Kitchen Renovation x Three

When my husband John bought our home seven years ago, two years before meeting me, he chose it thinking he would do a bit of renovation and sell it as he had all the houses before. He enjoys remodeling homes and selling them on and has done quite a few since he finished working in television about fifteen years ago.

Built in 1997, it had spent its whole life as a rental before he saw its potential and made the local owner/builder/landlord an offer they both found acceptable. When you live in a house built by someone who still lives in the village who you see in the pub, you may find you are also surrounded by others who had a hand in the building process or who lived in the house before you. I won’t go into it now, but we’ve heard some interesting stories that could fill more than a few pages.

I’ve seen a lot of John’s before and after shots of his renovation work in earlier properties and I appreciate how he is able to see possibilities where someone else might walk away. The first three photographs will give you an idea of what the kitchen looked like when he first bought it. There was a great deal of reddish dark wood throughout the house like you see in the window of the first photo giving it a completely different look than it has now.  (All of the early photographs were taken by John)

I don’t know if this is the original kitchen from 1997, but having always been a rental before John bought it, I can’t imagine anyone investing money to leave behind. I know it’s done all the time in New York city apartments and I’ve known people who have spent $30,000 on a kitchen renovation in a place they did not actually own, but they’d lived in for twenty years or more.

While I never had to live with the linoleum tile pattern on the floor, until recently the brass switch plates that came with the house were still on the walls. I’m glad John agreed that it was time for them to go. The new lighter ones blend so much better and are easier to clean.

You can see the beginnings of the first of three big kitchen changes dating from when he bought it in 2005. Thank goodness he added more ceiling lights too. I can’t imagine working with only one or two lights in the kitchen as this one had.

Here you see the cabinets going in. John bought the cabinet doors from Ikea and built the rest of it from big sheets of furniture board because it was as he said, “less expensive than ready-made and more flexible.”  The countertops are the old ones from 1997 just before John tiled them black like you see in the photo below. He believes in reusing materials when possible.

The second kitchen redo was much smaller, taking place in 2009 when my things arrived from the US. John added more glass fronted cabinets for my china and other glassware along with another solid cabinet on the left side of the window over the sink.

The other side of the room where the table sits is shown during the first renovation in the third photo above. As you can see by the funny bit of wall sticking out in that picture and the one below it, our table placement choices were severely limited and it never felt as if the space was large enough to move comfortable in especially when family and friends joined us.

Here’s a last look before the wall came down. After John built the extension so I might have a room of my own to write, the configuration of the house changed making it unnecessary for the entry door you can see in the photo below. Before building what he jokingly refers to as the East Wing, that door opened into the master bedroom. After the addition of a hallway, my studio space, and two bathrooms, it became possible to take down the corner wall and open up the room a bit more.

The out-dated Artex ceiling went too, along with the door leading from the main hall into the East Wing hallway. Then he pulled up the small bit of dark wood that had been part of the hallway floor and took out the door you see on the right. He fixed the wall afterwards and then put a new door and partial wall in where the hallway begins. The ceiling is dark in this shot because the plaster was still drying.

Here’s how it looked yesterday when I tried to catch a bit of light on a rainy day. I could have used my blogging friend Kerstin’s property photography skills as my pictures don’t do as good a job of giving you an accurate feel for the space. Notice we still have the leather chairs along with four more in the attic. John is okay with them, but I have a different vision in mind and I’ll update you later when we make a change. That lamp in the corner needs a bit of work or replacing. John enjoys a softer evening light so we’re likely to keep something there.

This cool piece is one of two that came out of an old smithy that was attached to another much older home that John owned years before meeting me. Both were stored in the garage and I’d imagined them inside the house from the first time I saw them. Renovating the kitchen created a place for this larger one and the smaller one found a home in the living room.

The little potty was one I used as a child on overnight visits with my great-grandparents who did not have indoor plumbing. I can see a few cobwebs in the slot where it’s sitting. (Note to self: dust more!) This piece was missing a drawer and I put the potty there as a funny reminder of a time when grand houses would have a screen off to the side during dinner parties so guests might relieve themselves without straying far from the table. Given that we are fortunate to have three bathrooms, this will never be necessary if you come for dinner.

