact paper! Alright I’m guessing we have different tastes! But on a serious note, you could put all of that onto Craigslist and it would sell, regardless of condition! Or you could freight ship it to me :-)!! That light fitting is the cutest part though, it could make a pantry look adorable or a young blog readers Christmas present!!

    As fabulous as that kitchen is, the plans for an update look great too! That sort of colour scheme always looks good! Are you planning on having a kitchen island? Or a table and chairs combo in there?

    It’ll look great though!

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      I hope you’re joking!! But if not…I guess it photographs better than it is? It’s bad. Everything (except the cabinets) is bad. I promise. Super dirty, super gross. Trust me.

      It’ll look wayyyyy better, I promise!!

    • 6.21.13
      Jack said:

      Haha not joking, but I’ll take your word for it!

  21. 6.21.13
    Rebecca said:

    I’m feeling a wave of nostalgia for the white and gold-speckled formica countertops. There must be something commemorative to do with them. Backsplash?

    • 6.21.13
      Daniel said:

      Well, it’s actually the same Formica as was used in the upstairs shower surround (creative, right?) so it’ll still be in the house for a long time! I might reuse them in the basement/workshop space, though!

  22. 6.21.13
    Sherry said:

    So I never got around to posting on the “we bought a house post” so congrats and… OMG! OMG! OMG! I can’t wait to see what you end up doing! I know I will probably be copying all of this it all for my wreck of a kitchen.

    PS. I have those same counters. I loath them and the previous owners affinity for using turmeric which stained them terribly.

  23. 6.22.13
    CPJC said:

    You are truly amazing. Even though you may be out of your minds (!) I admire you (and Max) for the big leaps you are willing to take in your life with your eyes wide open. Been reading you for years now and cheering you on. Can’t wait to see what transformations you make to your new home.

  24. 6.22.13

    Beyond excited to see this all unfold, thank you for letting me watch it all in real time. When you and Max (and Anna too) are ready to visit, beds ready in San Jose, California.
    xo, Amy G.

  25. 6.22.13
    Simone said:

    As I told you in one of my earlier comments: “You guys need a bigger house.” So glad you took that to heart (hahaha). Normally nobody listens to me. Congratulations!!! It all sounds superexciting. Have a wonderful weekend.

  26. 6.22.13
    Lena said:

    I hope that isn’t too creepy, but I have been thinking a lot about your kitchen renovation, what I would do (I think because I live in a student’s flatshare and since finishing my room can’t really do or change anything) and remembered this Maybe a cheap alternative to butcher block?

    • 6.22.13
      Daniel said:

      Ha! I think about it all the time, too, don’t worry!

      I actually considered doing a faux-concrete thing following a different tutorial, but I really want the countertops to be wood. With all the black and white, I think the kitchen is going to need some wood to keep things from feeling too cold, and I really like the look and functionality of wood countertops. I think I have a good DIY in mind…hopefully…

  27. 6.22.13
    Kathleen said:

    First off, CONGRATS! This is so amazing and huge.

    Second, I truly can’t understand the thinking behind drop ceilings. “Hey! You know what would make this space super cozy? A lower ceiling!” Then again, I wonder if there are any design trends we’ll be shunned for (black walls maybe?).

    • 6.22.13
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Kathleen!!

      I think in this house, the drop ceilings were probably installed for sound–around when it was split into two separate units. Aside from the kitchen, 2 other rooms also have acoustic ceiling tiles, and it’s possible those were just installed directly over the original plaster ceilings to deaden noise. Not sure why this one was dropped so far below the real ceiling, though…maybe it was just aesthetic! So bad.

    • 6.25.13
      Jill said:

      I had disgusting drop ceilings in my kitchen when I bought it too. We didn’t know what shape the ceiling was in when we bought, unlike you guys — and it gave us pause. Contractors said drop ceilings are often installed to hide previous damage without expensive repairs. FUN!

  28. 6.22.13
    kory said:

    I get it now, you bought the house as a solution for your light-fixture-hoarding problem :D :D

    Definitely tile the kitchen ASAP (would you keep that tile when you do a real overhaul?!)… but I’m European, there’s no such thing as an “un-tiled kitchen” (you need to SCRUB IT HARD). I have also never seen a kitchen with a wooden floor (WHAT IF SOMETHING SPILLS!?). But I have seen tiled living rooms, my feet are cold from even thinking about it… (ok I kind of drifted off here…)

    • 6.22.13
      Daniel said:

      I’m planning to! Just the backsplashes, though. The floor will be painted, so the spillage thing should be OK.

