Kitchen Decision Making

I am planning a make-it-work makeover of our kitchen. As a reminder, it looked like this when we bought the house:

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And it looks like this now (“now” = when it’s spotless and I’ve cleared all the crap off the counter):

Current Kitchen

Why not a full remodel?

If I were to totally renovate this kitchen, it would lead to gutting the entire space: tearing up the floor, pulling down the ceiling, moving gas and plumbing lines, etc.

I think renovation money should be spent on major pain points (either structural or emotional), and this kitchen isn’t one for us. I’m sure there’s some ideal layout that would maximize the space and make us marginally happier, but eh. We’re not Dream Kitchen people. We’re Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Kitchen people.

Also, I need to be mindful of not putting too much money into this house. (See this post from Room for Tuesday for some good thoughts on home renovation and property value.) If Jarrod and I are still here in 15 years (“here” = in this house or, you know, on this planet in a functioning society) and our property value has appreciated significantly, then we can reevaluate.

So, just like I did with my half-bath renovation, here’s a round-up of the decisions I’m making.

Floors – Proceeding with Cautious Optimism

The previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen, seemingly on top of the existing floor. No idea why they did this. During our home inspection, our inspector joked “You’re not allowed to ask why,” which is advice I’ve tried to bear in mind whenever reckoning with the previous owner’s decisions.

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The floor is super red, clashing with the general aesthetic of the rest of the house. The internet gives me hope that sanding it down and applying dark stain will help kill the red (e.g. see this Houzz thread). It won’t match the oak, and it won’t be my ideal floor color, but it will be better than the red. Fingers crossed.

Cabinets – 100% Decided

They’ll get painted white by a professional. Painted because they’re otherwise fine – nice even, for the most part. White because I love white kitchens. A professional because I hate painting and I’m a perfectionist, which is a fatal combo when it comes to a job like this.

I’m hiring someone who specializes in cabinetry and has impeccable reviews. They spray the cabinets, so it looks (and lasts) like a factory finish. I’ll document this process when it happens, but here’s an example of their prep work:

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Just thinking about doing that prep work makes me want to cry, so it is worth giving them a big chunk of my annual bonus to do it for me.

Hardware – Already Here!

I went with Amerock’s Blackrock line, which is what I’ve used elsewhere in the house (e.g. our entryway closet). It’s high quality metal, substantial, and affordable. $5/each for the pulls and $2/each for the knobs. Done.

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Brass would have been a nice contrast to the black counters, but I didn’t find any I loved enough to justify the significant increase in cost over the Blackrock. I’ve decided to bring brass in elsewhere in the kitchen, like the lighting.

Lighting – Working on It

There are several recessed lights in the ceiling. Their placement was determined by no perceptible rhyme or reason – they’re nominally over the island and sink, but not centered. (See previous “Don’t ask why” mantra.) They were worse when we bought the house:

Ceiling Before

I replaced the eyeballs with new LED fixtures and they’re okay now.

Ceiling After

I am considering a pair of hanging pendants over the island, but that would require moving electrical and I’m not sure I want the visual clutter. Though I am swayed by how much I like these Pottery Barn Milk Glass Pendants

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I’ll probably just replace the existing fixture with a new flush or semi-flush light. This submarine-porthole-looking fixture arrived today, but I’m thinking it may be too low-profile.

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Good thing about lighting decision making is that there’s no shortage of options!

Decoration – Temporary Insanity

With nearly everything else being black or white, I’ll add some color and warmth with decor. I’ve picked out a new rug, have a plan for art, moulding, and shelving, and am shopping for a new clock. Last week I texted Jarrod: “Kitchen brainflash: CUCKOO CLOCK.”

Clock.jpg

I was really excited about this modern one until we watched the YouTube chimes video – does that clock chime 20 times for 7pm?! PASS.

Appliances – Feedback Welcome

I prefer appliances to blend in as much as possible, so I definitely want a white dishwasher and fridge. I’ve already picked those out.

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The oven is where I’m unsure. We need a slide-in gas range with the control area on the front. There are very few options out there. Based on cost and our specs, I’m leaning toward this model. But should it be white or black? White would match the painted cabinets; black would match the counter.

