Monday, September 28, 2015

Kitchen Nightmares

No I am not talking about the TV show with the angry, British chef.  I am talking about my kitchen.  It's BAD and it's on my radar for our next major project in the house.  Before I can get some serious quotes for cabinets and countertops, I need to nail down the layout. This is easier said than done because I am working with a space that is just shy of 12' x 12' with two doorways, a 3 ft radiator and a 5 ft wide window.  The typical solution when you've got a kitchen like this is to knock out a wall an expand.  Not an option here - I've got a stairwell on one side, a bedroom on another, the porch, and then one exterior wall (which, even if cost was a factor, we couldn't push back because the neighbor's house is too close).  I've made peace with the fact that I am not going to have an 8' island in the kitchen or a 36" professional range; I can live without those things no problem.  The question still remains - how the heck can you fit a functional, upscale kitchen in less than 144 sq ft!?  Oh yeah, and keep the budget around $10k?

Here is the existing footprint:
As you can see from the layout alone, we've got some issues here. We currently have an apartment size refrigerator basically floating under a 36" fridgetop cabinet.  Further, the fridgetop cabinet is 12" deep, instead of 24" deep, sacrificing precious storage space and making items stored in there practically unreachable.  Our range shares the same "floating" affliction as the fridge with almost a foot of unused space between the dishwasher and range.  What you can't see from this layout is that we also have 30" uppers.  Our ceilings are nearly 9' - who in their right mind would just have 30" uppers!?  Finally, we have a countertop microwave which is eating up valuable counter space.

Having used this kitchen for the last year, I have a list of a few things that must change to make this kitchen work.
  • More cabinet storage.
  • More (usuable) counterspace.
  • Either put the microwave in a base cabinet or put it over the range to free up counter space.
  • Replace fridge with either side by side or french door model.
Some things that I would like to change, but aren't musts:
  • Switch gas range to electric (I can hear chefs everywhere screaming, I know).  I just prefer electric cook tops and they are much easier to keep clean.
  • Eliminate any "blind" cabinets because I find them not to be very functional.
  • Install a light over the sink.  Right now we just have one overhead light.
There are actually a few things that I like about this kitchen, believe it or not:
  • The placement of the sink and the dishwasher.  I would like to keep these elements in the same location.  I especially like the sink underneath the window.
  • The deep, sink bowl sink.  Since we have a dishwasher, the only things that I typically hand wash are pots, pans, and the crock pot, so this large, open sink works well for this purpose.  I would not want to switch to a double bowl sink.
  • The original back door with transom window - that is totally staying (duh).
I've toyed around with a few options. The first and probably most functional option would be the u-shaped kitchen.

This option involves a few rather expensive modifications.  First, the radiator would need to be moved to another wall.  Next,  I would need to run either a new gas or electrical lines to the range and OTR microwave in their new location.  These changes will cost me about $1,200-$1,500.  Yikes! That's almost the cost of new countertops!

We could stick with an L shape, and swap the fridge and range.  This expenses would be fairly minimal as there is already electrical on the wall where the fridge would move to from the range.  There is actually also a gas line and electrical on the wall where the range would move to.  The gas line runs to the range upstairs that we have yet to take out, so we could just use that line and stub it out for the range on the main floor.  This doesn't add a whole lot of cabinet or counter space, but it is certainly more functional.  Having counter space on either side of the range is a HUGE improvement and the OTR microwave frees up even more space.  The money saved on mechanical changes could be put towards higher end finishes, like marble counters? :)

The next option would be to basically keep the same exact layout I have now, but better planned, and add a "buffet" type area on the empty wall.  While I don't love the range being next to the wall, the extra 12" of counter space and a small cabinet there would provide some extra elbow room.  The buffet I am particularly jazzed about.  I would do a 24" cabinet in the center with a reduced depth of 18" inches and two 12" side cabinets at 15" inches deep, and then a curved, decorative countertop detail, like this:

I would stash the microwave either in the buffet or in the base cabinet next to the fridge.  I think this is my favorite layout, but I worry that even with the reduced cabinet depth, it might feel like the buffet is impeding the walkway.

