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Burgevin Gardens Kitchen Makeover: The Big Reveal!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my amazing sponsors!

WELL. I am pooped.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months whipping the kitchen at Burgevin Gardens into shape! What started as a “light budget refresh” quickly spiraled into just a little bit more than that, but honestly? This was a challenging project in a lot of ways, but a really fun one that turned out SO much better than I expected! It’s ended up being one of my favorite rooms I’ve ever renovated, and I’m really proud of what we accomplished with such a small budget, so let’s check it out! We’ll talk numbers at the end. I gotchu.

I mean. Can you blame me for having the deep, unshakeable urge to redo this kitchen? Like, if the word “bummer” took the form of a physical space, that’s this kitchen. It felt really cramped and harsh, awkwardly laid out, and spectacularly brown. John and I have talked a lot over time about all the possible renovations for this house (my favorite kind of conversation!), but plans around the kitchen always involved moving walls and doing all sorts of things that, frankly, are just not going to happen. So the choice was basically to radically scale back those plans or do nothing at all…which led to me innocently suggest to John that we should throw a little money and a buttload of elbow grease at it and see what we could make happen. This was not an insignificant demand. But I acted like it was so he’d agree.

He did.

Fixed her up nice, ya know? Where do we begin. There is so much to discuss.

I’d like to note now that this whole project was really made possible by my amazing partners at Lowe’s, who provided all the products to make this renovation so impactful on such a tight budget! It was truly my one-stop shop for all the new materials that went into this room—from the basic construction stuff to the lighting and hardware and that gorgeous tile! Between hitting a sale or two and just selecting from their huge array of super-nice-but-affordable products, Lowe’s kept the budget happy without sacrificing on the vision! I’m so grateful to them for allowing me to take this on!

So. The how. If you’ve fallen victim to my near-daily Instagram stories, you’ve basically watched this unfold in agonizing detail. And there was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants here—which is pretty typical of my approach to things, but this was maybe more than usual? We started with an inkling of plan to get away from a U-shape and really make use of the longest wall by flipping the stove to the fridge’s location and pushing the fridge down toward the end of the wall to create more floor space, since the room is pretty narrow at 9′ wide. The drop ceiling had to go, and that poor window needed to be seen again, and the soffits basically ejected themselves from the situation by being totally worthless, and then we were left with this. Life comes at you fast sometimes.

Then a series of other decisions occurred through no fault (much/all fault) of my own. Firstly, there had to be hardwoods under that vinyl and there WERE but they did not come easy. Secondly I felt a moral responsibility to center up the sink on that stunner window and get the dishwasher to a better spot.

Which necessitated some *minor* work done to the radiator lines to get them out of the way and, well, it’ll be worth it.

Also a vent for the range. But a proper one, to the exterior. Hello huge hole in the ceiling, joining the other huge holes.

Then we had to put this mess back together into a kitchen for a few thousand bucks before Thanksgiving. No biggie! In all honesty I probably should have removed that last bank of cabinetry and put it back later, but I was really clinging to that “light refresh” idea and that was the only thing keeping this room looking remotely like a kitchen.

Trying to keep some semblance of our original timeline intact, I brought in my old friend and cohort, Edwin, to bang out the patching and skim-coating for me in a few days, and then it was ON.

I patched and refinished the floors, made concrete countertops, tiled the backsplash, and spent a lot of time scratching my head over exactly how to make the old cabinets (custom, as it turned out! which made things even more difficult!) work in new locations and arrangements. This plan also expanded rapidly because I hadn’t entirely landed on a plan for how to make the tile work like I wanted it to, and John requested more storage…so the cabinetry plan went from rehanging some of what was there in different spots to reusing nearly all the original cabinets and building various new boxes to fill in where needed. There was also a lot of random carpentry stuff involved like fixing up the window trim, door casings, and adding baseboards. I made a whollllllleeeeee lotta sawdust.

It was a lot of project.

But somehow it never seemed that crazy? Honestly, things proceeded pretty seamlessly! Between John’s garage, my basement, and Lowe’s, we kinda had everything we needed to just keep plugging away at it. And then it was a kitchen again!

Changing the layout made SUCH a big difference. Between that and the two extra feet of ceiling height we got by removing the drop ceiling, this room feels so spacious now! AND there’s so much more storage—so much wasted space before!

A few weeks into this endeavor, John got all excited by the progress and decided on his own accord to buy a new fridge, and I wasn’t going to tell him not to! Nobody was too excited to put the old white french-door honker back in here, but it was an improvement for the vacation rental apartment upstairs. So we moved the upstairs fridge out, the downstairs fridge up, and then John got this slick counter-depth Hisense fridge for $800! It’s still on sale—marked down 46%!—so if you’re in the market…that’s quite a price point for a counter-depth fridge. Unheard of! We weren’t really sure what to make of the Hisense brand, but it’s totally nice! It doesn’t have any fancy features or anything, but it’s nice-looking and the interior organization is really well done. John loves it and reports that it’s performing like a champ!

I’m so happy (and relieved, haha!) with how our concrete countertops came out! We used this Quikrete Countertop Mix, built forms out of melamine, and poured them to 1.5″ thickness. They’re sealed with Waterlox (an old school tung oil based finish), which added a lot of warmth and dimension, as well as some sheen! It’s food-safe once fully cured. I’m not even usually a fan of concrete countertops, but I really think these came out so pretty and work well for this space. They also cost less than $175 to countertop this whole kitchen, which is kind of nuts! Poor man’s natural stone—I’ll take it! I think in this context it doesn’t scream “industrial” like it usually comes across.

Moving the stove and losing this wall of built-in cabinetry provided space for a nice freestanding piece. Originally this was going to be a butcherblock-topped storage piece (specifically, the one with the microwave on top in the before pic!), but at the last minute John suggested this sweet china cabinet that belonged to his grandparents! Sold! I love when I get to incorporate special things like that into someone’s space, and he’s excited for it to be put to use!

The other reason to lose the stove and cabinetry on this wall was that it allowed me to move the dishwasher over and center a nice big sink under the window. Like so.

We kept the faucet modern with this matte black Delta number, and I love it! The quality really seems excellent, and at $230 it’s very well-priced. I think my kitchen faucet was more than double that price, and this Delta is nicer.

I’m not mad.

I’m a little mad.

And the SINK! Love this sink; love the PRICE of this sink. Several years ago I got to go visit the Kohler factories in Wisconsin and see these being made, so I have a real soft spot for Kohler. Once you’ve seen a raw cast iron clawfoot tub glowing red-hot and getting enameled, the image kind of never leaves you! This heavy, deep, double-basin specimen can be installed both as undermount and drop-in, and it’s only $250! And made in Wisconsin! Just like Mark Ruffalo.

SHALL WE DISCUSS this gorgeous tile? This Bedrosians Cloe Tile from Lowe’s was really the jumping off point for this whole kitchen—that’s how much John loved it! It’s really beautiful stuff, and at $7.85/square foot it’s about half the price of similar tile from more boutique sources, which allowed us to use a generous amount of it here! It comes in white, gray, black, blue, and pink as well, and all in either this 5×5 format or a subway style. John wanted the subway but I pushed him into the square and I’m not sorry. I used a black epoxy grout and this charcoal-colored caulk where it meets the countertop.

