I get asked about my kitchen…kind of a lot. It’s been so long since it’s made an appearance on the blog that I understand why you’d think it must be done by now, and I’m just holding out on you. Don’t you know I require way too much attention to secretly renovate my kitchen without shouting at the whole internet about it?
We’ll work on these trust issues later.
My kitchen has been a real saga over these past seven years—going from hazmat zone to pretty nicely and inexpensively renovated to utter and complete destruction to…now. So let’s talk about now! We’re in rooms #5 and #7 above, for those keeping track at home!
I’m throwing this floorplan back in here so you can see how these spaces used to be arranged. The first thing that you need to understand about the back of the house is the extent to which things have been moved around! Additions have come down, walls have been removed, doorways relocated, windows added and enlarged…it’s all different. None of this was stuff I imagined doing when I bought the house, but then one thing led to another and it just sort of…happened? It’s kind of amazing how much plans can change and evolve over time as you really live in a space. I’ve clearly had too much time to think, and thinking is where I get into trouble. EVIDENTLY.
All this to say—just getting to the point I’m at now was a huge amount of work and a not-small amount of money. And because I live in a place with seasons, once spring/summer was hitting I had to just wrap it up and make the room FUNCTIONAL. By no means finished, but usable enough that I could work on outdoor projects and have a serviceable kitchen to use until I could circle back to the finish work.
That was…2 1/2 years ago. But hey! After literally not having a kitchen sink for 2 years prior to that, this feels practically luxurious. Anyway. You’ll see. I’ll stop making disclaimers now.
This was the kitchen a few days after I moved in! This is the view from the dining room, and by extension the living room—it’s a straight shot through two doorways to the back of the house! It was GNARLY. A lot worse than it looks. I’d already taken up the 9×9 (more than likely asbestos) tiles that were popping up all over the place, so things were somehow better and worse at the same time. Also, neither here nor there, but you can’t see in the picture that outside the window is a big wooden fire escape from the second floor apartment! It blocked way more light than the above photo suggests, and this room was really, really dark.
Bear in mind that this is where we ARE, not where we will be! But in a nutshell: the entire layout of the kitchen has been changed, and part of that effort went toward relocating the sink so it isn’t visible from the front of the house. That always felt like a bummer spot for it! Obviously right now there’s an antique secretary desk there, which is basically my home office that I only use for storage, not for actual working. So its days are likely numbered.
Anyway! The fire escape is long gone, and the window has been swapped out for a much larger new one that matches the 6-over-6 style of the rest of the house. The old casement sashes were reused as two windows for the former 2nd kitchen/current guest bedroom upstairs. You may also correctly note that the floor in here is just a shitty plywood subfloor that I stained dark and poly’d. The next major step in here is installing the actual floor, after which things can proceed. Kitchens are tough! In other spaces, I can chip away and just close the door and walk away, but this is something I really feel like I need to do with more focus than my life allows for right now. You don’t want to live without a functioning kitchen for longer than necessary. Ask me how I know.
I’m actually kind of thankful for having lived with this floor for a while, though, because now I know I do not like having floors that are stained dark. With two big sloppy dogs that run in and out of the house 100 times a day? Forget it. They look awful all the time.
That stove didn’t actually work, and there wasn’t gas service at the house for about 6 months anyhow, but it was a nice idea. Ha! Thankfully the stove in the upstairs apartment was electric, so all I had to do was relocate the electrical line and move it down here. That worked out well for a few years!
Here’s how that same area is looking nowadays! Along with the bigger window where the sink used to be, the door has moved and a matching window took its place. I really wish I had taken the A/C unit out before I took these pictures but that’s a level of professionalism I seem incapable of achieving on this mess of a website. A decade feels a little late in the game to try to convince you I know what I’m doing, anyhow.
I found that A/C unit on curb and it’s a little broken but does the job. See? Nothing if not consistent(ly a raccoon in a human suit).
It’s funny that the vinyl wallpaper behind the stove in the old kitchen was brick-patterned, since underneath it and a layer of plaster was actual brick! I knew that would be the case, but I did NOT anticipate finding a whole fireplace bricked over in there. I haven’t had that many unexpected discoveries while renovating this house, so that was a huge one!