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I’m leaning toward white because matching appliances seems like the obvious answer – and I vastly prefer the white one – but I’m worried about the stark contrast between the countertop and the range top.

Here’s the existing range:

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Here’s a very crudely done Photoshop job to help(?) show the range top with adjacent white cabinets and dishwasher (don’t worry, my cabinet pulls aren’t Duplo-sized like that):

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So, imagine that but way, way better. Do you think a white range top would be an abomination?

Update: Thanks for the feedback so far! To clarify: the reason I would replace the existing range even if it’s with a different black range is because I hate the existing one. I want grates that cover the entire range top so you can slide pans around, and I want a broiler that it’s in the oven, not in the bottom drawer. Also, this oven’s temperature is 25 to 50 degrees off – I know that’s something I could fix if I liked the oven, but I don’t.

2018 House Goals

No preamble; let’s do this! Here are 3 big things I want to get done in 2018.

1. Fix Up the Staircase

You’ve seen this central staircase in previous posts (e.g. our half bathroom). What you haven’t seen in great detail is what poor shape it’s in! The balusters have 100 years of paint glommed onto them. The risers are beat up and the treads are poorly stained. The cove moulding is half stained / half painted – maybe there used to be a runner rug?

StairsBefore.jpg

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I’ve started working on this project. (I have process shots pinned to my Instagram Stories, if you’re interested.) This staircase will be a very slow slog, but what else am I going to do with my free time? Relax? Pshaw.

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That’s Doozy doing his Lucille Bluth wink.

2. Install New Moulding

Friends: I struggle with the spelling of “moulding” vs. “molding.” I prefer the former. The latter looks like a verb, but it seems like it’s more commonly used online.

Anyway, I am sticking with moulding-with-a-u, and this is the year it will happen. I want to replace the existing trim on our front door, back door, passageways, etc. I bought a brad nailer (this Ryobi AirStrike) and am figuring out my plan of attack. This photo is from today, when I was experimenting with options. (That architrave would be cut shorter, obviously.)

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This style and scale looks much better and more appropriate for the house than the moulding you see behind it, on the doorway leading to the kitchen, which leads me to my final to-do…

3. Makeover the Kitchen

I had initially thought I would fully renovate this kitchen, which is what I mentioned in this kitchen progress blog post. Having lived with the kitchen for over two years, however, I’ve come to realize it’s not a priority for me.

Current Kitchen.jpg

Knowing me and my particular tastes, a full remodel would easily cost over $25,000 (and that’s being conservative). This kitchen isn’t a $25k+ problem I want or need to solve. The layout works well for us, the cabinets are fine, and I love the huge island. So, I plan to do a make-it-work makeover: professionally painted cabinets, new hardware, new appliances, better decoration, etc.

So, those are the big 3! There will surely be other projects along the way – including some leftovers from my 2017 list [shame] – I’ll do my best to keep the blog posts coming!

P.S. Shoutout to Megan from Roots Pizza – thank you for introducing yourself and for reading!

Kitchen Progress and Plans

I can’t believe it’s already been half a year since we moved into our house. Sorry I didn’t do a great job of keeping you all up to date on changes as they happened over the past six months! So, I thought I would do a shot-for-shot juxtaposition of the first floor tour I posted in August, filling you in on what has happened in the interim.

We’ll start in the kitchen. These photos haven’t been staged (not that I’m good at that if I had even tried): I just want to show you what I’ve done and tell you what I plan to do.

Before:

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Now:

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What’s been done:

  • The entire house was painted using the same color of just-barely-not-white that I used at our last apartment: Irish Mist by Behr. I may eventually paint rooms different colors, but I wanted a clean canvas for move-in and this was an easy choice.
  • The oak floors were in decent shape and I love the mid-tone brown color, so a full refinishing job wasn’t necessary. We had them buffed and recoated (also called “screened and recoated”): it’s a light sanding followed by a new coat of satin poly.
  • Replaced all of the kitchen lights with recessed LED lights.
  • Installed a pet door so that the cats can go on the enclosed back porch, where the litter box is located.
  • Hung temporary pleated shades (SCHOTTIS from IKEA).

Before:

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Now:

Kitchen Dining Room.JPG

Our move-in goal was for everything to be clean, safe, and functional. With that achieved, I now plan to take my time decorating.

