Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kitchen Remodel: From Wave to Straight

The first step in our kitchen remodel was to give the cabinets the straight line we wanted.

Here's a close up view of the old kitchen and the unattractive wavy line of our otherwise beautiful wooden cabinets.

Mr. Wonderful used a hand jigsaw to remove the wave.  The saw's noise was so intense I thought an LAPD chopper was using our kitchen as a landing pad.  Or that Mr. Wonderful had bought a Harley-Davidson and was doing wheelies in our kitchen.

He then inserted a straight piece of wood where the wavy line had been.  He used wood fill and wood glue to fill in any gaps. 

He's amazing, isn't he?  Or I should say, he's wonderful, isn't he?

Next step: Painting the kitchen!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kitchen Redo--Step 1 Ride the Wave

“I love these wooden cabinets,” I said.
“They’re solid,” Mr. Wonderful said pounding on the old cabinets in our pre-redone kitchen.
“I love how they go all the way up the ceiling.”
“They’re big.”
“I want to keep them for our new kitchen.”
Mr. Wonderful smiled, “I like it when you say practical things like that.”
“But… can we change them?”

We were discussing what to keep, what to toss and how much money we needed to steal to pay for our kitchen remodel.  I truly loved the wooden cabinets but I disliked their country-kitchen, wiggley-wave bottom line because it didn’t make me think of an elegant epicurean epicenter, (which I hoped our kitchen would become) but rather a cookies-tossing, vomit-inducing roller coaster ride at Six Flags.

So I wanted to change it.  Or more honestly, I wanted Mr. Wonderful to change it.  If he could change it successfully, then I was game to keep the cabinets but if he couldn’t, we’d have to spend more money and buy all new cabinets.  The question boiled down to: Could he remove the wave without hurting the cabinets?

Well folks, he’s not called “Mr. Wonderful” for nothing. 

Here’s something else I know: you cannot force “wonders” or a man.  So I left him alone and watched from afar.

First, he thought about it.  At the kitchen table he started sitting in a chair facing the wavy cabinets.  While sipping his coffee, while eating his pasta, while reading the paper he would suddenly pause and stare at the cabinets. 

Second, he took his time.  We discussed removing the cabinet wave on Tuesday.  On Wednesday I did not ask him about it nor did he tell me about it.  That Thursday, Friday, and Saturday followed the same pattern where we discussed work, the vegetable garden, Jackson’s toenails, literally everything except the wave.  

Third, he went shopping.
“I’m going to the store,” he announced.  I chased after him and together we drove to The Home Depot.  He marched to the lumber department and I trailed after him at a polite distance like a court jester following his king.  He picked out several pieces of wood 12 feet long.  He picked up saw blades, wood fill, wood glue, a box of nails, six energy-saving light bulbs and 20 pounds of organic potting soil.  I may be an idiot in how to remove a cabinet’s wavy line but I was pretty confident he wouldn’t use all those items to do it.

Or maybe he would?

Back at the House I left him alone to his work only silently popping my head into the kitchen when it sounded like an LAPD chopper was landing or taking off in our kitchen. 

He sawed into the bottom of the cabinet to cut out the wave and replaced it with the straight wood he had bought. He measured everything.  The fit was perfect!  He swapped the wave for a straight line from the rest of the cabinets.  By the end of the afternoon he’d changed the cabinets while keeping them in tact. 

I gave him a glass of lemonade.  He sat down at the kitchen table and looked at the cabinets.  He didn’t saying anything but he didn’t have to because it was my turn to speak and to tell him how wonderful he truly was.

With our lemonades I toasted to him; to our new/old cabinets; to saving money; and to him, again, because he’s full of wonders.

Monday, June 18, 2012

First Tomatoes

In April we planted a vegetable garden.  Today we picked our first two tomatoes and promptly ate them.  My tongue felt the the sun's warmth still on the tomato's skin.  The fruit's texture was firm, its taste delicious.  The knowledge that we had grown them in our garden: priceless.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wine Trip to Napa

Have you ever drunk wine?  In Napa?  With your big brother?  I have.  Here's what happened:

New Blog Layout

In preparation for our kitchen redo I’m experimenting with color on the blog.  Or more accurately, the absence of color.  I’m test driving this white layout.  Tell me what you think.  Is it easier to read with this white background?  On an iPhone?  Smart Phone?  Old-fashioned computer?  