One other variation:

If I added the buffet, I am not sure that it would be worth the expense of swapping the fridge and range location, though I would much prefer the range in this location.

Ah, so many choices!  Would love input from anyone out there in blog land! :)


Monday, September 14, 2015

Workin' on the Entryway

We have a small entryway off of the front porch entrance.  Its nothing grand, but it's a nice space to welcome guests with a rather generous coat closet.  For some reason, I failed to take a true before photo, so blogger fail on that...  Anyway, it had the same floral motif ceiling tile that we have/had throughout the main floor, along with the original crown and mouldings.  Man, what I thought would be a 2 weekend project is turning out to be much more of a pain in the rear!  It's just been nothing but little, time consuming complications.

First step, plaster repair.  While the side walls were in good shape with very little repair required, the arches were another story - they were a cracked and crumbling mess!  When we renovated the living room (check out more of that here) we discovered that the arches that flank the entry were not original.  They had plaster over metal lath, so my guess is that the arches were install sometime in the 30's when the upstairs was completed or in 60's when the rest of the "improvements" - a la ceiling tile, paneling and the kitchen remodel - were completed.  But really, who knows.  In any event, who ever installed the arches did not do a very good job tying the new plaster into the original walls and plaster, so it was crack city.  I chipped it all away and was left with this loveliness...  

The other arch that goes into the dining room wasn't quite as bad, thankfully.  I taped up the cracks and then threw a few coats of mud on to basically rebuild the lower portion of the arch.

Everything has been sanded, but I still need to prime and then skim coat for a nice, smooth finish. Fortunately, there isn't a lot of wall space thanks to two doors and two large openings!

Next, I tore down the ceiling tile and I was all set to pop up the tongue and groove on the ceiling.  I (erroneously) assumed that the furring strips for the ceiling tiles ran in the same direction that they did in the dining room and kitchen (which would be perpendicular to the floor joists) but no, they didn't.  Not the end of the world though.  After a trip to Home Depot to pick up some furring strips, I was ready to go.  I didn't want to pull down the existing furring strips because I didn't want to risk pulling down the plaster ceiling, so I left them in place and fit some new furring strips between the old ones, securing them to the floor joists.  Then I started putting up the tongue and groove.  

Thanks to my fantastic measuring/calculating skills, I was one board short.  Trip #2 to Home Depot...

Since I don't have a table saw, what I *should* have done was measured out how my t&g would fit into the space.  But no, I just threw it up there and then surprise, got to the end where I couldn't fit a whole piece in, but the gap was too large for the crown to cover.  Ugh!  Plus, that meant I needed ANOTHER board.  Trip #3 to the Home Depot.  However, I totally lucked out and then guy working in lumber that day did me a favor and ripped the board for me.  Saved me a lot of time and grief with a circular saw for sure!

So once I get everything back up, I realize that the entry is about 1/8" out of square...  Lovely.  It is extremely noticeable to me, but there really isn't a whole lot I can do about it.  This is when you breathe and realize that it's a 90 year old house and it isn't perfectly straight, square or plumb and you move on...

The difference is less noticeable to me after priming/painting, so I feel a little better about it.  I do wish the drama ended here, but alas, it continued with the light fixture.  Although we have updated the electrical, we still have an old school "pancake box" in the ceiling with an old gas pipe nipple (yes, that is the technical term, so you can stop giggling now) for mounting the light. The challenge is, a lot of light fixtures don't mount that way any more.  After raiding my electrical parts stash, another trip to Home Depot and one more to the Crafty Beaver,  I realized that the light that I originally had wanted here wasn't going to work.  

Dreams shattered... Okay not really, but it thought it would coordinate so nicely with the fixture I have in the other hallway that is from the same collection and provide some cohesion with the overall design of the house and blah, blah, blah.  The gist of the issue is that the gas pipe nipple from the junction box is 3/8" but they only brackets that mount this way that I have/could find are 1/4".  The length of the reducer coupled with the 1/4" bushing to mount the bracket to stick to far down from the ceiling for the base of the fixture to cover and sit flush with the ceiling - it's just too shallow.  So, until I think of another solution, I swapped it out and put this guy up.