Before:

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Now:

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The kitchen lights looked like chaotic eyeballs. The new flush recessed lights are much less crazy. I also scrubbed and spray painted the fan vent so that it blends in better. Yes, they installed a bathroom exhaust fan in the kitchen. SMH.

Before:

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Now:

Ceiling After.JPG

Before:

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Now:

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Before:

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Now:

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I have no idea why the previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen. It seems as though they layered it over the original oak. But that’s not weirdest thing about the kitchen. See how the ceiling dips down in the corners? That’s not an optical illusion. That’s not a structural flaw. That’s a design choice. The ceiling is a full several inches higher in the center of the room, and bows down evenly toward the north and south walls. My friend Carolyn joked “Well, the Concave Movement started in the early 1800s. It was an aesthetic designed to confuse and delight.”

Confuse and delight!

So weird! But less noticeable now that the walls are white. We’ll probably live with it forever, unless it impedes future kitchen renovation plans.

What I plan to do, short term (within a year or so):

  • Buy a new rug, table, and possibly chairs. The table is shot, and I’d prefer black chairs that are sturdier. The existing chairs still look good but are rickety for everyday use.
  • Buy a credenza or cabinet of some sort
  • Install window shades
  • Install a new light fixture
  • Hang art and add plants
  • Paint the wainscoting around the dining room (it’s currently the same color as the walls). I’ll probably do pure white – black or some other color would be interesting, but I’m afraid it would look too chopped up by the window and door.
  • Replace the back door with a glass door, so that we get more light and can see into our backyard.

What I plan to do, long term (five years from now, maybe?):

  • Full kitchen remodel: the existing kitchen is totally fine, so there’s no hurry to renovate, but we’ll eventually replace all of the cabinets and appliances.
  • Add a window to the east wall (so that we get more light and can see into our backyard, as with the glass door)
  • Replace the large window next to the dining table: the existing windows are vinyl and the style isn’t appropriate for the house. We’ll do Craftsman casement windows (something like these). The trim around the window will also be replaced with Craftsman style trim.

That’s enough for now!

New House Tour: Main Floor

Thanks for dining at Palermo’s Pizzeria! Jarrod’s your waiter and he’ll be taking care of you this evening while we tour the first floor of our new house.

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Let’s start in the kitchen. It’s the best room of the house right out of the box, which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s functional and is the closest to being pretty decent!

In case it’s not obvious, that’s not our table nor our curtains. The house had been vacant since October 2014 and was mostly empty except for a lot of junk in the garage and basement. I think this table was an attempt at staging, to make the place seem homier. It disappeared the day before we closed; the junk unfortunately stayed put. (The house was sold as-is, so they didn’t have to clean it.)

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We’re not going to talk about that enclosed back porch right now: please pretend that moldy mess doesn’t exist. That’s what we do every day.

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The kitchen cabinets are kinda nice: the drawers are full-extension and everything’s sturdy, but they were also put together poorly and some weird choices were made. That upper cabinet to the right of the sink, for example, is a base cabinet: it’s way too deep to be up top and Jarrod is definitely going to ram his head into it while loading the dishwasher.

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That island is gigantic. I’m excited to have so much counter space on either side of the stove and four matching stools lined up at the bar.

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Another “Good ’nuff!” paint job from the previous occupant. That door on the right leads to the basement.

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Past the kitchen is the staircase I love, terrible beast of a project that it is. Looks like someone started stripping that sixth baluster and then said “Fuck this!” A few months from now, I’ll probably do the same. My only saving grace is that I don’t want to strip to the point of re-staining (that would kill me and/or I’d set my house on fire), just to the point that it can be a clean paint job. I want the risers and balusters to be white, with the handrail and stair treads stained brown.

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There’s a half-bath next to the stairs. The toilet flushes and the sink drains water, and that’s about all it has going for it currently.

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I’ll make it as nice as possible with a minimal amount of money, and then do a full renovation down the road. This bathroom renovation will take priority over the upstairs one because more people will use it and it currently feels crummier.

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downstairs11Moving on to the living room. I love this view.