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tale of Three Kitchens

“I found the kitchen I want!” I said pulling Mr. Wonderful in from the driveway after work.
That’s what I wanted to hear,” he said, his lips curling into a smile. 
“Let me show you.”
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”
“I poured you a glass of wine.”
“That’s precisely what I wanted to hear,” he said laughing.
Inside I handed him a full glass and pointed to three different magazine clippings spread out on the table.
“I like these three,” I said.
Three kitchens?  That’s not what I wanted to hear,” he said emptying his wineglass and promptly left the room.

With the help of my thick file of kitchen picture ideas I had found the kitchen I wanted.  Or to be more accurate I should say, I found the three kitchens I wanted. 

1) White Kitchen:  I loved this kitchen’s clean lines, marble and the feeling of spaciousness that white imbibes a space with.  Of course being a mustard aficionado I’d probably have the white cabinets stained with yellow after the first meal of homemade hamburgers.

2) Yellow Kitchen: I loved this kitchen’s warmth and how well red and wood went with it.  I had a lot of red and wooden kitchen items that I could still use in this kitchen.  Plus the yellow walls would hide any errant mustard stains.

3) Blue Kitchen: I was shocked to find this blue kitchen among my favorite clippings especially after all the fuss I had made about how our old kitchen never should have been painted blue in the first place because blue belonged in bathroom, a pool or a sewer.  But this clipping convinced me it was just the ugly faded blue-green paint color in our old kitchen that I disliked.  I loved this clipping’s blue and the mixture of existing furniture pieces that it employed as opposed to all new, uniform-looking cabinets.  This kitchen had charm, order and personality.  It clearly belonged to a real person who had history.

Which meant, I loved particular aspects about each kitchen.  Perhaps I could combine the white kitchen’s island with the yellow kitchen’s large painting and wood countertops with the blue kitchen’s blue cabinets.  It could look something like this mash-up photo:
Yes!  That was the solution!  Take the best aspects of each one!  I found Mr. Wonderful in the living room engrossed in reading a new comic book. 

“Honey, I got it!  Our kitchen can combine all three.  What do you think?” I said flashing him the mash-up photo.
“Hmm,” he mumbled not looking up from his book.

Which is exactly what I didn’t want to hear.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kitchen Redo Ideas

“I can’t wait to redo this kitchen,” I said eying the room over my morning tea.
“Yes,” Mr. Wonderful said buttering his toast.
“And get rid of this faded blue-green paint.”
“And the ugly copper handles.”
He nodded.  “By the way, what do you want to replace them with?”
“Oh…” I sucked in my breath.  “I have no idea.”

Leave it to Mr. Wonderful to teach me something new.  Again. 

Lesson 1: The easiest part of redoing a kitchen is deciding to: Redo the kitchen.  The hardest part is: Planning the new one. 

This is our house,” he said.  “We can do whatever we want to the kitchen: put in an island, swap the sink with the oven’s position, rip out walls—”

Suddenly with all these new, limitless possibilities I started to feel less confident about this remodel.  What should go in a kitchen?  What should go in my new kitchen?  Of course I needed the basic appliances but did I also want an island?  A wine refrigerator?  A double oven?  What type of kitchen should we install in its place—Country French, Minimalist Cube, Mid Century Modern. Retro-Metro?  I hadn’t a clue.

I needed ideas.  I needed inspiration.  When the mountain doesn’t come to moi, moi goes to the mountain.  At my computer I went to Google and typed in “kitchen remodel”.  In .004 seconds I got over 15 million results.  I scanned the first 57 screen pages.  Then right when my left eye was crossing my right eye from screen fatigue, much like the transit of Venus, I clicked my browser closed.  I hadn’t gone to the mountain of ideas, I’d gone to their universe.  I was overwhelmed.  If I wanted to make any headway, I needed to narrow the idea field.   

