09 November 2011

The Kitchen: After

Whoa! After over a year, I'm FINALLY prepared to share the "after" photos of the kitchen. Check out the before pictures here. Overall, we are so thrilled with the kitchen. The house's original kitchen was about the size of the third picture (the "bar" area). It would have been nearly impossible to cook in a galley kitchen that size! In the 1970s, the previous owners added the rest of the kitchen.

What we didn't know when we bought the house was that much of the work was done by the homeowners and they took some significant short cuts, including digging a shallow foundation for the addition. The result of that shallow foundation has been a consistent up and down movement of the structure. When we were designing the remodel, we decided to remove the half-wall that remained from the original kitchen. The contractor decided to stabilize the wall by placing a beam in the ceiling. However, in the process, he discovered just how bad the settling had impacted the addition.

In the end, everything worked out and we were able to insert the beam and repair the enormous crack in the wall where the addition was splitting away from the original house. The kitchen is an amalgamation of old and new. Here's what we did..

CABINETS. We couldn't afford new cabinets, so we decided to paint our old ones white. The cabinets are oak, so there were lots of grooves. Nate sanded and primed the cabinets. After several weekends of prepping and painting, we decided to hire a professional to finish the final coats. It was one of the best decisions we made in the entire process! We did have to buy two new base cabinets to replace the area where the oven was located (see appliance description below). The doors didn't match completely, so someone suggested that we use glass inserts in the "bar" area cabinet doors to distinguish them from the rest of the kitchen. Good suggestion!

APPLIANCES. Keeping the appliances that came with the house was not an option. As you can see in the before pictures the appliances were pretty dated. The fridge was small and old and incredibly inefficient. The dishwasher may have been one of the first dishwashers ever manufactured. And the kicker: The original 1940s oven was located where the bar area is now. We didn't use it for an entire year because we had to light the pilot light in order to start it, Benny could reach the knobs and turn the gas on, and I'm fairly certain it hadn't been cleaned in roughly 50 years.

COUNTER TOP AND BACK SPLASH. To be honest, we didn't really have a design in mind when we embarked on this remodeling adventure. We didn't know what colors we wanted to use, how to lay the kitchen out, how the appliances would match everything else, etc. But, we figured it out along the way. We picked out the granite counter top first. Nate had played recreational league basketball with a granite importer (totally random, I know!). He gave us a smoking hot deal on a slab of granite. We ended up paying just slightly more for the granite than we would have for Formica. No kidding! The slab is a dark, dark green - almost black. We love it, but it presented a few decorating challenges.

For example, when I was shopping for back splash tiles, I felt a little constrained. Not much looked good with the counter top we'd picked. That's when it's important to talk to a professional. I spoke with a woman at a high-end tile store who was able to pick out some beautiful tiles to complement the counter. At eight months pregnant, I planned to tile the back splash myself. However, after attending a training on tiling, I decided that spending the money to hire that out as well was well worth it.

LESSONS LEARNED. 1. Overall, we learned that we are not DIYers. We didn't enjoy committing entire weekends to working on the kitchen and neither of us is very talented in the area of home improvement. Plus, we had a toddler running around and I was pregnant. In the end, we didn't save much money by doing things ourselves. And it took so much longer. Our contractor was finished with his work in a month. It took us nearly eight months to finish the remaining projects - and we still aren't done with a few!

2. Having a design plan is recommended, but not necessary. I'm really happy with how the kitchen turned out. And I'm glad I didn't have too many preconceived ideas that may not have worked out. However, I would recommend agreeing on paint colors before having an argument about them at the paint store.

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