      We’d probably rip out the tile when we really renovate, but that could literally be a decade from now. Who knows, maybe it’ll only be a couple years (doubt it!), but that’s why I really want to make the kitchen we HAVE pretty nice. I don’t usually like non-permanent solutions and stuff, but in this case, I think It’ll be very worth it. But because nothing in this room is really original, and a real renovation would probably involve moving the layout around a lot, and I’m guessing we’ll probably go down to the studs (this room is almost all Sheetrock, not plaster, and it would be a good opportunity to insulate and run upgraded electrical)–so the tile will go. It’s so inexpensive, though, that I feel OK about that, especially if it makes this kitchen look and function better for several years.

  29. 6.22.13
    Christa said:

    Yay! Great ideas. I L-O-V-E your inspiration board. I think oiled and waxed plywood makes a nice wood countertop on the cheap. You can do tricky stuff with the edge – paint it black or a sharp little strip of bright color…

    Our kitchen was super gross when we bought the house – like it hadn’t been cleaned in 5 years. We did a super bleach cleaning, then a quick (crappy) sanding job. We thought we were going to redo the whole kitchen within a year. After living with it for a while we ended up liking the original kitchen only now I have to live with our half-assed workmanship :( Once you get it sort of working, you will move past the skeevy and realize it’s really a pretty nice old kitchen. I would probably just go full throttle on the floors and brick wall. And yes to the tile.

    • 6.22.13
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Christa! That’s kind of what I want to avoid–doing things halfway because I’m betting on a more comprehensive renovation! That’s a total “me” thing to do, too. I’m trying to be realistic about out time and mostly our budget. A lotttttt on this house needs fixin’, and it’s going to be a long time before we can put 5, 10, 15K into a kitchen renovation.

      I do think I’ll wait on the floor and brick, if only because I want to get this phase done and make the room functional ASAP. If I expose the brick, I’d have to fill in some big spaces at the floor and the ceiling, and if I expose the original plank flooring, I’d have to remove the base cabinets AND deal with another layer of linoleum (which may contain asbestos) and plywood underlayment. That’s a whole lot of demo for a big unknown–the floor could be really rotted or have other issues that we just aren’t prepared to deal with. And I really don’t want to spend the money to then re-cover it with plywood and be forced into choosing a flooring material right this instant, you know? So we’ll live with the painted underlayment a while, maybe put some VCT on top to make it more finished, and probably wait on the planks until we renovate “for real.” The cabinets in this room are OK, but they definitely aren’t something we’re ever going to decide we really love and choose to just not renovate the kitchen at all, so we just have to be patient!

  30. 6.22.13
    Isabelle said:

    I don’t envy you for your kitchen. I find the layout the most unpractical thing I have ever seen. Before investing a lot of energy in tiling and painting the cabinets, I would seriously consider, if installing the simple Ikea kitchen furniture like you already have in your apartment aren’t a better and somewhat cheaper option. This way you could install a working area maybe together with the stove on the left side (where there is now the row with only cabinets) or install a kind of isle in the middle with the stove included.
    The way it is right now, you will get a lot of exercise dancing between sink, fridge and stove and working area. I am sure, you can make it all look good, but keeping it like this, functionality will suffer.
    Can one get Ikea kitchens on craiglist? ;-))) As a student, I bought mine second hand and added by building cabinets myself or ebaying further. And it all looked as one solid piece. ;-)))

    • 6.22.13
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, the problem with what you’re describing is that there really isn’t any other layout that would work in here because there are so many doorways/windows/radiators that we’d have to do some pretty major renovations to do anything but just replace what’s here already, with the exact same footprint. We’d also have to re-route a bunch of plumbing and electrical, and then you’re really talking about a full-on renovation that really isn’t either necessary, feasible financially, or prudent given that we haven’t been here long enough to really make any decisions about how best to maximize the space. I really think I can do this whole kitchen for about $500 as-is, and that would basically buy us like…4 cabinets. It’s just a totally different league. And then we’d end up with a sloppy renovation that we’d want to re-do anyway, in all likelihood. The biggest issue (which I think you’re picking up on) is that there isn’t any prep space directly next to the stove, which is something that’s very easily remedied by adding a work surface there, and definitely doesn’t necessitate ripping everything out and starting over!