I drove to Ikea.  I got my modular Swedish on and meandered through the maze of display rooms.  I looked at every single enkdorp, luftig, akurum room and loved over half of them.  Which meant now I was more lost than when I’d entered the blue and yellow box store the size of eighty-two football fields.  Ikea still had too many trygg and jokkmokk choices that I had to leave the store immediately or risk having my brain go bjursta.  Somehow I escaped while still managing to buy $100 worth of un-kitchen items.  I scratched my head.  How did Ikea get you to buy when you didn’t even know what you wanted?  Clearly what I needed was someone to speak my language.
I went to the bookstore and snatched up a stack of kitchen redo magazines as well as the house porn magazines like Traditional Home, Metropolitan Home and Farm and Home, basically I bought anything with “home”, “shelter” or “cave” in the title.  Then I ripped out the pages I liked.  I ripped out Southern, suburban, urban and Amish Country House styles, of which the latter is actually an oxymoron since Amish houses are always in the “country”.  The question remained: what kitchen style was I—and “Scattered” didn’t count.

The tearing sound of slick magazine paper triggered a memory in my brain.  I’d been tearing up magazines... for years.  At home I went to my filing cabinet and dug out a hanging file two inches thick.  Inside were page after page of magazine, newspaper and advertisement clippings of living rooms, bathrooms and—lo and behold—kitchens (!) that I’d seen and liked during the years that we’d rented and I’d longed to buy a house.  Obviously I liked these clippings enough to keep them when we’d moved.  These clippings were the ideas I needed to remind myself who I was, what kitchen style I liked and what I wanted in a kitchen. 

I made a cup of tea and started paging through the file’s clippings.  I felt strongly that my kitchen was among these pages.  Turning the pages, I knew I’d find it.  In the meantime I got to re-live my dreams of kitchens.  These were just the ideas I’d wanted; the ones I'd already had. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Old Blue Kitchen

A blue color by any other name would be as attractive.  Or would it?  

Here are photos of our kitchen BEFORE the redo.  The copper hinges and drawer pulls are original and very Betty Draper's kitchen a la 1950s.  I love the throwback style of Mad Men but those hinges and pulls have to go.

Notice the green paint appearing beneath the blue.

Also notice this country kitchen’s wavy flourish to the cabinets.  I love the solid wood cabinets but that wavy line.  Not at all.

It's exciting to think about what we can keep, what we can replace and what we'll buy new.  

Kitchen redo--bring it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Kitchen Opinions

Ah!  Saturday morning!  Mr. Wonderful was called into the studio for finishing touches on a commercial so I had a whole day to work on the house without any distractions.  I made myself an espresso, opened the kitchen doors to the springtime air and started taking pictures of the space because the time had come—to Redo.  The.  Kitchen.

We had bought the house fully aware that the kitchen would have to be redone because 1) It looked dated; 2) It didn’t have any appliances; and 3) It was painted blue.  We both thought blue belonged in a bathroom, not a kitchen.  In addition this blue was not an attractive blue but a ratty, two-tone, faded shade with blotches of green randomly appearing amid the blue as if the previous owners had run out of paint before finishing the job.
“Who would paint a kitchen this or any other blue?” Mr. Wonderful had said just that morning over breakfast. 
“Colorblind people,” I said.

In addition the wooden cabinets were trimmed with a wavy flourish that softened their line in an old-fashioned, Hee-Haw, country kitchen kind of way, especially if “country” were spelled with a  “k”.  Further, the cupboards’ copper handles and hinges looked like those found in Betty Draper’s knotty pine kitchen in Mad Men, which only added to the dated, run-down, country feel of ours.