I may be weird, but I was very excited to have a good reason to use a brown outlet. I got fancy with these nice metal plate covers that are sort of an oil-rubbed bronze finish—I couldn’t put a plastic cover on that tile!

Lights! I really love how the lighting all worked out! The pendant over the sink is this one by Progress Lighting ($67!), and the two hurricane-style pendants are by Kichler! At $135 a pop, those pendants are a STEAL. The scale is so nice, they’re really well-made, and they come with about a mile of extra cord and chain for all different types of installs. The glass shades are so substantial and pretty, too, and easily removed if you wanted to just stick them in the dishwasher every now and then. Now that I have a dishwasher, I will put nearly anything in it.

I’ll need a whole post to get into all the cabinet shenanigans I got into during this—stay tuned for that—but for now suffice to say it was a process. I decided to keep the lowers more or less as-is, with just paint and new hardware rather than totally refacing them. The uppers are also mostly the original cabinets, but hacked here and there with some new filler cabinets where I needed more! These cabinets were really nothing special at all, so I’m kind of extra-proud that we were able to reuse and totally transform them. Utilizing the original face-frames to go from those partial-overlay doors to inset ones on the uppers worked out great.

John and I tag-teamed making new very simple shaker-style doors for the uppers, and I think they came out really nicely! The drawers all have these classic Sumner Street Home bin pulls, and the doors have these coordinating knobs! I ordered the hinges on the new inset doors from Amerock, and just reused the old hinges for the lowers.

We didn’t have budget for a new stove, but this one works just fine so we put it back! The nice thing about stoves and dishwashers is that sizes are standardized and they can be easily replaced at any time—if they still work and budget is an issue, I’d take new counters and a backsplash over a new appliance any day! You don’t have to do everything at once to make a big difference.

Also, the range hood! I got this affordable but well-reviewed GE vent insert, which is tucked up about 2 inches inside that hood structure. We just boxed it in with a simple wood frame and drywalled the whole thing—I don’t love the way hood vents look generally, but I’m into this solution! I love that you can’t really see it, but it still has all the function including a task light with two brightness settings! It even has a remote control!

I agonized over paint colors a little more than usual in this space—that green tile is amazing but I had a hard time landing on the rest of the colors to complement it! The ceiling is Valspar “Wispy White,” a nice creamy white I planned to use on the walls as well…until I painted a coat and felt like it it was too stark with the cabinets. I then switched gears to a Benjamin Moore color called York Gray that I had color-matched at Lowe’s in Valspar Signature paint (matte) and mixed at 75% strength to lighten it up a touch. For trim, I used the York Gray at full strength—also color-matched to Valspar Signature paint—in a satin finish so it’s ever-so-slightly darker and has a sheen.

The cabinets are Valspar’s Cobalt Cannon in satin finish—a color we landed on after painting about 10,000 samples. Ha! We debated dark vs. light cabinetry up until the very last minute, but this nice slate blue/grey with just a hint of green won out in the end and I’m glad it did! I love the way it plays with the backsplash tile, and feels kind of rich and neutral at the same time.

That Valspar Signature paint, by the way? GOOD STUFF. At like $30 a gallon, the price is amazing for the quality. I did sand and prep the doors to some extent, but skipped primer, and the paint has adhered beautifully and I really don’t anticipate any problems with it over time.

Then. On the window. You may have noted. I really swung for the fences and painted her pink! I used the dregs of what I had leftover from painting my laundry room floor, so it’s a color-match of a Farrow & Ball color called “Setting Plaster.” Am I cool enough to pull this off? Not especially. But it’s kind of my nod to that good good British quirk that helped inspire this space, and it’s really delightful in real life. And John LOVES it, which is what’s important! Painting it the cabinet color was my back-up plan if the pink didn’t work, and I still think that would look great but more expected and less fun.

I also just live for a little controversy. It’s how I get my kicks.

Oh also! I was *this close* to just painting over the sash lock again like every other painter of this window in the last 100 years, but I just couldn’t do it. So I stripped it in the crock pot and put it back—I love this kinda mottled copper finish that was hiding under all that paint!

Also! The newly re-routed radiator lines got a fresh couple coats of the wall paint, and I like them! I feel like they add some utilitarian kinda charm to this room, and I’d so much rather see those than a big soffit or something! Breaking a couple joints and getting them re-routed into that corner chase really wasn’t such a big deal, but it ended up being unexpectedly expensive—to the tune of about $500—which honestly was a bit of a shock and I’m not especially clear on why it cost so much, just that it did. Plumbing has a way of doing that to you. Luckily since the sink only moved about a foot, we didn’t have to mess with any of the other plumbing, and I do think it was a worthwhile change.

What else! I hung a couple of vintage hooks I had floating around next to the china cabinet for aprons, tea towels, dog leashes, ya know! I’m still getting used to seeing that cabinet there, but I like it a lot! The microwave fits in the lower part (I love a concealed microwave!!) and I just went ahead and threw a bunch of dishware in the top primarily so I could take these pictures. STORAGE. FOR. DAYS. IN. HERE! I would guess the cabinet is from the 1950s—that colonial revival style has never really been my favorite and not what I would have chosen necessarily, but I think it looks so cute in this room! I’m so glad John suggested it.

I found these two antique portraits of George Washington and good ole’ Abe Lincoln laying around in John’s house and nabbed them for this little wall between the doorways to the dining room and the hallway. I think they’re charming! Sadly the previous owners appear to have removed and disposed of all the original doors on the first floor (second floor doors at least went up to the attic for safe keeping…but why remove them in the first place?!?!), but John and I found a bunch of salvage doors to address that! I think it would be nice for this room to have doors again. The one into the dining room is supposed to swing!

That being said, I am NOT mad about this view from the dining room into the kitchen! It used to look like a portal to another dimension, whereas now the kitchen really feels like a natural part of the house. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

(By the way, the wood flooring in the dining room is quartersawn oak, and the kitchen is douglas fir—getting them to match would be a losing battle anyway, especially without refinishing both, but I don’t mind that they look different. They are different!)

Guys. I really like this kitchen a lot. Let’s talk numbers!

First, I’d like to recognize that two major things contributed to the success of this budget because I do not like pushing unrealistic budgets. The first is that we relied a lot on reuse of materials—restoring what was already here, and excess supplies we both had leftover from other projects. I’ll try to note those items where appropriate! I am also not including myself in this budget. Mostly that’s because this was not a standard client gig due to my partnership with Lowe’s on this project, which really allowed me to treat this like a DIY project for myself even though it’s not my house! And that’s really kinda the point—to demonstrate what can be done in terms of high-impact work for a modest cost. So while this renovation was involved, there really isn’t any part of it that’s beyond the skill level of a hardworking DIYer! All of the projects in combination made it a lot of work, but none of them are all that difficult even if you’ve never, say, hacked a bunch of existing cabinets or poured concrete counters (I hadn’t either!).

