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:

downstairs18

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.

Cherry Floor.jpg

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.

amerock-blackrock-hardware.jpg

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.

Range Options.jpg

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:

Black Range.jpg

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):

Range in Island White Cabinets.png

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.

Bathroom Decision Making

Looks like I am moving forward with the half-bathroom remodel! I hit my savings goal thanks to our tax refund, annual bonus, and squirreling away of money. Now I get to dive into a capital project.

For reference, this is what our bathroom looks like currently:

Bathroom

It’s tucked under the stairs, in the center of our home’s first floor.

Stairs Bathroom

Virtually everything you see will be changed, so I have a lot of decisions to make. It’s equal parts fun and stressful. I’m nowhere near a congealed plan, but I wanted to round up the major choices. Many of you commented in my reader survey that you’d like to see more in-progress details, so here goes.

Floor Tile: Decided!

Marble tile doesn’t feel right to me for a bungalow bathroom, so I zeroed in quickly on porcelain mosaic tile. Here are a few options I considered:

Tile Options.JPG

Jarrod saw the penny tile and said “They don’t fit together!” and now I think he’s right: it’s weird each tile is an island in a sea of grout, instead of being more like a puzzle piece.

I was on the fence on basketweave vs. hexagonal until I stopped to appreciate the tile of the wine shop in the Merchandise Mart, where I work (the Merchandise Mart, that is; I don’t work in the wine shop. I would be terrible at that job, because I am an undiscriminating lush).

Wine Shop Floor.JPG

Simple matte white hex tile with black grout. Worn and imperfect, it still looked beautiful. And, this tile is very common in original bungalow floors. I’ll order it from Wayfair. Decided!

Wall Beadboard: Decided, ugh, Menards

Did you know Menards charges a 25% restocking fee for anything you order from their website? I’m not talking custom orders: just off-the-shelf online orders. I ordered something recently and was vexed – vexed! – to learn this. Don’t worry: I channeled my grandma, pushed back, and was issued a full refund.

Beadboard Sample.jpg

Anyway, I want a v-groove beadboard with wide planks, because it looks more modern, and I want it a few inches taller than the standard 32”. The closest thing I could find to what I have in mind is at Menards, unless any of you lovely readers have a hot tip.

Faucet: Decided, with fingers crossed

I want a matte black fixture, which is a limited pool of options. I plan to reuse our existing sink (to save money and reduce waste, and because I like it), which requires a centerset three-hole faucet – further limiting my pool of options. This MOEN Kingsley Centerset 2-Handle Faucet is The One.

Faucet.jpg

The cost was hard to swallow, but when it arrived it was clearly worth it. This thing is remarkably heavy. It’s beautiful. My only concern is that the arc of the faucet may make the water stream be too close to the front of our shallow sink. Fingers crossed.

Vanity: 78% chance of success

Our bathroom requires a very shallow sink and vanity. The 14″ x 24″ sink in there now is as big as the space can handle. Hours and hours of perusal of every online store plus lots of local shops did not turn up a wide variety of options.

I got quotes from a variety of places for a simple custom vanity, all of which came in around $1k (for the cabinet only – sink excluded). I am not opposed to spending that amount of money in general, but a tiny vanity isn’t really where I want to sink my budget.

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Why not a pedestal sink? You see this sink from the side, which is the least attractive part of a pedestal sink due to the supply lines and wall drain (for example). I know there are some nice kits for exposed plumbing, but I’m just not feeling that look here. Also, a vanity is the only opportunity for storage in this bathroom.

So, I am going to use the $109 IKEA SILVERAN vanity as a starting point, and customize it with brass hardware, inky-black paint, and furniture legs.

SILVERAN Cabinet.JPG

I’ll buy the pine version because all of the parts are solid wood. The $89 white one is foil/plastic-coated particleboard, which feels and looks a lot cheaper.

Here are some inspiration photos for the general vibe I’ll be going for, though none of these are exactly the end goal:

Dark Vanity Inspiration

Here’s the tricky party: I need to cut the vanity’s depth down to size to fit our 14″ sink. The 15″ SILVERAN is too deep, and the 9″ version is too shallow. So, that could end in total disaster. I’m willing to risk it, because I’m excited about this idea and I like the challenge.