    • 6.23.13
      Isabelle said:

      Yeah, I hear you ;-))))) What about “ripping” one or two cabinets from the side that has only cabinets and add the stove there (maybe would need some electircal work), but then you would have the stove with a working space next to it and the sink within reach and the fridge also not too far away and the only piece of wall without cabinets free again. I LOVE kitchen remodelling ;-)))

    • 6.23.13
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, even that would be a ton of work–the subfloor under the removed cabinets would have to be leveled, the remaining cabinets would have to be moved to close the gap (stove is only 30 inches, none of those cabinets are 30″), electric would have to be run, we’d need to remove the upper cabinets above the stove to meet code (nothing flammable within 30 inches of the top of the range), somehow figure out how to patch or otherwise make the soffit not look like a weird mess where the missing cabinets were…it would be crazy, basically, and I can’t imagine it would look good or be worth it for what we might gain in functionality. This kitchen REALLY isn’t that big…I know it isn’t an ideal working triangle, but it also isn’t as though anything is far away from anything else. It’s a layout that’s clearly worked for someone for 50-60 years, so I’m sure we can make it work for at least a few more!

  31. 6.22.13
    amanda said:

    so, maybe someone already said this or you already know, but usually the 9×9 linoleum tiles have asbestos. good idea to take the precautions you did already! excited to see the progress :)

    • 6.22.13
      Daniel said:

      Yes, I’m well aware! I’ve done tons of research on asbestos, which unfortunately is kind of just a given with old houses. My understanding is that the biggest risks happen when tiles break during removal, which is when fibers can become airborne–in this case, since the adhesive was so weak, all of the tiles came up totally whole…so I felt like it was pretty safe, especially with the other precautions I used like drenching everything in soapy water, wearing a mask, and not sweeping/vacuuming debris.

  32. 6.22.13
    Jo said:


    I have one piece of advice and one request.

    Advice: Assume everything is going to take at least half-again as long as you plan, and cost at least a third more than you budget. And (bonus bit of free advice I just thought of) if there’s any chance that your house might shift (don’t know what sort of soil y’all have up there) or walls might flex during renovations of the upstairs, don’t do anything that might crack/fall over/be permanently ruined until you’ve lived in the house for a while and seen what might go wrong.

    I approach every reno job, even if it’s just painting a wall, with a slitty-eyed, thin-lipped pessimism that so far has not steered me wrong. Which is weird, because in the rest of my life, I’m like a huge laborador retriever, bouncing all over the place, heavy on the optimism and light on the brainpower.

    Request: Please get rid of the cornice (is that what it’s called?) above the sink. That wooden curvy bit, I mean. I’m begging you. Please. That kitchen wants to be a sleek, sexy combination of Victorian and modern, and that little decorative widget is like a huge zit. I kept my wooden widgety bit because my kitchen really wants to be vintage 1940’s and cute, and it works. . .but your widgety bit is just misplaced. Thank you.

    Many kisses to Mekko and head-skritches to Linus.

    • 6.23.13
      Daniel said:

      We’re totally on the same page with renovating! I have enough experience at this point to expect things to go wrong and cost more, don’t worry! We’re proceeding with caution, haha.

      Also, have you no faith in me?! Little decorative cornice trim piece thing is gone!

    • 6.23.13
      Jo said:

      Oh, no, no. I have total faith in you. I just know that sometimes things. . . .get overlooked. Like when you’ve ripped down a wall to find the space behind FILLED with rats’ nests, and then you realize that all the pipes in the wall–and there are a lot of them–are actually fourteen-inch, cast-off sections of pipe of different sorts that were doped together over the years, and the shower has been leaking into the kitchen since, like, 1972, and all of a sudden you have to completely rebuild a load-bearing wall and replace ALL the supply pipes, except you catch a rat’s nest you didn’t know about ON FIRE while you’re soldering pipes, and so you sort of forget that the existing trim up by the ceiling makes your eyeballs roll around like Mad-Eye’s.

      Not that I have any experience with that.