Here’s how it broke down:

WALL REPAIR/NEW WORK:
1 Sheet 1/2″ Lightweight Drywall: $13.58
1 Sheet 3/8″ Lightweight Drywall: $12.57
Metal Corner Beads: $10.31
Drywall Nails (for corner bead): $4.48
11 Bags Quikset 90 Joint Compound: $131.78
Fiberglass Window Screening (which we embed in the skim-coat to prevent cracks): $17.98
*I had plaster washers, drywall screws, fiber mesh tape, scraps of 5/8″ drywall, and some window screening on hand.
TOTAL: $190.70

COUNTERTOPS:
6 Bags Quikrete High-Strength Countertop Mix: $107.64
1 sheet 4×8 Melamine (for the forms): $28.97
Steel Rebar (to reinforce around the sink cut-out): $7.74
2 sheets Metal Lath (embedded for reinforcement): $21.20
Gorilla Epoxy (for the seam): $5.31
*we had an old can of Waterlox on hand to seal the counters.
TOTAL: $170.86

BACKSPLASH:
5 Boxes Bedrosians Cloe Tile: $425.00
MAPEI Sanded Caulk: $8.48
*I had enough thinset and black epoxy grout on hand, so no need to buy additional!
TOTAL: $433.48

APPLIANCES:
GE 30-in Convertible Range Hood Insert: $328.75
Ducting Components: $101.65
Hisense Counter-Depth Refrigerator: $800 (the homeowner bought this so technically it wasn’t part of my budget, but I’m including it here for completeness)
*I had foil tape for the ducting on hand.
TOTAL: $1,230.40

ELECTRICAL:
Cable, Boxes, Wire nuts, etc: $113.33
New Range Outlet: $6.62
4 Brown 20-Amp countertop outlets: $23.92
Decorative Outlet Covers: $24.72
Progress Lighting Small Pendant (over sink): $75.57
Kichler Large Pendants: $270.88
Lightbulbs: $31.62
*we had electrical tape, NM cable staples, wire nuts, white outlets and GFCIs, plastic covers, dimmer switches, and assorted electrical screws on hand.
TOTAL: $546.66

PLUMBING:
Kohler Deerfield 33-in Cast Iron Sink: $70 (this is our actual cost because we returned two hundred dollars worth of extra joist hangers from the porch project for store credit to offset the cost of the new sink. I love a…flexible return policy)
Sink Strainers: $19.96
Delta Faucet: $236.09 (John also bought this so it wasn’t part of my budget. We could have reused the old faucet but he understandably didn’t want to. It’s pretty blah.)
New P-Trap and End Waste Outlet parts: $15.56
*we had teflon tape and plumber’s putty on hand.
TOTAL: $341.61

FLOORING:
Drum floor sander and edger rental, including sanding pads: $204.15
Mastic/Adhesive Remover: 28.98
*We had scrap wood for patching and a gallon of Bona Traffic HD polyurethane on hand.
TOTAL: $233.13

CABINETRY/HARDWARE/CARPENTRY:
2 Sheets of 3/4″ Maple Plywood: $96.86
2 Sheets of 1/2″ Maple Plywood: $89.36
Dowel for the Corner Guard: $5.97
2 Oak table legs (used for corner guard): 5.96
Shims: $3.38
Magnetic Catch with Strike for cabinet doors: $25.48
8 Sumner Street Home Bin Pulls: $24.64
27 Sumner Street Home Knobs: $76.95
38 Hinges for Inset doors: $125.40
*We had about 4 sheets of plywood, a little MDF, framing lumber, and a lot of scrap 1x, screws, finish nails, and brad nails on hand. We reused the crown molding from the old soffits to top off the cabinetry!
TOTAL: $454.00

PAINT:
Valspar Color Samples (various colors): $31.84
1 Gallon Valspar Signature Paint, Flat (Walls): $29.98
1 Quart Valspar Signature Paint, Satin (Trim): $16.98
2 Gallons Valspar Signature Paint, Satin (Cabinetry): $59.96
*I had the ceiling paint on hand, as well as patching compound, caulk, brushes, and rollers.
TOTAL: $138.76

MATERIALS TOTAL: $3,739.60

Now, that’s just the materials cost! Which I think is PRETTY DARN GOOD for everything we took on, and the result we got! Originally we weren’t planning to need a plumber (we did) or hire out the wall repair (worth every penny, thus is my hatred for DIYing that particular job), so that added about $1,500 to our actual cost. But still! Getting in and out of that NEARLY GUTTED kitchen for like $5K? I am JUST FINE with that!

Lastly, I just want to say a big HUGE thanks to John the homeowner for, once again, trusting me to tear apart his house for a little while! And to Lowe’s for seeing those before pictures and still letting me run wild with this kitchen—they really made this project possible and I’m so glad I got to do it!

And to you guys! I’ve never really shared quite so much of the process as I did with this kitchen over on Instagram stories, and it’s been so much fun talking with so many people about stuff I usually think I’m the only one who cares about! That really made the work more enjoyable for me and was a great motivator to keep going when I felt unsure or overwhelmed. I’m a lucky duck! I hope ya like it!

Burgevin Gardens Kitchen Makeover: A Few Updates and a Lighting Round-Up!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

This kitchen redo at Burgevin Gardens has been moving forward full steam ahead, and it’s really starting to look like a room! A nice room!

Here’s where we left off! A hot mess! Originally I did NOT envision doing so much deconstruction in here (this is supposed to be fast n’ cheap, remember!), but once we got into it…well. I just didn’t see a very exciting path forward with just cosmetic changes, and the “why don’t we just…” creep took hold. So we just went for it. Ultimately I’ll be glad we did, but right now it feels a littttttttle nutso because there’s still a LOT to do and not very much time to do it in or money to do it with. My favorite combo! The trade-off of a low budget is basically that everything becomes a project unto itself—instead of installing countertops, we’re making them. Instead of buying and hanging cabinets, we have to build some of them and hack the old ones. Et cetera. All individually manageable tasks, but combined it’s…no joke.

Naturally, things always have to get just a litttttttle worse before they get better. Ha! You may notice a couple of things:

  1. I had my plumber come out to re-route those exposed radiator lines into that corner chase with the rest of the plumbing! They’ll still be exposed over the window (I ain’t mad at it!), but that freed up the space I needed to move the dishwasher to the left side and center the sink under the window. That off-center sink always drove me nuts so I’m excited it wasn’t too big of a deal to make this happen! Since the sink is only moving a little, it should be easy to tie back into the existing waste/supply plumbing when the new sink goes in. (That’s right! NEW SINK! Which also means new cabinet! Which means I get to build a cabinet! More projects!)
  2. We took up the sheet vinyl floor and found the hardwoods! I knew they had to be under there. It’s not as though refinishing a floor is free, but still cheaper than buying all new flooring. And you can’t do much better than 100 year old fir!
  3. We have lights! We have outlets cut in! This was not especially challenging with an unfinished basement below and big existing holes in the ceiling to run new cable through.
  4. There’s a big long hole on the right side of the ceiling, which is for the vent! This hood vent insert can be vented to the outdoors or installed as a recirculating vent, but outdoors is generally preferable and it wasn’t too difficult here so, again, we went for it.

To move things along more quickly, I asked Edwin to drop in for a few whirlwind days to tackle some things that would have taken me much longer to do on my own. We got the duct installed, the hood surround build, the vent installed, the chase in the corner built, and plaster patched and skimmed, which was a huge help. Even though Edwin thought I was nuts for refusing to just gut out all the walls (when doesn’t he?), we saved nearly all the original plaster which always makes me happy, and just patched where necessary with drywall leftover from other projects!