Wall sconce: So many good options

Schoolhouse Electric – Davis Double Sconce ($199 fixture + $44/shade)

Davis Sconce.jpg

I would get the brass finish with the faceted shades.

Davis Sconce Faceted Shades.jpg

Rejuvenation – Graydon Double Wall Sconce ($399)

Graydon Sconce.jpg

Wade Logan – Rickford 2-Light Wall Sconce ($95); maybe too modern, but sharing because it’s such a good deal!

Rickford Sconce.jpg

Rejuvenation – West Slope Sconce ($399)

West Slope Sconce.jpg

This babe is my favorite by far, but I’m afraid the size options won’t work. 27″ is too wide, and 15″ seems too short.

But first, I have to choose wallpaper.

Wallpaper: All over the goddamn place!

Literally and figuratively all over the place. There are over a dozen wallpaper samples currently taped to our bathroom wall, in a wide range of styles. You know the Crazy Wall trope, where the detective’s obsession with the case is his downfall? That’s me in this bathroom.

Crazy Wall of Wallpaper.JPG

If you’re also on the hunt for good wallpaper, the brands I’ve been looking at include:

My Top 3 contenders are:

York – Stencil Overall (YC3414) (only $14/roll!)York YC3414.jpg

The online photos are so flat and lifeless – ordering samples is necessary to see what they’re really like.

York Stencil Wallpaper.jpg

Don’t worry, that antique bird towel hook is definitely staying. (I used it in our last bathroom.)

York – Ashford House Flower Vine (AK7500) ($14/roll)York AK7500.jpg

Speaking of channeling my grandma! In real life, it looks rich and hand-stenciled.

York Wallpaper AK7500.jpg

Cole & Son – Dialytra ($125/roll, unpasted, which will add a bit to the hanging cost)Cole Dialytra Pattern.jpg

Cole & Sons has the best product photos, which must be what $125 a roll gets you.

Cole Dialytra Paper.jpg

One point of consideration is that there are several awkward corners and angles in this room. A pattern with strict lines may make that more obvious. A botanical print would be more forgiving of the not-perfectly-square space, especially with the sloped wall (due to the overhead stairway).

Here’s a slap-dash, not-to-scale mock-up I put together back when I was thinking I’d do a white vanity, which – now that I’m looking at this – is maybe back on the table. Sigh.

Bathroom Options.png

I’m torn because I want something interesting, but it also needs to vibe with the rest of the first floor. You see it as soon as you come in the front door. I want the bathroom to be interesting when you’re in there, but I don’t want a bathroom to command your attention from our foyer (although I guess we could just keep the door partially shut).

Most importantly, I don’t want to go all wackadoodle just for the sake of punchy After photos.

What’s Left to Decide

Every time I feel like I’m close to having considered all of the decisions I need to make, I remember a ton of other things left to decide.

  • Mirror: Preferably wood and antique, circular or with rounded corners
  • Door
  • Bathroom fan: I have not even looked at the options. Surely this is an easy one? I’ll just buy whatever is rated highest.
  • Art
  • Baseboard and trim

Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll do plenty of other posts detailing the exact budget, final design board, and contractor plans. If you feel strongly about any of these options, please weigh in with a comment!

Thanks so much for all of your feedback on the reader survey – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your funny, thoughtful, and encouraging remarks. It’s made me really excited to keep on blogging, and it’s warmed my paint-it-black heart.

Front Porch Upgrades

Hello, friends! I came back. I don’t see how people* can both work on a house and blog about working on a house.

* Normal full-time-job people, that is, who don’t get paid to blog. I just spent $99 to renew my WordPress.com Premium account, which includes the No Ads upgrade. That keeps WordPress from placing any ads on this site, and obviously I myself am not profiting in anyway. No Blue Apron sponsored posts here! I like that this space is commercial-free, and it’s one of the things that makes me want to continue blogging. 

Also, I am making a ton of progress on the house, in ways big and small, and I want this blog to be a record of that.

