Who wants to talk about my very slow motion kitchen renovation?
If you actually saw my house, you’d actually fall into two distinct pieces laughing at the idea of me giving renovation tips. But, as the sea captain said to his wife, you are there and I am here; so off we go.
Background: My kitchen was put together by grade A morons.
Some cabinets were built directly over the heating vent, so in the winter, the meat you set out to defrost at 8 a.m. would still be frozen by dinnertime. The built-in drawers were all broken, but the hardware was impossible to remove, so the remaining gap was almost useless for other things.
In another spot, someone mounted what was meant to be a corner cabinet in the middle of the wall, so there were shelves all the way across, but a door on only one side, hinged in the middle.
All the cabinets were dark and malproportioned, and the doors were always flapping open, because our entire house lists to one side like a sinking ship. The bottoms were falling out of the floor cabinets, and must needs be held up with a can of squash. And so on.
The result? A tiny kitchen with several big windows and lots of sun, that was nevertheless dark and cramped-feeling. I was perpetually losing my pans and pie dishes into the Black Hole of Calcutta, so if I wanted to make muffins, I had to lie down on my side and feel around with my arm, right in there with all the exposed staples and cobwebs and astonishingly bold mice.
Not cool, kitchen. Not cool at all.
We had next to no money to spend, but I felt a powerful urge to Do Something. So here is what we did:
Tore out all the floor cabinets, which formerly held pots and pans, with a reciprocating saw ($40).
This took a couple of hours. My husband shored up the remaining countertop (which is not beautiful, but it’s functional) with wooden beams (maybe $20). These were supposed to just be temporary until we could decide what kind of open shelving to put in there; but I think I can live with this:
Functionality is beautiful enough, especially when you’ve been working with dysfunction for so long. So I put the three recycling bins under there, and it’s fine. We keep larger bowls and pots on top of the bins sometimes. Not only can we actually see what’s in there, the whole room looks brighter and more open.
To do: Replace the more Dr. Seuss-looking beams, and put in two shelves under the counter, to store flat pans and cutting boards and such.
Took the doors off most of the remaining cabinets ($0. We do own a screwdriver). Now all the food and plates and stuff are exposed, but it’s so much better and brighter and more open than having the doors always swinging open, bonking people in the face, and blocking the light.
I don’t know if that looks better to you, but I like it! I like knowing what I have and where it is.
To do: paint at least the fronts of the cabinets bright yellow, to match the window frame. I love bright yellow, especially in winter.
Tore the world’s dumbest wall cabinet off, with a screwdriver and my Donkey Kong ambitions ($0). Before (and yes, it was falling off long before I started tearing it down):
I scrubbed the wall, and my husband put up two long shelves ($40 on eBay for a set of six brackets, $15 for lumber). After:
To do: Nothing! I love it! I just need to rearrange stuff so it’s more decorative. But it’s a bazillion times prettier than it was before.
I still have a corner of shame with miscellaneous stuff stored in a laundry basket and a milk crate (which, come to think of it, I stole from the kitchen in my college! More shame!!):
that I need to figure out. Probably I will buy a couple of metal shelving units (maybe $20 each) and keep pans and bowls there. And switch which side of the mini fridge the door opens on.
Things we have already done in the last ten years: moved the washer and dryer out of the kitchen and into the bathroom; replaced the refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove; bought an island with lots of storage space; put in two sets of metal shelves for large appliances and large amounts of fruit; replaced the dreadful tubular fluorescent light fixture with sharp, rusty edges and put in a nice glass fixture that is kind of dangling, but still much better; and replaced the one window that opens. I’m saying this mainly to encourage myself, because sometimes it feels like we’ve been living here forever and haven’t gotten around to anything. But we have!
Still to do: replace this other area of shame,
maybe with more wall shelving and hooks, or possibly a baker’s rack. I’m resigned to always having three baskets of laundry there. Notice the tattered label that says “STUFF ONLY.”
There was originally more to that label, making me seem somewhat less crazy, but only marginally.
Replace the floor. The floor is purgatorial. In some places, you can see through the horrible old linoleum to see patches of the even more horrible even older linoleum. Look at this. It’s not even dirty here, it’s just mean.
I feel like I want a tile floor, but that would mean lots of broken glass and lots of concussions, right? Who can recommend flooring that looks clean even when it’s not?
Replace the ceiling. It’s a crappy, acoustic, water-stained tile ceiling that wants to fall down and rain dead mice on our heads while we’re making stir fry.
Guess what’s under it? STAMPED TIN CEILING. No shit. Do you know how expensive that stuff is? But I haven’t worked up the courage to tear down all the tile and see how salvageable the original ceiling is.
Repaint the walls. I adore the walls. They are wide, tongue in groove wooden planks. Exactly what I would have chosen, given the choice. Maybe they just need a good scrubbing
The dishwasher is also a disaster but I don’t want to talk about it. The only good thing about it is it’s not the previous dishwasher:
It always looked like it wanted to see its son with its own eyes one time before it died.
Thing I am resigned to: This windowsill.
Everyone needs to cram random crap on this windowsill, and I accept that. I clear it off every few months, and they load it up again.
I would like to replace the windows themselves, as they currently house many, many spiders that I can’t get at; but it’s not at the top of my list. The porch outside the window makes it dark anyway. Maybe we just need to tear the porch off . . .
And here’s where I practice saying “Baby steps” to myself, even though “cleansing fire” sounds so much better.