AND OH HELLO, HARDWOODS! We removed as much of the old adhesive as possible using a scraper and this mastic remover from Lowe’s, which made a terrible and slow job less terrible and slow. This was mostly to avoid having to sand through it—since potentially it could contain asbestos, and because the sanding pads get gummed up really fast with tar-like adhesive, and those pads get expensive if you have to use a ton of them.

(Yes. Correct. We should have had the mastic tested for asbestos. It is not expensive and is good for peace of mind. This is a “do as I say, not as we did” kind of situation.)

So that’s basically where we are, which I don’t think is such a bad place to be! I’ve now poly’d the floors and am moving on into hacking old cabinets, building new ones, and hoping these concrete counters weren’t the worst decision I’ve ever made.

Now that we’ve stripped it all down and started putting it back together, I’ve been trying to make final decisions on the finishing touches like lighting, hardware, paint colors, and how exactly I’m going to make these cabinets work! I usually try to make a safe area on site for all the things that need to be installed, and I loveeeeeee the feeling of watching that pile shrink away as projects wind down. Three things currently residing in that pile are our light fixtures, which I’m so excited to see installed!

We have this small Progress Lighting pendant planned for over the sink ($70!), and two larger more impactful Kichler pendants to light the rest of the room ($135 a pop!). It can be a little risky sourcing from two different manufacturers if you’re trying to match finishes, but I took a look at both and the brass finish isn’t exactly the same but close enough! Both fixtures are really nice—including the fact that the small globe pendant’s cord is about a mile long and it comes with a bunch of brass extension downrods so you can hang it as high or low as you want.

ANYWAY. I think the key with mixing lighting (especially pendants) is to play with scale and the level of detail. A very simple and small fixture like the small globe will complement rather than compete with the large, more intricate design of the urn pendants. It can be a tricky balance, and generally it’s easier to pair a pendant with flushmounts or semi-flushmounts, but with a narrow room and 10′ ceilings I think keeping the lights off the ceiling will feel better.

The other thing I always like to consider is how the light will or won’t diffuse. I see people screw this up all the time, like when they want a cool industrial barn light but don’t think about how the shade will direct all of that light downward rather than diffusing it throughout the space. If you have other lighting (like recessed, sconces, or lamps) to pick up the slack that can help, but I don’t like recessed lights in old houses so I tend toward fixtures that will diffuse light rather than direct it toward a particular area. So for instance, a solid shade casting downlight would work well over the sink, but for the main space it might feel like an interrogation cell. Ya dig?

Actually landing on those specific fixtures was—I won’t lie—kind of challenging! Ultimately I pulled a bunch of options and then the homeowner and I chose together. The challenge wasn’t a lack of good options but rather A LOT of really great options—all from, you guessed it, Lowe’s! I’ve long thought that Lowe’s does a great job with lighting, but it’s been a while since I really dove into the selection and it’s only gotten better in the meantime. There are literally THOUSANDS of fixtures online to fit any style and any budget, including some really high-end looking modern pieces (ya know I like a mix!) that I totally didn’t realize they carried. But as someone who works a lot on old houses, I really appreciate that Lowe’s has a great selection of lighting that looks right at home in vintage or antique homes, but at prices that keep them attainable for projects where budget is a consideration…which is to say, all of them? I’ve really never done a project where budget limitations weren’t a main driving force in selecting finishes, and Lowe’s lighting has bailed me out more times than I can count!

SO with that in mind, I figured I’d have some fun showing you other budget-friendly fixtures we considered, and ones that I think are pretty great but didn’t really fit the bill for this particular room. I think the best ways to easily and relatively painlessly upgrade a space—especially a kitchen—is paint (of course), lighting, and hardware. So if you’re jonesin’ to refresh that kitchen or dining room before the holidays hit, maybe this’ll help you out! Or not! It’s your life!

(Of course, if you have a little more money to play with, check out what you can get for just a little more because there is some seriously great stuff! Note, also, that a lot of these lights come in different sizes and finishes—think of this like a light smattering of options!)

First the chandeliers! If this room were a little bigger it totally could have pulled off two chandeliers.

1. Cascadia Huntley 3-Light White Milk Glass Schoolhouse Chandelier // $220

2. Designers Foundation Ravella 5-Light Black Industrial Chandelier // $258

3. Allen + Roth Dystra 18-Light Soft Gold Chandelier // $189

4. Progress Lighting Archie 2-Light Shaded Chandelier // $170

5. LNC 8-Light Champagne Chandelier // $130

6. Progress Lighting Carisa 5-Light Vintage Gold Chandelier // $265

7. Progress Lighting Revive 4-Light Antique Bronze Shaded Chandelier // $68

8. Allen + Roth Webner 13-Light Bronze Chandelier // $199

9. Designers Fountain Emmet 6-Light Chandelier // $240

10. Litex Scott Living Fillmore Chandelier // $190

11. Globe Electric Aldred 12-Light Brass Chandelier // $242

12. Decor Therapy Sumter 8-Light Trestle Chandelier // $117

13. Designers Fountain Knoll 5-Light Oil-Rubbed Bronze Chandelier // $186

Next, pendants under 200 smackers! These should all diffuse light nicely around a space.

1. Cascadia Huntley Schoolhouse Pendant // $102

2. Westmore Lighting Georgetown Transitional Schoolhouse Pendant // $176

3. Westmore Lighting Georgetown Art Glass Schoolhouse Pendant // $196

4. Westmore Lighting Stratford Pendant // $196

5. Livex Lighting Oldwick Pendant // $95

6. Golden Lighting Dixon Aged Brass Globe Pendant // $104

7. Golden Lighting Hines Pendant // $159

8. Sea Gull Lighting Academy Schoolhouse Pendant // $189

9. Progress Lighting Embellish Galvanized/Glass Pendant // $100

10. Kichler Jar Pendant // $70

11. Allen + Roth Muncie Corsican Clear Glass Schoolhouse Pendant // $86

12. Globe Electric Latiya Pendant // $43

13. Progress Lighting Schoolhouse Pendant // $153

14. Sea Gull Lighting Pratt Street Bronze Ribbed Glass Warehouse Pendant // $199

15. Quoizel Soho Pendant // $40

16. Allen + Roth Aged Bronze Vintage Bell Pendant // $99

17. Decor Therapy Minetta 3-Light Convertible Semi-Flush/Pendant // $95

18. Craftmade Legacy Brass Pendant // $134

More pendants under $200! These will direct light a bit more than the ones above to varying degrees.