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Blogging is weird: it’s hard to know what balance to strike between “We’re excited about this house we bought!” and “Look at this messed up thing! Here’s another bad choice! And why in the hell would someone do this?” Just know that while I point out all the flaws, I’m excited about the overall promise of the house and still think (85% of the time) that we got a good place! Like George Harrison said in that weird music video that creeped you out as a child: It’s gonna take time, a whole of precious time, it’s going to take patience and time, to do it right and undo all the things some idiot did before you.

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This decorative fireplace will be nice eventually. I’ll paint the brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with hand-drawn gray “mortar” lines) and rebuild the shelves. Art — not a TV — will go over the mantle. Nothing against TVs, I just don’t like them up high.

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I’m a little overwhelmed by how to arrange furniture in the living room. There’s a lot of room to work with, but the space is divided visually by the entryways. Neither half is big enough to contain an entire seating area, so whatever couch + chair arrangement we come up with will have spill into the middle of the room. My friend’s mom (hi, Mrs. Priebe!) is an interior decorator and I’m roping her in for advice.

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The front sunroom used to be an exterior porch. It was enclosed a few decades ago, with cheap linoleum on the floor and cheap acoustic tiles on the ceiling. All of it will get changed in time. It’s a sunny bonus room and I look forward to having some comfortable chairs out there for reading and coffee. And lots of plants!

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The brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “brick” on the interior side is not.

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Those are plastic bricks, glued to a thin layer of concrete, which was applied to a piece of wall panelling, which was stuck to the plaster wall. Yeesh. This was one of things we were able to tackle prior to moving in, so it looks quite different now. Pics to come!

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The next post will tour the basement and outside, where we’ve already done a lot of work, so there will be before & after photos of some unglamorous but very necessary changes.

Yard Sale Finds and DIY Cocktails

(Sorry for the delayed bathroom update! I had to finish making the shower curtain, and then we were out of town, and then there was a SNAFU with some hinges… The cursing has subsided and I expect things to finally come together this weekend. I’ll return soon with bathroom photos because, trust me, we’re all in need of some closure there. Literally. I need a bathroom door that closes.)

A few weeks ago our neighborhood hosted a community yard sale. I invited some friends over to have afternoon snacks and drinks before wandering the alleys of the Greater Rockwell area. Two problems with this plan:

1) The cocktail I wanted to make called for fancy little champagne coupe-style glasses.

2) My competitive deal-hunting nature is at odds with leisurely, social yard salin’.

Conveniently, the need for #1 gave me an excuse for #2. I had to get up early and do a quick survey of the sales in order to find glasses for the cocktails I would make later that afternoon. And if I happened to stumble upon a find in pursuit of getting my friends day-drunk, who could blame me?

Prints

I saw these prints leaning up against a chain-link fence. They were priced at $20 each. I thought “Those are either somewhat cool or really ugly.” Then I thought “If nothing else, that’s a good price for a large, professional frame.” I asked how much for the pair, she said $30, I said done.

Prints

Then I asked if she knew anything about the artist – she didn’t, but said that the law firm where her father had worked dissolved and unloaded their art collection. That’s when I started to get excited – some law firms own Real Art.

Signature

Got home, did some signature deciphering, did some Googling. Oh, hey, what’s up? A real museum owns them:

Tate Museum

Allan D’Arcangelo Constellation I and IV. My friend Jenni manages a gallery in New York, so I roped her in to search for comparables (thanks, Jenni!), and then I had a friendly exchange with Sotheby’s Print Department (I can’t believe they even responded): “I have determined that the value of your prints regrettably falls below Sotheby’s minimum consignment level of $5,000 for a single lot. Most prints by D’Arcangelo sell for several hundred dollars at auction, but not more than $1,000 each.” Oh, drat. Not a windfall, but still a solid return on investment for a Saturday morning’s work.

I also found an awesome vintage cocktail set (though not the coupes I set out in search of) that I put to use that afternoon. I made a modified version of this maple concord recipe and sawed some BBQ skewers to hold the garnish because everything is better if I get to use tools.

Cocktail Saw

Cocktails

The cocktails were delicious and fueled wise, necessary acquisitions of dresses, (more) glasses and toddler Timberlands.

Yard Sale Finds

I hope your weekend is full of cocktails, yard sale victories, or – even better – a combination of both.