    • 6.23.13
      Daniel said:

      OMG!! That sounds like…quite an ordeal. Aaaaaaannndddd this is why we’re holding off on anything too major in here, like opening walls or exposing flooring or anything else. If we don’t see a problem, it doesn’t exist! That’s totally how old houses work, pretty sure.

      Hope that story has a happy ending!!

  33. 6.23.13
    Paula said:

    You are literally living my dream life–engagement, dogs, DIY galore, new house upstate AND apartment in Brooklyn?! Well…I have the apartment in Brooklyn, so that’s a start. Can we be friends?

  34. 6.23.13
    Isabelle said:

    Another thought – I bought my butcher block at the normal hardware store as it was cheaper than IKEA there (see, also here – money saving is key ;-)))? How are prices in the Do-It-Yourself shops in the US?

    • 6.23.13
      Daniel said:

      Lucky! I’ve never seen butcherblock in a hardware store (home depot sells sheets of laminated pine that kinddddd of looks like butcherblock, but it’s soft and terrible quality and thin…). I think ikea is generally regarded to be the cheapest option anywhere, and then maybe Lumber Liquidators, which is primarily a flooring retailer and more expensive than ikea. Trust, I’ve looked around!

      Might be because butcherblock is still a fairly uncommon countertop material in the states. I think it’s catching on a bit more, but people in the US have this idea that an ideal countertop should be indestructible and maintenance-free, so I think most people would choose even a plastic laminate over butcherblock, and definitely tend toward natural and manufactured stones over good ole BB. It’s not a logic that really makes a ton of sense to me, but that might explain why the options are so limited.

    • 6.23.13
      Isabelle said:

      Interesting – learned something new. And yes, if postage wasn’t so expensive, I would send you fitted countertops right away. ;-)))

  35. 6.23.13
    Adam said:

    Greetings from Dublin.

    Congrats on the house!

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned…

    But you’re in quite a good position in terms of your house being split in two. Would it not be an idea to say, live upstairs while you gut and redo downstairs or vice versa?

    You could save on temporary expense and focus on completing each space.

    • 6.23.13
      Daniel said:

      Thanks! And yes, that’s more or less what we’re doing. We definitely don’t want to keep the house as a two-family, but it’s definitely nice to keep the upstairs kitchen intact until we get the downstairs one in working order. The downstairs bath is a full gut, which will just depend on time and money. But the rest of the rooms are livable, so we’ll probably just go room by room, but there’s no real need to totally vacate either of the floors. This might make more sense when I post more pictures of the rest of the rooms! A lot of it is just wallpaper and plaster repair and stuff–we don’t really have to gut anything else.

  36. 6.23.13
    Jane said:

    Long time lurker and (semi-retired from it) serial renovator here. Congratulations on all of your changes! I’ll follow your story with fond nostalgia! BTW Jo, above, is right about everything. Plus, the two of you will argue a lot. It will still be a wonderful creative venture and the purest kind of joy when it goes right. You have terrific energy and creativity, you’ll do great!

    Un-asked for opinions: If I had to do it over again, I would always fix pipes and pull through some basic new wiring first. Then you can kinda do the rest as the spirit moves you. Also: I bet those ceiling tiles were frequently put in to lower heating costs — warm air tending to rise, etc. Thank god there are more attractive solutions now!

    • 6.23.13
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Jane!

      I’ll definitely consider the electrical–we’re making some changes like upgrading the service to 200 amps and moving to a single panel, but our electrician recommended that we not worry about the wiring right now and just replace it as we work on the rooms, pull down ceilings, etc. Most of the wiring seems pretty modern and OK, so I’m not super worried about it. But I’ll ask again what he thinks next time he’s over.

    • 6.23.13
      Jane said:

      Oh, boy, if you have good wiring already, that’s a wonderful start! I figured you were still in the knob-and-tube zone. Have fun!

  37. 6.23.13
    Mary from CA said:

    Hi Daniel! I started reading your blog at the same time time I bought my first home. If anyone is ready for this monumental task, it is you. I’m totally on board with your kitchen plans. Sounds like you’ve dealt with immediate health/safety issues, so you only need some cosmetic updates. We had icky moldy home depot cabinets and finally painted them last summer. It was a lot more work than I thought… but we’re really happy with the kitchen now. Amazing what white paint and a nice rug will do. Btw, we used TSP for degreasing and Zinsser oil based primer as prep. Both reek like hell, but are the only way to deal with layers and layers of grease, varnish and what have you.