I’m going to try to be better about quick posts: the types of things I text my friends when they humor me about being interested in Phase 7 of my elaborate 10-phase never-ending basement demo. I know I need to finish the house tour with a post about the exterior of the house, but I want to start with some small changes I made to our front stoop.

Here’s the door that greeted us the first time we toured the house:

front-door-before3

I bought new deadbolts for the three exterior doors, keyed them to match one key, and installed them the day we closed on the house. When we moved in several weeks later, that was the only change I had made:

front-door-before

Scrubbing and painting made a huge difference.

front-door-paint

The cats were super curious about why the door was cracked.

cat-door-lola

Doozy’s curiosity borders on murdery.

cat-door-doozy

Working on a house requires constant decision-making and I can get overwhelmed by options, but that wasn’t the case with our doorknobs and mailbox. I ordered these immediately and love them!

front-door-after

The mailbox is the 4600 Series Black Standard Vertical Traditional Mailbox from Salsbury Industries. I would have preferred the horizontal version (easier to fish things out of because it’s less deep) but the vertical one fits better in the space available. It’s awesomely sturdy.

schlage-doorknob

I swapped out all of the knobs and levers in our house with these Bowery knobs by Shlage, in the matte black finish. They feel great in your hand.

interior-doors-before

I have the Privacy Lock Knob (#F10 BWE 622) on our bedroom and bathroom doors, and the Passage Lock Knob (#F40 BWE 622) on our closet and interior passage doors.

interior-doors-after

Pro tip: despite the name, the “passage lock knob” does not lock.

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Eventually we’ll get a new front door and, at that time, I’ll buy a really nice lever, but door hardware is expensive and I’m very happy with this set-up for now.

door-knob

I also hung a Mr. Beams battery-operated motion sensing light in the overhang (model MB980). It detects motion from about 10 ft away and illuminates the front porch.

mr-beams-light

My only complaint is that the LED light has a sharp halo, which looks a bit harsh. (And I need to move it two feet to the right so more of the light is on the door knob.) I prefer to turn on the real front porch light when we’re expecting company, but this one is nice for us when we come home late.

light-halo

That’s it for now! I’ll have the Before and After pictures see you out.

Before:

front-door-before2

After:

front-door-after2

front-door-after3

Bathroom Makeover Day 2

Day 2!  Full disclosure: this weekend won’t end with triumphant After photos because I won’t have our new shower curtain in hand until Tuesday. This is the drawback of real-time blogging.

Antique Grate and Flap Wheel

All totalled, I spent way too much time on this damn grate.  I just wanted to get down to bare metal so that I could give it a clean, even coat of spray paint.  I should have skipped the boiling, scrubbing and sanding and gone straight to the Klean Strip.  I usually don’t go all scorched earth on antique hardware but this thing isn’t precious.  It’s the opposite of precious: it’s heavy as hell and it will survive the apocalypse.  So, I shouldn’t have hesitated to strip it.  Lesson learned.  At least it was fun to use the flap wheel sander.

Antique Grate and Stripper

I also spray painted the toilet paper holder, held aloft with kabob skewers.

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Back upstairs is chaotic.  Lola finds comfort on his L.L. Bean box, which is very special to him for reasons unbeknownst to us.

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Finished painting!

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The color is Benjamin Moore’s Soot, matched by Behr – it’s the same inky-navy-black that we have on our kitchen wainscoting. Our bathroom is off of the kitchen and I like that the two rooms will now be cohesive inverses of one another.

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Somewhat Real-time Bathroom Makeover

Our country’s independence gave me a glorious four-day weekend (thanks, Thomas Jefferson et al.!) and I’m celebrating with a bathroom makeover.  My friend Kimberly suggested that I live-blog it.

Paint Swatches

I won’t be doing that exactly, but I do plan to post pictures each day of the previous day’s progress. I’m usually a very slow blogger (it takes me a while to get around to posting pictures of my projects), so this seems like a good challenge.

Bathroom Hinges

Vent GrateDouble, double toil and trouble.

Wall Paint

Wall Paint