Speaking of the fireplace—I, of course, immediately pictured crackling wood fires in here. This was short-lived, as it was then brought to my attention that this kind of fireplace was designed for coal, and the firebox isn’t deep enough to safely burn wood.
From there I set my sights on a wood stove, but for various code reasons it would have to stick out WAY too far into the room to be workable. And it would have cost a small fortune because the chimney would need to be re-lined. And because you can’t exactly just turn off a fire, I was warned that even the smallest wood stove available would likely turn this room into a sauna. And we can’t have that; I’m not a lizard.
This then led me to gas stoves that look like traditional wood stoves. Many of the same issues, space chief among them.
Eventually this journey of lighting fires inside the house led to gas logs. I got this set of ventless gas logs from Woodland Direct, and they’re pretty great? DON’T JUDGE THEM QUITE YET because this installation is missing the weird little lava rocks and weird little fiberglass “embers” that cover the bottom part—it’ll be much better-looking when the logs aren’t just temporarily thrown in there until I install a hearth.
GRANTED, even complete, they aren’t fooling anyone into thinking there’s a real wood fire going in the kitchen, but they heat INCREDIBLY well (the only heat source in here!) and fire creates a really nice ambiance whether you can smell the char or not. I got the add-on of a thermostat remote control, so not only can I turn it on and off with the click of a button, I can also set the temperature and just let it flip on and off by itself to maintain the temperature in the room. That sounds wasteful, but it actually uses a lot less gas than the boiler does, and since it heats so effectively it extends the time I have in the fall before I have to run the whole radiator system. I’m a big fan of my gas logs, janky as they may be at the moment.
If you walked through that big doorway now, you’d fall about 3 feet to the ground below because that whole addition is gone! You can imagine how cool that addition would have been back when it was built—basically the whole wall was windows! They’d since all been removed with three little vinyl windows in their place. The whole thing was dark and falling apart, so I don’t miss it.
Same wall! That big doorway would sit roughly between where the two windows are.
Does it drive me crazy that these two windows aren’t centered on this wall? Yes, a little bit. I did it because I was trying to make it look more natural from the exterior, because there’s a large dormer window in the room above, so these windows are centered on that. It’s ok. When all is said and done, I don’t think it’ll feel strange.
Or it will and I’ll just rip it all out and do it again. KIDDING! Sort of.
Oh! I guess let’s talk cabinetry and appliances. I HAVE MY CABINETS! They’re mostly just still in their boxes, because the kitchen isn’t quite ready for them. I did assemble those three cabinets to the left of the stove, since IKEA cabinets are pretty easy to just take off the wall later on, and I knew having more functional storage would really improve things in the meantime. I had 3 extra shaker-style fronts from the Bluestone kitchen that I slapped on that middle unit, which is why it’s all mis-matched. Haha! Anyway—they’re more or less in their eventual location already, but the countertop is a little too long which is why the stove is pushed over a little too far to the left.
Speaking of the stove! I have a stove. A standard US range is 30″ wide, but I really wanted to go at least 36″ wide—if I’m doing it up fancy, let’s really do it up! The problem with this plan? You can buy a VERY nice 30″ stove for about the same price as basically the shittiest 36″ stove. So, because I am stubborn and wildly superficial, I spent like $1,600 on a stove that…well…it works? And I think it’s pretty good-looking. I appreciate that it doesn’t have a bunch of buttons or a big digital display. That being said, it has NO features whatsoever (allegedly there’s a preheat function, but how it works is a mystery to me so I just use an oven thermometer). I guess I could use the built-in timer but I just use my phone for that. Otherwise, there is a clock. So essentially it has 5 burners that are really finicky to light and a mediocre but semi-reliable oven that lights and then sometimes goes out on its own, which can be extremely inconvenient. But hey, it looks good? Oof. I’m a fool. But having a stove is way nicer than n0t having a stove, I can say that much!
In any event. I’ve decided to just give myself over to the range hood life. See that little cut-out above the stove in the ceiling? That’s basically a standard bathroom extraction fan, which I thought I could use to accomplish more-or-less the same thing since I don’t like the way range hoods look generally and it’s not often that I feel like I even need a means of extracting smokey/smelly cooking air. It doesn’t NOT work, but it’s not great, and unsurprisingly that sconce above the stove gets a little yucky if I don’t stay on top of cleaning it, so anyway. Range hood it is. I’ll keep it cute.