    Maybe down the line there will be money for kitchen renovations, but it’s best to tackle the yard and other parts of the house first. My advice, plant plant a commemorative sapling or something special to mark your first year.

    Can’t wait to see your progress. Good luck!

  38. 6.24.13

    I’m SO excited!

  39. 6.24.13
    Ashley P. said:

    I have a drop ceiling in my family room (it used to be a porch, but the previous owners closed it in) and I dream about removing the tiles to see what kind of ceiling is above it. However, I’m terrified of what kind of horrors could live up there. I don’t think I’m brave enough to look!

    We also have a weird outlet above our kitchen sink in the soffet and I’ve always wondered what it was for. It’s not a normal socket, so I don’t believe it’s for a clock, but I don’t know what in the world it’s supposed to be.

    • 6.24.13
      Daniel said:

      Are the tiles just drop-in, or are they nailed up? Oftentimes these were just installed for heat or sound and there’s a perfectly good ceiling up there! If it used to be a porch and depending on the age of your house, there might be beadboard or something cool. You should look!

      Our outlet is sort of recessed into the wall, 2 prong, and has a small hook at the top–definitely not a normal outlet, but that’s what it’s for! I’ll try to take a better picture.

    • 6.25.13
      Ashley P. said:

      I believe they might be nailed in. I did just remember there is an A/C vent in one of the tiles, so I’m pretty certain now that it’s hiding the duct work. :( I’m a little sad by this realization because the porch that remains (they only enclosed half of it) has a beautiful natural wood ceiling with cool beams. I’ll have to take a peak to see what’s going on up there.

      I do have another drop ceiling in an added on portion of the house that looks like the side porch you just posted in your first floor walk through. They’re definitely just dropped in there because if the door is open and the wind blows it makes the tiles move. Ghetto! lol.

      That’s what our outlet it! Huh, never would have thought it was for a clock. So weird.

  40. 6.24.13
    Sarah said:

    Exciting times! You’re gonna take care of this house.

    I also remember Morgan from The Brick House complaining about the term “mood board” a few years ago. I don’t think she was ever able to come up with something that wasn’t cheesy.

  41. 6.24.13
    Kimberley said:

    Okay, so one of the big things that I always wonder about older homes is the possibility of other “house guests” in the form of rodents, spiders and just other creepy crawlies. I would be petrified of pulling things out only to find a roach motel or rat’s nest. Any concerns/issues with that?

    • 6.24.13
      Daniel said:

      I have no idea what it’s like to buy a new house (I assume it’s pretty much the same), but one of the most important things when buying an old house is getting a pest inspection prior to closing——particularly to look for signs of termite or carpenter ant destruction. Ideally, homeowners would continue to get an annual pest inspection, just to keep an eye on everything and stop anything in its path before causing too much damage! It only cost us about $100, which I’d say is money very well spent. Luckily, our pest inspection didn’t turn up any signs of infestation.

      Our house had been vacant for about 2 years (and previously occupied by a man in his 80s, who was understandably not the best housekeeper!), so some bugs and stuff are definitely to be expected. I haven’t run into anything really bad yet, but there were definitely a lot of cobwebs and spiders (dead and alive) lurking around. Nothing a little cleaning couldn’t take care of. As to discovering things during renovation…it happens. I’m neither counting on it or under any illusions that it won’t happen! A lot can go down in a house over the course of about 120 years——it just comes with the territory! So far, so good though.

  42. 6.24.13
    Christina W. said:

    I love the kitchen plan! Also I was totally fooled by the fake brick, but I think exposing the real brick there would look amazing. When that tea towel mysteriously showed up on West Elm again a few weeks ago, I ordered one too. It said it was due to ship on the 7th but here it is almost the end of the month and it still hasn’t arrived! I don’t have an email about an order cancellation. Hmm. I should probably call them.

    • 6.24.13
      Daniel said:


      Mine still hasn’t arrived, either. I checked on my order a few days ago, and apparently it’s on back order…hopefully it’ll come soon!