“You’re not ripping out the kitchen, are you?” our nosy neighbor said peering inside the open door from his side of the fence.
“We’re going to redo it, Harold.”
“Just so you know, the wooden cabinets are real.”
“They feel solid.”
“The wood paneling on the walls is real, too.”
“It feels solid.”
“My in-laws had them all custom-made specifically for the house.”
“The kitchen hasn’t been updated since 1953?”
“Except for the ugly blue paint.  That was added later.  Hey!” he said as if an electrical current had just struck him.  “I think it’d be nice if you returned the kitchen to the way it used to be—sand down the paint to get to the plain brown wood.”

It wasn’t surprising that Harold had an opinion about our kitchen—after all the house used to belong to his in-laws and solid wood cabinets were appealing—but I wasn’t going to change it back to the way it was.  I couldn’t tell him face-to-face there way no way I’d sand down five coats of paint to reveal wood paneling on the walls.  Wood paneling was not my thing and luckily Mr. Wonderful agreed with me.

Instead I said, “Thanks for letting me know how it used to be, Harold,” and politely half closed the door to photograph behind it.

“Morning, neighbor!” a cheery feminine voice said while knocking on the half-closed door, which in turn bonked my head. 
“Hi, Mary,” I said rubbing my crown as she bounded into our kitchen wearing her sneakers and looking around like a kid in a candy store.
“I really like your kitchen.”
“You’re the second neighbor who does,” I said.
“I like it because it reminds me of the summer cabin in the mountains that we went when I was a girl,” Mary said with a far way look in her eye.  “It was old, musty and oh, so country.”

Old, musty, country kitchens were not my thing and luckily Mr. Wonderful agreed with me.

“I wouldn’t change a thing in your kitchen,” Mary said.  “Except the terrible blue paint.  I’d cover that immediately.  Speaking of I have to pick up my daughter’s green paint at the store.  Imagine, we’ll both be painting rooms at the same time!”  She kissed my cheek and bounded outside as quickly as she’d arrived.

It’s not surprising that Mary had an opinion about our kitchen.  After all she did the cooking in their home so she was entitled to an opinion about what worked and what didn’t in a kitchen.  But I couldn’t tell her face-to-face that I didn’t want to keep the old, musty, country flair of this kitchen, as appealing as it may have been in her cabin.

“What’s all the noise?” Matt said shuffling into the kitchen at 11 AM.  My cousin’s kid liked his sleep.
“The neighbors like our kitchen but not the blue,” I said turning on the hot water pot for his tea.
“’Cause this blue is ugly,” he said reaching for some bread and cheese still on the table.
“You don’t like blue either.”
“Blue’s cool but not in a kitchen,” he said with a yawn.  “BT dubs, when are you gutting the whole kitchen for the redo?  And do I need to find a new place to stay?”

It wasn’t surprising that Matt had an opinion about our kitchen, because he was a twenty-three year-old college graduate and twenty-three year-old college grads always had opinions, which they shared... liberally. 

But why did I have to listen to everyone else’s opinion?  It was my kitchen, shouldn’t they listen to my opinions about it?

For example how about my opinion that I agreed with Matt, Mary, Harold and Mr. Wonderful: this two-tone blue was ugly.

Or my opinion that I liked how the cabinets were made of solid wood.  So why would I rip out the wooden cabinets just to replace them with new pressed-wood or plastic ones?

Or my opinion that a kitchen redo is not about gutting everything for a brand new, cookie-cutter kitchen that’ll look just like the neighbor’s.  I liked our 1950s house and wanted to keep some elements from the 1950s in it.   Otherwise—Hello?—I would have bought a brand new house. 

Or my opinion that living in this house now meant retaining the best style of the mid 20th century paired with the latest, most efficient 21st century appliances.

Or my opinion that when I moved into this house, I held a theory that blue belonged in the bathroom not the kitchen.  But then a funny thing had happened while we’d been living in this house, cooking in this kitchen and eating in this space.  I fell in love with the reality of a blue kitchen. 

Several hours later Mr. Wonderful returned home.  I told him my new opinions about fixing up the kitchen and repainting it blue.

“Blue?!  But 12 hours ago you hated the blue, too.”

“True,” I said but opinions can change when he left me alone on a Saturday morning without any distractions.  Especially when he left me alone on a Saturday morning without any distractions.