The Kitchen Is Finally Finished!

OK, it only took us about a year, but the kitchen is finally finished and I've got some great before and after pictures to share...  The honeymoon bungalow had a very unlovely kitchen when we bought it, but we didn't want to spend a ton of dough fixing it up -- so that meant no moving plumbing, windows, etc. -- we had to work with what we had.  The kitchen also had solid wood custom cabinets that went all the way up to the ceiling, and I would've felt awful ripping them out when they were totally fine.

After - Yay!
Sink Area - Before
Sink Area - After

Fridge Area - Before
Fridge Area - After
So this is the sink area before (left) -- you can see the white tile all the way up the walls, the white tile floor, and the icky fake butcher block formica counters.  On the right you see the cabinets painted, the new granite counters, sink, faucet, and tin back splash -- which kind of reminded me of the chrome tiles I found behind the stove when we were doing demo.

I have to laugh when I see the original fridge (left), because that's what got the whole party started -- we got gift certificates at an appliance store for wedding gifts, and we wanted to get a new, bigger fridge.  I tried to measure the space carefully, but to be honest, I thought we might have a problem getting it to fit -- I was thinking we might be able to hack off the cabinet to the right.  What ended up happening is that we had to rip out the base cabinet on the right, and when we did that, we found the original maple floors underneath -- they had just tiled around it.  So of course we had to rip out that nasty white tile -- an unexpected expense but totally worth it.  And I was able to talk our handyman guy into slicing off the cabinet bottom with his Sawz-All -- that after about 5 different cabinet-makers refused to touch it...  We installed an restaurant supply stainless steel microwave shelf below the cabinet, and it's perfect to keep the microwave out of the way.  We didn't want to spend extra to get a counter-depth fridge, but I also didn't like how much the regular one stuck out -- we ended up pulling the base cabinet forward to meet the front of the fridge, and the extra-deep counter that resulted is really useful.

Base Cabinet - Before
Base Cabinet - After

 I'm really proud of the stove wall -- we started out with a cooktop that wouldn't light and a teeny wall-oven that never worked -- I'd bake cookies and half would be raw and half would be burnt -- ugh!  All I wanted was a regular stove -- it didn't even have to be fancy!  We ripped out the base cabinet (saving the bottom doors), put in a white gas stove, and a small base cabinet with drawers from Ikea -- I painted it to match the rest of the cabinets and you really can't tell the difference unless you look closely.  We were trying to figure out what to do with the space left from the wall oven, and we were able to turn it into a pantry by building out the sides and installing some rolling shelves from Shelves That Slide.  I was thinking we would need to have a cabinetmaker create doors to match for the pantry, but we were were able to cut down the four doors from the cooktop base cabinet and cabinet near the fridge to make new doors -- we even connected them so you are only opening two doors -- not four -- pretty tricky!

Oven Area - Before
Oven Area - After
Our New Pantry

Wall with Radiator
Wall with Radiator Removed

So the most dramatic thing we did was remove the giganto old radiator that was hogging the entire wall near the door so we could install more cabinets and counter space.  We got a new, more fuel-efficient radiator for under the window from Baxi.

We didn't have a lot of depth because of the back door, but were able to find shallow wall and base cabinets from Ikea, and I painted them to match.  I had been bummed out there wasn't room to do a pull-out trash bin anywhere else in the kitchen, but I was able to create my own, by screwing the right side cabinet door to a small rolling shelf from Shelves That Slide.  We have a recycling bin on the left side.

Our Home-Made Pull-Out Trash Bin

If money had been no object, we could've installed a smaller window here and gained a whole wall of counter space, but that wasn't going to happen, and now I'm glad we didn't do it -- our windows are about 100 years old and I love the wavy patterns in the old glass.  So all we did was install a new light fixture and fan, and got a restaurant supply rolling work table and two stools for more room to sit and work.  The wheels lock on the table, so we can move it to the middle of the room when we are prepping for dinner, or push it out of the way to the window.  It's a great place for people to gather when we everyone is hanging out in the kitchen during parties -- and a ton of room for making Christmas cookies, etc.  I love it when my daughter sits there in the morning eating breakfast while I make school lunches for her and her brother...

If you're interested in sources, the sink and faucet are both by Vigo, the light fixture is by Philips, and the fan is by Monte Carlo.  The backsplash is by M-Boss.


Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations - In Progress!

The honeymoon bungalow's main drawback was its depressing kitchen -- we knew that going in when we bought it.  That was even the lead-in when darlingest husband (then fiance) found it -- "Hey, I found this cool house but it has an awful kitchen..."  It had such a bizarre layout that I wanted to live in it awhile to see how it all worked.  When they talk about the "work triangle" in kitchen design -- I would call ours the "Bermuda Triangle" since the sink/dishwasher, oven, and fridge were all on separate walls...

Anyway, I wanted to keep this renovation as low-budget as possible and reuse whatever we possibly could.  Partly to save $$$, but also because the kitchen has solid oak custom-made cabinets (OK, maybe custom-made in 1950) and I knew I would feel guilty ripping them out.  They had never been painted, closed perfectly, and went all the way up to the 9' ceilings.  They did their job well and didn't deserve to be tossed out.  I knew if I could paint them they might look OK...  I wasn't thrilled about what the process might entail, but then I read about Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations (this is not a paid blog post!) and I was curious.  They offer a ton of colors, and darlingest hubby and I decided on the unglazed version "Federal Gray."  I had to order it from my fave local hardware store, Dressel's, and it cost about $82 for the small kit.  It comes with a DVD and instructions, and I dove in...  I wanted to write this post because there don't seem to be a lot of reviews online about the product, and after painting 32 cabinet doors, I definitely learned some tricks.