1. Boston Loft Furnishings Bell Pendant Light // $70

2. Progress Lighting McPherson Black Pendant Light // $135

3. Allen + Roth Bristow Bronze & Glass Pendant Light // $100

4. LNC Delphinus Rust Rustic Bell Pendant // $50

5. Westmore Lighting Hastings Pendant Light // $189

6. Golden Lighting Bartlett Copper Patina Pendant // $199

7. Westmore Lighting Crossens Park Oxford Pendant // $178

8. Globe Electric Liam Bronze & Frosted Glass Pendant // $30

9. Maxim Lighting Hi-Bay Bronze Pendant // $138

10. Craftmade Fredericksburg Oiled Bronze Pendant // $160

11. Westmore Lighting Farington Pendant Light // $90

12. Kichler Covington Olde Bronze Pendant // $119

13. Kichler Bronze Pendant Light // $100

14. Cascadia Harwich Burnished Bronze & Seeded Glass Pendant // $108

15. Quoizel Lockesburg Gloss White Farmhouse Pendant // $75

16. Golden Lighting Duncan Aged Brass Pendant // $179

17. Progress Lighting Fresnel Dome Pendant Light // $169

Finally, little guys under $100! Great for over sinks, doubling up over islands, or anywhere you just want a lil somethin’ special.

1. Allen + Roth Webner Bronze Globe Pendant // $41

2. Allen + Roth Mini Vintage Clear Glass Dome Pendant // $48

3. Progress Lighting Archie Mini Pendant // $50

4. Craftmade Orion Patina Aged Brass Globe Pendant // $82

5. Canarm Rowan Frost Glass Dome Pendant // $62

6. Allen + Roth Polished Nickel Dome Pendant // $55

7. Maxim Lighting New School Schoolhouse Pendant // $98

8. Progress Lighting Mini Traditional Pendant // $99

9. Allen + Roth Bronze Mini Industrial Bell Pendant // $45

10. Globe Electric Liam Matte Black Industrial Pendant // $32

11. Quoizel Belmont Century Mini Cage Pendant // $90

12. Cascadia Concrete Industrial Cage Mini Pendant // $51

Back to Burgevin Gardens: Kitchen Edition!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

As we well know by now, I love a makeover. Always have; always will. I expect this information to shock exactly nobody. But even if all my past and present projects hold special places in my heart (and, maybe, ulcers in my stomach), frankly some makeovers are less exciting than others. Some projects involve more grunt work than creativity, or the balance is tipped more heavily toward practicality and function than aesthetics, or the space just isn’t especially inspiring and you kinda have to force it. Ya know?

This? IS BASICALLY EVERYTHING I LOVE IN A PROJECT. I MEAN LOOK AT ALL THAT HIDEOUSNESS.

HOW.

MUCH.

FUN.

Allow me to elaborate.

Over time, I’ve worked on a few projects over at my friend John’s house in Kingston, which I have named Burgevin Gardens—not because John is a Burgevin, but the original owners were. The Burgevins were a fascinating family—florists by trade—who appear to have built the original house in the 1880s and then did a major renovation around 1920 that doubled the size of the house and reworked the original 1880s structure. They built the house in an area of Kingston that wasn’t really developed at the time, and owned and operated the Burgevin Florist Shop in Uptown Kingston for close to 100 years—it was actually still open when I moved here (it’s currently being beaaautttiffullly renovated and restored as part of a new hotel project)! When the Burgevins built the house, they also had something like 50,000 square feet of greenhouse space erected on adjacent land, which kept the florist in operation year-round in the days long before fresh flowers could be easily shipped across the world.

Based on all this, I’m gonna go ahead and say they were a family of means, and they built one helluva house to show for it! Here it is around 1950, still largely intact (although already missing its shutters, and after rectangular storm windows obscured the arched tops on the upper sashes!):

It is fabulous, and huge, and full of huge projects. It’s been updated and messed with over the years in generally extremely bummer ways, and John has spent the last few years slowly chipping away at restoring it to some version of its original glory as time and money allow. It’s a truly massive undertaking and he’s doing a great job of it.

Last year, he enlisted me to design and rebuild the original 800 square foot wraparound front porch (indeed, that is bigger than my entire Brooklyn apartment!)—I shared a lot of that process over on Instagram stories as it was unfolding (the good bits are saved to highlights!).

Before that we restored the fireplace mantel in the sprawling living room (I think it’s 32 feet long??), and a little later I did a quick n’ dirty laundry room makeover because friends don’t let friends have terrible laundry spaces, right?

(For those curious about the porch project, you didn’t miss anything! Unfortunately it’s still not quite complete, and I’m hesitant to share it until it is…but I’m really hoping that can happen this fall because I’m so excited to show you!! Also, even though it’s not mine, I’d really love to close the book on that particular project because I’m really very proud of it. So standby on that.)

SO ANYWAY. The house is a center hall layout, meaning the entryway and staircase are in the center with rooms on either side. Turn right and you enter the ENORMOUS living room. Turn left and there’s a small foyer sort of space, followed by a massive dining room with beautiful oak panel details on the walls and a beamed ceiling. I somehow managed to never take a good picture of this room, so I made John dig one up…shockingly most normal people don’t obsessively take naturally-lit photos of rooms in their house all the time, so give the guy a break:

And then there’s a doorway from the dining room into the kitchen (out of frame, far right—see the edge of the door casing?), and it’s kind of like entering a different world? Based on the grand scale and relative intactness of these other spaces, the kitchen reads almost like a bad joke. BEHOLD:

I think part of me was excited when John bought this house just so I could have the honor of tearing out this mess. It’s so ugly, you guys. Should we count the ways?

From what I’ve been able to deduce, here we have an early-80s special of basically all the things people hate nowadays in a kitchen. Outdated dark oak cabinetry. Sheet linoleum covering the hardwoods. Laminate faux-granite (I guess? that seems generous.) countertops. Matching laminate backsplashes, which mysteriously stop short of the stove (you know, where one might functionally want a backsplash??). Granny wallpaper. Small upper cabinets with big huge soffits, which look not-so-big only because the top TWO FEET of them are obscured by the dropped ceiling. Bizarrely placed recessed can lights. Florescent box over the sink. A cheap metal venetian blind obscuring a beautiful arched original window. Have I missed anything? It’s truly a brown-town masterpiece of bad decisions.

I guess the faux-granite laminate was supposed to be an improvement over the faux-butcherblock laminate?! The mind boggles.

AND THEN IT GETS WORSE! Because the whole room is only about 9’x16′, but only about half of it is currently being used for the kitchen! Presumably because a prior owner wanted an eat-in kitchen, so left half the room empty—leaving a crowded U-shaped kitchen on one side and a bunch of wasted space on the other. Obviously it’s not being used as an eat-in kitchen now, and neither John nor I understand why anyone would waste their time eating in here with that GLORIOUS dining room just steps away. (I know actual dining rooms are out of fashion for many people. Those people are wrong. End of story; don’t @ me.)

The problem is, John doesn’t have the cash to renovate this kitchen (did I mention the enormous old house with endless projects that still has to be maintained and heated in the winter?), and that’s unlikely to really change any time soon. There are bigger priorities and even though it’s ugly as hell and no fun to cook in, it does function, more or less. So he bravely perseveres.

But with holidays around the corner (I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M WRITING THOSE WORDS) and plans to host family for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, he asked me if I thought there was something that could be done to makeover this space on a budget. Don’t tempt me with a good time!

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Gimme it.

So, in turn, I approached my friends at Lowe’s to see if they would be interested in partnering up on this project, and they generously agreed! But there’s a catch. I have like…$2,500 to turn this thing around. That number is not missing a zero. That’s basically pocket change in the world of kitchen renovations that involve more than a little paint and maybe some tile. For some reason I am still convinced a total overhaul is possible.

