You guys, FINALLY. The era of the kitchen renovation have come to an end. There's a few things we want to update here and there - stainless steel appliances, paint the island to match the cabinets, update the island hardware - but those things we can address to later and for now we are going to declare this project to be over so we can move on with our lives.
This has been quite the experience and by quite the experience I mean it was painful and long. It took much longer than either of us were expecting, as we tried to work on it in between everything else we have on our plates these days, and it was extra stressful because this is the room we use the most. I learned that trying to make daily meals, especially baby food, while there is drywall flaking into the counters, is the beginning of a mental breakdown.
The above two photos are pictures of the kitchen from the online listing of the house. One of the first things I noticed was how sturdy the cabinets were, which made me deliberate for a long time about taking the top ones down. The Corian counter tops were also in good condition. I had wanted wooden countertops, but since these were in great shape, we decided to keep them until they needed to be replaced. I knew I also had to figure out something for that brick facade - either by taking it off or painting over it - I just had no idea how much of a pain it would be to do so. My vision for the kitchen included white tile, open shelving, navy lower cabinets with brass detail and lots of natural light.
This is what it looked like when we moved in. It was a perfectly functioning kitchen but there was so much brown and it made the kitchen seem dark and small.
One of the first things we did was take down the huge light and fan in the middle of the room and put in recessed lights. Garrett is an electrician and Nic is awesome in general, and they helped Ken make this happen. Just changing out the lights instantly opened up the space.
Next up, the wall..when Ken and I first walked through the house, we both immediately agreed that this wall needed to go. Luckily, it wasn't a load bearing wall, so it was totally doable (even though it cost more than I thought it would to take a wall down!)
Apparently, all the wall smashing that goes on in the home renovation shows is not necessary. The proper way to take a wall down is like this, piece by piece.
Ta da! The difference was amazing...even with all the boxes and tools we still had laying around.
At this point I was still deliberating on whether to take the upper cabinets off, or just paint them. The biggest barrier to taking the cabinets off was I didn't know how hard it would be, neither Ken or I had ever done such a thing before, and these seemed like they were really solidly built into the wall. I also liked the cabinets and thought I could make it work by painting them white.
But then two things happened: our friend Nic said he could help us take them down, and I realized how much extra light we could get by removing the cabinets. Besides, there was so much cabinet space that I knew I would never use (just from the sheer fact that I couldn't reach most of it) so I made the hard decision to take them all off. Down it came! HUGE thanks to Nic who got them off, and also to my mother in law who helped us take a lot of that fake brick off. It was glued on and there was so much careful scraping - hard enough to take it off, but not too hard that it would take the wall off.
You guys, THIS IS HOW WE LIVED FOR WEEKS. It drove me crazy.
Then Ken started tiling. It was tedious work so it was incredibly satisfying to see it slowly go up. We even spent a night tiling and called it a date night. The hood also had to go up, which was harder than expected.
This is also when I started painting the lower cabinets, which took several weeks. I could only get an hour here and there to sand and get a coat on, and then I would have to wait for them to dry, or wait for another chance to get away to paint. By this time, we had worked out a system where I would take care of feeding the girls, putting them to bed, cleaning and meal prepping so that Ken could work on the kitchen. It was frustrating to not make progress on painting the cabinets or being able to help with tile, but that's what we needed to do to get this done while both working full time and caring for two little kids. And I have to say, Ken was a rockstar working on these projects. I was constantly impressed with his initiative and diligence with all this work that neither of us had every done before. Seeing these traits show up in him may be one of my favorite things about this whole process.
Ken sent me this photo after he put the shelves up and it was like the heavens parted and angels started singing. One step closer!
And then, last week, we could see the finish line. The last few things that had to happen was: installing the hardware on the cabinets, putting up pendant light over the sink (which you can't even really see in these photos), caulking, putting the plates on the switches and outlets, putting in the magnetic strips for the spices and knives. Also, unpacking a few more boxes, putting plates on the shelves, and cleaning up books and crannies. Then we stepped back and said, it is done.
It was so gratifying to have the vision I had in my mind come to life before my eyes. I got my natural light, white tile, open shelving and brass hardware.
I think the kitchen would look even lighter and brighter with stainless steel dishwasher and oven (and I even looked into stainless steel paint or cover, without being convinced), but the ones we have in there right now work fine so we are planning to wait until we can save a little more money and find a good deal on them.
We cut down our bowls and plates to the essentials and so far, I love this system. Also, the knives on the magnetic strip is so convenient.
We tried to make this kitchen as functional as I can, and I'm still working on making it user friendly, especially to the way that Ken and I cook. I still have to organize the pantry that holds most of our dry goods, and decide how to organize the rest of my spices in a way that will be most practical....but all that will happen after I spend some time enjoying the fact that we have the big things done....
A note on marriage:
When we moved into our first house, we had some of the biggest fights we'd ever had. So big in fact that often times I would be left thinking that it was all a mistake, how could I marry someone who was so different, how could I have wanted to make a life with someone who couldn't appreciate my appreciation aesthetics?
Almost three and a half years later, we started looking at houses again, and some of those old issues resurfaced, but we were so much better at managing it this time. Better at communicating, listening to what the other person was saying, and respecting each other's opinions.
When we moved into the new house and started the projects, it was with pleasant surprise that we repeatedly found ourselves on the same page. We were grateful for it, because the projects were stressful and disagreements between us would have made everything that much harder. And something else wonderful happened. We realized that our differences made us a really great team. Is this a cliche lesson to learn? That differences can work together for the good? Well, it doesn't feel that way when you are on one side of the rope in a tug-of-war, but then suddenly instead of being on opposing sides, you find both of you pulling on a rope together, and on the other side of the rope is a house. One person could pull when the other got tired, one person knew the directions, the other had the ideas, etc. Such was the beauty of a marriage, such was the beauty of two people being transformed together.
He would ask what I envisioned for a space, I would tell him, he would listen - really listen - and then tell me what would work and what wouldn't, because he knew about the practical things. I cared about the visual things, he cared about doing things right, and we both cared about the functionality of things.
And all of that together, plus a lot of hard work, produced this kitchen, is what I'm saying.