Do you like my sink/dishwasher set-up? Thank you, I did it myself.
The sink came out of a house I renovated years ago—it’s just a super standard 24″ stainless sink, and I built a little stand for it. The dishwasher is not secured to anything, but it does its job well and that’s that. I think I might spring for a new panel-ready dishwasher so it ties in better with the cabinets. That feels so far in the distant future, sigh.
You can’t really tell in this picture, but those cabinets are installed on a wall that no longer exists! That wall divided the kitchen from what was originally a back staircase, which got turned into closets in the 1930s. Rather than giving up potential kitchen floor space for a very weird closet, or restoring a frankly unnecessary back staircase that hasn’t been here for nearly 100 years anyhow, I just took the whole wall down to make the kitchen bigger. Which leaves us with this gorgeous scene:
BY THE BY. I know the walls are nuts looking. That’s because the first 60″ off the ground are all scraps of plywood that I patchworked together. The IDEA here was a semi-smart one: I wasn’t ready to deal with all the carpentry, but I knew I wanted beadboard walls at 5′ all the way around the room, so I used plywood rather than drywall, thereby making the entire lower half of the walls one big nailer. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about where the studs were, or blocking between the studs for vertical beadboard…anyway.
Two issues: firstly, it’s not especially safe or code-compliant to do this in a kitchen because drywall is fire-blocking and plywood is not. Secondly, enough time has elapsed that I now hate my original plan and am not going to do it. So anyway. It’s nice that I can take it down and make some adjustments to the electrical placements, but instead of putting the scraps of ply back up they’ll be getting replaced with drywall.
Round and round we go.
One thing I really wanted to accomplish here was getting that exposed plumbing out of the kitchen! That waste line is for the upstairs bathroom—it was VERY split cast iron when I bought the house, and it got patched with new PVC which doesn’t insulate sound very well. Now that line has been re-routed into the new wall that separates the half-bath from the pantry, so that’s good.
Anyways, same angle different day. My goodness this is a weird room right now.
The table is an antique and might stick around! I originally had a more typical island planned, but that was 10,000 designs ago and I really do like having a nice little kitchen table. So whether it’s this one or a different one, pretty sure an antique table is here for the long haul.
So, the pantry! I’ve basically made zero progress since we saw it last, which pains me, but it’s just not been a priority. I framed that doorway to be the same size as the doorway that used to lead out to the now-defunct addition so that I can repurpose the transom window and trim. It’ll be really pretty. Someday.
Among a million other things, I have GOT to get doors on these cabinets soon before I lose my mind.
Anna’s old fridge is still trucking along, but that poor thing has seen some abuse since coming under my care. The dents are a mystery. All I can say is, maybe don’t leave a 17-year-old in charge of your house while you’re out of town. You may end up with a damaged fridge for reasons you’ll never know. Long story; different day.
ANYWAY the pantry will be great. I roughed in a water line behind the fridge in anticipation of the day it gets replaced with one that has a built-in ice-maker. Someday. The plan in here is basically unchanged, it’s just $ and time and enough upheaval that I have to really block out some time for it and get it done.
Aside from…everything, getting it done also involves installing a second sink in here! That’s what the space where all those batteries are sitting now is for. I did this because I thought I could get a soapstone sink made locally for like $250, but the business that gave me that quote ended up being a disaster bordering on a scam? I tried to get countertops through them for a different project around the same time, but instead of installing the client’s countertops they decided it would be more fun to make off with $2,500, close the business, and move to Florida. It took 3 months for the bank to get my money back and the whole thing totally sucked. I found out later that the owner is big Trump supporter, which does help explain both their moral and actual bankruptcy I suppose.
So anyway I’ll get that sink eventually, it’ll just cost roughly 6x what I was expecting it to.
That back door desperately needs a paint job. Why is everything so hard.
So there ya go! That’s the state of the kitchen. Bananas. I cannot wait to circle back and get this room done! I’ve installed six other kitchens since I gutted my own, so I guess let’s hope that practice pays off when I finally get to finish this! I just have to finish a certain little house first. No big.