How, you may be asking? Because we have three things going for us:

  1. Unfounded optimism and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned delusion. This is my main fuel source and I’ve learned to embrace it up until the point that I start hating myself.
  2. Underneath all this disaster, there are good bones. There’s gotta be, because this is a good old house! There have got to be hardwoods under that linoleum, right? We know there’s a beautiful original window, half-covered by nonsense. A peek above the drop ceiling confirms a TEN FOOT actual ceiling height. And there’s more space to work with than is currently being utilized, so we can play a little with the existing layout. We can and we WILL!
  3. We have a wonderful and free renewable resource: ELBOW GREASE. Rather than rip it all out, send it to a landfill, and throw money at the problem, we’re going to approach this very carefully, working what we’re working with and making some strategic decisions to maximize the impact of our budget. Luckily, Lowe’s has allllll the products we could possibly need to do just that, which is why I love working with them so much. High-end looks for budget-friendly prices! (they don’t tell me to say these things; I just have a lot of enthusiasm.)

Current financial constraints and impending family arrivals aside, why do a more budget-friendly renovation of this space? Because a) nothing will happen otherwise and b) I’d wager this is the last renovation this kitchen will ever see. Ideally, I’d love to see this house returned to a single-family someday (currently there’s a whole apartment upstairs, but it would be easily converted back), and the wall behind the refrigerator is just a non-load-bearing wall into a room 2-3x the size of this one. Which is to say, in another reality, I can totally see somebody ripping this whole thing out, knocking down the wall between this room and the next one, and putting in a big big kitchen to match the big big house. Old houses generally don’t have big kitchens like that, and while I’m usually not one to tear out walls in old houses, I actually think it would be a good approach for this particular house. The existing layout isn’t all that nice and it would be more suited to modern living. It wouldn’t be a crime here, and this is coming from someone who considers most decisions about old houses to be crimes against them. Ha!

But the reality is, that could easily be a $100,000+ project and, short of a new owner moving in or John winning the lottery, there’s just no way. So let’s make this kitchen as nice as we can without going insane so John can enjoy his big Jersey family and, maybe, someday sell the house to someone who will see this space as totally workable at least for however long they want/need it to be.

NOW. THE HOW. HOW WILL WE DO THIS. Here are a few strategies that I think are helpful to think about if you, too, are considering upgrades but not equipped for the type of FULL, EVERYTHING MUST GO remodels we tend to mostly see on TV and online and stuff.

  1. Have appliances? KEEP THEM. Even if they don’t match. Even if you don’t love them. If they work, save your money and upgrade down the line if you want, and throw those not-ideal but still-functioning appliances back in there. Your dishwasher will still be 24″ when you go to replace it. This kitchen is going to have a KitchenAid stainless dishwasher, a stainless Kenmore stove, and a white Whirlpool fridge and I truly do not care. If you want a bigger fridge or something down the line, just leave enough space for it and use your smaller one in the meantime. You aren’t the queen of England. (Unless you are! In which case, a warm welcome, Your Majesty. Thank you for dropping by.)
  2. Have cabinets? CONSIDER KEEPING THEM TOO. You can often change a layout without scrapping all the cabinets, and I’ll be showing you some strategies to upgrade their looks and their function. These are NOT NICE cabinets by any means, but even your most basic cabinets can still often benefit from a few upgrades and strategic hackery.
  3. Embrace negative thinking. What I mean by this is: identify what you DON’T need or want, and strip that stuff out. In this case, that includes wallpaper, the drop ceiling, the recessed lighting, the linoleum floor…there’s a lot we can accomplish just by simply stripping out the bad and giving some TLC to what’s left behind. That’s basically free!
  4. Fill in the gaps with budget-friendly new and vintage. This is another not-so-subtle plug for Lowe’s because S E R I O U S L Y even if you feel kind of “meh” about your in-store displays, they have THOUSANDS of products online that might be more your speed. I’ve noticed they’ve also been making incremental improvements to their website which makes online shopping and sorting through products a lot easier, and so far I haven’t felt limited by options and this is coming from someone who literally hates everything.
  5. Consider less fitted. As Americans we are conditioned to think of kitchens as long continuous runs of matching cabinets punctuated by appliances, but there are so many more ways to kitchen! Consider freestanding vintage or antique furniture pieces like armoires, dressers, dry sinks, side tables…these things can often be bought CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP and provide TONS of storage and a totally unique look.

OHHHHHHH BOY HERE WE GO! John and I did a couple days of initial/exploratory demo just to really figure out what we were working with and so I could get to designing and figuring out how to make this budget work, and CAN YOU SEE IT ALREADY?! Am I the only one that would run screaming from the kitchen in the first picture but be completely thrilled about the kitchen in the second one? This is a fun one. I think it’s going to be really cool.

Here’s the basic layout plan! My goal is to really use the whole space, go from two awkward corners to just one, and allow for two people to comfortably prep and cook in here since currently I’d call it a one-butt kitchen. I think prep space on both sides of the stove will be a game-changer, and increased floor space and ceiling height will give the illusion of more space. Plus centering the sink under the window will just bring everyone joy and I aim to please.

OK so this is a pretty basic mood board but check it out. These are my thoughts.

  1. LIGHTING! I want two big-ish pendants for the main lighting and one small one over the sink. No recessed. John doesn’t like under cabinet lighting so we’re not doing that. I found this little pendant and these larger more impactful ones that both have a turn-of-the-century vibe I can get down with. The prices and reviews are GREAT so I’m waiting with anxious anticipation to see them in real life!
  2. WALLS! I think a nice warm white on the walls and ceiling will look best. I have my eye on Valspar’s “Hint of Cream” but have to grab a sample.
  3. BACKSPLASH! It’s the tile du jour for bloggers everywhere, except green! And square! This Cloe Bedrosians tile is really beautiful in real life, with a lot of variation in the glaze and a handmade look. At $7.85/square foot, the price point is great considering that it looks like a much more expensive handmade tile from a more boutique source. Anyway John LOVED it so I made it my business to include it in the budget and design a kitchen that’ll pull it off. I think I can, I think I can! (It also comes in white, gray, black, blue, and this SO SO CUTE pink that I am dying to use somewhere, sometime. All in both square and subway formats!)
  4. COUNTERS! My initial instinct/plan was butcherblock, which John was OK with but not thrilled. Unlike me, he will not cut directly on a counter which kind of defeats the purpose of butcherblock in my opinion. This left laminate (nope) or stone (no $) or composite (also no $) but guess what’s cheap? CONCRETE. So we’re going to try to make our own. May or may not pigment them darker. I think they’ll read much like a natural stone, but it should cost about $350 to countertop the whole kitchen. Not bad! I have 15 bags of this concrete countertop mix waiting and ready to go because I’m ON IT.
  5. FLOORS! Y’all know I’m refinishing that wood come hell or high water; don’t play. They’re douglas fir.
  6. CABINETRY! I want to rework the existing cabinets with a little strategic carpentry and, of course, paint. I’m thinking beige-y. I’ve been real into a beige-y cabinet for a few years. I can’t help it! I’ll probably end up building some cabinets from scratch but I really want to reuse what we have already because $ and time.
  7. HARDWARE! I’m thinking simple and traditional? Simple black knobs on the cabinet doors and traditional bin pulls on the drawers. I really like the shape of these bin pulls—a little different than the norm but still totally classic. Oh also! I’m going to attempt to make these partial-overlay cabinets into inset cabinets, so I will need new hinges and I *think* these ones are just the ticket. I’ve ordered a couple as a test.
  8. SINK! FAUCET! We are debating a new sink. Which is my way of saying we’re getting a new sink (maybe this guy??! although that will blow the budget, pretty sure). Or maybe a vintage sink, if the price is right and the condition is good and the size works? Either way, I’d like it to be charming, and white, with a new faucet. To be honest, I like having a simple practical single-lever pull-down-hose modern faucet and don’t think that we need to perform plumbing cosplay to make this kitchen feel appropriate for this house. My approach to that is to go fully the other direction, totally mod, and keep it inconspicuous which I think black does. Brass would be too matchy in a bad way, I think.
  9. HOOD VENT! I generally do not like hood vents. But I think I will like this hood vent! It’s an insert, so we can build whatever we want around it, and I’m thinking just keep it VERY VERY VERY simple and try to avoid being able to see the actual device inside the enclosure. I’m weirdly excited, John is weirdly excited, and this is a real functional improvement since this space hasn’t had a vent as long as John’s been here.