John suggested this one might look better painted the color green you see in the kitchen, but that’s not happening! I love the primitive look of it and like seeing the dings and peeling paint from its use in blacksmith’s work space.

John built the new cabinets in the photo above using old materials to create units that were more shallow than the ones there before. He replaced the laminate floors with hardwood and I found a smaller entry rug for the door in the things I brought over in 2009. We think it’s a good match. Everything had a fresh coat of paint and the cooker hood or range hood as I’d call it is one that John found online. It works so much better than the old one making me especially happy when John cooks fish.

You may notice that we have not settled on a decision for the backsplash. John likes it as it is, but we tend to be messy and I think we’ll need at least a sheet of glass or acrylic to cover the green part up to the molding he installed. He also turned an unused space into a cookie sheet storage area by hinging the small wooden strip below the oven and adding a pull.

The lights in these cabinets are actually pale blue, but they’ve turned deep purple in this photo. You can see the new countertops John installed. He did a lot of work on them to help make them less prone to staining.

See the two raised boards he made from leftover counter-top wood … this works well to keep wet products off the wood so it doesn’t stain. You must be more careful with these, but I love the look of them and have not had to work that hard to get used to working with dry ingredients in one part and wet in another.

I moved some of the art that I brought from the US. These pieces had been in other parts of the house and added one (on the left) that I bought during a trip we made to Wales. I think it all came together fairly well.

You may have noticed that the art work on the sides of the window near the sink is in the spot where cabinets used to be. We had considered open shelving there for dishes and stuff, but I’m glad we found another way. I prefer the art and like how the space feels bigger and less cluttered.

John is already on to his next project, working on plans to change to the interior stairs and the entrance to the house. He never stops.

My friend Jean commented the other day on how lucky I was after seeing pictures of some of the renovations we’ve been making and “by we, I mean John.” That little saying about what we are doing has become a bit of humorous phrasing for me, but one meant to playfully acknowledge all the effort he puts into making our home so comfortable and appealing. He does such a nice job and I do feel lucky, but it’s his gentle spirit and kind heart rather than his construction skills that make me feel fortunate to share a life and space with him.

How about you … any projects on your list this summer? Share a link if you have one or leave me a link to your favorite home remodeling blog. I’m more than a little addicted to bloggers who are known for their DIY skills.

Kitchen Renovation Week 2 – Is that Dust In My Soup?

I have to be really honest with you. Aside from emptying some cabinets of their contents, taking a few pictures and helping with the design decisions, I haven’t done any of the real work involved in our kitchen renovation. John’s the workhorse here. After Bob and Brian packed up and went home late last week, John got out his tools and went to work. Here’s a bit of what he’s been working on over the last few days.

I know the ceiling looks as if we’re making a dubious color choice, but have no fear … we are not going with a milk chocolate-colored ceiling. It  turns light pink as the plaster dries and then we’ll paint it white. Remember the door that was on the other side of the wall? If you look below you can see where it used to lead to before John closed it for good.

The master bedroom and my studio space were until a few days ago only accessed through a door at the top of the stairs that no longer exists. After John sealed it up, my feet kept wanting to walk the same way out of habit so I stuck a note on the wall to remind me. It’s only a few steps beyond the remaining door, but I got tired of having to back up. The “Closed” sign made John laugh when he saw it and later when I went into the kitchen I noticed he’d posted a sign of his own.

I thought his “Open” sign was pretty cute, but I was really impressed with how he reused the old doorway to close in the new opening from the kitchen to the hallway. 

This photo should have been before the last one as he hadn’t completed the door frame yet, but it gives you a good look at the wall to the right where he closed off the old doorway. The dark boards against the wall are from the hallway. It’s the same wood flooring that runs through the master bedroom and my bathroom and studio space.

Here’s what the space looked like today. Didn’t John do a great job? I’ll be painting the door white over the next few days so it blends in better with the wall and we’re getting rid of all the brass wall plates too. We’re leaving the half-glass door as it is with its natural wood finish.

We’re thinking of oak planks for the kitchen floor, but we’ve got to live with it kind of patchy (like the spot above) while the rest of the kitchen is being finished. John said it’s going to be a few months (more like August) before we’re through with the kitchen/dining room renovation so if you’re coming to see us this summer consider yourself warned. It’s pretty dusty here.