The kit comes with deglosser, bond boat (the color), decorative glaze, a protective top coat, scrub pads for the deglosser, stir sticks, and glazing cloths.  My review does not include the decorative glaze portion.  I think Rustoleum should make the glaze an option and let you buy it separately, because it seems like a waste to be charged for it if you're not going to use it.  Definitely watch the video and read the instructions yourself, but here are my "insider" tips:


Definitely set up a good workstation -- I used an 8' picnic table in my basement and arranged two pieces of wood with screws sticking up to raise each cabinet off the table surface.  They tell you to fill any old hardware holes with putty before deglossing, but I would also tell you to make the holes for the new hardware at the same time because when I did it after my doors were painted, I got some chipping from the drill bit.  Do not leave out the deglossing step -- whatever is in it really works!  It also gets rid of any stray wood putty from filling in the old hardware holes.  It comes in a squeeze bottle but I think a pump bottle would work better.  The book tells you to clean it off with a sponge, but it's kind of messy and I had better results just rinsing the doors off in my utility sink and drying them off immediately.

Cabinet door backs with old hardware holes filled, new hardware holes drilled, deglossed, and ready for bond coat.

Detail of old hardware holes filled.

Bond coat -- 1st of 2 coats

I had best results with a foam brush and pouring the paint into plastic storage containers with lids

Painted cabinet doors ready to be rehung


Seat of the Pants Kitchen Renovation

This probably isn't the most wise way to renovate your kitchen, but last Saturday darlingest husband and I started ripping out the tile in our kitchen.  As you can see from the "before" picture, it covers most of the room -- like 5' high!  Kinda like a grungy operating room.  Oh, really not a nice description...

So, I had this plan that the tiles would come off ever so gently, and maybe we'd put up some cottage-y beadboard moulding up and it would all be a piece of cake -- like in one of those DIY shows.  Not so fast.  A few tiles came off ok, but then others came off with huge chunks of plaster -- you could still see the horse hair mixed in from 100 years ago.  And it became obvious we were taking it down to the lathe...

Window wall -- down to the lathe, baby!

We were going to try to do the renovation in stages to save $$, but we're finding out that's kind of impossible.  We thought we could wait to replace the yicky cooktop and doll-size oven, but we realized we'd have to take it out now to be able to finish the wall...

Here's a cool surprise, though...  When we took out the base cabinet we found this groovy old wallpaper (yes, I'm a sucker for old wallpaper) and a very cool chrome tile backsplash, albeit caked in old adhesive.  There's a signature from the same wallpaper guy who put the wallpaper in Griffin's room -- this one is dated 1948 -- right after the last owners bought the house.  I think it's funny I put in a backsplash just like this in my old kitchen, and I was thinking of something similar for this one.  You know I'm going to do whatever it takes to see if I can get that glue off...

Check out this very sweet wallpaper!  I love the metallic silver...


Some of my Favorite Things

I found this amazing pink and blue dresser on trash day in Oak Park - just set out on the curb (I am constantly amazed at what people will throw out!).  I've learned by now that you have to grab it when you see it, so even though the kids were totally complaining, I stopped and loaded it up in the back of my car.  I thought about repainting it for about one second before I realized what a mistake that would be.  And I love the drawer pulls...

I found the lamp at my fave resale shop of all time, The Brown Elephant, or as we jokingly call it, L'Éléphant Marron.  I had it rewired at Dressel's - I later found out it's a Mogul lamp and it takes these giganto light bulbs - it also gets bright enough that you probably do surgery with it.  My friend Holly was checking it out when she realized that it had all these little holes in the scroll-y parts - she was sure it used to have prisms - I would never have realized that (thanks, Holly!).

 So I found these cool turquoise colored ones on eBay.

This is one of my all-time favorite things, slightly creepy as it may be.  It's a Perma-Vue - an old-fashioned grave decoration that you would put on someone's grave, and the heart and flowers inside were protected in the glass block (it also used to have big, folding metal spikes on the bottom to hold it in the ground, but I took those off).  I've never seen another one anywhere.  It was a wedding present (um, the first one, not the recent one) from very good friends, and even though my mom was thoroughly horrified, I have treasured it ever since.  I love anything with hearts on it...


Griffin's Bedroom - Cool Surprises

What a cool surprise!  Once Griffin and I got all the paneling pulled down we found this scrap of old wallpaper behind the radiator - a seashore vibe with lighthouses, shells, and sailor's knots - perfect for a little boy's room.  The rest of it was painted over with white paint (why, why, why?!), but this little piece was saved.  I was wondering what year it was from until we ripped down the painted-over wallpaper and found this...

A hidden message from the wallpaper guy! So cool!  I love things like this...

Griffin's Bedroom - Before

So when we first closed on the house and the kids were picking the bedrooms they wanted, somehow Griffin gravitated to the one with the dropped ceiling/fluorescent light and icky fake wood paneling (like from those old Calvin Klein ads) and a ton of dark wood shelves.  He said he liked it exactly the way it was and I was glad I didn't have to change it right away.  But a few weeks ago he told me he couldn't stand it anymore, and I said we could redo it on one condition - that he help me rip out the paneling and the ceiling.  And so we did...
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