Golly that post took a long time to write. But this’ll be fun! I’m trying to update Instagram stories (@DanielKanter) on the daily as we move through this renovation EVENT, so check that out! You can listen to my terrible vocal fry and watch my chaotic job site filming for entire minutes as this all unfolds! Yay!

Kitchen and Pantry: 2018 Edition + 2019 Plans

Oh, did you think this was a reveal post? A real meat-n-potatoes before and after? You’re so CUTE! It’s not done. Don’t get crazy.

It’s been about nine months since we talked about my kitchen and pantry, though—the two rooms at the back of the house that have undergone the most extensive changes of any part of the house. I’d recommend giving that last post a read-through if you want to get a sense of the whole sequence of events! Normally 9 months would be an adequate amount of time to comfortably complete a kitchen renovation, not to mention the two years that preceded it, but…well, not in this house! This is a huge project that has required changes to every single wall—interior and exterior—which of course took serious time on its own and occured in the background of a bunch of other huge projects that also take a lot of time and attention.

It’s also an EXPENSIVE project, as kitchens tend to be—a lot more expensive than you might expect given the fact that I’m doing the vast majority of the work myself and avoiding a lot of huge expenses that normal kitchen renovations might have—a tiled floor, for instance, or all new appliances or custom cabinets. I still EASILY managed to budget out $25,000—almost entirely materials—before I freaked out and lit my computer on fire. That’s serious money that I do not have! If you’re really interested we can get into how that breaks down, but that would entail me actually looking at the Excel document that spit out that number which…eh, I’d rather not. 

SO ANYWAY. 

Major progress was made in 2018, so let’s discuss! Less than a year ago I was still cooking on a hot plate in the dining room and running to the upstairs bathroom whenever I needed the luxury of running water, and I had my dishwasher draining into a bucket, sooooo. Things have improved immensely, slow as it may be!

This is the south wall, which is the side of the house I just finished up working on this fall, sporting its new windows! For reference, more or less in that space between the two new windows, there used to be a large doorway with a transom window leading out into the now-demolished, then-deteriorating solarium. Around the middle of the window on the right, there was a wall that separated the kitchen from what was originally a back staircase (removed in the 1930s), which had been turned into two closets, which I made into one long skinny closet that housed my old pantry

JUST A FEW SMALL ALTERATIONS. NO BIGGIE.

I think last time we saw my old laundry space, it was looking something like this. Now that I have a new second floor laundry space, I no longer mourn the loss of this one, but…man. Gutting that (perfectly nice, totally functional, already renovated) room felt so horrible at the time. I felt confident in my plan but I was still worried I’d regret it, and I really can’t even explain how chaotic the house felt at the time. So purposefully creating EVEN MORE CHAOS was just all around extremely unappealing, but it had to happen for everything to proceed. Sometimes you make a big mess.

I think I can comfortably say I’ve seen the upper asscrack of everyone I’ve ever worked on a renovation with. That doesn’t mean you get to. It’s earned, not given. 

With the old laundry room all gutted out, as well as the bathroom on the other side, and the new window/exterior door placements all squared away, it was time to take care of the last of the framing work! It never ends! One of the things I’d like to spend a little time doing is mocking up the original layout of these spaces, from what I’ve been able to tell during renovation. It’s amazing how many times the back of the house appears to have changed to suit different periods and needs as the house moved from having servants to being divided into apartments to (maybe?) being restored to a single family before being divided again. 

So with this iteration, I’m stealing the space that the first floor bathtub used to occupy (yes, otherwise known as the corpse tub), turning that bathroom into a half-bath, and using the stolen space for the fridge and pantry space. Haunted fridge! I also had that waste line from the upstairs bathroom re-routed to fit between the wall that divides the new half-bath from the pantry. It’s so nice not having to box it in!

Finally. The entrance to the new pantry space got moved over a few feet from where it was and enlarged. I wanted a nice flow between the spaces but definitely am not going for “open concept,” so essentially I replicated the doorway that used to be on the other side of the room that led to the old solarium. So it’s wide and tall and will have a transom window and it’s all fake but I think will easily pass as original. Except for the part where I tell everyone.

And JUST WHEN YOU THINK you’re done, you remember that you still have to frame in the ceilings in the pantry and half-bath. Easy enough, but just like…really?! MORE?! Then I laid new 3/4″ plywood subfloors right on top of the existing floors—the kitchen is actually built a bit lower than the rest of the house, so this works out because now all the floors should be level with each other, and it meant a lot less demo! I’m not usually a “slap another layer on” type of renovator, but in this case it made sense. 

Then electric and plumbing went in, which of course was a whole rigamarole too. New sink location. New stove location. New everything locations. Unreliable plumbers. Same shit.

I’m not not a little proud of my garbage little sink stand I made to fit a stainless steel sink that came out of a project a few years ago. Hey, it’s a sink!! IN THE KITCHEN! It only took a mere 19 months from the removal of the other sink! Right on schedule; just fabulous. 

At this point it was April, and I knew it was going to be a supremely busy spring/summer, between freelance work and the projects at my house I really needed to prioritize during the warm weather, like resolving a ton of exterior work. At some point I made peace with the realization that there was no way in hell this kitchen was getting done for another year or more. And really? That’s fine. Totally fine. I can work with undone as long as it functions reasonably OK, and it would give me ample time to use the space, really settle on finishes and things, and address any possible errors in judgment up to this point before all the finishing work is done and it becomes a massive pain to change anything. 

I’m fickle. In case that was not painfully clear. 