Breaking Down Walls When A Sledgehammer Won’t Do

Yesterday morning I walked down the hallway from our bedroom to make coffee like I do most mornings leaving my husband John behind to sleep a bit longer. The path into the kitchen is not straight forward and as I stepped from the hallway onto the landing and then back through another door into the kitchen, I thought about how by the end of the day, the wall blocking easy access from the hall to kitchen would be gone.

And then just like that I went from visualizing breaking down physical walls to thinking about the emotional walls people sometimes put up and how I deal with them. Frankly, even I think that’s too much for a 6:00 am wake-up and certainly too much for me to be mulling before my first cup of coffee, but I couldn’t help myself.

Some of you already know that I grew up in a home of extremes, a place where my memories until I was 14 alternated between silence and shouting, and anger was meted out in harsh physical ways by raging adults who didn’t bother to hold back. Once I was safely out of my mother’s house and living with my dad and step-mom, my mother cut off all communication with me. I’m not sure there’s a bigger wall than a total lack of communication unless it’s death.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time and money learning how to break down the protective walls I used to put up. They serve no useful purpose after a time and much like the convoluted path from our hall to kitchen, it’s a waste of energy.

Not all barriers can be overcome, but given the right approach and commitment, the results can be obvious.

There are times when a committed attempt to chip away at an unnecessary wall will yield good results given the use of focused energy and proper tools.

One person can only do so much on their own and progress can be slow, but once a breakthrough occurs it may be difficult for the person on the other side to turn their back on the possibility of letting in the light.

Breaking down walls is hard dirty work. You use muscles that you may not have worked with in the past and even with progress towards a common goal, things might appear slightly cloudy at different points.

You may find you feel boxed in and think it better to try to climb over the wall taking a shortcut to a place where it feels easier to move and breathe.

But then you realize that breaking down walls can be easier when you work in tandem with someone else and when both people are committed to the outcome, the results can be seen much faster.

It’s good to know ahead of time that there will still be rough edges to smooth out after the walls are cleared away.

Decisions will usually still need to be made afterwards as you consider which doors you’ll walk through and which you’ll close off.

As you finish for the day, you’ll feel amazed by how much more open things are without the wall and you’ll remember that until it wasn’t until you tired of walking around it that you realized it did not have to be there forever.

Who knew that renovation could be a form of therapy … perhaps there’s a new business model in all that dust.

Making Space For Something New

There’s an echo down the hallway that sounds empty and loud from where I sit as I write. What John likes to refer to as the ‘East Wing’ is being readied for demolition … well, parts of it anyway.

It’s actually the hallway that’s been emptied because it connects to a wall that won’t be there after Wednesday and … then there’s the kitchen too. It’s having a pretty major redo over the next few months and I’d like to share it with you.

Here’s a few before photos before I show you our breakdown in progress.

(The sink, dishwasher, hidden fridge, cooktop, and oven are staying in the same place. The countertop/worktop and the tile are going to be changed and we’re adding a new extractor fan/hood over the cooktop. The table and chairs in the photo below are being changed as well. We like the table, but not the chairs so they are on their way out. The table may stay … at least for a while.)

If you came for coffee right now you’d see a house with dishes and china scattered through several rooms. Our dining room table is dismantled and leaning against a kitchen wall, and spices and other foodstuffs are sitting temporarily on the coffee table in a space where they’re likely to have to be moved as the big work begins.

(The right corner wall is being taken out which will give us more room for the dining area)

What began as plan to open up a space and gain more room for the dining area has morphed into a major kitchen remodel. I am tickled to pieces having never had an opportunity to have a say in any kitchen design and my head is spinning now with possibilities and the decisions we need to make.

(John’s been taking things apart to get ready for the builders and in addition to our mess, you can see where the fridge and dishwasher are located.)

(The windows are being replaced along with the dated Artex ceiling and we’re adding hardwood floors)

Maybe I could run a few ideas past you to see what you think after I do some more research.

If you have a dream kitchen you’d like to share or maybe what you wish you could change in your own, leave me a comment or a link and I’ll put them all together in some posts to follow. As always, I appreciate your thoughts.