It's not all that I wanted for this space, but the truth is that I need a functional over head light for skim coating.  It does look nice, but I was hoping for something with a little more interest and pizzazz.  Oh well, this is a battle for another day.  Make me feel better - any one else have a project where every little thing just kept going wrong!?

P.S. - The dining room is done.  I just have to get around to swapping out some brown outlets for white and throwing on the cover plates.  More so though, I need some decent lighting to take some photos.  I tried to this weekend, but our neighbors were having their roof replaced and the roofers literally put plywood over our windows to keep the debris out.  It was appreciated, but not conducive for taking photos!  Here is a sneak peek!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Contrasting Ceiling Color

I am having a serious crush on ceilings that are painted a bold or contrasting color. I think it's a great and inexpensive way to add some drama and color.

I think that this design choice works better in a smaller room, such as a bathroom or a laundry room. I am working on our entryway ceiling right now, and I am toying with the idea of painting it a color instead of white.  Hmmm....


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Farmhouse And Other Misc. Stuff...

During our mini-vacation in Michigan, we had a chance to look at the farmhouse I blogged about last week.  After mulling it over all weekend, it is with mix feelings that we decided we had to pass.  The house was built in the late 1800's with an addition that was put in in the back somewhere between the 40s-60's I would guess (exterior looks more 40's but interior looks more 60's). Because the house was so old, it was built before indoor plumbing.  The main house had a large living room, dining room and kitchen, with 4 equally sized bedrooms upstairs.  The addition was off of the back of the house, and it had a vestibule area just as you came in from the side door with a powder room, and then it connect back to the main house through the kitchen. There was a bedroom/den/office situation, and then a full bath and large closet type room which were accessible from the main house only.  The original house was actually in really good shape.  It was straight and square with tons of original details intact. The ceilings were 10' tall on the main floor and at least 8'6" if not 9' on the second floors.  I will share a few close up pictures of the details, but since I don't own the house, I don't feel comfortable sharing more.

Lovely ornate grill cover.
Fantastic pocket doors - they were 8' tall!
The door hardware on the pocket doors.
The door hinges throughout... Can you imagine these with the paint removed?
The base boards on the main floor were nearly a foot tall!  And I am pretty sure all the wood was walnut...
The entry vestibule area.  The woodwork was in such great shape!
The beautiful exterior. 
The addition, however, was in horrible shape!  It stunk, was literally falling apart and for sure had to be taken down to the studs, if not portions of it completely rebuilt.  The plumbing was mostly copper, except the line to the kitchen, so that was a positive.  But the electricity wasn't functioning at the time we toured the house which was concerning.  The panel looked a little crazy with a mix of cloth covered and newer wiring.  I saw some porcelain knobs in the basement, so I am pretty sure most of the electrical in the walls was knob and tube.  This makes me nervous because that means there is nothing protecting the wiring (no conduit or metal sheathing) and I view that as a potential fire hazard.  The roof was also not in very good shape and there was evidence of a roof leak in the addition.  The clap board was actually in crazy good shape, but there was still some rot that would need to be addressed.  

Despite how wonderful this house could be, it needs more work right now than we can really handle. Had it just been updating the electrical, or just replacing the roof, or just dealing with the addition, it probably would have been a contender.  Or if I had oodles of money to throw at it and contract everything out...  Now I just pray that the house goes to someone who appreciates it and doesn't rip out everything that makes it so special!   

On a brighter note, I picked up this fantastic vintage oval pedestal sink with faucet for $200 from a salvage sale in Lakeview. Pretty sure it's worth $800-$1000 based on what I'm seeing online.  I would say that is one heck of a deal!  It was reglazed a light gray color at some point, but I plan on reglazing it white before using it in our main bath room (whenever we get around to that project...)

As you can see, my pedestal sink collection is  Oh and the dining room is ALMOST done.  Just have to swap a few outlets and install the wall plates.  Hope to post about that this week!


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