I began putting up walls—but probably not the walls you were expecting! More plywood! I did this for a few reasons:

  1. I had a lot of scrap around, so I could do part of the room that way. Free is good! I could also manage the pieces myself.
  2. I know, kind of, that I want some treatment around the lower part of the room, and at the time thought vertical beadboard. Since then I have tossed around approximately 7,000 more ideas and it could end up being anything. Rather than installing a ton of blocking or adding furring strips, plywood turns the whole surface into one big nailer, which makes install easy. Added to this, plywood is a very stable material that doesn’t expand and contract like regular lumber, so it helps avoid movement of a finish material like beadboard over time. I picked this up from a restoration friend of mine and I think it’s a good tip!  
  3. It’s modular! If I need to make changes to the electric (which—surprise!—I do need a few changes), it’s easy to take the ply down to add outlets or re-set boxes at a desired height and depth, etc. It’ll also be easy to swap with drywall if I end up tiling.

At long, long last, it was finally time to say goodbye to the exposed ceiling joists, that ugly insulation, the dust-shedding backside of the plaster dining room wall…I have no words. It was the best.

I gladly hired Edwin and Edgar to hang, tape, and skim the drywall. I’m glad I did. In a few days it was done, and that’s a beautiful thing. I used Purple XP drywall in a 5/8″ thickness, which is mold and mildew resistant and has a high-density gypsum core, making it a lot more substantial than your regular 1/2″ lightweight drywall. I like a solid wall.

Bear in mind that I have not had walls or a ceiling since this kitchen renovation started so many moons ago, and open walls/ceilings swallow up a lot of natural light. I’d gotten used to the kitchen feeling…not dark, I guess, but not what I had in mind when I tore off two additions, a fire escape, installed four large new windows and a big doorway into another room with another window and a half-lite door. YA KNOW?!

AND THEN I REMEMBERED WHAT THE WHOLE IDEA HAS BEEN ALL ALONG, which is a big (well, not too big) bright beautiful kitchen!  IT’S ALL HAPPENING. Walls. Ceilings. Both such nice things to have. FYI.

Now it is the end of April. Which means it’s time for outside work to commence. Which means it’s time to wrap this shit up for at least the next 6 months or so. I gave myself a single weekend to make it happen.

Watch carefully. I was like a madman. 

First, I cleaned off the skim-coated walls and ceiling of compound dust and hit them with one single thin coat of primer. This seals in any dust and makes the walls a little wipeable. Parts of the walls will need more compound and/or caulk as I get around to things like installing moldings, so there didn’t seem to be a lot of sense in really painting. Just a little painting. 

Then I pulled a gallon I’d labeled “Frankengrey” out of the basement and hit the plywood walls with it. I ran out of paint so I didn’t do the pantry, just the kitchen. I was SUPREMELY lazy with this paint job and a little pleased with myself for it not even being the worst-looking thing ever. Like literally I just turned my roller sideways and ran it along the top of the plywood and I don’t care at all that it’s not a perfect line or anything. It’s fine. It’s all fine! Tape is for squares. 

AND THEN. THE PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE. I pulled all my half-empty little cans of dark wood stain out, threw them in a bucket, mixed in some mineral spirits, and stained that damn plywood subfloor. Because IDGAFFFFFFFFF.

Then I sealed it with a gallon of Bona Traffic HD that I found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for about 94% off retail cost. I don’t want to live with an unsealed plywood floor, especially in a kitchen, but if I can mop it? SURE WHY NOT. 

This is also a good opportunity to try out having dark wood floors! An admission, friends: I’ve lived in my house for almost 6 years and haven’t refinished the floors (which desperately need it) but, worse, I don’t even know what I want to do with them. The hardwood flooring is a later addition so nothing is really “correct”…it’s more a matter of what will look good? I’ve definitely seen very dark floors look great in houses of this vintage—I feel like it helps them sort of fade into the background so things like rugs and furniture can shine. 

But. I think. I’ve decided that. I DON’T LIKE THESE DARK FLOORS. They’re…well…dark, for starters. And they seem to show everything. Not nearly the way my white painted floor in my little office used to, but enough that they don’t stay looking clean for more than a few hours after mopping. With two dogs going in and out of the backyard a hundred times a day, I just don’t think the very dark floor lifestyle is a match for me.

So. That’s been informative.

Do you like my 1/4″ plywood window casings?! Thank you I worked very hard on them.

I moved in what’s left of my old kitchen cabinets and topped them with an 8′ piece of butcherblock from Lowe’s, and placed my life-saving induction burners where the range will eventually materialize. I found a little antique work table and stuck that in there as an island, too.

I threw down this kinda hideous, kinda great rug just to brighten her up a little, some furniture and shelving and an art and BADABOOM, GODDAMN IT, IT’S A KITCHEN. I mean I’m not congratulating myself on it being gorgeous but HEY, it doesn’t look like a construction site totally either?! That’s progress. 

I’m not sure I can adequately express how nice it was to finally get the fridge and this dresser out of the dining room! The dresser has been very helpful as extra kitchen storage while I’m working with so few cabinets. I opted to just plywood everything in this room for the same reasons as the lower half of the kitchen—except this room is going to be ALL cabinetry and woodwork. 

Speaking of—this may sound weird, but I’m actually going to prioritize the pantry over finishing the kitchen. The reason being in part that it’s smaller and more achievable, and part that it’s practically going to be a very small kitchen itself (fridge, sink, and those induction hot plates are portable!), and therefore can do kitchen things during the eventual period that I’m doing finishing work in the kitchen. Check back in 2031.

Also. I have new plans. I’m excited about them. Ready. Let’s go.

Here’s what I had last time we went over this goddamn thing:

But I’ve had some thoughts since then. They look like this:

Thensies:

Nowsies: 

OK so a few changes have taken place. The concept has changed.

Before, I was thinking the pantry would be finished off the same way as the kitchen. This house was built circa 1865, so a Victorian-style kitchen doesn’t really feel right, as beautiful as they are—I think the vibe has to be more primitive and understated. 

But the pantry is an addition to the kitchen, not an original part of it. So. New vibes are:

Maybe this was a little porch (it wasn’t, unless it was? TBH, no idea).

That was enclosed during Victorian times, because they did that kind of thing sometimes (it wasn’t…but was it?). 

And so it feels like a little enclosed porch, fitted in Victorian-style built-ins to maximize storage, beadboard ceiling, nice moldings, beautiful hardware; it’s real pretty. Trust me. 

Then. Instead of the wood floor, you do a REALLY GOOD tile, because it’s 40 square feet and you’ve worked your ass off and you should just get the nice tile because the world could end tomorrow and you don’t want to die knowing you should have just gone for it with the nice-ass tile.

Think about it.

Then you further justify the nice tile by reminding yourself that you “budgeted” (the budget you can in no way afford) for radiant heat flooring but have since decided against it, so that should really free up some money (that you’ve never had to begin with) to buy the super nice tile.

It all makes so much sense. Almost too much sense, honestly. 

So then. Instead of the tiny sink that was kind of hard to source anyway. Why not. Just have a stone sink custom made for your very special specs and then also have a countertop from the same material made for it. 

Think about it. Why not.

Here’s potentially why not: you’ve really put all your eggs in the basket of one vendor to do the fabrication at a very reasonable price, and now that vendor has repeatedly violated your trust and probably/definitely you should not attempt more business with them but you really fucking want that $250 custom sink?

Maybe it was too good to be true. But like, my life hinges on it. I’ve committed to it. 

Because I already built the cabinets!

*music swells*

*fade to black*

Next time, on Manhattan Nest.

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.

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