Kitchen Reno PTSD

I think we can all agree that this isn’t a home improvement or interior design blog. In those cases, I’d have much nicer fonts here and a fresh new color scheme each year.

My niche is perhaps best described as chronicles of domestic failure, in which case our most recent renovation fits right in here content-wise. So don’t worry, I’m still on-brand. Wait, I don’t have a brand.

Anyway, I mayyyyy have mentioned a few thousand times that I reluctantly agreed to gut our kitchen this summer and exile the family into the basement while the work was being done. I am here to declare the project complete. In all honesty, it has been finished for over a month, but my lingering renovation PTSD is still flaring up now and then.

If I were to summarize the project in a list of potential movie titles, here are some that come to mind.

 

Meet Two People Who Will Never Have an HGTV Show

Twelve Weeks Without Sunlight (Or, I Never Want to See My Basement Again)

83802390482309450234982497414012784n12 Uses for a Hot Plate

You Can Microwave THAT?

I Can’t Sleep Without the Sound of Nail Guns: One Toddler’s Story

How to Lose Your Shit Choosing a Backsplash

The Summer We Used Enough Paper Plates to Circle the Earth

 

Let’s lay out the basics. First, I don’t have a big kitchen and that wasn’t going to change with this project. It’s a galley kitchen from 1909 and, short of putting an addition on the house, there wasn’t a viable way to make the space bigger. But what we did instead, that was of equal value, was update everything and reconfigure the space to make it way more usable. I wasn’t aiming to have a giant kitchen. I just wanted to change the look, keep the broken drawers from falling out onto my feet and get rid of some wonky features.

Like this. What the hell? Why would I want to stash plates or platters in strange little slots that jut out inappropriately above a poorly fitted microwave? Would it be so that I could more easily access the fucked up too-tiny-for-even-your-smallest-tchotchkes corner shelving situation?

My eyes, they burn.

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Or this. You know, the old freestanding shuttered non-pantry-food-pantry. Because there was literally no other space to store a decent amount of food in the kitchen. In my dreams, this piece of furniture serves as the primary kindling in a kick-ass bonfire. And can we please not overlook the curious yet completely nonfunctional half wall/ledge/molding thing? Our best guess is that this is where the original house ended and they — just grasping at straws here — kept it as a nostalgic feature. No fucking clue but it had to go.

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Speaking of ill-conceived walls, this was the big to-do item: take down that awful half-wall between the kitchen and family room. Open it up! Not that I didn’t enjoy the 2,893 extra steps each day that I got from walking over while cooking, just to peek around the corner and address the multiple calls of “Mommmmmyyyy” from the kids playing over there. It was like a constant game of Look What Child-Sourced Destruction You’ll Find Here Every Time You Try to Step Away.

 

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Taking out that wall meant a steel beam and all kinds of structural issues that were bound not to go entirely smoothly with a 100+ year-old home. It also meant we’d also lose use of the family room during the construction.

And so, down to the basement we moved. It was fine(ish), mainly because my wine fridge is down there (that room was our first renovation).

 

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It’s not lost on me that, with all of the insanity going on in the world, it’s ridiculous to complain about a kitchen renovation. I get that. So let’s focus on the absurd.

Like the time capsule wallpaper we unearthed during demolition.

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Do you prefer the spring florals or the patriotic bald eagle collection? I mean, any decorating choice I made could only go up from here.

Progress felt slow at times. OK, most times.

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But, many weeks and take out dinners later, we got there. Here are some before and after shots from a few vantage points.

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Wall down. Steel beam in. Shuttered hideous pantry thing gone (possibly on fire).

And, to firmly cement my standing as a suburban mom in her mid-40s, let me tell you what I’m really excited about.

  • The garbage disposal in the sink. I’ve never had one before and I have to stop myself from testing its limits just because.
  • Soft-close drawers. What sorcery is this? The entire soundtrack of my family has been significantly altered by the absence of ancient drawers slamming 24/7.
  • Dedicated storage for the affectionately termed school lunch mess of shit. It warms my jaded heart to have an actual slide-out shelf where the random tupperware/food storage/thermos situation doesn’t look like a Jenga World Championship round that I’m always one bad pull away from losing.

My bar was set pretty low, apparently. I marvel at the phenomenon of not yelling “Watch out! OHMYGOD, the drawer will crush your foot bones, be careful, goddamnit!” every time someone opens a (soft-close) drawer. It just stays, even when pulled all the way out. This is awesome news that should significantly impact my health insurance deductible.

But really, that wall coming down was life-changing. While it technically created a peninsula instead of an actual island, I’m not about to get all hung up on fucking topography. The reality is that it’s my command center and the center of my universe. My new Keurig is plugged in there. My shiny new hanging file drawer is there to stem the Countertop Paperwork Mountain Range effect. My view into the family room is unobstructed, so I am the first to witness the he-said-she-said sibling altercations before they can be misrepresented. We added bar stools on the other side for the kids. {OK, so maybe only two fit well and it’s like The Hunger Games at mealtime, but whatever.} All in all, it is a 42-inch slice (or slab) of quartz paradise.

Now, it would be silly to think that we are all settled in our new kitchen. Mostly because my husband, an Engineer and Project Manager by trade, loves nothing more than a challenge to optimize any given storage situation, especially a new canvas like this. And so, my new kitchen joy is often tempered by screams of “Where did you move the spices?” or “The spatula was here at lunch time and now it’s not. Damn it!” This experiment with kitchen equipment placement is on final notice, though. There’s no reason our marriage should survive four renovations, only to be undone by guessing where the coffee cups have been relocated.

And so, we’re basically back in business. I’m back to cooking on an actual stove and lowered my take out food order per week average dramatically. My daughter, ever at the ready to practice for her Chopped Junior audition someday, has taken over my favorite spot and claimed it as her prep station.

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My husband, when not on his quest for optimal placement of the paprika and rosemary, is loving his most favorite purchase: the new TV in the family room that I did not know was part of the secret plan. I’m actually starting to think he did this renovation solely to justify this stadium-like screen that makes all male guests completely overlook the new kitchen.

And the next renovation? Never say never. But certainly not until after I can locate my measuring cups.

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Jennifer Krawiec says:

    “Chronicles of domestic failure” made me snort out loud in the DMV.

  2. Susan from GA says:

    I love it. And YES your husband did have a tv in mind from the beginning. husbands are sneaky that way. I hope you had room for a godawful drawer(our name we call our junk drawer). Every kitchen needs one for important stuff we can’t seem to catagorize!

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