    • 6.24.13
      Christina W. said:

      Well I called about the tea towel, and spoke with the specific department that only deals with backordered items. They told me that 1) there are like, 300 of these that were ordered in that little mysterious window of time when it suddenly reappeared in the clearance section and 2) They didn’t show any incoming shipments for them and couldn’t tell me anything else. UGH. The lady thought that this meant that West Elm was trying to source them from a new vendor? Hopefully? Anyway, crossing fingers!

    • 6.24.13
      Daniel said:

      UGHHHHHH. So annoying.

  43. 6.25.13
    Ella said:

    Love all of it! These commenters have had such useful advice so I just wanted to add my own… Electric stoves are the worst! If you are used to cooking on a gas one it is a BIG JUMP (down) to electric. My family has an electric stove but I learned to cook mostly in college apartments with gas stoves, and when I return home I always get soooo impatient and then end up burning things on the electric one. It’s a big difference regardless of whether you’re a novice or professional cook. So even if you use the electric one as a stopgap while you don’t have gas I wouldn’t recommend totally getting rid of the gas stove, even if it isn’t as cute. You might end up regretting it.

    • 6.25.13
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, I know about the stove…I definitely prefer gas, too!

      This is a longer story, but I think we might be inheriting a pretty nice gas stove in a few months, so that’s why I’m fine with using the old electric one for a while. The existing gas one is literally too gross, even for me (and I like gross shit), but the electric one, while old, is in perfect shape and actually works quite well! The electrical line already exists in the house (it just needs to be re-routed to the first floor, no biggie), so I’m ok with using electric if it means we can save the money and put it toward something else!

    • 6.29.13
      Lena said:

      Not all electric stoves are the same! I grew up with electric and never understood why people were complaining so much since I didn’t find gas that much better when using it while living in flatshares ect. Sure, a little bit faster but didn’t make that much difference (and more difficult to turn on and a bit scary when I imagine that my irresponsible neighbours or 89 year old neighbours are using gas as well). And electric ovens are way better! Anyway, now in my current flatshare I have electric and it is the worst! So, so, so slow. I am still at my parents for a big share of weekend and holidays and I always look forward to their electric stove who is sooo much faster & better. So, my point is, if you have a shitty experience with an electric stove, it doesn’t mean that all of them are that bad.

  44. 6.26.13
    Valerie said:

    Hey – for functionality, how about putting the stove where the fridge is (so you get the counter top near it) and put the fridge on the wall that the stove is on now?

  45. 6.28.13
    Donna Trexler said:

    Consider yourself hugged by this Bubbe. I’ve been following for a while, and usually don’t comment on blogs, but couldn’t help myself this one time. Congrats re: DOMA decision. Be happy and love.

  46. 6.29.13
    Leslie said:

    I love your blog and am so excited for the four of you! My husband and I are also beginning a kitchen Reno of a house we recently bought (rotted 1964 knotty pine) with a 3 month old baby in tow. Should be interesting. I love the idea of black and off black together. It’s very sophisticated, but approachable, especially with the wood tones. BTW, in architecture firms they do “precedent studies” of completed projects when they are starting a project and need to find the right starting off point. After they have worked on their own schematic design a bit, they create a “finish board” of the various materials they plan to use. Hope this helps!

  47. 7.3.13
    maria said:

    Congratulations on the new house and engagement and all!
    I ‘ve almost never written a comment on your blog, but believe me I’m regular reader running the risk of becoming a stalker. Scary shit, I know…
    Anyway, I’d like to ask if you have considered moving the fridge were the stove is now and vice versa. It would solve the “no prep space” problem without having to buy or build anything new. [Of course, a nice metallic trolley would look nice by the stove in its current position…] The real downside to what I’m proposing is the distance between the sink and the stove, I mean having to carry a pot full of boiling water and spaghetti all the way across the room is not a dream scenario.
    Also, the window above the sink is screaming for some green plants.

  48. 7.9.13
    mia0909 said:

    Hi :)
    I’ve loved the shelve you’ve made in your 1st apartment when you were living in Manhattan (the one you made in your bedroom?) … and I think that it would really look nice over the radiator or anywhere else in this kitchen…. I hope you didn’t get rid of it yet!

  49. 7.10.13
    Malcolm said:

    …and this shall be a sexy kitchen.

    That is all.